80,000 US troops stayed in Dorset, training for the D-Day landings. 75 years on, our exhibition will remember the time when American soldiers lived among us in West Bay and the day they disappeared. (Friday 19th April to Sunday 23rd June, 2019).
Sergeant Phil Streczyk was billeted in West Bay from November 1943 to June 1944 en route to the Normandy beaches. He was 25 years old and was in the first wave to be dropped 200 yards out from Omaha beach at 6.30am on 6th June. When rifleman Stanley Dzierga slipped under the water, he pulled the man back to the surface, and when Edwin Piasecki’s 80lb backpack pulled him beneath the waves, he hung on to him and saved him from drowning. On the beach under constant fire, he was described as fearless, “I never saw a man like that in my life. He wasn’t that big of a guy. He just went, did everything and it just seems he was immune to the fire.” Said Dzierga who he had saved from the sea. He went ahead, he pulled and cajoled his men along, taking the risks on their behalf.
Captain Wozenski wrote of the courageous New Jersey native, “If he did not earn a Congressional Medal of Honor, no one did.”
The 25-year-old sergeant did become one of the most decorated NCOs of World War II and it is safe to say that no single individual contributed more to the 1st Division’s success on D-Day that Streczyk did. He continued to fight after D-Day, through Normandy, through the Mons pocket, Aachen and then into the brutal Hurtgen Forest, leading by example every step of the way. In all, he logged 440 days of frontline combat duty and survived many wounds. In one instance a pistol bullet hit him in the base of the neck, yet he refused medical evacuation. Somehow the wound healed, but it left a deep scar. Montgomery pinned the UK Military Medal on his chest on the 7th July 1944 (see picture).
He was evacuated from the front lines with combat fatigue – a grim reminder that even the bravest souls have their limits. He became a builder in Florida, married and had four children, but he missed his men and could not leave the war and D-Day behind. Streczyk was in persistent pain from his physical wounds and at night he was tormented with traumatic battle dreams. In 1957, after years of emotional and physical pain, he took his own life.
As we reach almost twelve months since work started on the Chapel its a good time to look back and see what has been achieved. It’s difficult to remember that the Methodist Chapel looked like this time last year – abandoned and in need of a restoration.
The builders started work in mid-February and the interior looked even worse for a while as the early work stripped back existing wall and ceiling coverings.
The floor boards were removed so that repairs could be carried out to the timber joists underneath and then relaid. The ceiling panels were also removed , the roof insulated and new panels were fitted.
In April the walls were re-plastered and the windows refurbished and the ceiling was refitted.
In May a new mezzanine level was completed using oak and pine.
The completed building prior to fitting out. Our builders, R & C Building Conservation, led by Cristian Nicoara, did a great job ! The basis for this was the design work of Angel Architecture’s Kim Sankey, who has had a long association with the building. Daryl Chamber’s tenacious project management skills meant that everything was delivered to plan.
The outside was repainted creating a very different look to its appearance in January 2018. Although the seagulls didn’t take long to christen it!
The fitting of interpretation and displays by our designers Smith & Jones begins – it takes three days – it was strange to see everything in reality after having worked on the concept and content for so many months beforehand.
Our Discovery manager Sandy Hashimi welcomes our volunteers and gives them a final briefing.
West Bay Discovery Centre is officially opened by the Deputy Mayor of Bridport, Martin Ray. The Trustees of Bridport Area Development Trust and the Management Group of West Bay Discovery Centre join him to mark this important milestone.
Washed Ashore– our first exhibition highlighted the issue of plastics being washed up on the beach.
Our collection of nurdles/biobeads collected from West Bay Beach Clean sessions by the public.
World War 1 Exhibition – most of the artifacts were lent by local people. We discovered the life stories of the six men who never returned to West Bay and are recorded on the memorial in St John’s Church.
Model Boat exhibition – a wonderful selection of model boats produced by members of the local model group
It has been wonderful to have welcomed over 9,000 visitors into the building since August. The numbers having well exceeded our expectations. We still have many exciting plans and ideas to fulfill in 2019. So do please follow our progress and come in and see us when we reopen in mid-February for the 2019 season.
What an amazing month we have had since we opened! We welcomed 3,880 visitors through the doors which exceeded our expectations. We have also received some very positive feedback verbally and in our visitors book!
We thought we would share some of these comments with you.
“Fabulous exhibition , fun, informative. Great stuff brilliant, great for young and old.”
” Brilliant use if this space very interesting and informative.”
“Fantastic display , wonderful idea loved that there is lots to play with.”
“Wonderful to see the old building put to such good use. Imaginative and informative. Loved the historic pictures of West Bay and the videos.”
“Very interesting history of West Bay and West Dorset. They have done a good job. well done!”
“What an amazing place to enjoy as children and adults. Well thought out, thank you.”
“Very interesting and great ‘hands on’ for children. Amazing stories from residents of the area too,very enjoyable.”
“Good interactive display for children. Really interesting and informative, brilliantly laid out.”
“Lovely centre of local interest and good to see chapel put to such good use.”
“Amazing look at the past, staff very welcoming and friendly.”
“This all wouldn’t have been made possible without our excellent part time manager and the volunteers who have so generously given up their time to help us.”
If you haven’t had a chance to visit us yet do come and see us!
We are now in the process of planning future exhibitions and content more details soon…
One of the challenges in the Discovery Centre will be the limited information we can share in a small space. We are hoping that we will give visitors hints and advice to look at West Bay in a different way and make their own discoveries…..
