On the eve of war – July 1914

Welcome to the first of our blog posts about Attingham’s WWI stories where we will post photographs and quotes from archive material about the Attingham estate, the hospital, Lord Berwick’s war work and the life of Teresa Hulton who became Lady Berwick in 1919.

 

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

July 1914 was to find 23 year-old Teresa Hulton later wife of the 8th Lord Berwick, visiting relatives in England. Little did she know that she was at the beginning of a journey that would see her courageously accomplishing war work in England and Italy. It was to be a time of hardship, loss, poignancy, joy and humour, and would ultimately shape her into the careful and kind-hearted saviour of Attingham Park.

Teresa’s family home was in Venice, Italy, where she had grown up with her English father, William Stokes Hulton, her half-Italian mother, Costanza and her elder sister Gioconda. Born Edith Teresa Hulton in 1890, she later preferred the name Teresa. Her family called her ‘Bim’ from the Venetian baby word ‘Bimbele’.

Her father was an artist who enjoyed painting excursions in the Italian countryside. The family entertained the artists John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert and Marie Stillman and Lisa Stillman.

In 1903 the Hulton family moved to Munich, Germany, where Teresa took piano lessons and was trained as a professional pianist and became fluent in several languages. Teresa lived a cosmopolitan lifestyle with her many friends from the aristocracy of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When war broke out the family found themselves having acquaintances on both sides.

Teresa playing the piano accompanied by her sister Gioconda on the violin.

Teresa playing the piano accompanied by her sister Gioconda on the violin.

Despite her privileged lifestyle, Teresa was encouraged by her godmother to acquire dress-making and cooking skills. In the years preceding the war Teresa enjoyed a life of genteel entertainments in Italy, Hungary and Austria.

Letters from early 1914 show that Teresa loved attending and giving tea parties, playing tennis, going to concerts, exhibitions, bridge parties, balls and fêtes. As an accomplished pianist, she was often asked to play at friends’ dinner parties.

In May 1914 Teresa had gone to England to visit friends and family. Her beauty and talent brought her many admirers and her mother, Costanza, was concerned that by going to England Teresa would lose the possibility of two chances of marriage in Venice.

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

However, Teresa’s future husband was to be Thomas, the 8th Lord Berwick, who Teresa had met before the war and with whom she corresponded throughout the war years.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

Thomas Noel-Hill had inherited Attingham in 1897 upon the death of his uncle the 7th Lord Berwick. Thomas had been orphaned when he was eleven and he and his sister, Mary Selina, were brought up by relations. They occasionally visited Harriet, their grandmother on their father’s side, and their aunts, Selina and Anne, who lived at Cronkhill, a delightful Italianate villa on the Attingham estate. Thomas went on to study the Classics at Oxford University. Attingham was beyond the needs of the family and was let. During the war, the tenants were the Dutch-American Van Bergen family.

Cronkhill c.1900.

Cronkhill c.1900.

In May 1900 Thomas was appointed to the Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was promoted to Lieutenant in April 1903, the same year in which he became an Honorary Secretary at the British Embassy in Paris. This was an unpaid position, something like an intern in modern terms. Young men with impeccable family background and private means but no particular attainments in other areas might choose this kind of position. Lord Berwick was liked for his loyalty and modesty and made many friends whilst doing his diplomatic work.

 

Attingham

Since 1903 Attingham Hall had been tenanted as Lord Berwick had been living elsewhere. In May 1913 the Dutch-American Van Bergen family moved into the house as tenants and they remained there throughout the war until 1920. Captain Van Bergen and his wife Ethel had one boy and three daughters.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

Next month’s post will cover the outbreak of war 100 years ago. Come and see our WWI exhibition The Great War for Civilisation in the Stables at Attingham Park from 19th July 2014.

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