Home Front - life at Lyme during the Second World War

Two nurses hold children in the war nursery at Lyme, Cheshire

As we approach the 75th anniversary of VE Day, can you help us paint a picture of what life was like at Lyme during the Second World War?

Despite being a recent part of our history, very little is known about Lyme during the war. A group of dedicated volunteers, along with a team from Liverpool John Moores University, have been researching this period, accessing archives across the country to help us better understand what life was like at Lyme between 1939-1945.

Their hard work is paying off – but we need your help! Scroll down to find out more about war time Lyme and how you can help.

Life on the home front

As war gripped Europe, life in Britain carried on, with people across the country doing their bit for the war effort. Lyme was no different, with the house and the estate taking on new roles.

Rooms in the house were used as a war nursery for evacuated children, whilst parts of the estate were given over to the Royal Air Force, with recruits undergoing training here and military vehicles hidden on site before transporation to the battlefields. The Home Guard practiced defence techniques and utilised the Cage’s vantage point as a lookout.

A war nursery for evacuees
Matron gives out sweets to evacuated children during WWII at Lyme

The evacuees

Rooms in the house were given over to the 'Waifs and Strays Society', later the 'Church of England Children’s Society', and used as a war nursery for evacuated children. Over 40 children aged between two and five years old were sent to Lyme from 1940-1942. Most came from London and Manchester, though others came from across the country. Some had been left homeless by the Blitz, some with no family left to care for them.

A pin badge enscribed with 'Ministry of Health - Evacuation Nursery'

A small piece of history

There aren't many items in our collection from the war period, however this small badge, likely given to nursing staff, is a small reminder of the role Lyme played in the war effort.

Nursing staff

The nursing staff

A team of dedicated nursing staff, many from the local area, came to Lyme to care for the children. The Long Gallery was given over to the children as a nursery, with the staff sleeping in bedrooms along the corridor.

Military support

Very little is known about the role the RAF played when they utilised the estate for the war effort, aside from the fact that miltary vehicles were brought to Lyme, camouflaged and stored here until they were to be transported to mainland Europe. 

However, a former room guide at Lyme trained here as an airman and shared some of his memories of what life was like a trainee.

" Our miserable days were spent chasing each other all over the park, map reading, orienteering, getting lost, getting found, getting wet, muddied, dry, cold. Firing rifles, cleaning them, bayonetting straw dummies, hand grenade practice and so on."
- J Leslie C Thompson, RAF airman and former Lyme Room Guide
How you can help

If you, your friends or family have any connection with Lyme during this period, we would love to hear from you. Memories, photos, diaries or simple anecdotes all contribute in our effort to deepen our understanding of such a crucial part of our past. Please do get in touch on this email lyme.research@nationaltrust.org.uk