During the First World War Dunham Massey was used as an auxiliary hospital for wounded soldiers, known as the Stamford Hospital. Some of the hospital wards have now been recreated for a period of two years to mark the centenary of World War I.
Staff and volunteers at Dunham researched the stories of those involved, including the Countess of Stamford, who offered the house for use as a hospital, Sister Catherine Bennett, who was in charge of day-to-day treatment, and Lady Jane Grey, Lady Stamford’s daughter who worked there as a nurse.
Exhibition designers Outside Studios and Scenetec have recreated the appearance of some of the rooms as they were during the First World War, based on surviving photographs and other archive material.
Treatment reports at the foot of the beds record the injuries and progress of individual patients. Inevitably, some died, others recovered, went back to the front and were killed, while others survived the war.
Some of the smells and sounds of the ward have been recreated and costumed interpreters reenact scenes between patients, nursing staff and family visitors. I found the combination of sensory impressions and factual information very powerful and affecting.
The garden at Dunham was looking very beautiful when I visited – one hopes it had the same soothing effect a hundred years ago.