The operating theatre at Clandon Park

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During the First World War the house at Clandon Park was given over to the war effort and used as a military hospital. We’re commemorating the anniversary of the war with events and exhibitions, including the transformation of one of our rooms back to its wartime use – an operating theatre.

As you leave the library and enter what used to be the Onslow Museum, you’ll find yourself transported to a different era of our house’s history. The First World War operating theatre is both a recreation and a commemoration of Clandon’s role in the war.

The recreation

We’ve commissioned several pieces to recreate the look. Straight away you’ll notice the replica of the trolley and stretcher at the centre of the room. See how people dressed with two replica outfits, one set of hospital blues and one nurse's uniform. The crutches you can see are an original set used in the war, the nurse's badge in the display case is also original.

After years of being shut away you can see the original sink closet where the surgeons would’ve scrubbed before operating. You might even catch a glimpse (or a sniff) of carbolic soap. A special floor has been laid and the walls repainted to finish off the room.

The commemoration

In the display case on top of the beautifully painted poppy field, you’ll find two autograph books that belonged to nurses who worked here during the First World War. An autograph book didn’t mean quite the same then as it does now – you won’t find any celebrity signatures. Instead there are pages of messages and drawings by the patients themselves and photographs of both staff and patients together.

We’ve enlarged some of these remarkable and poignant images on to small canvases which are hung around the room. You can flick through replicas of these books and also of the hospital record book. We’ve also transcribed a poem on to the wall by the great war poet Siegfried Sassoon, who himself has a family link to Clandon.

What’s next?

Our operating theatre will be on display for the next five years and will be the centrepiece of our commemoration. We anticipate that this project will develop over time and we’d love your input, so if you’re inspired please get in touch.