New Jerusalem

In March 2018, the Westminster Community Reminiscence and Archive Group (WCRAG), working in partnership with Westminster Archives and the Royal College of Nursing, received a HLF grant of £40,200 to look at how the last years of World War 2 helped shape the foundation of the Welfare State. Many WCRAG members grew up in the 40s and remember the creation of the National Health Service 70 years ago. They wanted to work with local children to celebrate the 70th anniversary of this universally loved institution. In this project we plan to interview former soldiers and former NHS staff to create an oral history of the NHS.

The establishment of NHS represents an historic decision whereby the state took responsibility for our health.It’s establishment is also linked to immigration as many arrived from former colonies to help make it work.

Surveys show that the NHS has become the most valued institution in the UK. Helping people understand how it was set up will tie into this interest.

We will use Pte Joe Seaby letters in a KS2 pack that will reveal the angst of having a seriously ill child in pre-NHS Britain. This previously unused archive will link to KS2 Y6 Local History:(Study over time). We will use it to explain to local pupils why the NHS was created.

People believed real victory in 1945 meant not returning to the deprivations of the 30s and that the state should protect us from ‘the cradle to the grave’. We want to explore where this aspiration came from and how far it has been achieved by focussing on the years 1938-58, ten years before and ten after the NHS was created.

Using Joe Seaby's letters we'll look at the years 1938-48 through a teaching pack for use with 8 schools to help pupils understand why the NHS was created and what existed before it. MOD Theatre Company will train each class to develop a short musical scene based around themes that arise.

Michael Foreman (born in 1938), the author of War Boy and After the War was Over will explain what Britain was like before and after the creation of the NHS in 1948. He will create 2 paintings based on the Seaby letters to inspire creative writing for our exhibition.

The Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury just before the NHS was created on 5th July 1948. Udine Canoville left St Martin at 16 to become a nurse in the NHS. Our facilitators Motivate to Change will use her story to highlight how the NHS accelerated Britain's move towards a multi-cultural society.

WCRAG's last HLF project, Music Hall and the Great War, was a great success as we were able to use music to bring alive the stories of Joe Seaby's brothers, Arthur and Richard who fell on the Western Front. Our volunteers will help us use Westminster Music Library's sheet music collection so that we can explore the music of the 30s and 40s. This will allow us to join with the children in two sing-along performances at the Abbey Centre on July 4th 2018.

We will make a film with Digital Works where Y6 Servite pupils will learn oral history and film recording techniques. They will interview 20 WCRAG members, 4 ex-servicemen and 8 nurses. The full interviews will be added to the Westminster Archives collections.

Nursing academic, Christine Hallett will act as our historical advisor and we will also be supported by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). Through them we will interview staff who worked in the NHS over this period. Christine will help us to establish how staff in 1948 coped with the birth of the NHS. RCN Writer in Residence

Molly Case, a serving nurse will help children from Servite Catholic Primary school to create an exhibition on the New Jeruslaem theme that will appear on this site.

Page link: A New Jerusalem Blog
A New Jerusalem Blog
An overview of the program
Page link: Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Hero of the NHS
Page link: The Pressures on the NHS
The Pressures on the NHS
Challenges facing the system