Tag Archives: Van Bergens

A musical interlude – April 1916

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

Although the war had brought dramatic changes for Teresa, many aspects of her life went on as they had before the war. In particular, her interest in music persisted. In April 1916 Teresa was invited to a dinner party given by Edith, Countess Rucellai and she was asked to play the piano to entertain everyone as she had often done before the war.

Teresa (left) and her sister Gioconda (right) in their home in Venice, early 1900s.

Teresa (left) and her sister Gioconda (right) in their home in Venice, early 1900s.

Teresa was a skilled musician and had been trained as a professional concert pianist. At the age of fifteen she became the pupil of the admired Swiss pianist Fraulein Wilhelmina Adler in Munich, Germany. She had to practise for three hours a day and had two piano lessons daily. In 1907 she returned to Venice where she became the pupil of Baron Giorgio Franchetti.

The Rucellai family, who invited Teresa to play in April 1916, had been friends of the Hultons since before the war. Letters in the archives show that they often sent donations to the war hospitals where Teresa worked.

Nurses, staff and patients at the Infermeria Britannica (British Hospital) in Florence, Italy, 1916.

Nurses, staff and patients at the Infermeria Britannica (British Hospital) in Florence, Italy, 1916.

As well as donations of items like sheets and bandages, war hospitals needed food supplies for the wounded soldiers. British Red Cross V.A.D. members worked as cooks in British Military Hospitals in places like Genoa, Bordighera, Cremona, Arquata Scrivia and Taranto. On average they prepared and served 40,000 meals per month. Dishes for the recovering soldiers included jellies, broth, custard and chicken soufflé.

Teresa (centre) with Contessa Carafa (left) and Mrs Nott (right), Joanniz, in the Udine province of northern Italy, May 1917.

Teresa (centre) with Contessa Carafa (left) and Mrs Nott (right), Joanniz, in the Udine province of northern Italy, May 1917.

Food was prepared for the canteen where Teresa worked at Cervignano by an Italian man, Ernesto. Photographs of him survive in Teresa’s wartime photograph album.

Photos of Ernesto in the Zona di Guerra 1916-1918 album.

Photos of Ernesto in the Zona di Guerra 1916-1918 album.

Click here to see a short British Pathé film of a railway station canteen.

Click here to see a film about lunchtime in a hospital in Southport, Lancashire.

Teresa’s uncle, Gino Villari, the half-brother of her mother, begun a new army post in Salonika, Greece. Her father wrote to her giving her Gino’s new address, although he added that he was ‘uncertain as to whether [Gino] will be comfortable in his new post.’

Luigi (Gino) Villari on horseback, Salonika, January 1918.

Luigi (Gino) Villari on horseback, Salonika, January 1918.

Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, was not enjoying her new job as a secretary in the Admiralty Intelligence Division in London. Gioconda complained that she had not been paid for her work and received few days off.

Gioconda, Florence, February 1916.

Gioconda, Florence, February 1916.

The Hulton family were also beset by the worry that the Austrian-Hungarian army would destroy Venice before the end of the war. Teresa’s father, William Hulton, wrote in a letter that he thought it might be a good idea to deposit valuables elsewhere.

William Stokes Hulton, Venice, 1907.

William Stokes Hulton, Venice, 1907.

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

In 1916 Lord Berwick was working as an Honorary Secretary to the British Embassy in Paris, but he had kept military books that he bought before and at the beginning of the war when he was in the Shropshire Yeomanry.

Advertisements for military publications and waterproofs in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

Advertisements for military publications and waterproofs in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

One particularly interesting book is Company Drill Illustrated (1914) which includes illustrations of commands and signals that Lord Berwick would have used in the Yeomanry.

Commands and signals in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

Commands and signals in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

The book is currently kept in the Inner Library at Attingham Park. Inside it is a paper with a list of questions that a commander should ask himself before attack. This was possibly left as a bookmark by Lord Berwick.

This book also includes many advertisements. These range from advertisements for pyjamas, a series of military books, coal-tar shaving soap and waterproof clothing to an advertisement for Turkish Baths in London guaranteed to ease illnesses associated with serving in the war.

Advertisement for pyjamas in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

Advertisement for pyjamas in Company Drill Illustrated, 1914.

 

Attingham

The Van Bergens, who were Lord Berwick’s tenants at Attingham during the war, were especially concerned for the welfare of wounded soldiers. As well as suggesting that Attingham was used as a war hospital the Van Bergens took a great interest in the Royal Salop Infirmary in Shrewsbury.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

The Van Bergen family, c.1917.

