Monthly Archives: March 2021

Settling in Shropshire – After the war

Leaving Italy as a new bride in 1919, Teresa prepared for her new life in Shropshire as the 8th Lady Berwick. On the 23rd of August 1920, William S. Childe Pemberton wrote to Teresa from Lyme Park:

‘I feel certain that small houses are really more comfortable to live in than great palaces! This house is immense and is becoming a great anxiety to its owner in these terrible times.’

It was a similar story at Attingham. At first the newlyweds lived in Cronkhill, a small Italianate villa on the estate, and sought to let Attingham Hall.

The beautiful cantilevered staircase designed by John Nash at Cronkhill, photographed in 1919

Shortly before their marriage, Teresa had written to Lord Berwick: ‘You say such dear things about your pleasure in sharing your home with me, and I look forward to it with more happiness than I can tell you. We shall have such fun arranging the furniture, etc., for I suppose having been a hospital you had to empty Cronkhill entirely, so there will be plenty to do.’

The 8th Lord and Lady Berwick sat on the garden steps at Cronkhill

The couple arrived at Cronkhill to find the gateway decorated by the estate tenants with a floral arch to welcome them home.

Cronkhill archway 1919

The tenants presented the couple with a silver tea set that is often displayed in the Sultana Room at Attingham. In thanks for this wedding present, the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick held two summer parties for the estate tenants on the 11th and 12th of August 1920. The band of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry provided music, there were fireworks and the ‘Gaumont Film Hire Service‘ was hired. Many people living on the estate had probably never seen a film before, so it was a special and memorable occasion. After their marriage, the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick arranged plenty of parties for local people.

A view of the Sultana Room showing the tea set given to the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick as a wedding present set on the table

Although Teresa found Attingham’s tenants the Van Bergens ‘bumptious’ and some of the neighbours ‘dull’ at first, she soon settled into her new life. In January 1920 the Berwicks held a ball and Teresa was popular, Charles Grant writing from nearby Pitchford Hall: ‘you would be amused and pleased at the nice things the neighbours I have seen say about you.’

As in Italy, Teresa enjoyed helping the community. She regularly attended Women’s Institute meetings and played the piano in a charity concert to raise money for the Nursing Association. In May 1914 Teresa had played the middle movement of Chopin’s E minor concerto at a concert in the Palazzo Pisani, Venice, accompanied by an orchestra.

The 8th Lady Berwick wearing Chinese fancy dress for a 1926 Women’s Institute Christmas party

The January 1920 edition of The Gentlewoman reported that ‘The 147th anniversary in aid of the Royal Salop Infirmary has just been held at Shrewsbury, and according to the old custom, the arms were presented by the latest bride in the County – Lady Berwick.’

The article in The Gentlewoman was accompanied by this photograph of Teresa in her black velvet dress, carrying a white ostrich fan

Teresa’s father, William Hulton, came to stay with her soon after she arrived in England. Unfortunately her mother, Costanza, could not accompany him. In 1919 Costanza was ill; feeling weak and losing weight. The Hulton’s money troubles continued. These problems had been brought about due to the effect of the First World War on the economy, continued and Costanza wrote on the 26th of September 1919: ‘I hope you have a little cottage on your estate which you will be able to let to me to end my days in, for I see no prospect of a home.’

Costanza was interested to hear about her daughter’s new life and wrote to Teresa: ‘Thank you for your long letter with the little picture of Cronkhill. I can imagine how beautifully clean and polished everything was – no place like England for that – and I can imagine the fine silver and soft footed (lazy) butler. Fancy no electric light or central heating.’

Teresa at desk by screen

Teresa sat in one of the interiors at Cronkhill

In August 1919 Costanza gave her daughter advice about her new role as mistress of the Attingham estate. She told her to get rid of the land agent, Dease, and employ a man trained in an agricultural college as she heard that most English landowners have amateurs as land agents. Costanza felt that the Attingham estate should be bringing in more money to pay off the mortgage that had been raised on the estate. However, Dease was kept on as land agent.

The Van Bergens moved out of Attingham in March 1920, having purchased Ferney Hall in Onibury, Shropshire. In a letter to Captain Van Bergen, Lord Berwick wrote that he was sorry that he was leaving Attingham as it was good to have a friend living there. Lord Berwick wrote that the Van Bergens would always be remembered for allowing Attingham to be used as a war hospital. In 1926, the Outer Library where the hospital was based was converted into an office for the Land Agent, Gordon Miller.

Lord Berwick was soon trying to claim compensation from the Van Bergens for damage to the house and furniture, with rats infesting the house. The Van Bergens resisted these claims, leading to Lady Berwick’s opinion of them falling.

picture gallery upon arrival at Attingham.jpg

This photograph in one of Teresa albums shows the Picture Gallery upon her arrival at Attingham.

Lord and Lady Berwick did not move into Attingham until the 8th of October 1921. The scale of the changes needed is apparent as Teresa told Costanza: ‘there are some charming octagonal ornamented rooms – the Van B’s have arranged it horribly,’ and that ‘the Van Bergens have made it hideous and covered up all the nice furniture. There are wonderful embroidered chairs and museum pieces of all sorts there. Next Spring, when they leave, we shall tidy it up and make it look nice again – but it needs a tremendous lot doing, all the carpets worn out and the walls to my mind uglily painted.’

In an article for The Townswoman, Teresa reported that most of the furniture now on display in the mansion had been stored in the basement during the First World War. Teresa asked her mother to send over her Red Cross aprons for ‘messing at Attingham.’ With her love of Italianate design and the Empire style, Teresa found Attingham rewarding and wrote to her mother: ‘Attingham is stuffed full of treasures of all kinds.’

During the 1920s Teresa had difficulty in getting servants, especially finding a satisfactory cook. Servant problems were common and in January 1920 Teresa’s acquaintance Cornelia wrote that ‘I am trying to move into a flat at Hans Court, Brompton Road, but have not found servants as yet. I want a good cook, a housemaid and a parlourmaid. If you hear of any will you let me know? It seems to be very hard to find servants.’

Servants at Attingham Hall in the 1930s

Four servants at Attingham Hall in the 1930s

Lady Berwick raised wages for maids that had shown promise after working for a month or two, but sadly many of these servants left shortly after. She annotated her notebook regarding the ‘quality’ of the servant such as good, bad, very bad. By 1931 few men appear on the household staff as they cost more to employ. By the outbreak of World War Two the situation was even worse. By 1941 the account book shows only 3 domestic staff, one of which was Mrs Durward, the much valued housekeeper and cook.

Mrs Durward and Colette

The housekeeper, Mrs Durward, with Colette the dog

Despite these difficulties, Attingham was enjoyed by the many friends who visited Thomas and Teresa. In August 1920 a fellow Red Cross war nurse, Evelyn Gordon-Watson, kindly told Teresa: ‘it is certainly your vocation to be a HOSTESS. I never knew anyone so kind and thoughtful as both you and Berwick.’

Teresa (with her head resting on her hand) seated with friends in the Picture Gallery at Attingham