Tag Archives: Costanza Hulton

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.

Casa Hulton 1

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.

DSC01178

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.

1972 Article 1972_ edited-1

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.

1972 Teresa 1972 compressed

Lady Berwick in 1972


A month of sorrow – August 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

August 1915 was a sorrowful time for Teresa following the death of her maternal grandmother, Linda Villari. Originally from Brighton, Linda was the daughter of an English textile merchant. By her first husband, the Italian Vincenzo Mazini, she had a daughter, Costanza (Teresa’s mother). But after Mazini’s death she married the Italian historian and senator Pasquale Villari and had a son, Luigi (Teresa’s uncle). A scholarly lady, Linda wrote for magazines and produced a history of archaeology.

Linda Villari in 1906.

Linda Villari, Teresa’s grandmother, 1906.

During this month Teresa’s uncle, Luigi Villari, was stationed in Florence and was part of the Italian cavalry. His horse was named ‘Fanciullo’ (‘laddie’) and he sent Teresa a photograph of himself mounted and wearing his uniform. He was known as ‘Gino’ to his relatives.

Luigi Villari, Florence, 1915.

Luigi Villari, Teresa’s uncle, Florence, 1915.

Other changes in the family were afoot. Having previously had little luck with finding war work that suited her, Gioconda hoped that becoming a nurse in a hospital in Florence might be to her liking. She wrote to her sister:

‘Yesterday afternoon I began work at Hosp. There are only 7 convalescent men there now & there is not much to do. They all get up & walk about. The place is very curious but clean & gay. My companion is Signa Miglionini who is dull but not a bad soul.’

Gioconda in 1911

Gioconda in 1911

Lady Helen D’Abernon, a close friend of the Hulton sisters, who was training as an anaesthetist at Guy’s Hospital in London at the time, was especially pleased to receive the news that Gioconda had taken up hospital work. In her letter to Gioconda she wrote:

‘I shall be eager to hear of your hospital- what kind of wounds you see? Or is it more typhoid & fever? I don’t like to think of you running any risks dear, dainty, little Gioconda- and if you have to do with fever patients you cannot plunge your hands too often in disinfectant. I remember your old habit of always washing your hands- it must not desert you now.’

Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon in her nurse uniform.

Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D’Abernon in her nurse uniform.

However, Gioconda found that her experience in the hospital in Florence proved to her once and for all that she was not fitted to be a nurse. She told Teresa just after beginning the job, ‘If my work were more congenial I should be enjoying all this thoroughly.’

Gioconda Hulton, Florence, February 1916

Gioconda Hulton, Florence, February 1916

Soon, Gioconda had given up her nursing post at the hospital and her mother, Costanza, had taken her place. Costanza found that nursing came more easily to her and helped at the war hospital for some time.

Attingham

By August, Britain had been at war for a year. A conflict which many had thought would be over by Christmas 1914 now seemed to have no end in sight. Deaths continued to mount. Throughout the country, many must have been wondering whether they would be the next to hear the tragic news of the loss of friends and loved ones.

Interwar period British poppy.

Interwar period British poppy. © IWM (EPH 2313)

On the 23rd of August 1915 22 year-old John Carswell (16485), from the Atcham parish, died from wounds received in battle. The 1911 census records John aged 16 as working as a labourer on a farm near Attingham. He probably helped his father who was a cowman on the farm. John had been a private in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and is remembered on the war memorial plaque in St Eata’s Church in Atcham.

St Eata's Church, Atcham, Shropshire, early 1900s.

St Eata’s Church, Atcham, Shropshire, early 1900s.

On 28th of August 1915, the Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News reported:

 ‘Private John Carswell, 1st King’s Shropshire L.I., son of Mr. T. Carswell, Uckington, Upton Magna, joined the Force, in December, 1914, proceeded to the France last April, and went straight into the firing line. Wounded in the battle of Hooge, he died from the effect on August 23.’

Private John Carswell.

Private John Carswell.

With thanks to Neil Evans and Phil Morris for their work on the Shropshire Roll of Honour. For further information on their work, please click here.