Mrs Van Bergen was on the Ladies’ Auxiliary Committee whilst Mr Van Bergen was involved with the committee weekly board, the finance committee and the committee for appointing medical staff. The Van Bergens also donated ten guineas to the Royal Salop Infirmary. The Infirmary is now the Parade shopping centre. For more information and for images, please click this link.

Lord Berwick’s Land Agent, Louis Dease, was asked by the Government to use wood from the Attingham estate to help to supply railway sleepers to be sent to France for railway lines.

The egg collection set up to provide eggs for use in Shropshire war hospitals was going well with 67,110 eggs collected in 1916.

World War One egg collection poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10833)

World War One egg collection poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 10833)

For 2016 the Walled Garden team at Attingham put on a display about food production during the war. They grew WW1 varieties of vegetables and there were even some hens to see!

 

 


Nurse Hulton – June 1915

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

In Italy, spirits were high as in June 1915 the Italian army made a rapid advance into Austria-Hungary, which looked as though it would be quickly defeated. The Italian front line stretched for 650km. Much of the fighting was along the valley of the River Isonzo, near where Teresa was based at Cervignano. There were twelve Battles of the Isonzo between 1915 and 1917. To see a map of the Italian Front and to read more about it please click here.

Voluntary British nursing units were being sent out to Italy, including a group headed by Mrs Marie Watkins with whom Teresa was to work. Like most war nurses, Teresa would have been appointed on a two week’s probation and then was taken on for longer once she had proved her worth.

First World War advert for aprons

First World War advert for aprons. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 13669)

Teresa would have had to buy her own uniform. Nurses’ uniforms were priced at roughly £1 19s. The blue silk Red Cross headdress which Teresa wore during the war survives in the Attingham collection.

Photograph of Teresa Hulton in a blue silk Red Cross headdress

Photograph of Teresa Hulton in a blue silk Red Cross headdress, Florence, 1918.

Nurses had to make their own red crosses for their armband and aprons. With no guidelines for dimensions, no two crosses were the same! The emblem is an inversion of the Swiss flag and alludes to the origins of the Red Cross in Switzerland in the 1860s. Attingham is fortunate to have Teresa’s Red Cross armband in the collection. On the reverse is an official Red Cross endorsement stamp.

Teresa Hulton's Red Cross armband

Teresa Hulton’s Red Cross armband.

The brassard (arm band) was worn on Teresa’s left arm. If she was captured in an invasion, in theory it entitled her to the international protection accorded to all Red Cross personnel. Teresa would also have carried a certificate of identity to show that she was under Red Cross protection. To discover more about the Red Cross work during the war, please click here.

Teresa Hulton's Red Cross 1917 ID card

Teresa Hulton’s Red Cross 1917 ID card

Amongst Teresa’s war letters are many tragic stories. One of the new faces at the hospital where she worked was Ethel Harbier. In June 1915 Ethel wrote to Teresa stating that she must travel from Italy to England because her two nieces both lost their husbands on the same day. How times had changed for these women.

Attingham

In June 1915 there was a scandal as the British Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, blamed the failure of the battle of Neuve Chapelle on a shortage of munitions. In Britain a shell crisis led to more women being employed in munitions.

The appeal for female munition workers was to have a devastating impact on country houses which relied on the work of female servants. Maids left in their droves, attracted by the higher wages and independence that working in a munitions factory offered. Later in the war, Teresa’s sister, Gioconda, was to consider doing munitions work in England.

Ministry of Munitions 1916 poster

Ministry of Munitions 1916 poster. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 0402)

On the 23rd of June the London Gazette stated that Mr Van Bergen, the tenant at Attingham had been made a temporary Captain. He may have spent the remainder of the War in Sheerness, Kent, where the 5th Battalion was stationed. In 1918 he was a temporary Captain at the War Office. After the War he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Captain Van Bergen

Captain Van Bergen, c.1917.

In October 1914 the Van Bergens had opened a war hospital at Attingham and by June 1915 wished to use more rooms. However, Lord Berwick had to balance his wish to help the wounded soldiers with his desire to care for the house and its contents. He was worried that some of the beautiful interiors might sustain damage if the rooms were used by the soldiers.

The Sultana Room at Attingham.

The Sultana Room at Attingham. The room was later used as a hospital ward containing beds for the soldiers.

At a VAD hospital like Attingham, medical officers were paid £1 a day, matrons £1 1s a week and nurses £40 a year. Part-time local VAD nurses were unpaid but board, laundry and travel expenses could be claimed. It is likely that many of the women in the village of Atcham helped out at the Attingham hospital.

To make them immediately obvious as convalescing soldiers, patients at the Attingham hospital were made to change their khaki for a blue flannel hospital jacket and trousers, a white shirt and a red tie. Soldiers kept their own cap and boots and photographs show men from an array of different regiments convalescing at Attingham.

