Tag Archives: Aldwych centre

Troubled times – November 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Despite its huge size the Aldwych centre, were Teresa worked at the start of the war, was full of refugees by November. Teresa played a vital role in helping refugees find work and dealt with travel expenses as refugees were moved all over Britain. Other refugees stayed in London with many finding work in armaments factories near Edmonton, north London.

Teresa was clearly much loved by the refugees that she helped. It must have been satisfying for her to receive many ‘thank you’ letters from refugees telling her how pleased they were in the situations that she had found for them.

Wounded Belgians in a Scottish hospital were also grateful for her help in finding their relatives. Many letters in our archive from the refugees are written in French. Teresa’s fluency in this language must have helped her communicate with the refugees and would have been reassuring to them in a foreign land. Members of the Interpreting Department of the Women’s Emergency Corps were often sent to help the Belgian refugees communicate with people in Britain.

Belgian refugees leaving Ypres, 2nd November 1914.

Belgian refugees leaving Ypres, 2nd November 1914. © IWM (Q 53383)

Despite this, the vast amount of work left Teresa tired. She wrote to her sister, Gioconda, explaining her busy daily routine:

this work at the Rink [Aldwych Centre] is so hard & finding that I come home quite exhausted and after dinner have to write letters and organise the refugee’s business. I go off at about 20 past 9 + from the moment I arrive at Aldwych am up to my eyes in work + besieged by refugees all clamouring to be allocated – we can just snatch half an hour for lunch… then go back to work again & never stop till 7! Then home, change, dinner & refugee correspondence interspersed with political discussions with darling Lady Wenlock who is so keen & insists on entering into long conversations when I am trying to write. I crawl off to bed about half past 10 or 11. I am so tired I simply cannot think to write! Irene comes back from Eastwick in a day or two & then I mean to work less hard at the Rink- for I have been in her place all this time.’

Teresa Hulton at a writing desk in her family home in Venice, 1913.

Teresa Hulton at a writing desk in her family home in Venice, 1913.

 

Another problem for Teresa was the Hulton’s financial situation. Allowances for all members of the family were cut because her father, William Hulton, had invested in Deutchsbank when in Munich and his investments were going badly. Her mother, Costanza, explained that the family annual income was reduced from £925.00 to£583.00 and that it might not be possible for them to afford to continue living in their Venetian home.

 

Teresa’s income from refugee work was helpful and she told Gioconda that she had ‘heaps of money and never any time for shopping!’ She wished that her sister could join her but lack of money and the war made this difficult. Instead she advised Gioconda to ‘work at the Red Cross work this winter in Florence.’ She commented: ‘I bitterly regret not to have done any of that.’

Gioconda, Teresa and their friend, Mary in St Marks Square, Venice, 1914.

Gioconda, Teresa and their friend, Mary in St Marks Square, Venice, 1914. Mary was Teresa’s close Hungarian friend and many letters from Mary remain in the Attingham archive.

Gioconda took her sister’s advice and wrote that she and her mother, Costanza, were thinking of beginning a course in Red Cross instruction. Feeling that the workload as a nurse would be less overwhelming for Teresa, Costanza suggested that she undertake a nursing course at Guy’s hospital, where Teresa’s friend Lady Helen Vincent was training to become a nurse. Costanza advised Teresa that a ‘woman who has small but chronic disability, like your headaches, is a fit person to be a nurse.’

 

Attingham

Although many local people were fond of the Attingham tenants, the Van Bergens, others were suspicious of the Dutch-American family. When two nephews came to visit the Van Bergens and took photographs of the view from the roof of Attingham many people thought that the boys were spies.

Attingham Hall during the early 1900s. View towards the west side of the house.

Attingham Hall during the early 1900s. View towards the west side of the house.

Besides the hospital that had been set up in the house, other areas of the Attingham estate were put to use for the war effort. The War Office used the stables rent free as stabling for remounts. Mules were trained to send overseas to the Front. In 1919 a detailed compensation claim for dilapidations caused to the stables at Attingham and Cronkhill was made for £584 10s 3d including £2 5s to ‘Renew linings to windows gnawed by mules.’ £500 was offered and the claim was settled.

The Stables at Attingham Park. Photographed by Country Life in 1921.

The Stables at Attingham Park. Photographed by Country Life in 1921.

 


Kitchener in petticoats – October 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

October was to be a busy month for Teresa who continued her work in London dealing with donations of money and clothes for the Belgian refugees as well as helping them to find work, such as sewing, working on farms, giving music lessons and working as gardeners. Letters show how grateful the refugees were for her help, particularly when she helped reunite them with their families.

