Tag Archives: James Lees-Milne

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.


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

Deck the halls with…paperchains! – December 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Teresa’s work at the canteen and hospital at Cervignano continued to be busy in December. By the end of 1915 fighting along the Isonzo near to where she was based had cost the Italians 230,000 casualties and the Austro-Hungarian army 165,000. To see a map of the Italian Front and to read more about it please click here.

Information in the Attingham archive indicates that Teresa usually did her canteen work in the morning and helped out in the hospital during the afternoons. Her tasks at the hospital included dressing wounds and giving medication. Having had very few moments to spare for correspondence, Teresa was glad to have time off to return to her family and catch up on their news at Christmas.

Teresa treating a wounded soldier in the American Hospital in Florence, Italy, 1915.

Teresa treating a wounded soldier in the American Hospital in Florence, Italy, 1915.

Teresa proved to be useful in many different departments of war work in Italy. As well as nursing and serving in the canteen she found time to deal with supplies sent to Italian hospitals, canteens and rest stations under the care of Mrs Watkins. The expenditure on the distribution of stores made by the Joint Committee, formed of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John, rose to nearly £1 million a year during the war.

British Red Cross Letter in the Attingham Archive.

British Red Cross Letter in the Attingham Archive.

The station canteen set up by Mrs Watkins mainly served the special hospital trains that took wounded men to the war hospitals. Removable beds supported on brackets had been added on either side of the carriages. Some trains could carry up to 500 wounded men and had an operating table, dispensary and kitchen. By 1917 providing and running these trains had cost the Red Cross over £60,000.

Interior of an Italian Hospital Train, filled with wounded soldiers, somewhere on the Italian Front, 1915. © IWM (Q 53780)

Interior of an Italian Hospital Train, filled with wounded soldiers, somewhere on the Italian Front, 1915. © IWM (Q 53780)

As well as the canteen at Cervignano, some of Mrs Watkins’s team were working at San Giovanni di Manzano. At San Giovanni di Manzano there were three workers headed by Mrs Gordon-Watson and aided by local Italian women. They fed the wounded at the principal clearing station for the Gorizia front. Despite the severe fighting, they worked day and night with up to 2,000 wounded men passing through in one day.

Mrs Gordon Watson (left), Teresa Hulton (centre) and Mrs Watkins with cat (right) at the soldiers’ canteen at Cervignano, Northern Italy, October 1916.

Mrs Gordon Watson (left), Teresa Hulton (centre) and Mrs Watkins with cat (right) at the soldiers’ canteen at Cervignano, Northern Italy, October 1916.

As well as Mrs Watkins’s team, many other women were helping the wounded in Italy. In December 1915 Lady Helena Gleichen and Mrs. Hollings were attached as a radiographic unit to the army in Italy. They had been trained as X-ray operators and had raised private funds to purchase motor-cars fitted with X-ray apparatus. Between December 1915 and October 1917 they made 12,600 X-ray examinations.

Their work was commented on by G.M. Trevelyan in his book Scenes from Italy’s War, New York, 1919, p.108:

‘There was no more characteristic sight on the roads than the radiographic cars being driven by Mrs. Hollings and Countess Gleichen from hospital to hospital at the front.’

Bridget Talbot, one of Teresa’s friends who worked for Mrs Watkins, sometimes helped the two ladies with developing the X-rays.

To see a photograph of a mobile X-ray unit from the First World War, please click here. To see an oil painting by Lady Helena Gleichen depicting troops moving into Gorizia during the war, please click here.


Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

In 1915 Lord Berwick received news that his relative and heir, Michael Noel-Hill (1897-1953), later the 9th Lord Berwick, had joined the army. At the age of 18, Michael was gazetted to the Rifle Brigade and went out to serve in France. Michael had a passion for shooting which had started when he was a boy from shooting sparrows and rabbits during his holidays.

Charles Michael Wentworth Noel-Hill, later 9th Baron Berwick, June 1922.

Charles Michael Wentworth Noel-Hill, later 9th Baron Berwick, June 1922.

Following Lord Berwick’s death in 1947 the title passed to Michael and he became the 9th Baron Berwick. However, he was seen as too incautious to entrust with the care of Attingham, so in the 1930s Lord Berwick begun discussions with the National Trust about the future of the Attingham estate.

Lord Berwick and his dog on the Portico steps at Attingham, 1938.

Lord Berwick and his dog on the Portico steps at Attingham, 1938.

Michael’s behaviour may have been due in part to his experiences during the war. James Lees-Milne was the National Trust agent who came to talk to Lord and Lady Berwick about the bequest of Attingham. Lees-Milne described Michael Noel-Hill in his book People and Places:

His Life epitomised the tragedy of a man of decent disposition but weak character, knocked endways by appalling experiences during the First World War and its aftermath. He was perennially out of pocket. Not that his cousin Tom did not at times come to his rescue and occasionally settle his debts. Nevertheless grinding poverty tends to make a black sheep blacker, and other troubles multiplied.’



Christmas 1915 offered a jolly respite from the horrors of war for the soldiers convalescing at Attingham. Photographs from c.1917 show the Outer Library cheerfully decorated with paper decorations and a large Christmas tree. Convalescent soldiers often helped to make decorations like paper chains and Chinese lanterns.

Wounded soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham, c.1917.

Wounded soldiers in the Outer Library at Attingham, c.1917.

The egg collection fund set up for Shropshire auxiliary hospitals at the beginning of the year had been a great success. In 1915 a total of 70,927 eggs were collected for the Shropshire hospitals to aid the diet of the men.

Egg collection poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10825)

Egg collection poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10825)