As part of Oldham Council’s World War One commemorations a new project has been launched looking at ‘Oldham Women in World War One’.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the initiative sees Oldham Library and Oldham Coliseum Theatre working with residents to unearth details from the past.

All those taking part will be learning how to use the research facilities at the library, Oldham Local Studies and Archives, and online research tools, to try and find out as much as possible about the role women played during 1914 to 1918.

Pupils from Hodge Clough Primary School have already investigated Oldham’s World War One War Memorial with visiting expert, Professor Alison Fell of Leeds University.

Members of Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s Full Circle group have also been scouring the local newspapers for clues at the archives centre.

A few years ago a similar project on World War Two led to the publishing of a book and hopes are high this could happen again.

Councillor Councillor Cath Ball, Assistant Cabinet Member for World War One Centenary, said: “We are delighted to have received funding for this project from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“We are hoping residents of all ages get involved as we want to encourage people to access the free resources available within the library and archives centre and also online.

“Some people reading this might know more information about women from this period. If anyone has any information, we’d love them to drop in and let us know.

“We’d also like to ask anyone living locally if they have any items, memorabilia, or letters from the First World War – perhaps from family members ­– if they would be willing to share them with us for our research.

“We might even be able to help you find out about your ancestors.”

Local theatre director Joyce Branagh will be leading workshops. She said: “There has been a lot of talk of the First World War over the past few months, but most of it has centred on the men who went to war.

“This project is about finding out about local women and what they were doing during those years – trying to run a home, working in munitions factories, or as nurses locally or abroad.

“We also hope to find out if there were any women working in the local music halls – providing important morale boosting entertainment.

“So far we’ve found out about a nurse Sarah Hallam, who went off to Belgium to work with the Red Cross; a music hall singer, Sarah Rosebury, who was known as ‘The Lancashire Lass’ and we’re currently trying to find out more about Mabel Drinkwater, a young woman who is honoured on Oldham War Memorial – which is very unusual.”

At the end of the project in March there will be a free exhibition of the project’s findings in Oldham Library, as well as an event to share the research findings, accompanied by music from the period.

The results will be also be available to view online at and in the Local Studies and Archives Centre, at 84 Union Street, Oldham

If you think you may have something that would be of interest, or would like to be involved in the project in some way, please contact Joyce Branagh on or

Alternatively, you can ring Keith on 0161 770 8037.


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