During the First World War this Georgian house, set in a magnificent deer-park, was transformed into a military hospital, becoming a sanctuary from the trenches for 283 ‘tommy’ soldiers. One hundred years since the start of the war, this iconic Hospital has been revived by the National Trust. This is where Shevington’s Year 10 and 11 History students found themselves on this extraordinarily sunny September morning. Arriving bright and early at 10am, our students were swiftly whisked off to their first hour long workshop. This session aimed to enlighten our students to the history of the building and the iconic individuals who passed through its walls and grounds nearly a century ago. We were informed that over the years, 500 volunteers had given up their time to research back into the depths of the local archives to build a picture of some of the key figures who had major influence upon the soldiers who passed through this Hospital. Arguably, the most iconic of which was Lady Stamford.
Our students spent the morning session examining primary and secondary evidence which had been gathered regarding the service men and women who inhabited this stately home. Our students plunged themselves into their group work to learn about key figures who passed through the hospital, from soldiers to nurses and doctors. For example, Sergeant Chapman was sent to the hospital with gruesome war injuries which, in the end, resulted in him having his leg amputated. Through studying census records and photographs, our students were able to build their information about the Sergeant and other solders, to create an image to understand what they were like as real people.
After our session we made our way into the depths of the stately home to view the emulation of the actual hospital ward as it would have looked in 1917. This room displayed 14 beds, each of which provided information on bed side charts about the different ailments which could affect the men who passed though the ward. These included, but were not limited to, trench foot, fever, amputations, urine infections and bullet wounds.
Our group were lucky enough to witness a re-enactment involving an encounter between Sergeant Chapman and Lady Stamford. This was performed by volunteer actors. Such performances were sporadic and could happen at any time. This made the entire experience much more real for our groups as you could almost believe that you had been transported back in time to 1917.
We then spent a relaxed lunch time having our packed lunches in the stunning grounds which surrounded the home. Luckily we weren’t disturbed by the deer which wander around the estate freely! We then headed back to school, just in time for last lesson, having been introduced and hopefully enlightened to a different way of learning about World War One on the home front. One student commenting as we left the grounds, “Sir, I feel like I understand and empathise a lot more about the brave service men and women who banded together in this time of great need”.