Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)
The war brought changes and fears to many people and it is interesting reading how Teresa and her acquaintances coped. On the 8th of May 1918 Teresa received a letter from Eric Dunstan who worked in the Chief Clerk’s Department of the Foreign Office. He wrote that his way of keeping cheerful ‘may sound frivolous or heartless, but at any rate it answers, and I don’t see the good of depressing others by being depressed. My plan is to live in the present moment only and I don’t look behind or in the future.’
Eric adds that although everyone talked about food shortages in England he was delighted to be served mutton chops, strawberries and cream.
Teresa was a fashionable lady and enjoyed making her own stylish outfits as well as buying items from well-known designers like Mariano Fortuny. Many of her outfits survive at Attingham.
Wartime photographs of her give an idea of the style of dress for ladies during the First World War. Clothes prices doubled between 1914 and 1918. People had less time for making clothes and used less fabric for outfits than before the war. Shoe leather was in limited supply due to wartime restrictions. Wartime mass-production methods were instrumental to the rise of affordable ready-made clothes.
Also in demand during the war was jewellery with decorative regimental emblems or lucky heather.
Hairstyles and hair products changed during the war. Hair products containing radioactive radium were advertised to keep hair healthy! Wartime conditions influenced the fashion for shorter hair. Short hair was less troublesome when working and easier to manage for nurses, for whom lice were a menace.
Awful as they were, lice were one of the minor dangers that war nurses near the Front faced. In May 1918 during an air raid at a hospital at Étapes five nurses were killed. In total about 200 British nurses died whilst serving in the First World War.
Some French people kept Nenette and Rintintin dolls in their homes as good luck charms to ward off getting hit during an air raid.
It seemed that May 1918 was a worrying time for Mrs Watkins. Oddly, a letter to Mrs Watkins survives among those that Teresa left to the National Trust. It was written on May the 21st 1918 by George Mourney of the British Embassy. It reveals that Mrs Watkins was anxious about her son, although no details are given as to why.
Lord Berwick (1877-1947)
A letter from Lord Berwick to Teresa hints that his feelings for her deepened in early May 1918 when they were among a party of friends taking a trip on gondolas to visit the garden of Mrs Johnstone in Venice.
Teresa gave Lord Berwick some ‘rosemary which is very sweet and will keep me in my thoughts till we meet again, which I hope may be soon. Not that I should forget you without it, for you have driven away every other thought from my mind, Teresa, and I am dreadfully ‘distrait’ since I came back from Venice. I have taken the liberty of calling you by your pretty name. I hope you will allow this. I feel we know one another well enough to drop formality. I know that I am very difficult to know, shyness at my age is ridiculous. But I wanted to say lots of nice things to you and didn’t. I did not even tell you how charming you looked and how immensely I admire you. There were other things too I wanted to tell you about myself. I have to go to France for a few days, when I come back perhaps it may be possible to come and see you in Florence. I would like to so much.’
Teresa replied: ‘I am much touched by the dear things you say. I can’t answer properly now, but I must thank you for wishing to tell me about yourself. Of course nothing of the sort was possible the other day. But if you find you can come here later on, and if you then still feel you wish to let me know you better, your confidence will make me very glad. I have been through some strange things myself and think I can understand the difficulties in other people’s lives.’
There was a delay of twelve days before this letter reached Lord Berwick who ‘was beginning to wonder if I had been wrong to write as I did. But you are so sweet and sympathetic. You understood, I think, even what I left unsaid. This encourages me to tell you what I hope to, next time we meet.’
The letter also speaks of his frustration at not being able to see her as often as he would like as they are both busy with war work. Earlier in the war Lord Berwick had been a Lieutenant in the second of the three regiments that made up the Shropshire Yeomanry and later entertained the yeomanry at gatherings at Attingham. From the 5th of May 1918 to the 21st of June 1919 some of the Shropshire Yeomanry (KSLI) fought in France.