Belgian refugees receiving clothes, Ostend, 28th August 1914

Belgian refugees receiving clothes, Ostend, 28th August 1914. © IWM (Q 53217)

 

As well as working at the refugee centre at Aldwych, Teresa also found work at a centre for Belgian refugees at Millfield House, Edmonton, which had formerly been a workhouse. Teresa proudly described her work in a letter to her sister Gioconda:

‘My Millfield House Refuge is going most beautifully. My only fear is now that the refugees will soon give out – I shall be upset giving up this work – I got 35 to Darlington today, 50 to Brunner, Mond & Co, Northwich tomorrow, 50 to Keighley etc. besides various smaller departures. Everyone seems quite pleased with me + my work and I think you may say a little about my achievements for I quite inspire respect!’

Strand Workhouse Edmonton from north entrance to Belgian Refuge c 1915

Strand Workhouse Edmonton from north entrance to Belgian Refuge c 1915. To see more information on the Edmonton workhouse please click here.

Gioconda replied that she followed Teresa’s ‘instructions to brag a little about’ her war work. Gioconda told her sister:

‘I expect that by the time you come back to Venice, (if Venice exists any more & is not reduced to a heap of muddy bricks) you will have gained the reputation of being Kitchener in petticoats.’

Lord Kitchener poster

Lord Kitchener poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 2734)

 

Teresa was enthusiastic to help the war effort as much as she could and applied for work censoring letters. The disappointing reply which she received shows the prejudices that many women faced at the time. She was told:

I do not know if they would allow a lady to do the work of censoring letters, and I am afraid you would find it very uncomfortable working in camp; and of course you could not live here, as it would be still more uncomfortable and rough for you.’

 Teresa had applied to carry out this work at Frith Hill camp, a prisoner of war camp in Surrey that Londoners came to visit as a day trip! To see more information on the Frith Hill camp please click here.

Postcard of the Frith Hill camp, Surrey.

Postcard of the Frith Hill camp, Surrey. Image courtesy of Picture Postcards from the Great War 1914-1918.

 

Teresa was far from the only lady pushing against the constraints placed on women. Gioconda’s friend told her of a newly married lady who went with her husband to Galicia dressed as a soldier but was discovered and sent back.

October also saw the Hultons affected by the tragedy of war. A family friend, Katherine Bernard, lost her younger son and wrote to thank Teresa for her condolences. She described that though she felt sometimes that she ‘couldn’t bear the idea of never seeing him again in this world’ she tried to find comfort in the fact that she knew where her son’s grave was and that his actions were ultimately successful, writing ‘It seems to give one immense Brotherhood all this sacrifice + suffering for so fine a cause!’

Katherine was far from alone in her loss. October 1914 marked the beginning of the First Battle of Ypres fought over a strategically important Belgian town. The battle left around 56,000 British casualties.

First Battle of Ypres, 1914. Distrubution of mail on the roadside near Ypres. The 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards, October 1914.

First Battle of Ypres, 1914. Distrubution of mail on the roadside near Ypres. The 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards, October 1914. © IWM (Q 57197)

 

Attingham

With casualties of war mounting, Attingham Park Auxiliary Military Hospital was much needed when it opened on the 20th of October. The first patients were Belgian officers and privates. The Outer Library was used as a ward and had previously contained a billiard table but this was moved to the Picture Gallery when the hospital began. In 1914 there were only 11 beds and this had increased to 60 by 1918.

The Outer Library at Attingham Park as a hospital ward during WWI

The Outer Library at Attingham Park as a hospital ward during WWI

Mrs van Bergen, the tenant at Attingham, was the Commandant of the Attingham hospital and she was in charge of all hospital affairs except for medical and nursing services. Medical attendance was provided locally and voluntarily, with Mr R. de Salis Stawell, a medical practitioner in Shrewsbury, acting as the surgeon. Mr R. de Salis Stawell  was later awarded an OBE for his war work. Two nurses, Sister West and Sister Johnson, were joined by numerous staff in other functions as well as medical staff from nearby Berrington hospital if required. Many local women volunteered at the hospital.

Mrs Van Bergen (left) and a nurse at Attingham Park during WWI

Mrs Van Bergen (left) and a nurse at Attingham Park during WWI

Convoys of wounded soldiers usually went straight to Military Base Hospitals before being sent to the voluntary hospitals, but in Shropshire trains came straight from Southampton or Dover. Initially there were no ambulances and hospitals had to rely on the kindness of tradesmen in Shrewsbury for the use of their commercial vehicles and on loans of private cars. To view footage of soldiers leaving a ship and boarding an ambulance please click here.

