Stamford Hospital revisited

The Saloon at Dunham Massey taken back to its appearance as a hospital ward during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Saloon at Dunham Massey taken back to its appearance as a hospital ward during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

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.

The Saloon before it was temporarily changed back into a hospital ward. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Saloon before it was temporarily changed back into a hospital ward. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

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.

The Great Gallery at Dunham displayed as a store room, as it was during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Great Gallery at Dunham displayed as a store room, as it was during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

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.

The Great Gallery before its recent redisplay. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Great Gallery before its recent redisplay. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

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.

The Robinia pseudoacacia trees on the mount at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

The Robinia pseudoacacia trees on the mount at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

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.

10 Responses to “Stamford Hospital revisited”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    Recreating the smells is an interesting idea. The Stamford ward looks swisher (and considerably less crowded) than the equivalent in the Gallery at Chenonceau (if the photo of that I’ve seen is anything to judge by).

    The trees are Robinia pseudoacacia (italicised and species name not capitalised, as the pedant in me feels obliged to point out), known as False Acacia in British English and Black Locust in American English. They are native to the US and arrived in England sometime around 1605 as a gift to John Tradescant Snr from Jean Robin, Henri IV’s gardener at the Louvre.

  2. Susan Walter Says:

    Ahem…correction…arrived in France around 1605, but the exchange between Jean Robin and JTS was c.1630.

  3. CherryPie Says:

    I have a particular interest in WW1 so this is on my list of places to visit this year.

    Despite Dunham Massey being fairly close to where I live I have never visited (shame on me), so I find it interesting to see photographs of the rooms as it has preciously been displayed and how it has been transformed into the military hospital.

  4. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    I am very glad some of the hospital wards have been recreated, in Dunham Massey and elsewhere. Although the sons of stately homes contributed enormously to the war effort, it may not have always been clear to ordinary citizens that aristocratic families handed their homes over, to be used as hospitals etc.

    Yes thankfully we moderns can visit, to mark the centenary of World War I. But is there any way of knowing whether citizens back in 1914 knew about the hospitals? My grandfather was hospitalised in WW1.. how can I find out which hospital he was looked after in?

  5. KDM Says:

    Appropriate, sensitive, creative, and dynamic! KDM

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Susan, thank you for correcting my botanical orthography (although annoyingly the captions here don’t seem to allow italics) – I am rather ignorant about such things.

    The Robinia pseudoacacia is my favorite tree (in spite of my ignorance of trees), with its sublime golden foliage. I had no idea it had been on these shores since c. 1630.

    Cherie, the booklet accompanying the redisplay at Dunham reproduces some of the original photographs of the rooms, the staff and the patients, which i couldn’t show here. And quite apart from the WWI display Dunham is a place of great beauty with many layers to explore.

    Helen, I will ask the colleagues at Dunham how and where they did their research.

    Keith, thank you very much.

  7. Andrew Says:

    Hmm – many houses were requisitioned in the Second World War, returned to their owners in an appalling state of disrepair afterwards, and subsequently demolished. But I hadn’t really thought about the use of country houses in the First War. Were they requisitioned? Or volunteered? Did the owners pay, or the government? Were they properly looked after, or left to rack and ruin?

    I recall that Brighton Pavilion was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers – with the idea that the oriental decoration would make them feel at home.

    Oh! There was a conference in Leeds on this very topic just a couple of weeks ago – http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/legaciesofwar/events/the-country-house-and-the-great-war-conference/

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, apologies for the delay in responding. Thank you for the link. I am just reading John Martin Robinson’s interesting book Requisitioned, which deals with country houses during the Second World War: http://amzn.to/1o08PV3

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