Wildlife is one area we will be covering, and we just had to share with you the amazing display of oxeye daisies and red valerian alongside the path on West Cliff at the moment. The numbers of flowers just seem to increase each year!
It feels as if time is moving too fast at the moment, as we head closer to our opening day later in the summer. The building work is almost complete and so are plans for the interior. We are pleased to announce that we have now appointed Sandy Hashimi as our Discovery Manager.
We are now looking for Discovery volunteers to join us to engage with visitors and guide them in the exploration of the Discovery Centre and through it West Bay.
If you share our passion for West Bay and have a few hours to spare, we would love to hear from you.
Initially our greatest need will be for stewards but there are other opportunities, as can be seen on our dedicated Volunteer pages on this website.
For further information please contact us by emailing email@example.com
“A treasure trove of West Bay stories and information and a base for exploration and adventure”… Have you got what it takes to breathe life into our vision for the brand new West Bay Discovery Centre?
We’re looking for a well-organised, creative and enthusiastic person to join us to run the new West Bay Discovery Centre. While experience in a similar role could be an advantage, what we’re really looking for is a person with strong and confident management skills, experience of nurturing and motivating volunteers and the ability to communicate exceptionally well with all different sorts of people.
Friendly and engaging, you will be confident at problem-solving and happy being hands-on. You’ll have a good grasp of marketing and fundraising and be able to demonstrate an aptitude for planning our events and activities programme, drawing upon the talents and passion of those around you. Computer skills will be important, as well as basics like health and safety and cash handling.
No two days will be the same and that’s when your time management skills will come into play, as well as your ability to focus on what matters and to manage you and your volunteer team’s, energy and motivation.
Above all, you will share our passion for West Bay and will be as excited as we are about the enormous potential of the Discovery Centre.
This role is for an initial four month fixed-term period, pending funding confirmation, subject to which, we expect it to become permanent.
26 hours per week, which may include weekend and bank holiday working. pro-rata to £20,000 per annum. Based in West Bay but with an expectation of some travel locally, so use of your own car would be an advantage.
The building work on the West Bay Discovery Centre is progressing well and the plan to complete the building work by June is still on course. The latest images taken last week show lots of scaffolding still in place. Once this has been removed the committee will at long last have a chance to see the impact that the works have had on the inside of the building.
In the meantime there has been a great deal of work on the designs for the interior and we have been very grateful for the help we have had from local residents in providing with additional information and stories about West Bay. There are so many wonderful stories and ideas to encourage further exploration, that it has been such a challenge to fit as much as we would like in the limited space!
We were delighted to be given £500 from West Bay Days, which will be used to finance the Fra Newbery shipyard print. Over 350 vessels were produced in the shipyard between 1769 – 1879 but there are only a couple of images which show us what it actually looked like.
We have launched our campaign to recruit a manager for the Centre and the advert and role profile will shortly be on this site.
Behind the scenes plans have been gathering momentum to restore West Bay’s former Methodist Church and transform it to become the West Bay Discovery Centre.
We are pleased to announce that after a formal tender process, R & C Building Conservation of Shaftesbury have been appointed as the contractor to deliver the construction-related part of the project. R & C Conservation have plenty of experience of historic and ecclesiastical buildings. They will be working closely with our Project Manager, Daryl Chambers and Architect Kim Sankey of Angel Architecture to repair and adapt the 170 year old chapel so that it will continue to be an iconic landmark feature in West Bay. Building work on the site is planned to commence in early February for 16 weeks.
At the same time we are working with Bristol-based designers Smith and Jones to create an exciting scheme for the interior of the Discovery Centre. It will provide a treasure trove of information for people to explore, both inside and outside the building.
With the structural repairs and the internal works complete, the Discovery Centre is scheduled to open to visitors in mid to late summer.
Once the centre is up and running it will be managed by a part-time paid coordinator but we will be reliant on volunteers to help engage with visitors and guide visitors in their exploration of the Discovery Centre and through it West Bay. We will be launching a recruitment drive for volunteers at the Bridport Community Fair on Saturday 3rd February at Bridport Town Hall. If you wish for further information please do come over and say hello.
If you have been recently enjoying the sea air, fish and chips or ice-creams down at West Bay you may have noticed that things are happening at West Bay Discovery Centre.
We have started some preliminary building work in order to prepare the interior of the building for refurbishment. We hope to carry out most of the work over the winter period. Alongside this we are using the consultation carried out during the summer to help shape our ideas for the stories and information that will feature in the design for the interior. As in any refurbishment it always looks worse before it gets better, at the moment it looks rather sad and forlorn.
Thank you to everyone who took part in our consultation process we held in the summer along with Dorset Coast Forum. The results are summarised in the chart below.
It is a challenge covering everything we would like to in a small space, but we are now focusing our efforts on developing all the subjects that were popular and exploring how they can be presented in a harmonious way.
Its been a productive summer we’ve met many people who’ve shared their stories and information with us, which could well risk being forgotten. West Bay has so much to offer. We have also been surveying local wildlife, for example, in a small area adjacent to the disused limekiln we found over twenty varieties of plant.
We will keep you informed on here about how the project progresses, especially now things are gaining momentum. If you are interested in getting involved, perhaps as a voluntary steward when the Centre is open, please do get in touch. Our email address is : firstname.lastname@example.org.