Friends of the Maritime Museum

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Friends meetings are now on Sunday afternoons for the winter period and still open to LES members.

Annual Day Out

Tuesday 21st May 2019

The Devils Porridge Museum, Eastriggs near Gretna.

The LSE visit this year was to the ‘Devil’s Porridge’ work’s site – officially known as H.M. Munitions Factory. Cordite was colloquially known as “Devil’s Porridge” – the name comes from the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who visited the Factory as a war correspondent in 1916.

He later wrote ”the nitroglycerin on the one side and the gun- cotton on the other are kneaded into a sort of a devil’s porridge; which is the next stage of manufacture…” It was the United Kingdom’s largest Cordite factory in World War I and is located adjacent to the Solway Firth, near Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway. It was built by the Ministry of Munitions in response to the Shell Crisis of 1915.

The Devil’s Porridge museum and exhibition we visited commemorates the efforts of these workers during the First World War working in what was the greatest munitions factory on earth. At its full extent it was it 9 miles by 2 miles wide stretching from Mossband near Longtown in the east, to Dornock / Eastriggs in the west straddling the Scottish/ English border. Munitions production started in April 1916. The facility consisted of four large production sites and two purpose-built townships. The facility had its own independent transport network, power source, and water supply system employed 30,000 people during the First World War, mostly women, and by 1917 produced 1100 tons of cordite every week. The museum also tells visitors about the Quintinshill Rail disaster and life in the area during WWII. There is a cafe and small shop on site too if others are contemplating a visit.

Construction work on the site started in November 1915. Up to 10,000 Irish navvies worked on the site as well as building the two wooden townships to house the workers at Gretna and Eastriggs. These workers had nowhere to spend their money except in pubs, particularly in Carlisle, just a short train ride away. Alcohol abuse and drunken disorder became common in the city and led to absenteeism and poor productivity at the factory .

This led to the nationalization of the breweries / pubs in the area. This legislation was not repealed until 1971 Cordite production ceased following the end of World War I in November 1918.

In 1919-20 the manufacturing plants were demolished. Although the entire H.M Factory site was retained until the early 1920s, eventually all of Site 4 and other parts of the former munitions plant were auctioned off for private and agricultural land. The two townships of Eastriggs and Gretna and their bakeries were also sold off. After a very interesting talk by museum staff and a look at the many exhibits our party then departed for refreshments/ shopping opportunities to Gretna Retail Park, followed by a visit to Carlisle City centre.

The weather was sunny and warm throughout our day out and I believe was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Many thanks for the hard work put into the organization of the trip and for the excellent service provided by our Pye Motors driver. It was a pity that our numbers were somewhat down on last year but the use of Pye Motors for transport enabled us to travel in some style and without incurring a loss to LES funds.

Looking forward to our next visit to an attraction to be advised.

If any members have any suggestions for a venue they would be welcome – please let any committee member have your thoughts.

Previous Outings

2019The Devils Porridge Museum. Eastriggs near Gretna.
2018Anson Engine Museum Poynton Cheshire.
2017Old Dock Liverpool.
2016City of Leeds and Royal Armouries Museum.
2015Salford Media City.
2014City of Chester and Anderton Boat Lift.
2013City of Liverpool. Cathedrals and Williamson Tunnels.
2012City of Manchester. Museum of Science and Industry.
2011City of York
2010Salford City and Lowry Theatre.
2009City of Newcastle-Sage Music Centre Gateshead and the Seven Bridges over the Tyne.
2008City of Liverpool. Albert Dock.
2007Falkirk Wheel Scotland