Summer holidays – July 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Although Italy was at war, Teresa still found time to have a much needed break. She visited the beautiful Appenine mountains, most likely on a trip with her family as no correspondence was sent to her from them during July. The Hultons often visited beautiful places around Italy where Teresa’s father, William Hulton, could paint. A letter of the 21st of July shows that Teresa was staying at Hotel Abetina Saltino, Vallombrosa.

Increasing casualties overseas led to the British Red Cross sending many V.A.D.s to work abroad in mid-1915. They were given an inspirational message written by their Commandant-in-Chief, Katharine Furse. On the back of this message was a prayer by Rachel Crowdy, Principal Commandant in France. To see the message and prayer, please click here.

V.A.D. apron in IWM collection.

V.A.D. apron in IWM collection. © IWM (UNI 12338)

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

 In July 1914, Lord Berwick was working as an Honorary Secretary to the British Embassy in Paris. However, he had retained many of his books and papers relating to his training in the Shropshire Yeomanry, which he re-joined later in the war. These books are now kept in the Inner Library at Attingham and the somewhat battered, water-stained appearance of many of the books testifies to them being well-used.

Lord Berwick's military books

Lord Berwick’s military books.

One of the earliest of these military books that he possessed was Regulations for the Imperial Yeomanry, published in 1903 shortly after he joined the Shropshire Yeomanry.

Regulations for the Imperial Yeomanry, 1903

Regulations for the Imperial Yeomanry, 1903.

Lord Berwick also carried with him Field Report books. There are a number of these remaining and they would have been used by Lord Berwick to make notes which could be dispatched to other members of the regiment. Two of them have striking brightly coloured marbled front pages.

Field Report books, unknown date.

Field Report books, unknown date.

Another important book was the Field Service book. One dated 1913 has a type written list of names of men in two platoons tucked in the front. Lord Berwick’s name is at the top of the list and some of the men seem to have been divided into four groups judging by the numbers written beside them. The date of this list is not known but since Lord Berwick does not appear to have owned another Field Service book until 1917 it is likely that it is dated from the First World War. Certainly many of the men named would have fought during the war.

List of men in platoon.

List of men in platoon.

Lord Berwick evidently took his duties seriously and owned many military instruction manuals. These include a Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching dated 1914. This map includes many illustrations and diagrams, for example, of how to draw a panorama for use from a military position.

Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching, 1914.

Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching, 1914.

In the same series was the 1914 Manual of Elementary Military Hygiene. This dealt with subjects such as disease, sanitation, water, food, clothing, equipment, physical training and marching, instructing soldiers to keep mentally occupied on a march by singing and whistling.

Manual of Elementary Military Hygiene, 1914.

Manual of Elementary Military Hygiene, 1914.

In addition to military handbooks, Lord Berwick also enjoyed some lighter reading. During the war, Adela Dugdale of Terrick Hall near Whitchurch sent Lord Berwick a copy of Vernede’s war poems.

Attingham

The convalescent hospital established at Attingham was busy over the summer of 1915. The impeding arrival of wounded soldiers would be announced by telegram so that help could be prepared for them. Like most V.A.D. hospitals, the hospital at Attingham held regular teas and concerts to keep up morale. Summer was an ideal time to hold such fund-raising events.

Soldiers and nurses outside the Outer Library at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

Soldiers and nurses outside the Outer Library at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

Although both in Britain and Italy women were being called upon for war work, some felt that more women could be helping. The 21st of July saw the ‘Women’s March Through London’ in which 30,000 women marched along the streets carrying banners demanding that they be allowed to do war work. Letters to Teresa Hulton show that early in the war many women had to face the prejudice that work was not suitable for them.

In the Shropshire countryside, with male farm labourers leaving, women were called upon to do agricultural labour. The fodder for the mules and horses in the Attingham stables would have probably been collected by the Women’s Forage Corps. To read further information on the Women’s Forage Corps, please click here and scroll down to section 3. To see an object in the Imperial War Museum’s collection connected with the Women’s Forage Corps, please click here. To see an example of a large Remount Depot with members of the Forage Corps, please click here.

Attingham Stables, 1925.

Attingham Stables, 1925.


Heading for Italy – May 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

On the 8th of May Teresa finished her quarantine for German Measles and was able to visit the refugees that she had been helping at Edmonton, London. However, few remained there and Teresa’s work consisted mainly of tying up her duties and making sure that the refugees were as comfortably settled as possible.

