Monthly Archives: May 2021

Tying up the story – After the war

In June 1920 the Hulton family were still repairing their house in Venice following the bomb damage during the First World War. They were short of funds to undertake all the repairs. Teresa visited Italy annually, returning to Venice in the spring to stay with her family.

In March 1921 Teresa was shocked by the sudden death of her father, William Stokes Hulton. She wrote on the 25th of March 1921 to Gioconda: ‘it is too sad we should none of us have known that poor father was really in such a shaky state.’

Teresa’s mother, Costanza, died in 1939. Costanza Hulton used to come to visit Teresa in England after her husband died and Teresa went to see her in Italy.

This photograph was taken at Cronkhill in 1921. Lady Berwick is bottom left, her sister is bottom right, their mother is top right and with them are two guests: Sir Reginald Tower, British diplomat and Alice Mary Bristowe, a friend from Italy. 

Tragically, Teresa’s sister Gioconda, who intended on coming to live with Teresa during the Second World War, died in 1940 when the motor bus that she was travelling in collided with a heavy goods vehicle. Gioconda was travelling from Cannes to Nice to arrange for repatriation before travelling to Britain to live with Teresa and Lord Berwick at Attingham. During the Second World War, Gioconda helped at a refugee canteen at Aix-les-Bains and her obituary praises the support that she gave to people in need.

Two booklets for the memorial services of Gioconda Hulton (1940) and Lord Berwick (1947)

Friends from Italy visited Teresa at Attingham, including Mrs Watkins who led the team of nurses that Teresa had helped in the war. In October 1920 Mrs Watkins was still working abroad. Her help attending to damage left by the war was much appreciated in Italy.

Mrs Marie Watkins (c) Hamish Scott

In June 1920, Teresa’s friend Lady Helen D’Abernon presented Teresa at court. Lord and Lady Berwick spent some time in London each year, Lady Berwick staying with her friends whilst Lord Berwick stayed at his club. In his memoir People and Places James Lees-Milne recounts meeting Lady Berwick at the house of Lady D’Abernon to discuss passing Attingham over to the National Trust. In London, Lord Berwick took his seat in the House of Lords to hear the debates which he eagerly followed in the newspapers. The couple enjoyed visiting galleries and art sale rooms and sometimes made purchases for Attingham.

Some catalogues for art exhibitions that Teresa and Lord Berwick attended in London.

Teresa made many new friends in Shropshire. After being gassed in the First World War, the Italian Commendator Tranquillo Sidoli came to Shropshire for medical treatment and to be with his sister. He founded a confectionery business in Shrewsbury and Teresa often visited. She enjoyed being able to speak in Italian to the Sidolis. Later, with the Second World War looming, Teresa swapped the Hulton palazzo in Venice that she and Gioconda had inherited for the Sidoli premises on Wyle Cop. This provided an ideal solution as Sidoli wanted to return to Italy, whilst it was difficult for Teresa and Gioconda to retain their family home in the face of Mussolini’s rising power.

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Teresa Hulton’s family home in Venice (c) Robin Fox

The Allies did not give Italy all the promised territories after the war. Post-war riots, lootings, rail strikes and the possibility of revolution helped to lead to the rise of Fascism in Italy. The Berwick’s relationship with Teresa’s uncle Luigi Villari was strained in the 1930s due to his support of Mussolini and Fascism. As one of Mussolini’s Aides, Luigi was imprisoned after Mussolini’s death. Fortunately, Teresa helped persuade the authorities to release Luigi.

Luigi Villari in military uniform on horseback, June 1916

The Hulton family had friends on both sides of the war following their temporary move to Germany in 1905, where Teresa trained to be a concert pianist. Although the Hultons appear to have given up contact with German friends during the war, for Christmas 1920 Gioconda accompanied Lady D’Abernon to Berlin. Lord Berwick wrote: ‘It must be very strange in Berlin, but I gather you do not see many Germans. I am sure it is a great thing that we are so well respected there.’

A photograph of Teresa on the steps of Attingham Hall, probably taken in 1920 for the early 1921 Country Life article about Attingham

Following her marriage, Lady Berwick brought her wartime letters and photographs to Attingham from Italy. She showed great attention to detail in neatly cutting slips in one of her photograph albums to hold wartime photographs. The result is beautiful, but must have been time-consuming to create. Whilst Lord Berwick discarded much of his wartime correspondence, the fact that Teresa took the trouble to preserve so many valuable records of her war work suggests that she recognised this period in her life not only as important to herself but, through bequeathing her documents to the National Trust, to posterity.

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The archive at Attingham where Teresa’s wartime letters and photographs were stored prior to being transferred to Shropshire Archives

After moving into Attingham Hall in 1921, Teresa lived there with her husband for around 26 years. Attingham was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1947 upon Lord Berwick’s death.

Tom sat on bench with little dog May 1946 cropped

Lord Berwick photographed with his dog in May 1946

Teresa lived another 25 years in the Hall, sharing the space with the small numbers of National Trust visitors and the Shropshire Adult Education College. Following a car accident at the front gates, Lady Berwick passed away in 1972. The Berwicks are remembered at the Berwick Memorial in the Deer Park and Lady Berwick is also remembered on the East Colonnade at the side of the house overlooking the river.

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A newspaper article detailing Lady Berwick’s tragic death in a car crash in 1972

Lord and Lady Berwick left a generous legacy to future generations. Their years of careful restoration and preservation at Attingham has led to its success and survival into the 21st century. Over a 100 years on from the First World War, many people enjoy visits to Attingham and to relax and to learn of its stories.

Teresa, Tom, Cecil Pinsent by Gates

Lord and Lady Berwick with garden designer Cecil Pinsent stood by the front gate at Attingham

Cataloguing work and research into the Attingham First World War stories continues. There’s certainly more to discover!

Thank you for reading this blog and if you would like to visit, please take a look at our website.

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Lady Berwick in 1972