Soldiers recovering on the Colonnade c.1917

Soldiers recovering on the Colonnade c.1917

Men at Attingham, c.1917.

Men at Attingham, c.1917.

To see some coloured photographs of wartime soldiers in their hospital blues uniform please click here.

Visitors to Dunham Massey, a National Trust property near Manchester, can get a sense of what a wartime hospital in a country house may have looked and felt like. For more information on this 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)


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.


A spoke in the wheel – August 1914

Teresa Hulton (1890-1972)

On the 4th of August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. Germany had invaded Belgium, violating the country’s neutrality. When Britain’s entry into the war was announced, Teresa was in London visiting her Aunt Mary and friends Lillian Trelawny and her sister, Maud.

Although the war was to have a momentous impact on Teresa’s life, at first, the Hultons did not seem to realise how serious the situation was and continued with their normal lives. Teresa’s 24th birthday fell on the 6th of August. Her sister, Gioconda, sent a list of friends to visit in London and Wales before she left Britain to begin a motoring trip around France.

Teresa in a car in the 1920s

Teresa in a car in the 1920s

However, as the situation worsened it was decided that the excursion in France should be cancelled. Gioconda wrote jokingly to her sister, still not fully taking in the severity of the situation:

‘On the whole if anything can make up for the disappointment of not starting on your motor trip, you should feel proud that the occasion has proved to be nothing short of the famous and much predicted inter-European complication & that the cataclysm predicted for 1916 has been anticipated by two years to put a spoke into your wheel!’

In the same letter, Gioconda humorously pictures that when they next meet after the destruction of war it shall be ‘in some cave, each of us wearing the relic of what was once a dress & tiring of bilberries & lizards. No part of the world will be safe except the island of Tristan da Cunha which even the seagulls disdain.’

 

Whilst Britain was preparing for war, Italy enjoyed advantages as a neutral country. Gioconda wrote that whilst Teresa sees ‘only very biased accounts of the war- here, as the country is still neutral, the correspondence is excellent & comes from every part,’ although ‘one has to pick one’s way through the various so-called official reports like a skilled acrobat.’

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

Italian flag in the Attingham collection

 

Later in the month, Gioconda suggested to her sister that war work in England might be a ‘lucrative occupation,’ especially helpful as the Hulton’s financial situation was worsening. The family found their income, much of which had been invested when in Munich, nearly halved. The idea also appealed to Teresa’s practical and compassionate nature and the pitiful sight of droves of Belgian refugees arriving in London may have inspired her to help them.

 

 

Lord Berwick (1877-1947)

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Lord Berwick, aged 37, was stationed for six months with the Shropshire Yeomanry at Morpeth in Northumberland. He had been attached to the Shropshire Yeomanry since 1900 but worked at the British Embassy in Paris between 1903 and 1911. The Shropshire Yeomanry had its origins in the French Wars of 1783-1815 and was initially designed as a mounted ‘Home Guard’ to serve in times of unrest. The men were generally workers on the landed estates and the officers were country landowners.

On 4th August 1914, Lord Berwick received a letter from the Yeomanry:

‘As you have probably seen, the Yeomanry are mobilising. The Colonel has given you the vacant place. Could you turn up at Shrewsbury as soon as you can.’

Lord Berwick and the Shropshire Yeomanry

Lord Berwick and the Shropshire Yeomanry

 

Attingham

In Shropshire, plans were under way that would be the beginning of Attingham’s role as a war hospital where sick and wounded soldiers could recuperate. At a meeting held in Shrewsbury shortly after the outbreak of war, Captain Harry Antony Van Bergen, the tenant at Attingham offered the house to the Red Cross as a convalescent hospital. Lord Berwick agreed, although he was concerned that smoking might damage the decorated ceilings.

Harry Van Bergen was a Captain in the Kings Royal Rifle Ref and fought in France from 1914 to 1915, being awarded the Burma Star. Before tenanting Attingham, Van Bergen had lived in Paris where, with a friend Dr Magnin, he created the American Hospital Association in 1906. This aimed to offer expatriates access to American-trained doctors. In 1909 a new 24 bed hospital opened in Neuilly-sur-Seine. During WW1 the hospital provided a volunteer ambulance service which helped over 10,000 allied soldiers.

Captain Van Bergen and his wife at Attingham

Captain Van Bergen and his wife at Attingham

Ethel Benbow, who grew up at Home Farm on the Attingham estate, recalled the Van Bergens:

‘Henry Van Bergen went into the war hoping that ‘his son wouldn’t have to go after him. It would save him. So we didn’t see a tremendous lot of him because he joined up. But she was extremely nice.’

Men and a donkey at the Attingham hospital c.1917

Men and a donkey at the Attingham hospital c.1917

 


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.