Belgian refugee children, 1918

Belgian refugee children, 1918. © IWM (Q 27757B)

One example of her kind work was with Adolf Keyeux, a bright young Belgian refugee who wanted to continue with his studies. By mid May, Adolf Keyeux was resuming his studies in Leeds where he was to remain until he was old enough to serve in the army in 1918 in Belgium, his homeland. He continued to write to Teresa regularly.

A colleague from Edmonton, Edith Thorndike, told Teresa what an excellent job everyone felt that she did helping the refugees:

I wonder if you know how much you helped the Belgian work really – your method of working was so thorough and you won’t mind me saying now that it was much appreciated at Edmonton!

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.

By late May, Teresa’s refugee work in England had come to an end and she made plans to leave for Italy to rejoin her family. However, her return was hastened by the major events unfolding in her home country.

On the 23rd of May 1915 Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, entering the First World War on the side of the Allies: Britain, France and Russia. When the war had begun it had been expected that Italy would take sides with Germany and Austria-Hungary, with which it had formed the Triple Alliance. The reason for Italy joining on the side of the Allies was mainly to gain territory in southern Austria-Hungary, where Italian was the main language spoken. When war was declared crowds gathered to cheer the Italian royal family. Click here to see a photograph of this event.

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian soldiers were moved to strategic points on the border that the country shared with Austria-Hungary. Teresa’s mother, Costanza, wrote to her daughter: ‘people are going to Venice to see it for the last time!

Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen D’Abernon, commented that her old life in Venice felt remote. She worried how the beautiful architecture and artworks in Italy would fare during the war.

Upon her return to Italy, it is likely that Teresa fulfilled her long-held ambition to do a period of Red Cross training. This would have involved  lectures, practical training and exams in both first aid and nursing. She received her Italian Red Cross certificate in October 1915.

Teresa's Italian Red Cross Certificate, 1915

Teresa’s Italian Red Cross Certificate, 1915

By May, Lady Helen D’Abernon had finished her work at Guy’s Hospital, London, but was thinking of nursing in France. She wrote that in ‘these days of tension and anxiety’ it was impossible to sit in the sun with folded idle hands.Helen found nursing ‘very interesting’ but also commented:

‘…judging from past experience it is not a thing one can do by halves – but rather a kind of vampire devouring all one’s zeal & strength & energy.’

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Teresa enjoyed a brief meeting with Lord Berwick on her journey back to Italy. She stayed for two days in Paris where Lord Berwick was stationed as Honorary Secretary to the British Embassy, and arranged to have lunch with him. Lord Berwick enjoyed her company and their friend, Fred Stratton, told Teresa that Lord Berwick ‘said nice things’ about her.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

 

Attingham

May 1915 was in many ways a time of tragedy. The Second Battle of Ypres raged throughout much of May as both sides tried to gain control of a strategic town in Belgium. It was the first time that Germany had used poisoned gas on a large scale on the Western Front. The battle resulted in 70,000 Allies being killed, wounded or missing.

A destroyed North Midland Farm, Messines Road, May 1915.

A destroyed North Midland Farm, Messines Road, May 1915. © (IWM Q 60496)

The dead included Herbert John Martin (16424) of the Atcham parish who was killed on the 25th of May at Ypres. At 37, he was the oldest man in the parish to die as a result of the war. He had been a private in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He had enlisted in December 1914, arrived in France on 4th May 1915 and was killed in action on 25th May. He is remembered on the plaque in Atcham and on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium.

With thanks to Neil Evans and Phil Morris for their work on the Shropshire Roll of Honour.

There was tragedy on the seas too as on the 7th of May the Lusitania sank, with over a thousand passengers and crew meeting their deaths. The ship was torpedoed off the southern coast of Ireland by a German U-boat. The sinking of a non-military ship carrying 128 Americans caused great protest in the USA.

Lifebelt from the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed without warning and sunk by the German Submarine U20 on 7th May 1915, with the loss of 1198 lives.

