Lost voices of WW1

Faces of those who lived and worked at Nostell Priory during World War One  © Sarah Burnage

Faces of those who lived and worked at Nostell Priory during World War One

Lost voices brought to life

Listen to the voices of those who lived and worked at Nostell Priory during World War One. Brought to life by actors from Yew Tree Youth Theatre and using original letters and documents, these recordings offer a vivid and compelling insight into the daily reality of life, love and loss during a time of war. Click on the links below and listen to the history of Nostell Priory. 

Anything but the 'average chorus girl'

Hon. Rowland George Winn (eldest son of Lord and Lady St Oswald)

Rowland, an officer with the Coldsteam Guards, caused a scandal at the end of 1915 when he secretly married a chorus girl, his family only discovering the match when it was sensationally announced in the press. In this letter Rowland works hard to convince his father (Lord St Oswald) that his wife is 'anything but the average chorus girl'.

Read by Michael Wilby


Pa Darling, I can't get any sleep tonight...

Hon. Edith Winn (daughter of Lord and Lady St Oswald) 

Whilst already engaged to Henry Ashley (grandson of the Earl of Shaftesbury) Edith had secretly fallen in love with Guy Westmacott and accepted a marriage proposal from him. Writing to her father, Lord St Oswald, at midnight in January 1916, Edith desperately tries to explain the situation to her father and win approval for her new match.

Read by Charlotte Scott


Press it on the minds of the shirkers...

Albert Turton (Nostell miner)

In the first year of war Albert Turton, a local Nostell miner, wrote to The Wakefield Express in the hope that it would encourage 'shirkers' to enlist. This brief letter highlights the feeling shared by many in the period that it was the duty of single young men to fight. This issue was perhaps particularly pertinent to Albert who was one of seven brothers, all of whom had answered their country’s calling.

Read by Nathan Birkinshaw

Such a deed is worthy of the V.C...

G.M. Ambrose (Army Chaplain)

On the 5th August, army Chaplain G.M. Ambrose wrote to Miss Turton, sister of John Turton. John was one of seven brothers to enlist in war work. The letter informs her that her brother had acted with great heroism putting his body in the doorway when a gas bomb hit his trench. Whilst he saved the lives of many he was left 'seriously ill'.

Read by Paul Osborne

He left no last message...

G.M. Ambrose (Army Chaplain)

Just three day after writing his first letter to John Turton's sister, Chaplain G.M. Ambrose had the unenviable task of informing her that John had succumbed to bronchial pneumonia. According to Chaplain Ambrose, John was 'conscious till nearly the last but unable to speak', he left 'no last message'.

Read by Paul Osborne

The Bosch has been dropping bombs...

Hon. Rowland Winn (eldest son of Lord and Lady St Oswald) 

In August 1916, with his wife expecting their first child, Rowland wrote to his father thanking him for agreeing to pay the rent on their London house, claiming that it is 'such a relief when one is out here to know that she is being well looked after'. Rowland also offers a vivid description of the tit for tat nature of aerial warfare in the period.

 Read by Michael Wilby

A thousand more poor devils...

Hon. Charles Winn (2nd son of Lord and Lady St Oswald) 

On 24th January 1917 Charles wrote to his father from the battlefields of France. Charles was under no illusion that the war would continue and that a 'thousand more poor devils would go under in the cause of it'. Writing from his 'perishing' room Charles was evidently finding life in the trenches difficult and longed to back at Nostell Priory.

Read by Jack Iredale

Thick snow, gale blowing...

Hon. Charles Winn (2nd son of Lord and Lady St Oswald) 

Writing in January 1918 to his father, Lord St Oswald, from a bitterly cold France, Charles' letter speaks powerfully of his war fatigue and longing to back at home. He comments on Lloyd George's most recent speech and unhappily concludes, despite his hopes for the opposite, that the 'beastly war' must go on for another year.

Read by Jack Iredale

Could you spare a few pheasants?

Hon. Charles Winn (2nd son of Lord and Lady St Oswald)

On 16th January 1918 Charles wrote to his father from Northern France which he describes as 'filthy' and 'muddy'. Despite his own worries Charles' focus in this letter his very much on his father's ailing health. Charles also evidently longed to be back at home and laments the shoots he has missed. He does, however, take the opportunity to ask his father for 'a few spare pheasants'.

Read by Jack Iredale