Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)
Despite its huge size the Aldwych centre, were Teresa worked at the start of the war, was full of refugees by November. Teresa played a vital role in helping refugees find work and dealt with travel expenses as refugees were moved all over Britain. Other refugees stayed in London with many finding work in armaments factories near Edmonton, north London.
Teresa was clearly much loved by the refugees that she helped. It must have been satisfying for her to receive many ‘thank you’ letters from refugees telling her how pleased they were in the situations that she had found for them.
Wounded Belgians in a Scottish hospital were also grateful for her help in finding their relatives. Many letters in our archive from the refugees are written in French. Teresa’s fluency in this language must have helped her communicate with the refugees and would have been reassuring to them in a foreign land. Members of the Interpreting Department of the Women’s Emergency Corps were often sent to help the Belgian refugees communicate with people in Britain.
Despite this, the vast amount of work left Teresa tired. She wrote to her sister, Gioconda, explaining her busy daily routine:
‘this work at the Rink [Aldwych Centre] is so hard & finding that I come home quite exhausted and after dinner have to write letters and organise the refugee’s business. I go off at about 20 past 9 + from the moment I arrive at Aldwych am up to my eyes in work + besieged by refugees all clamouring to be allocated – we can just snatch half an hour for lunch… then go back to work again & never stop till 7! Then home, change, dinner & refugee correspondence interspersed with political discussions with darling Lady Wenlock who is so keen & insists on entering into long conversations when I am trying to write. I crawl off to bed about half past 10 or 11. I am so tired I simply cannot think to write! Irene comes back from Eastwick in a day or two & then I mean to work less hard at the Rink- for I have been in her place all this time.’
Another problem for Teresa was the Hulton’s financial situation. Allowances for all members of the family were cut because her father, William Hulton, had invested in Deutchsbank when in Munich and his investments were going badly. Her mother, Costanza, explained that the family annual income was reduced from ￡925.00 to￡583.00 and that it might not be possible for them to afford to continue living in their Venetian home.
Teresa’s income from refugee work was helpful and she told Gioconda that she had ‘heaps of money and never any time for shopping!’ She wished that her sister could join her but lack of money and the war made this difficult. Instead she advised Gioconda to ‘work at the Red Cross work this winter in Florence.’ She commented: ‘I bitterly regret not to have done any of that.’
Gioconda took her sister’s advice and wrote that she and her mother, Costanza, were thinking of beginning a course in Red Cross instruction. Feeling that the workload as a nurse would be less overwhelming for Teresa, Costanza suggested that she undertake a nursing course at Guy’s hospital, where Teresa’s friend Lady Helen Vincent was training to become a nurse. Costanza advised Teresa that a ‘woman who has small but chronic disability, like your headaches, is a fit person to be a nurse.’
Although many local people were fond of the Attingham tenants, the Van Bergens, others were suspicious of the Dutch-American family. When two nephews came to visit the Van Bergens and took photographs of the view from the roof of Attingham many people thought that the boys were spies.
Besides the hospital that had been set up in the house, other areas of the Attingham estate were put to use for the war effort. The War Office used the stables rent free as stabling for remounts. Mules were trained to send overseas to the Front. After the war, compensation was paid for dilapidations caused to the stables at Attingham and Cronkhill.