World War II – Life and fire fighting at the Rotherwas Munitions Factory
The Waterworks Museum is home to the only permanent exhibition to World War II in Hereford.
In 2003, the attention of Museum volunteers was drawn to the derelict site of what was the Royal Ordnance Munitions factory at Rotherwas on the outskirts of Hereford. What they found in a windowless bunker was breath taking. In more or less the state it was left at the end of WWII stood, in total darkness, a Blackstone 5-cylinder diesel engine, multi belt drive system and a Mather & Platt two stage centrifugal pump. All the ancillaries were just as they had been left – even the WWII signs were on the walls and the original lighting system in place (albeit power supply had been long since disconnected).
These artefacts are now in the safe custody of the Museum and housed in the purpose built Rotherwas Building, which echoes many aspects of the original bunker. Here, our exhibition tells the story of the Rotherwas Munitions Factory (including the story of the air raid on 7 July 1942), of fire fighting at the munitions factory and of life on the home front in Hereford.
The full story of the recovery and restoration and display of the artefacts from Rotherwas is told in a book: The Blackstone Goes to War (Life and Fire-fighting at the Rotherwas Munitions Factory).
WOMEN IN WW2
Each year the Waterworks Museum receives a number of interesting requests for information to support personal or academic research.
In September 2016, Abigail Crowther, a post graduate student at Ruskin College, Cambridge, came to the Museum to interview Emeritus Chairman, Dr. Noel Meeke, about the role of women at the Rotherwas Munitions Factory, and to photograph our permanent WW2 exhibition.
Abigail had made a number of short documentary films as part of a higher degree and we were delighted to see the results from her visit to the Waterworks Museum.
The following silent film from the Yorkshire Film Archive is a fascinating illustration of women at work in a WW2 munitions factory. This is not in Hereford but it reflects many of the operations that would have been carried on at Rotherwas Munitions Factory.