Worlds apart in War at Powis Castle

A graphic of four evacuees arriving at Powis Castle, National Trust, Wales

The opulent state rooms and formal gardens at Powis Castle tell us much about the wealthy Herbert family who made the castle their home for hundreds of years. Yet scratch beneath the surface and the castle hides an unexpected Second World War story.

From 1939-1946 the castle played host not to glamorous society parties as you might expect, but to a group of pupils and teachers from the Ashford Welsh Girls School, Middlesex, who were evacuated to the castle in 1939.

They spent seven years at the castle at the invitation of George Herbert, 4th Earl of Powis, a governor of the school.

Step back in time

In partnership with Theatr Clwyd, we’ll be bringing the girls’ untold story to life using film, audio installations, and reinstated school rooms including a classroom, dormitory, prep room and common room.

Step back in time and hear the voices of the castle, the family and the schoolgirls reveal an unexpected war story of gym classes in the Ballroom, midnight feasts, picnicking on the roof, and the exciting discovery of a hidden room which glittered with golden artefacts.

The stories are based on ‘Glad Hearts Adventuring’, an original play written for Powis Castle by script writer Lucy Gough, and were inspired by the true accounts of ex-pupils of the school.

The newly opened second floor

You’ll also be able to explore the castle’s second floor which has been closed to visitors since the castle was gifted to the nation in 1952.

The suite of rooms, once bedrooms, would have accommodated some of the most notable members of society as they visited the Herbert family for shooting weekends and glamorous parties.

Today however, you’ll be able to step into the school’s past. Sit on the beds in the recreated dorm room or make yourself at home in the common room whilst admiring ancient wooden panelling, ornate plaster and unparalleled views across the garden and Severn valley. 

Family fun

There's plenty at our Welsh girls’ school to keep the whole family entertained too.

Get involved in classroom activities, war-time crafts, sports days and the preparations for the all-important school play. A children’s trail is also available daily from the castle and garden entrances.

For our latest seasonal events and activities, visit our ‘What’s on’ page.