Lifebelt from the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed without warning and sunk by the German Submarine U20 on 7th May 1915, with the loss of 1198 lives. © IWM (MAR 127)

May 1915 also saw the fall of the Liberal Government and the establishment of a new coalition.


A tiresome time – April 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In early April Teresa decided to give up her work at the Postal Censor office and to stop translating secret documents. She wrote that the work required her to be a ‘blend of Sherlock Holmes and Scarpia,’ which she felt did not suit her. [Scarpia was the Chief of Police in Tosca, a French play and later an Italian opera set in Rome in 1800.] Her war work elsewhere was also coming to a close. Although she still found helping the Belgian refugees fulfilling, by April there were few new arrivals and most of the Belgians had left to work in places all around Britain.

Censura mark on letter

Censura mark on letter. Click here to watch a film about postal censorship during the war.

Eager to remain in Britain, Teresa thought of applying for a job teaching languages in Manchester. Being fluent in several languages, including Italian, French and German, the work would have been ideally suited to her. However, her mother, Costanza, was not happy with her daughter’s ambition as she felt that it might not be suitable for her. She wanted Teresa home. It had been nearly a year since they had last seen each other. On the 23rd of April Costanza wrote:

‘…there is a doubt in my mind that you may have some other reason for wishing to stay on in England which you have said nothing about. I mean that you may think that by coming away now you are risking losing a possibility of marriage which you would like. If this is the case, please tell me so frankly.

Teresa's mother, Costanza, 1913.

Teresa’s mother, Costanza, 1913.

Her mother’s suspicions may have been right. Lord Berwick, who was working in the Paris embassy, continued to correspond with Teresa after their initial meetings before the war began. In April he gave her the card of the artist Fred Stratton, knowing that Teresa would enjoy visiting his studio. Teresa came from an artistic background and the love of the arts which she shared with Lord Berwick was later to be evident in their tasteful restoration of Attingham.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Lord Berwick at a desk taken between 1900 and 1919.

Fred Stratton and Teresa seem to have got along well and he wrote to her later to thank her for her cheering visit. He told her:

You know I said that I felt as if I had known you always – well you greet me as if you had known me always.’

Teresa’s friendliness was doubtless a great asset to her war work but her plans of staying on in Britain were to be dashed. By the end of April she was suffering from a ‘troublesome cough‘ which was diagnosed as German Measles. Due to her illness, on the 22nd of April Teresa was obliged to give up her work with Belgian refugees.

On the 26th of April Teresa left the London home of her Aunt Mary, with whom she had been staying for much of the war. She went to stay with her uncle and godfather Jack Hulton and his wife Blanche in Surrey.

Teresa described to Gioconda her frustration at being confined due to her illness. She hated having to ‘remain shut up in my room or else come & sit in the garden but absolutely in quarantine! It is most tiresome.’

Teresa Hulton in 1914.

Teresa Hulton in 1914.

As she recovered, Teresa was able to occupy herself with dressmaking and helped in the garden, doing tasks such as cutting the lawn. With servants having left to do war work, her help would have been much appreciated.

Teresa with two dogs, Potten, England, 1915.

Teresa with two dogs, Potten, England, 1915.

During the war, many genteel ladies began to do practical gardening tasks, which would have been virtually unthinkable before. In 1915, Mary Hampden, author of Every Woman’s Flower Garden, wrote:

 ‘Years ago women – always defined as ladies –  piled outdoor tools in semi shame, afraid of being considered vulgar or unfeminine; now the spade is recognised as an honourable implement in female hands.’

Teresa Hulton in 1913.

Teresa Hulton in 1913.

Teresa’s illness and the fact that she had to give up her war work in Britain made it seem like a good idea to return to her family in Italy. Keen as ever to do all that she could to help the war effort. It is likely that Teresa’s mind turned to her future work. Letters show that she was already taken by the idea of nursing.

The ‘romance’ of the Red Cross was commonly advertised in the press and periodicals of the time, encouraging many young ladies, mainly of the middle and upper classes, to become nurses. Hearing how casualties of war were mounting with the second battle of Ypres beginning in April, Teresa may have felt a desire to be able to do something to help wounded soldiers. Nursing was to become her occupation for the next three years.

1915 oil painting of a nurse, soldier and child by William Hatherell.

