Volunteers awarded £7,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for Sebastopol to Dagenham Project

Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Centre has been awarded a grant of £7,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards a volunteer led project commemorating the Crimean War.

Watercolour of Thomas Basil Fanshawe
Drawing of Thomas Basil Fanshawe (1857)

Thanks to National Lottery players, “Sebastopol to Dagenham” will explore the history of the Crimean War, using the letters of local hero Captain Thomas Basil Fanshawe of Dagenham that were recently donated by his family to the Barking and Dagenham Archives and Local Studies Centre.

These previously undiscovered letters, provide a unique and unprecedented insight into a conflict often referred to as the ‘Forgotten War’. The letters contain personal observations, frank comments and entertaining anecdotes on camp life, his experiences of being under fire in the trenches, the personalities of his men and fellow officers, conversations with his superior officers, as well as how he spent his leisure time. He even mentions a visit to the British Hotel set up by the famous Mary Seacole!

The project will involve transcribing and digitising these letters that have not been read in any detail since they were received by his parents and siblings who eagerly awaited them at the Vicarage in Dagenham. The letters will be showcased as part of an exhibition on the Crimean War to be held at Valence House Museum from 30 July 2016.

The project will also enable us to purchase and display the medal awarded to Captain Fanshawe for his service in Sebastopol. This medal will then be preserved for posterity as part of the Fanshawe Collection held at Valence House Museum.

There will be a publication to accompany the exhibition, which will include complete transcriptions and scanned copies of the letters of Captain Fanshawe. A series of learning events including talks, walks and a film screening focusing on remembrance and reimagining the historiography of the Crimean War will be held throughout the borough from April 2016.

Letters written by Thomas Basil Fanshawe
Volunteers will be involved in deciphering these letters written by Captain Fanshawe

2016 will mark the 160th anniversary of the end of the Crimean War, a fitting point for us to share these letters of local and national significance. In doing so this project has the potential to not only engage a wide audience, but also contribute to our understanding of a complex conflict that in the past many have tried to forget due to it being primarily associated with the maladministration of the British Army.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and Cabinet Member for Heritage said:

“This is more great news for our residents who like me have enormous pride in the heritage of the borough, particularly about those that have served our country so bravely.

“This year marks the 160th anniversary of the end of the Crimean War and I’m very proud that the borough has the opportunity to share these hidden treasures of local and national significance”

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said:

“This project will provide a fascinating, personal insight into the experiences of soldiers during this often overlooked conflict. We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, more people will now have the opportunity to explore and learn about this significant time in our history”

For more information about the project and to find out how you can get involved keep an eye on our Collections Blog.