First World War at Cliveden

Memorial Garden at Cliveden in summer 2022

When the First World War broke out, Cliveden was a grand country estate well know for its exclusive parties and famous guests, yet within months it was offering a lifeline to Allied troops injured during the fighting.

A helping hand

At the beginning of the war, after failing a medical assessment to join the army, Waldorf Astor (later 2nd Viscount Astor) offered part of the Cliveden estate as a hospital to the British Army. They turned down the offer after deciding it would be too difficult to adapt to their needs but, determined to help, he offered the land to the Canadian Red Cross who accepted.

As a result, the Duchess of Connaught Red Cross Hospital was opened to treat injured allied troops of the First World War.

Bedside manner

In 1915 the hospital could hold up to 110 patients at any one time but by the end of the war this number had risen dramatically to 600. Nancy Astor was often seen helping out in the hospital and it is said that her personality and great vigour worked wonders on the patients. Many ministers and royals also visited the hospital including Winston Churchill in May 1915 and King George V in July 1915.

In memory

Of the 24,000 troops treated at the hospital only a relatively small number died. In 1918, the 1st Viscount Astor's sunken Italian garden was adapted to create a memorial garden for the deceased.

A mosaic floor was replaced by turf, in which grave stones were later set and a sculpture was created especially for the garden by Australian sculptor Bertram MacKennal.  He was commissioned by Nancy Astor to design and create a symbolic bronze female figure for which it is thought he used Nancy's features as inspiration for the face.

Then and now

The hospital finally closed in 1985 and was left derelict for several years. After much consideration it was demolished in 2006 and replaced with environmentally friendly homes.

The War Memorial Garden can still be visited today and contains 42 war graves from the First World War, each marked with a stone set in the turf. MacKennal's statue over looks the graves and below it reads the inscription, ‘They are at peace. God proved them and found them worthy for himself.’

Visiting times past

The War Memorial Garden is located within our formal gardens and has the same opening times. If you are planning to make a special trip solely to visit the war graves please call us in advance on 01628 605069 to book a free viewing and a member of our team will be on hand to meet you.

If you would like to incorporate a visit to the War Memorial Garden whilst exploring the wider estate, please note usual admission charges apply.