1915 oil painting of a nurse, soldier and child by William Hatherell. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 5194)

 

Attingham

The Attingham war hospital remained busy and the growing demand for more auxiliary war hospitals in Shropshire was met by the opening of Stokesay Court as a war hospital in April 1915. For more information on the Stokesay Court hospital, please click here. For information on their forthcoming event on 18th and 19th April to commemorate the opening of the hospital please click here.

 

 

 


A piece of cake – February 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

As well as helping at two centers for Belgian refugees, doing secret intelligence work and working in the postal censorship office, Teresa made time to lend a hand at events put on to raise funds to help the war effort. On the 16th February 1915 Teresa and some of her friends were selling at a sale of cakes and preserves in aid of a Belgian field hospital.

Teresa and her stall at the Attingham garden fête, 1924

Teresa and her stall at the Attingham garden fête, 1924.

Teresa did all that she could to help the Belgian refugees and had taken one of the young Belgian boys, Adolf Keyeux, under her wing. He was especially bright and Teresa made an effort to help him with his education. Eventually she assisted him in gaining a place to study in Leeds. Throughout the war he sent letters and cards to her, updating her on his progress and asking for her advice and assistance.

Teresa reading in 1912

Teresa reading in 1912.

Other people who were also concerned with the care of the Belgian refugees had more trouble. On the 28th February Teresa received a letter from H. E. Ayris who had taken on Monsieur and Madam Busscherts, a refugee couple who had come from the Edmonton centre, London.

Belgian refugees leaving Ypres, 2nd November 1914.

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

 

The Busscherts had just had a baby, which was putting pressure on Mr Ayris’s resources. He wrote asking Teresa whether he could seek financial help from the committee established to care for Belgian refugees. Times were hard for the Busscherts family as their Belgian landlord threatened to seize their possessions unless they forwarded him rent money.

As well as assisting the refugees, Teresa was also keen to help her own family, especially her sister, Gioconda, who found it difficult to settle to doing war work. Gioconda wanted to join Teresa working with the refugees in London but their mother, Costanza, felt that it might be ‘too much responsibility. She is so dependant and has so little initiative, and if she only has you to lean upon, you may find her too heavy.

Gioconda in Italy, 1908.

Gioconda in Italy, 1908.

 

Attingham

1915 marked the beginning of a busy few years for the British Red Cross hospitals in Shropshire. In 1915 a total of twelve ambulance trains came to Shrewsbury with 1,666 men. About forty were taken to the Royal Salop Infirmary and many soldiers were so badly wounded that they had to be carried to the institution on a hand ambulance. In February Mrs Van Bergen, the tenant at Attingham Hall, visited the Royal Salop Infirmary, eager to do all that she could for the wounded soldiers.

Wounded soldiers and a nurse at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

Wounded soldiers and a nurse at the Attingham hospital, c.1917.

As the Commandant of the Attingham hospital, Mrs Van Bergen’s uniform would have been much grander than that worn by the nurses as a mark of her higher rank. Her uniform would have consisted of a scarlet two-piece jacket and skirt, a blouse with a collar and tie and a hat with a ribbon and a badge of rank.

(Source: Storey, Neil R. & Housego, Molly (2010) Women in the First World War, Shire Books)

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

The convalescent hospital at Attingham took in many patients. Less badly injured or recovering soldiers were taken in ambulance wagons or in borrowed motor cars to local military hospitals like the one at Attingham. Helpfully, a motor ambulance, funded by members of the Ludlow Race Society, had been presented to the Shropshire Red Cross Society in January 1915. To see a British Pathé film of WWI ambulance vehicles, please click here.

Motor car at the front of Attingham Hall, c.1917.

Motor car at the front of Attingham Hall, c.1917.

Mr Van Bergen wrote to Lord Berwick’s Land Agent, Louis Dease, in February 1915 asking if it would be possible to make two tennis courts at a corner of the field near the river. He also mentioned that grooms with the army, which used Attingham’s stables to train mules and horses to send to the Front, sometimes left the gates open and livestock escaped.

February must have been a worrying month for many people in Britain as Germany declared that the waters around Britain were a war zone in which naval, merchant and passenger ships could be sunk without warning. On 18th February 1915 German U-boat attacks began and soon the number of ships being sunk was outstripping the number being built.

