As Fun in the Oven start their adventures in the studio Miss Robyn Hambrook reflects on a field trip to the Devil's Porridge Museum in Gretna Green.
The Devil’s Porridge
"The nitroglycerin on the one side and the gun-cotton on the other are kneaded into a sort of a devil's porridge" wrote Arthur Conan Doyle, in a 1918 article following a visit to the Munitions Factory in Gretna.
Described as the ‘Greatest Munitions Factory on Earth, HM Factory Gretna’, it stretched for 9 miles and employed 30,000 workers at its height, to manufacture RDB Cordite, a type of munitions propellant.
For centuries, the quiet, rural area around the tiny hamlets of Eastriggs and Gretna lay undisturbed with only a few farms and small settlements dotted about. Then in 1915, soon after the start of World War One, the men from the Ministry of Munitions arrived and everything changed.
By 1917 the factory was producing 1,100 tons of cordite per week, more than all the other munitions plants in Britain combined, providing much-needed ammunition or the troops fighting on the front line.
Two new townships; Eastriggs and Gretna, were designed and built by the pioneers of the Garden City movement to provide housing amenities and recreation for the 30,000 factory workers who came from all across the Empire.
This remarkable story is told by The Devil's Porridge Museum. On a visit on a sunny Friday afternoon, Katie and I, along with a couple of friends explored this wonderful museum in Eastriggs. A superb journey through interactive displays and past unique objects, revealed the secret wartime history of southwest Scotland and Cumbria. From the worst rail disaster in British history to what life in the factory and hostels was like for thousands of people. Upstairs piles of folders were filled with the collected stories of women who had journeyed from across the United Kingdom to work there.
Devil's Porridge was the name given to a mixture of nitroglycerin and gun-cotton used to produce cordite at the Factory. The side-effects for women working with these toxic substances included headaches, dizziness, feinting spells and skin turning yellow, which earned these women the nickname, Canary Girls.
The museum adopted the name Devil’s Porridge. Over the past 17 years it has been expanded by the local community, from a small exhibition in St John Church, Eastriggs to a larger uninsulated industrial shed into a fantastic interactive museum. Well worth a visit!