Sanctuary from the trenches

The Saloon at Dunham Massey transformed back into Bagdad ward © David Jones

The Saloon at Dunham Massey transformed back into Bagdad ward

Latest update 24.02.2014 15:47

From 1 March, visitors to Dunham Massey Hall will experience the sights, sounds and smells of daily life for soldiers who were offered a sanctuary from the trenches between 1917 and 1919.

The hospital’s main ward in the Saloon, the soldiers’ recreation room, the operating theatre and the nurses’ station have all be transformed to their wartime surroundings.

Visitors will also be able to see original artefacts, letters and photographs that will bring to life the stories of the soldiers and the nurses who cared for them.

Sanctuary from the trenches

Dunham Massey was offered to the Red Cross in 1917 by its owner, Penelope, Lady Stamford. Its role was to provide sanctuary from the horrors of the Front Line to rank and file soldiers – ‘Tommies’ - whose injuries, whilst not life threatening, were of sufficient gravity to require medical care.

Katie Taylor, Dunham’s House and Collections Manager says: ‘Visitors will be able to see how the hospital would have looked, almost exactly as it was in 1917. This is all due to an incredible wealth of original material which we were able to draw upon from the Grey family archives.

‘We’ve sourced material from letters, family photo albums and an oral archive whilst original objects surviving from the hospital – such as beds and medical equipment - have enabled us to reproduce these accurately in the recreation of the hospital’.

She continues, ‘Volunteer researchers have also discovered some fascinating stories about the soldiers who stayed here and we can now put faces to names of many of those who passed through the hospital.’

Three remarkable women

The hospital was run and managed by three remarkable women. Penelope, Lady Stamford, worked as the hospital’s Commandant and was ultimately responsible for its efficient administration. A prominent member of the local Red Cross, she worked tirelessly to raise funds for the war effort in general. Lady Jane Grey was her daughter, who, aged just 15 when war broke out, helped transform Dunham into the hospital and spent much of the war years living and working there as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse.

The senior member of staff responsible for the day to day running of the hospital was Sister Catherine Bennett. A qualified nurse, she was dedicated and very hands-on. Her commitment to high standards was probably a key reason for the excellent results; the hospital saw no fatalities on site amongst the 282 patients who passed through its doors.