Lifebelt from HMS Formidable, sunk on the 1st January 1915 in the English Channel by torpedoes from German U-boat U24. © IWM (MAR 66)

Lifebelt from HMS Formidable, sunk on the 1st January 1915 in the English Channel by torpedoes from German U-boat U24. © IWM (MAR 66)


New beginnings – January 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

The New Year saw Teresa embarking on a fresh and exciting role to help the war effort. After offering many times to do intelligence work and facing the rebuttals of those who felt that it was not the kind of work suited to a woman, she was finally entrusted with the translation of top secret documents.

Teresa Hulton, May 1914

Teresa Hulton, May 1914

Behind Teresa being allocated the job was John Alfred Spranger of The Royal Engineers. He had known Teresa before the war and, like her, had been born in Italy of British ancestry. In one of his letters to Teresa he described an important document: ‘it is a strictly secret document and not one we can leave in the hands of anybody whom we are not more than sure of.’ Teresa was warned not to ‘mention the contents of any letters on this subject’ and was told to ‘destroy them all as soon as read by burning.’

Envelope from the war years

Envelope from the war years

Spranger also advised her to be careful not to arouse suspicion by disrupting her usual occupations to work on translating. Teresa worked fast and within a week of being asked by Spranger she had translated the secret document. A couple of letters from Spranger are all the evidence that remains of Teresa’s intelligence work. It is tantalising to consider what the documents and letters might have contained but unfortunately she seems to have followed orders and burnt most of her correspondence relating to this work.

Teresa’s family marvelled at the way that she worked so tirelessly despite not feeling well, often suffering from migraines. Her sister, Gioconda told her: ‘I wonder how you will manage to carry out regular paid work, when you do not feel well – do not over do yourself & knock up! It is really splendid of you to be doing something quite respectable & no doubt you are proud of yourself, – but it makes me feel rather a worm!’

Soon, however, Gioconda and Costanza began a Red Cross course which Gioconda described as ‘wonderful & interesting & I should be delighted with it if it had remained at the cocoon-stage of theory – but I am sure I will loathe the practice. The other day we assisted at an operation – Mother wanted to funk it, but as I held firm she ended by coming also.’

Gioconda Hulton, Florence, February 1916

Gioconda Hulton, Florence, February 1916

Gioconda described the operation as ‘so absorbing one quite forgot to feel sick & never thought of fainting! Some people were taken out in a fainting condition we were told afterwards, but it was chiefly due to the heat & to the smell of chloroform which was quite strong.’

With the New Year came new worries. German airships were beginning raids on Britain and Gioconda commented that in Italy ‘everyone talks of war & there are days when I feel as if we were on the very brink.’

Damage caused by the first German airship raid, Kings Lynn, January 1915

Damage caused by the first German airship raid, Kings Lynn, January 1915 © IWM (Q 53585)

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

The New Year also heralded changes in Lord Berwick’s life. He sought a reappointment with the Embassy in Paris, thinking that he could be more valuable there than in the army. At the Embassy, Lord Berwick was responsible for taking despatches and escorting army officers to headquarters. His Major wrote to him: ‘You have done useful work and we will miss you greatly. But we ought to work just where we are most useful.’

Lord Berwick (left) during WWI.

Lord Berwick (left) during WWI.

Before going to Paris, Lord Berwick met Teresa for lunch in London. Teresa was evidently thinking of him as a possible husband. Her mother wrote asking if Lord Berwick had ‘finally freed himself from the French shackles,’ alluding to his relationship with a French lady. Her mother also commented: ‘Lord Berwick is bucking up a bit.’

Lord and Lady Berwick on their honeymoon, 1919

Lord and Lady Berwick on their honeymoon, 1919.

Attingham

Despite the worry and bustle created by the war, there were many joyful occasions. On the 22nd of January, Mr and Mrs Van Bergen entertained local school children at Attingham on the last day of their holidays. There were refreshments, conjuring tricks and a Punch and Judy show. Gifts were given with toy guns and dolls for the younger children and watches with cases for the older ones. In 1919, as the Van Bergens’ tenancy drew to an end, Teresa, Lady Berwick, wrote (from London) to her mother about these parties. She wanted to return to Shropshire because ‘I should like to see how they do it.

