The History of Eden Camp
In early 1942 the War Office identified and requisitioned a plot of land on the outskirts of Malton with the view of building a camp to accommodate Italian and German prisoners of war captured from the battlefields of Africa and Europe.
A small contingent of British Army personnel, led only by a Corporal, arrived at the site and set about constructing a temporary camp for the arrival of the first prisoners. This simple camp became the home for the first influx of prisoners, approximately 250 Italian P.O.Ws, who were tasked with creating a more permanent camp. Near the end of 1943 the Italian prisoners moved out and the camp was used as billets for Polish forces who were amassed in preparation for the invasion of Europe. From mid 1944 until 1948 the camp housed German prisoners. It was then used to provide accommodation for displaced persons, and later as an agricultural holiday camp and as a Ministry of Agriculture depot.
In 1955 the site was returned to its original owner who leased it to Malton Minerals to be used for drying and storing grain. Around the late 1970s some of the huts were sub-let to various individuals who used them as workshops. What had been the British compound of Eden Camp was sold and Derwent Cast Stone (now Russell’s Farm Machinery) was built. With the sale of part of the site, local business man Stan Johnson, bought the rest of the site in 1985 with the intention of developing a crisp manufacturing plant, however, when approached by some ex-Italian POW seeking permission to look around their former home the idea of preserving the camp and opening it as a museum was born.
The museum first opened to the public on 21st March 1987 and comprised of 10 huts, equipped to tell the story of World War Two through the use of sights, sounds and smells. The museum slowly developed and displays were constantly being added too covering not only life on the Front Line, but also the Home Front. It was Stan’s intention to pay tribute to all people from the Forces, to women in the factories, school children and people at home.
From 1990 to 1995 a series of 6 huts were opened (Huts 24-29) to create a “museum within a museum.” These huts are each dedicated to tell the political and military events of World War Two from around the world, for each year of the war. During 1992 a prefab was constructed, along with a “Dig for Victory” garden to show how post-war housing was developed. Alongside the prefab a memorial garden can be found.
In 2000 Hut 13 was redesigned to cover all post-World War Two conflicts that British Forces personnel were involved in. A further diversification from World War Two is Hut 11, which opened in 2001, telling the story of World War One. The new millennium also heralded the refurbishment and expansion of Hut 18, The War News Reading room, where the front page of a newspaper from every day of the war can be found.
2002 marked the beginning of a major refurbishment of Hut 10. This hut now houses the most comprehensive collection of P.O.W artifacts in the world and tells the story of P.O.Ws. In 2006 we created a new Medal Room, to display our ever increasing collection of medals and decorations, each with a unique story behind them.
In 2009 we completed the redevelopment of Hut 22, Forces Reunion, where hundreds of photos of personnel can be viewed.