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Monday, 26 September 2016

Gretna and Eastriggs: Home of Devil’s Porridge

Prior to the First World War, the townships of Gretna and Eastriggs did not exist. The name Gretna, however, with its associations with the village of Gretna Green, famous for over the anvil weddings, gives the impression that Gretna is an old-established town. But Gretna Green is situated 1.2 miles further north of the newer township of Gretna.
Blacksmiths Shop Gretna Green
When the Ministry of Munitions built HM Factory Gretna, it quickly became obvious that the accommodation available in the area would not be sufficient to accommodate the thousands of workers required to manufacture the munitions. As a result, two complete townships were built by the Ministry to service the factory and house the workforce. Eastriggs was built on a 173-acre site, while Gretna’s site occupied 431 acres. There were over 1,000 permanent cottages built on these sites by the end of the war.

Eastriggs serviced the Dornock area of the factory and is 4.5 miles west of Gretna, although many of the munitionettes lived in the Gretna hostels and travelled daily to either the Dornock site in the west or the eastern Mossband site over the border in England.

Gordon L Routledge, in Gretna’s Secret War, says “Where before there were only a few farmhouses, suddenly there was a city of 20,000 factory workers and their families under the control of the Ministry of Munitions. In addition to huts for their accommodation, clubs, refreshment rooms, churches, and other buildings were erected for their benefit.”

Many of the buildings in Gretna were made of wood, temporary homes for temporary workers, and it was soon nicknamed Timbertown. The wooden houses, set out like a military grid, contained between three to five rooms and were for families or groups. However, there were also larger brick-built hostels used mainly for unmarried women as well as some permanent cottages for families. However, while the temporary hostel accommodation in Gretna and Eastriggs housed around 19,000 single male and female workers, the purpose-built permanent cottages provided space for only 550 families.
Gretna - Timber Town (apologies for the quality)
All the hostels were named after military leaders and famous people. Wellington, Kitchener, and Wolfe were situated on Victory Avenue and Burnside Road as was The Pensions Hospital, and the Maternity House Hostel. Clive and Gordon Hostels were on Central Avenue, while Mary Queen of Scots Hostel, which features in Devil’s Porridge, was located on Dominion Road. The hostels in Victory Avenue were all the larger brick-built ones, but the buildings in Dominion Road were wooden. Likewise, the women police were based in a large wooden hostel.
Central Avenue, Gretna
Both Eastriggs and Gretna were self-sufficient, providing everything needed within a town. For example, Gretna Township’s facilities included a central shopping area, a cinema, a dance hall and concert hall, churches, schools, bank, post office, bakery, laundry, assembly halls, sports grounds, hotels and clubs. It even had its own railway station.
The munitions workers travelled by train to their work areas
The Ministry of Munitions controlled all the towns in the area including Carlisle, and they imposed draconian measures to curb drinking which applied to all hotels and public houses. This included early closing times, no drinks served without meals, and no treating. It was an offence to buy someone else a drink.

There was nowhere else in Britain quite like Gretna Munitions Factory and the surrounding area. This was why it made it such a fascinating setting for Devil’s Porridge, my new Kirsty Campbell Mystery novel.

Chris Longmuir
You can buy Devil’s Porridge here:

If you would like a free short story featuring DS Bill Murphy from my popular Dundee Crime Series then click the image or visit my website to fill in the form to tell me where to send it.
Meet Bill Murphy long before he became a policeman. Get a taste of the child that made the man.

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