A tiresome time – April 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In early April Teresa decided to give up her work at the Postal Censor office and to stop translating secret documents. She wrote that the work required her to be a ‘blend of Sherlock Holmes and Scarpia,’ which she felt did not suit her. [Scarpia was the Chief of Police in Tosca, a French play and later an Italian opera set in Rome in 1800.] Her war work elsewhere was also coming to a close. Although she still found helping the Belgian refugees fulfilling, by April there were few new arrivals and most of the Belgians had left to work in places all around Britain.

Censura mark on letter

Censura mark on letter. Click here to watch a film about postal censorship during the war.

Eager to remain in Britain, Teresa thought of applying for a job teaching languages in Manchester. Being fluent in several languages, including Italian, French and German, the work would have been ideally suited to her. However, her mother, Costanza, was not happy with her daughter’s ambition as she felt that it might not be suitable for her. She wanted Teresa home. It had been nearly a year since they had last seen each other. On the 23rd of April Costanza wrote:

‘…there is a doubt in my mind that you may have some other reason for wishing to stay on in England which you have said nothing about. I mean that you may think that by coming away now you are risking losing a possibility of marriage which you would like. If this is the case, please tell me so frankly.

Teresa's mother, Costanza, 1913.

Teresa’s mother, Costanza, 1913.

Her mother’s suspicions may have been right. Lord Berwick, who was working in the Paris embassy, continued to correspond with Teresa after their initial meetings before the war began. In April he gave her the card of the artist Fred Stratton, knowing that Teresa would enjoy visiting his studio. Teresa came from an artistic background and the love of the arts which she shared with Lord Berwick was later to be evident in their tasteful restoration of Attingham.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Fred Stratton and Teresa seem to have got along well and he wrote to her later to thank her for her cheering visit. He told her:

You know I said that I felt as if I had known you always – well you greet me as if you had known me always.’

Teresa’s friendliness was doubtless a great asset to her war work but her plans of staying on in Britain were to be dashed. By the end of April she was suffering from a ‘troublesome cough‘ which was diagnosed as German Measles. Due to her illness, on the 22nd of April Teresa was obliged to give up her work with Belgian refugees.

On the 26th of April Teresa left the London home of her Aunt Mary, with whom she had been staying for much of the war. She went to stay with her uncle and godfather Jack Hulton and his wife Blanche in Surrey.

Teresa described to Gioconda her frustration at being confined due to her illness. She hated having to ‘remain shut up in my room or else come & sit in the garden but absolutely in quarantine! It is most tiresome.’

Teresa Hulton in 1914.

Teresa Hulton in 1914.

As she recovered, Teresa was able to occupy herself with dressmaking and helped in the garden, doing tasks such as cutting the lawn. With servants having left to do war work, her help would have been much appreciated.

Teresa with two dogs, Potten, England, 1915.

Teresa with two dogs, Potten, England, 1915.

During the war, many genteel ladies began to do practical gardening tasks, which would have been virtually unthinkable before. In 1915, Mary Hampden, author of Every Woman’s Flower Garden, wrote:

 ‘Years ago women – always defined as ladies –  piled outdoor tools in semi shame, afraid of being considered vulgar or unfeminine; now the spade is recognised as an honourable implement in female hands.’

Teresa Hulton in 1913.

Teresa Hulton in 1913.

Teresa’s illness and the fact that she had to give up her war work in Britain made it seem like a good idea to return to her family in Italy. Keen as ever to do all that she could to help the war effort. It is likely that Teresa’s mind turned to her future work. Letters show that she was already taken by the idea of nursing.

The ‘romance’ of the Red Cross was commonly advertised in the press and periodicals of the time, encouraging many young ladies, mainly of the middle and upper classes, to become nurses. Hearing how casualties of war were mounting with the second battle of Ypres beginning in April, Teresa may have felt a desire to be able to do something to help wounded soldiers. Nursing was to become her occupation for the next three years.

1915 oil painting of a nurse, soldier and child by William Hatherell.

1915 oil painting of a nurse, soldier and child by William Hatherell. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 5194)



The Attingham war hospital remained busy and the growing demand for more auxiliary war hospitals in Shropshire was met by the opening of Stokesay Court as a war hospital in April 1915. For more information on the Stokesay Court hospital, please click here. For information on their forthcoming event on 18th and 19th April to commemorate the opening of the hospital please click here.




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