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Abbot's Hill School, Hertfordshire

Nash Mills war memorial plaque, Hertfordshire © H Martineau, 2013
Abbot's Hill school memorial, Hertfordshire © War Memorials Trust, 2014
  • County name: Hertfordshire
  • Group/School name: Abbot's Hill School
  • Age group: 11 - 18
  • Group type: Secondary School

Abbot’s Hill School near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was keen to ensure its pupils knew about the local area’s history and experiences during the First World War, especially with the war’s centenary approaching in 2014. The school is located close to a fairly unusual war memorial, to the former workers of Nash Mill (the local paper mill) and so thought that studying the war memorial would be an interesting approach to learning about the impact of the First World War on the local area.

The war memorial consists of a plaque listing the names of men who worked for John Dickinson and Co. who lost their lives in the First World War, An additional plaque pays tribute to workers who later lost their lives in the Second World War, but the names of these are not listed. The plaques are set into a frame which itself is set on a stone wall. The memorial is located on the former site of the mill, but the mill was closed and sold around 2006, eventually being cleared to make way for a housing development which now surrounds the memorial. (

War Memorials Trust’s Learning Officer visited the school in November 2013 to help Year 9 pupils learn more about this memorial and the people it commemorates. It was encouraging, given the fact that the memorial is no longer in a particularly accessible or prominent position, that the majority of pupils in the class were aware of the memorial and of the site’s history as a mill. They also had a good understanding of the importance of war memorials and Remembrance, and so the session with War Memorials Trust focused on researching the names that are listed on the memorial to find out more about local people in the past.

The online research resources suggested in War Memorials Trust’s Researching names on war memorials lesson plan for secondary schools were used for this and the work done during the lesson revealed some interesting information about the casualties and a few discrepancies between the war memorial and other records. For example one of the names, on the memorial is Private G E Goodenough. On the memorial he is shown as having served in the Hertfordshire Regiment but other sources suggest that he in fact served in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. Private Goodenough lived in New Cottage; Bennett’s End prior to the war and was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 at the age of 24.

At the end of the session pupils had the chance to reflect on what they had learned and most said that they felt a closer link to the memorial than they had before. Many said that although they were aware of the memorial’s existence before, they had not made a point of noticing the memorial or considering just what the impact of the war on the paper mill and its employees would have been. We therefore hope that the Trust’s visit has inspired some of the young people involved to find out more about the memorial and others like it in the area, so that they can continue to care for them in the future as the next generation of war memorial custodians.

The Trust's Learning Officer was delighted to be asked to go back to the school in November 2014 to deliver a lesson to a new set of Year 9 pupils. This time the talk focused on the wide range of memorial types in the UK and the girls were shown examples from around the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire area. Once again their interest in the subject and the thoughtful questions they had were great to see. At the end of the session we also had a chance to look at the school's own memorial; a small framed roll of honour in the school chapel which commemorates the fathers and brothers of girls who were pupils at the school during the First World War ( Like many small memorials of this type, the poignancy of this was striking and it was good to see that the memorial is well cared for by the current school community.

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