Signposts to The Devils Porridge Museum caught my eye as we drove along the A75 from Gretna to Annan in South West Scotland. I wondered what its name represented, what kind of museum could it be? On our return journey, curiosity got the better of me so we followed the directions to Eastriggs and stepped inside the museum.
The Devils Porridge Museum, is a war museum, it tells the story of the greatest munitions factory on earth – HM Gretna Factory which covered an area of 9 miles by 2 miles, which took it from Scotland, across the border to England.
It took 30,000 men to construct the factor and it was built in record time. Building began in November 1915 and the factory started production in April 2016. Its purpose being to manufacture RDB Cordite to be used as ammunition for soldiers in the trenches. Once established it produced 800 tons of Cordite per week which was more than all other munitions factory in Britain combined for which it earned the title – the greatest factory on earth.
The factory employed thousands of people, mainly women who flocked to it from all over Britain and further afield to support the war effort. The factory got its name The Devils Porridge when the author of the Sherlock Holmes series – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the factors as a war correspondent. When he saw munitions girls mixing the nitro cotton by hand he commented “that is the devils porridge”.
The museum illustrates the munition process, factory life, the lives of workers as well as the local area, an area once rural, sparsely populated with a few farms which suddenly needed housing and leisure facilities for thousands of workers. The communities of Eastriggs and Gretna being built to house workers, these communities remain today as a reminder of the areas involvement in the war effort.
The museum also tells the story of Britain’s worst rail disaster which happened at nearby Quintinshill in May 1915 when 226 people lost their lives and 246 were injured, many being new recruits of the Royal Scots who were travelling to Liverpool to later fight at Gallipoli.
The Devils Porridge Museum is housed in a former industrial shed. There is plentiful free car parking outside. Entrance fees are £5 per adult, £4 senior citizens and children 5-16. There are discounts for family tickets. Apart from Christmas and early January the museum is open seven days a week, from 10am – 5pm apart from Sunday when it closes at 4pm.
The museum really caters for all ages and everyone’s interests, with displays and exhibitions and interactive displays pitched for children as well as adults. There is technical information, factory processes, soldiers uniforms, war information, but there is also information on the daily lives of workers – the canteen, their homes, leisure activities, their wages. There are refurbished fireless locomotives to explore, objects to touch. There is a particularly good world war one Trench experience. Displays and exhibitions are nice and clear. Throughout the museum there is seating placed at regular intervals which is very useful for people like me who have some mobility issues, or for those wanting to sit and reflect for a while.
We spent around two hours in the museum which we thought represented good value for money. We found staff knowledgeable and happy to share information.
As well as the museum there is also a well stocked gift shop and a nice café where we enjoyed a welcome coffee and scone. The café promotes the use of organic and fairtrade products, it can cater for gluten free diets and it has vegetarian options.
For disabled people the museum is fully accessible and provides:-
Car Parking close to the museum. Level access, Ramps, lifts available where applicable. Routes throughout the museum suitable for those with poor mobility. Seating throughout, Clear signage. Good lighting. Wheelchair accessible disabled W.C. Hearing Loop system, Large Print Menu’s, Many exhibitions are visual and auditory, plenty of objects available to touch.
This is an interesting museum suitable for all.