The site of Hereford’s former munitions factory could be transformed into a heritage park, according to draft proposals unveiled this week.
The factory, which employed more than 6,000 people at the height of the First World War, could become a visitor attraction which tells the story of the city’s contribution to the war effort across both world conflicts.
At the heart of the heritage park project is the now derelict First and Second World War shell store on Skylon Park, the site of the Hereford Enterprise Zone. And the initial proposals demonstrate how the building’s historic past, and 10 acres of land around it, could be brought back to life.
Neil Kerr, vice-chairman of the Enterprise Zone Board, said: “Our proposals are innovative, educational and a fitting tribute to the people who not only worked here but those who died here too. We are keen to have community involvement in the redevelopment of the area, which we think could be transformed into a heritage park, sympathetically retelling the story of the site using the keynote structures which remain.
“The munitions factory is the last remaining building of scale on the site, and our draft proposals are supported by the county’s First World War Centenary committee and many other interest groups in Herefordshire. We have already welcomed local historians to the site to explain more about what we would like to do here and feedback was extremely positive.”
One suggestion by the team behind the project would be to remove the walls of the munitions factory, but maintain its steel structure. Maps and models of the former shell store and the North Magazine area could form part of the attraction and suggested exhibits include wire frame workers, concrete shell reproductions and audio-visual experiences which tell the story of the site.
The 40,000 sq ft munitions factory, one of the best preserved of its type in the UK, was built in the middle of the First World War when the British army began to run out of shells.
It opened in 1916 as a munitions filling factory and became of of the largest explosive filling sites in the UK. Employing mainly women during the Second World War, it was bombed in 1942 and suffered a major explosion in 1944.
Mr Kerr added: “Trains from Barrs Court Station brought workers onto site each day, with up to 6,000 people during the height of the World War One making around 70,000 shells a week. The site was brought back into use during the Second World War to make bombs and shells.
“One of the ideas we are considering is to retain the steel structure to reveal a parkland expanse with a poppy meadow. Three blast walls could be used as space to tell the story of what happened here too.”
The team behind the project, which includes members of the Enterprise Zone team, heritage consultants, architects and landowner Herefordshire Council, is asking for views on the project before submitting a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
“This is just the start of community involvement in the scheme, if we are lucky enough to get outline approval for the proposals, we will be asking for even more input from the community on the details of the scheme,” added Mr Kerr.