Wounded soldiers and nurses in a car at Attingham Park during WWI

Wounded soldiers and nurses in a car at Attingham Park during WWI.

The patients at Attingham were generally less seriously wounded than at other hospitals and needed convalescence. The servicemen preferred the auxiliary hospitals to military hospitals because they were not so strict, less crowded and the surroundings more homely. Photographs show the Outer Library ward with flowers and pretty bedspreads. By 1918 there was an average number of 33 patients resident daily and on average patients stayed for over a month.

Nurses and wounded soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham Park during WWI

Nurses and wounded soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham Park during WWI.


The shadow of war – September 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By September 1914 letters show that for many, the reality of war was beginning to sink in. Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen Vincent, wrote:

‘The awfulness of this gigantic war is being brought home here when we see so many wounded & increasingly worse accounts of one’s friends. A child bride of last year is today a widow.’

Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D'Abernon

Lady Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D’Abernon

 

Teresa too was moved and on the 10th September wrote to Lady Vincent that she would like to work with Belgian refugees. 160,000 Belgian refugees flooded into Britain between 1914 and 1915 as the Germans invaded Belgium. Upon arrival, many came to London where Teresa was staying with relatives.

 The Mayoress of Hampstead, London, with whom Teresa was to work, made a plea to help the refugees:

I appeal to the inhabitants of Hampstead for the Belgian Refugees, who consist mainly of women and children, and who are arriving here in hundreds almost daily. After the gallant resistance that Belgium has offered, with the result that their country is overrun by the German army, it is only right that we here in England, who are luckily exempt from this scourge of invasion, should do something to help these people who have lost their homes and all they possess. They are arriving absolutely penniless, and in most cases with only the clothes they stand up in.’

From The Tablet, September 1914.

To see British Pathé footage of Belgian refugees receiving help during WWI, please click here.

Belgian refugees outside Hudsons Furniture Repository, Victoria Station, London, September 1914. © IWM (Q 53305)

Belgian refugees outside Hudsons Furniture Repository, Victoria Station, London, September 1914. © IWM (Q 53305)

Lady Helen Vincent was well placed to help Teresa find work and got in touch with Edith de Mullway of the Aldwych Belgian refugee centre who arranged for Teresa to visit to see what duties were required.

The Aldwych centre was set up in a roller skating rink that had been taken over by the War Refugees’ Committee. Roller skating was popular in the Edwardian times and in 1911 the Aldwych roller skating rink was used as a meeting place for suffragettes. To view an interesting blog post about the Aldwych centre and its use before the war please click here.

 

The Old Skating Rink, Aldwych, in use as a clearing house for Belgian refugees, October 1915.

The Old Skating Rink, Aldwych, in use as a clearing house for Belgian refugees, October 1915. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2238)

 

The centre provided food and accommodation for the refugees and tried to find them work and homes. By the end of September Teresa was working as an allocator, helping Belgian families find homes and jobs in England. Many of them took the place of gardeners, labourers and servants as these roles were left empty as people were called up to war or left to do war work.

Teresa also dealt with donations and provisions sent to the centre, an important grounding for her later role in Red Cross hospital work in Italy. The Aldwych centre dispensed medicines and provided medical aid for an average of 60 patients daily. At the end of September there was an illness scare amongst the refugees and Gioconda wrote warning Teresa to be careful not to fall sick.

Teresa as a young woman

Teresa as a young woman

 

Although Italy remained neutral, it too was beginning to feel the effects of the war. Gioconda wrote that Italy’s commerce was affected by the war and that ‘there seems to be no money to spend & the outlook is very black.’ Gioconda gave a vivid account of how war affected the atmosphere in Venice by the end of September. She wrote:

‘Venice is very curious just now. Very few of the people generally to be seen at this time of the year, the Piazza almost deserted & of friends & acquaintances hardly a soul- on the other hand there are many suspicious looking individuals about- nondescript types both male & female- Then there are quantities of soldiers of every kind.’

 

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Lord Berwick was stationed with the Shropshire Yeomanry in Morpeth, Northumberland. To see a short film about the type of training he may have undertaken with his regiment, please click here.

The Shropshire Yeomanry, early 1900s

The Shropshire Yeomanry, early 1900s. Lord Berwick is on the right of the picture and is the last man on the back row.

 

Attingham

By January 1915 there were 25 Belgian refugee families in the Atcham rural district, the parish in which Attingham is located. They may have helped on the Estate.

Cutting the grass in the early 1900s at Attingham. This photograph was taken by the side of the Outer Library on the west side of the house.

Cutting the grass in the early 1900s at Attingham. This photograph was taken by the side of the Outer Library on the west side of the house.

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