Case study: Ukrainian POW Chapel

What is the history of the building, monument or area?

This is the best-preserved building surviving in the former Prisoner of War camp, 68 Working Camp, Hallmuir Farm. The camp probably dates from the early 1940s, and originally had 40 buildings. The site has mostly been reclaimed by the forests, but four other still exist (two of these are formed from several huts joined together), but they are in a rather dilapidated condition.  The camp is located off a minor road 1.5 miles south of Lockerbie and has ample designated parking and a second barrack being upgraded to provide facilities to visitors (toilet, displays, shelter and refreshments, community use).

The Ukrainian POWs arrived here after WWII in 1947, and previous to that it had been occupied by German and Italian POWs, who are known to have used it as a chapel. After the Ukrainians arrived, they fitted out the chapel in an enthusiastic, if necessarily make-shift manner – paintings by the POWs hang on the walls, candlesticks made out of shell fragments adorn the space, banners made out of the Italians’ tents flank the altar, and on the high altar stands a replica of a Ukrainian Cathedral, which was carved with a penknife.

What is perhaps most unusual is that the chapel remained in use after the camp was disbanded, and services in Ukrainian are still held here several times a year. This chapel is a truly remarkable survival, and is of significant historic importance. The only other surviving POW chapel in Scotland is the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, Orkney. Although the Ukrainian chapel lacks the artistic achievements of the Italian Chapel, it is an equally evocative reminder of wartime spirit, and the way the prisoners found ways to overcome the privations of their situation.

How did the project begin and what community need(s) was it seeking to address?

The Friends of the Ukrainian POW Chapel were set up in 2009 when the deterioration of the Chapel became acute. The project aimed to preserve this important historic building.

The repair and renovation project began in 2018, and is to be in 4 phases:

  1. Chapel inside/outside
  2. Visitor centre inside/outside
  3. Utilities for chapel and visitor centre
  4. Monuments and landscaping
How did you source funding and support for the project?

We initially applied for a grant from the Lockerbie Trust Fund, and followed this with a grant from Muirhall Windfarm. After contacting various other bodies for help, Scottish Civic Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund became mentors to support the project and they assisted with further grant applications. We secured additional money through South of Scotland Enterprise.

We’ve garnered public support for the Chapel and raised its profile through various newspaper articles, television documentaries and fundraising events.

How did the project progress from inception to delivery? What obstacles did you overcome and what were the major milestones?

The project progressed slowly at first due to lack of experience, but matters improved as mentors came on board and patiently assisted with completing applications and navigating the language and terminology each grantee used. 

Our first milestone was being awarded the initial two grants for the project. In terms of obstacles, there was then a hiatus and finding grantees became a drawn-out process with many refusals. We had a target of £80,000 and we sat at less than half that for a long time mostly due to the effects of the pandemic.

Terms and conditions of grants were obstacles as initial descriptions would leave one believing we would satisfy them, then once one began the process and put a lot of work into it would find we didn’t. Fortunately, identifying which grant was worth following up was ably assisted by the mentors. 

Getting quotes from trades proved difficult during the pandemic due to the lack of apprentices and shortage of materials.

We were also closed to visitors for all of the pandemic and did not qualify for any form of financial support. However, through continued hard work, we secured an additional grant from South of Scotland Enterprise which exceeded our target by £10,500.

How did you involve the community in your project?

Local schools, various community organisations and the wider Ukrainian community in Scotland and England supported us by attending events to raise funds.

What has been the impact of the project on the community? 

Our project has increased local and national awareness of the Chapel. As work progresses and the Visitor Centre is developed and linked to the Annandale Long Distance Route, we anticipate an increase of visitors and supporters. Already we have more people volunteering to join The Friends of the Ukrainian POW Chapel.  

Eco-friendly measures are being considered, but there are some barriers to altering the Chapel due to its B-listed status. However, the Visitor Centre is not listed and so can be adapted to be more sustainable, thereby decreasing the area’s carbon footprint.

What’s next for your project? 

As pandemic restrictions ease, we can move ahead more quickly with the repair and renovation works. We have so far only completed the drainage/soakaway work and the windows have just been replaced. The Chapel now needs roof and guttering to be done to make it wind and watertight. Following that, the inside will be fully refurbished and the Visitor Center will be modernised. We’re currently sourcing quotes for all outstanding works.

There is a new filming project due to take place, which will highlight the history of the Chapel. The current war in Ukraine has also greatly increased the importance of the Chapel, so we’re looking into how to include these new circumstances in our interpretation of the site.

To learn more about the Ukrainian POW Chapel, check out their Facebook page.