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.

The Van Bergens would probably have had help from their servants in preparing for the party and tidying up afterwards. However, by 1915 the war was having a major impact on the number of people in domestic service. In January 1915 Country Life posed questions to be answered by those who employed male staff, including:

‘Have you a Butler, Groom, Chauffeur, gardener or Gamekeeper serving you who, at this moment should be serving your King & Country?’

Are you employing more servants than you need?

Are you employing more servants than you need? A poster from 1916. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 7891)


An all-consuming war – December 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

By December Teresa had given up most of her work with Belgian refugees at Edmonton, London. Although she continued helping at the Aldwych refugee centre, she was thinking of leaving and trying another form of war work.

Teresa (left), her sister Gioconda (centre) and their mother, Costanza (right), May 1909.

Teresa (left), her sister Gioconda (centre) and their mother, Costanza (right), May 1909.

In a letter to her sister, Teresa explained that she wanted to work as a nurse. Teresa may have been pleased when her cousin Rosemary suggested that she should join her working at a hospital in Dunkirk run by the Duchess of Sutherland. Click here to see a paining of the Duchess of Sutherland and here to discover more about her war work.

However, letters in the archive reveal that work at the Dunkirk hospital seemed to be just as exhausting as work with the Belgian refugees. Rosemary described how she often had to stay up most of the night as she was so busy. Many trains arrived at Dunkirk containing as many as 600 soldiers. There are some evocative paintings by French soldier, Victor Tardieu, which can be seen by clicking here and scrolling down.

Despite Rosemary’s description of the busy hospital, Teresa applied for the post of hospital secretary at Dunkirk. Unfortunately her application arrived too late as someone else had just been appointed. Undeterred, later in the month Teresa applied to work for the Postal Censor Bureau in London and was offered the job.

Censura mark on letter

Censura mark on letter. Click here to watch a film about postal censorship during the war.

Teresa had difficulties finding accommodation in London. She had been moving between the homes of various friends and relatives in the city since early summer. Teresa planned to stay in England more permanently to do war work, therefore, this arrangement was no longer practical. There are numerous letters written between her and friends who advised her on various Ladies’ Clubs where she could stay.

With the weather turning chilly, Teresa found that her wardrobe, which she had packed expecting to remain simply for the summer, was unsuited to the English winters. Gioconda sent Teresa ‘a box containing a muff & collar of hyena (or whatever it was) by sea.’ Gioconda was amused that ‘the captain refused to accept money for the stamps thinking the box contained clothes for the front.’

Teresa Hulton wearing her furs in November 1915 on the Italian Front.

Teresa Hulton wearing her furs in November 1915 on the Italian Front.

In Italy, their mother, Costanza, was making shirts for a soldier’s organisation. Despite the country remaining neutral, the war was very much in everyone’s thoughts.

This was even more so in England. On the 10th of December Teresa’s friend, Lady Helen Vincent, wrote ‘we all talk, think, sleep, eat of nothing but the war. I can hardly remember the time when I have spoken for more than two minutes of anything else. But when all this horror & suffering will end remains devilishly veiled & uncertain.’

Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D'Abernon

Lady Helen Vincent, later Viscountess D’Abernon

However, there were light-hearted moments. On the 23rd of December Teresa helped with the War Dependents’ entertainment put on by the London General Omnibus Company. Her help was much appreciated and the entertainment must have been a jolly start to the festive season. To see a poster for a similar event, please click here.

Teresa Hulton in 1912.

Teresa Hulton in 1912.

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

In December 1914 Lord Berwick was still with the Shropshire Yeomanry stationed on the East Coast of England as part of the Home Defence. For more information on the Shropshire Yeomanry, please click here.

On 16th December 1914 Lord Berwick wrote from The Royal Hotel in Lowestoft to Teresa Hulton:

‘we are kept rather busy here … If the Germans select to raid this point on the coast, my regiment is rather critically placed, as our Brigade is rather scattered, and we should have several hours to hold on before other troops can be brought up by train.’

Lord Berwick in his uniform.

Lord Berwick in his uniform.

