The Swifts

Upon the outbreak of the war there was a huge influx of new recruits into the city, these young men needed homing, and a space for basic training whilst waiting to be mobilised to training camps. The former racecourse at The Swifts was chosen as a temporary base for the new recruits, tents and huts were quickly constructed and drill training began on at The Swifts and in neighbouring Bitts Park. By September 1914 there were 700 recruits homed in tents at The Swifts, with others billeted to the Castle, drill halls and public houses.

Following this initial influx of recruits an alternative training ground was established at Blackwell Racecourse for the recruits to the new Lonsdale Regiment, the new Blackwell site was deemed more suitable for a semi-permanent camp as is was less at risk of flooding.

The Swifts continued to play an important role in Carlisle’s Great War story. There was a skating rink on the site that, once it no longer needed for the homing of recruits, took on a number of roles in the war. In 1915 Alexander Morton & Company took over occupation of the building, to store blankets and carpets which they were producing for the Army. There was also a Soldiers Club on the site, providing much needed recreation space.

In 1916 the building was then taken over by the Ministry of Munitions, who stripped the building and created corridors to link it to the nearby riding school. This new building became known as Eden Bridge Hostel and was used to house the women working at nearby HM Gretna, the munitions factory.

By February 1918, the accommodation in Gretna was complete and so the hostel was converted into an overflow hospital for the Fusehill War Hospital. At the declaration of Armistice in November 1918, there were still 21 patients at Eden Bridge Hospital.

After the war the building was briefly owned by Carr’s, it was used in July 1919 to host Mayor Bertram Carr’s civic reception and dance for 1,000 people before the installation of machinery for the manufacture of chocolate. However in February 1920 there was a fire, and the building was destroyed.    


To find out more about some of Carlisle's other Great War sites, return to map