Monthly Archives: April 2021

Post-war Shropshire – After the war

For many people the effects of war were far from over. Tragically, on the 4th of December 1918, local boy Private Frank Morrey Smith of the Border Regiment died of illness in France aged 19 and was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, France. He was the son of Herbert Isaac Smith who lived at 37 Urban Gardens, Millfield, Wellington.

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Attingham in the post WW1 period

 

Nine men died from Atcham during the First World War, compared to two in the Second World War, possibly because the rural population was larger at time of the First World War.

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A field of poppies on the Attingham estate

Atcham parish wanted to provide a village hall as a war memorial to local men who had died and this idea was realised when Lord Berwick gifted the Malthouse to the trustees. This was opened on the 31st of December 1925 by Colonel Charles Grant D.S.O. of Pitchford Hall. Fêtes were held in the grounds of Attingham Park to raise money to repair the roof and floor in order to make the Malthouse into a dancehall. A sprung floor was given by Morris’s ballroom in Shrewsbury. The building had originally been a malthouse in the 1600s. It would have been used for converting cereal grain into malt by soaking it in water, allowing it to sprout and then drying it to stop the grain growing anymore. Atcham’s malthouse then became the carpenter’s shop and estate yard for the Attingham estate, working alongside the blacksmith’s shop next door. The Atcham Women’s Institute, with which Lady Berwick was involved, was established in 1920 and used the Malthouse for meetings.

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The Malthouse in Atcham (c) Peter Francis, Sites of Remembrance: Shropshire War Memorials 

George Hughes, a gardener at Attingham, remained affected by his time serving in the war for the rest of his life. George was far from the only local man badly affected by his wartime experiences. Tom Godbehere who grew up in Atcham recalled some returned soldiers becoming tramps who frequented local farms. He remembered ‘one chap in particular, called Tom Morris, who used to spend a lot of time in the blacksmith’s shop doing a bit of striking for the blacksmith,’ mainly because in winter ‘there was always a warm hearth after the fire had gone out to lie on, to keep warm overnight.’

stand made by disabled soldiers and sailors, in Still Room

This c.1930 circular black lacquered wood teapot stand painted in gilt with a chinoiserie pagoda is in the Attingham collection. On the back it is labelled: ‘Made by Disabled Soldiers and Sailors at the LORD ROBERT’S MEMORIAL WORKSHOPS. SHOWROOMS. 122 BROMPTON RD LONDON SW3.’ NT 608356

In 1925, age 29, Gordon Miller became the land agent at Attingham. According to an oral history testimony, Gordon Miller was badly injured during battle in the First World War. Horrifically, he was presumed dead and put on a cart with other bodies before someone noticed he was still moving.

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Some of the gardeners at Attingham whilst the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick lived there

Celebrations were put on to welcome returning soldiers back to Shropshire. ‘The Shrewsbury Chronicle’ reported how in Berrington ‘between sixty and seventy soldiers who had returned from the war were entertained to supper in the school by the Parish Council and friends. The Rev. P. Alpe was chairman. Lord and Lady Berwick and Mr Hulton were also present.

William Hulton and his daughters feeding pigeons in Venice in 1894. William Hulton was visiting his daughter after her marriage and attended the celebration to welcome back local soldiers.

‘The room was profusely decorated and the tables presented a pleasing appearance, vases and bowls of choice roses and sweet peas being arranged in the exquisite style which is known only by the gentler sex and which is so suggestive of a labour of love. The menu consisted of geese, chicken, ducks, ham, vegetables, pastries of several kinds and fruit. No expense was spared and full justice was done to the substantial fare provided.

‘The rector, in a happy speech, extended a hearty welcome to the guests, paid tribute to the heroes who had fallen and congratulated the survivors who had taken so active a part in the defence of their country.’

Applauds were also given to those who helped the war effort at home. In his speech thanking the tenants for their present of a silver tray to mark the occasion of his marriage, Lord Berwick said that he thought the fact that British agriculture had fared so admirably during the war was ‘great testimony to the grit and determination of the farmers of England, who responded so magnificently in that awful hour of trial when they were fighting practically for the continuance of England.’

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During the Second World War, Lord Berwick played an active part in the war effort in Shropshire. He is pictured here in the Home Guard, the third from the left in the middle row

Whilst Lord Berwick does not appear to have shown a great aptitude for military life, he remained loyal to the Shropshire Yeomanry and allowed the Shropshire Yeomanry to camp at Attingham on three occasions in 1925, 1930 and 1935. These camps were held annually on a local estate. The men underwent fitness training, took part in military manoeuvres and competed in field sports.

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Lord Berwick’s speech to the Shropshire Yeomanry in 1930

As a mark of thanks for the 1930 camp held at Attingham the Shropshire Yeomanry presented Lord and Lady Berwick with a photograph album containing images of their stay. The Shropshire Yeomanry went on to serve in the Second World War, fighting in North Africa, Sicily and throughout the arduous Italian campaign. The Shropshire Yeomanry were disbanded in 1969.

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Members of the Shropshire Yeomanry are photographed playfully throwing a comrade into the air in the grounds at Attingham