York Castle Museum

Community Room

Women in the Great War

2 November 2017 – 4 February 2018

The Leavening Embroidery Group have created an exhibition celebrating the work undertaken by women in factories, hospitals, transport and on the land during the First World War while their menfolk were away.

Leavening is a small village on the Yorkshire Wolds, sixteen miles from York. The Leavening Embroidery Group (LEG) was formed in 2007 to make a stitched picture with a central panel depicting a view of the village, surrounded by smaller panels featuring various village events throughout the year. When completed in 2011 it was unveiled by Mrs Margaret Sentamu, wife of John, Archbishop of York.

Subsequent projects include contributions towards ‘Threads of War’, a World War One centenary Open Exhibition which has been displayed at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds and widely around Yorkshire. Inspired by ‘Threads of War’, LEG has completed twelve embroideries which focus on the role of women in wartime, taking on what was traditionally men’s work. These embroideries form the exhibition entitled ‘Women in the Great War’. LEG currently has eighteen members and in September 2017 celebrated its tenth anniversary.


Lawrence Rowntree: An Exhibition by The Rowntree Society

Open until the end of 2017

Lawrence Edmund Rowntree, grandson of Joseph Rowntree, was born in York on 4 March 1895. He moved to Scalby, a village near Scarborough, as a young boy and attended Bootham School in York from 1907-1912. After school, he spent a year studying at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, which had links with Bootham and the Quaker community in the UK.

Lawrence entered King’s College Cambridge as a medical student in October 1913. In the summer of 1914, the outbreak of war would change Lawrence’s world dramatically.

Lawrence chose not to return to his medical studies but joined the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) in September 1914. The FAU eventually became a nation-wide organisation, but it was founded by alumni from Bootham School. It allowed young Quakers to contribute to the war effort without being directly involved in armed conflict.

After initial training in Buckinghamshire, Lawrence was part of the first group to be sent to France in October 1914. He kept a journal during his time in the FAU, which he entitled ‘A Nightmare in Three Acts’.

In March 1916, the Military Service Act was passed, which imposed conscription on all single men between the ages of 18 and 41. Lawrence did not go down the route of Conscientious Objection, as many of his fellow Quakers did.
Instead, Lawrence joined ‘C’ Company of what became known as the Tank Corps, and in August he arrived at the Somme with his crew. Their tank was called the Crème de Menthe.

Lawrence later joined the Royal Field Artillery as a lieutenant and, in late 1917, he was serving with 26th Army Brigade in the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in Belgium.

He died in this battle on November 25, 1917, at the age of 22. He is buried at the New Military Cemetery in Vlamertinghe and his name occurs on the war memorial in Scalby, Scarborough.

Lawrence’s journal powerfully illustrates the mixed emotions caused by war. He was repulsed by the squalor and bloodshed, and utterly exhausted by several near-death experiences. ‘I wanted to die in some peaceful manner,’ he wrote. ‘Not because I was sick of life, but because the one thing I ached for more than anything else in the world was a little rest.’

But the sporty man-of-action was also thrilled by the dangers of war: ‘The excitement of it, even the fear is enticing; the glorious feeling when you overcome difficulties you thought were insuperable, and the jolly companionship of everyone which you get in the face of a common danger, and never so truly anywhere else.’