Attingham

At the Attingham hospital the staff and wounded soldiers were preparing for a very different Christmas to that of 1913. The peaceful surroundings of Attingham Park must have been a blessing to the soldiers who came here 100 years ago.

The Outer Library at Attingham as a hospital ward for wounded soldiers.

The Outer Library at Attingham as a hospital ward for wounded soldiers c.1917.


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.

 


On the eve of war – July 1914

Welcome to the first of our blog posts about Attingham’s WWI stories where we will post photographs and quotes from archive material about the Attingham estate, the hospital, Lord Berwick’s war work and the life of Teresa Hulton who became Lady Berwick in 1919.

 

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

July 1914 was to find 23 year-old Teresa Hulton later wife of the 8th Lord Berwick, visiting relatives in England. Little did she know that she was at the beginning of a journey that would see her courageously accomplishing war work in England and Italy. It was to be a time of hardship, loss, poignancy, joy and humour, and would ultimately shape her into the careful and kind-hearted saviour of Attingham Park.

Teresa’s family home was in Venice, Italy, where she had grown up with her English father, William Stokes Hulton, her half-Italian mother, Costanza and her elder sister Gioconda. Born Edith Teresa Hulton in 1890, she later preferred the name Teresa. Her family called her ‘Bim’ from the Venetian baby word ‘Bimbele’.

Her father was an artist who enjoyed painting excursions in the Italian countryside. The family entertained the artists John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert and Marie Stillman and Lisa Stillman.

In 1903 the Hulton family moved to Munich, Germany, where Teresa took piano lessons and was trained as a professional pianist and became fluent in several languages. Teresa lived a cosmopolitan lifestyle with her many friends from the aristocracy of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When war broke out the family found themselves having acquaintances on both sides.

Teresa playing the piano accompanied by her sister Gioconda on the violin.

Teresa playing the piano accompanied by her sister Gioconda on the violin.

Despite her privileged lifestyle, Teresa was encouraged by her godmother to acquire dress-making and cooking skills. In the years preceding the war Teresa enjoyed a life of genteel entertainments in Italy, Hungary and Austria.

Letters from early 1914 show that Teresa loved attending and giving tea parties, playing tennis, going to concerts, exhibitions, bridge parties, balls and fêtes. As an accomplished pianist, she was often asked to play at friends’ dinner parties.

In May 1914 Teresa had gone to England to visit friends and family. Her beauty and talent brought her many admirers and her mother, Costanza, was concerned that by going to England Teresa would lose the possibility of two chances of marriage in Venice.

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

However, Teresa’s future husband was to be Thomas, the 8th Lord Berwick, who Teresa had met before the war and with whom she corresponded throughout the war years.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

Lord Berwick in his 20s or 30s.

Thomas Noel-Hill had inherited Attingham in 1897 upon the death of his uncle the 7th Lord Berwick. Thomas had been orphaned when he was eleven and he and his sister, Mary Selina, were brought up by relations. They occasionally visited Harriet, their grandmother on their father’s side, and their aunts, Selina and Anne, who lived at Cronkhill, a delightful Italianate villa on the Attingham estate. Thomas went on to study the Classics at Oxford University. Attingham was beyond the needs of the family and was let. During the war, the tenants were the Dutch-American Van Bergen family.

Cronkhill c.1900.

Cronkhill c.1900.

In May 1900 Thomas was appointed to the Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was promoted to Lieutenant in April 1903, the same year in which he became an Honorary Secretary at the British Embassy in Paris. This was an unpaid position, something like an intern in modern terms. Young men with impeccable family background and private means but no particular attainments in other areas might choose this kind of position. Lord Berwick was liked for his loyalty and modesty and made many friends whilst doing his diplomatic work.

 

Attingham

Since 1903 Attingham Hall had been tenanted as Lord Berwick had been living elsewhere. In May 1913 the Dutch-American Van Bergen family moved into the house as tenants and they remained there throughout the war until 1920. Captain Van Bergen and his wife Ethel had one boy and three daughters.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

Next month’s post will cover the outbreak of war 100 years ago. Come and see our WWI exhibition The Great War for Civilisation in the Stables at Attingham Park from 19th July 2014.