Our garden in the First World War

Soldiers receiving the fresh air treatment by the hut in the garden at Dunham Massey
Soldiers were sent to recover outside - whatever the weather! University of Manchester

For soldiers recovering at the Stamford Hospital, it wasn't just the indoor environment that was important. Soldiers spent lots of time outdoors, relaxing and recuperating in all weathers.

The archive has lots of pictures of soldiers in the garden, playing cricket and croquet, games of cards and even boxing matches. They boated and fished on the moat.

Soldiers who were interested in gardening were taken to the hothouses to see the flowers growing.

A relaxing place

A letter from Lady Jane Grey to her mother in May 1918 says: ‘The men have had a good time this last week with croquet and tennis and the lady gardeners have proved one of the many attractions - the mowing does not get on as quickly as usual’.

It wasn't all games though. There was a hut in the garden in which soldiers who needed 'fresh air treatment' could stay. Sister Bennett's book mentions fresh air treatment and 'sun baths' several times.

Exotic fruits

The garden at Stamford Hospital was used to grow food but we don't know how much of it was used in the hospital.

Our volunteer researchers found seed orders in the archive which reveal what was planted in the walled garden in 1918. In several letters in 1917 Lady Stamford writes to her son that the soldiers have been given peaches and nectarines, exotic fruits that were home grown in the hot houses.

The garden during 'Sanctuary from the Trenches'

During 2014 and 2015 the vegetable beds were once again planted as a Victory Garden with heritage varieties that were available 100 years ago. A border planted with medicinal herbs also reflected the therapeutic nature of the garden's past.