Hylands Military Hospital

 Linda Knock, volunteer and Friend of Hylands House, tells us a little about the history of Hylands House in Chelmsford during the First World War. I wonder if V Festival participants will appreciate the rich history of the house and its inhabitants.

Our research comes under two headings – ‘Hylands Military hospital and the people who were there’ and ‘The Men of Hylands who served in the Great War’. Our task was to find ‘the stories’ of these men.   For both lots of research the Widford Choir books in the Essex Record Office and the local newspapers in the British Newspaper Archive proved invaluable.  We have also been helped by the families of the men we have found.  By building trees on Ancestry and putting a post there, I am in contact with the descendants of three men, and have been helped by a member of the Family History Society of Queensland [Australia] – I posted a request on their Facebook page and the following day one of their members went for a walk in the cemetery in Brisbane and found the family’s grave, including a mention of the soldier who died at Hylands.  The emails to the local papers unfortunately did not produce any results, but the piece in the Friends of Hylands House newsletter found the descendant of one local soldier.  Information from Luckings, the funeral directors, was very useful.

An Australian war grave for Samuel Barrow, a patient in the hospital who was presented with his Military medal on the ward, and then was sent home to Australia.

An Australian war grave for Samuel Barrow, a patient in the hospital who was presented with his Military medal on the ward, and then was sent home to Australia.

We were pleased to discover that Sir Daniel Gooch made the bedside lockers for the wards when the ground floor of his house was made into a hospital; first used by the 2nd and 3rd South Midland Field Ambulance Corps, then for Belgian soldiers and British soldiers.  Many of the latter were from Scottish regiments and the local newspaper at the time of their arrival at the Hylands Halt on the railway said  “Several Scottish regiments were represented, but as they were all in khaki it was difficult to distinguish their regiments.”  There were also soldiers from Canadian and Australian regiments and I have to admit it was easier to access their records than those over here [and at no cost].  From over 1500 men who were treated at Hylands we have only 9 names from the local newspapers.  But from those names we have found their families and their stories. One success already was the cleaning of the war graves in St Mary’s Churchyard in Widford.  I was very upset when I visited the graves in November last year to find they were green, so I emailed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and was pleased to find that when I returned in April that they are in their original condition.

The grave of Private Gough, Canadian Infantry, in Widford churchyard

The grave of Private Gough, Canadian Infantry, in Widford churchyard

At the time of the Great War the Hylands Estate was not the park as we know it now, but a huge estate including many of the farms around – Widford Hall, Skeggs, Montpeliers, Webbs, Elms and many others, so the task was huge.  We decided to find out as many names as possible from the 1911 census and the 1918 voters list [ERO].  There were many men who were the right age, so we have a list of names, but are concentrating on producing the stories of a few.  We decided to include Widford as it was so close to Hylands and many of the men attended, or were choristers at St Mary’s Widford. The stories we have chosen so far are those of Lancelot Gooch of Hylands House, two brothers who went into the Army and the Navy at 16, a soldier and his wife who both died of influenza just after Peace was declared, a gamekeeper who lived in one of the Estate lodges, and a soldier who lived in one of the Causeway Cottages that belonged to the estate.

Eric Robinson of Widford on the Naval Memorial in Portsmouth

Eric Robinson of Widford on the Naval Memorial in Portsmouth

If anyone reading this has information about soldiers who were treated at Hylands Military Hospital, or those who were from the Estate, please get in touch.

The results of our research will be displayed in the House at the event on 14th and 15th September.

Why not visit Hylands House on Sunday 14th September to see the research presented and also to get the first glimpse of the Last Poppy touring exhibition. The official launch will be at 12:45 that day! Watch this space…


Our first poem release!

We are very excited to announce that with just a few days to go until the centenary of the First World War, acclaimed Essex Poet Luke Wright has written his first poem for the project.

Entitled August Bank Holiday, Essex, 1914

You can read it on the official press release and on our new ‘Our Poems’ page.

This is what Luke said about his poem:

This is the first poem I have written for the project, it’s a sort of patchwork of scenes from the bank holiday weekend before war was declared. I thought it was fascinating that a lot of British people were on holiday that weekend. We know all know the sinking feeling of going back to work after holiday, these seemed like a very grim extreme of that. I wanted to get across the normally of life going on in Essex with this incredibly abnormal thing looming in the background. I think it’s hard for us to imagine what being at war in that way was like, so for this project I want to focus on the things we can get our modern heads around, to paint a picture of life in Essex at that time. By illustrating the happy normality war wrenched away from people I hope to get down to how awful it must have been. It’s a real challenge to write about something so big, but I hope that by focusing on small details I’ll bring it to life one hundred years later.

We are looking forward to more of Luke’s poems.

Lights Out!

Have you heard about the Lights Out campaign?

People are being encouraged to turn out their lights for an hour on Monday 4th August, in order to commemorate the start of the First World War, leaving only one light or candle lit.

You can find out more in a number of places:

Follow the event on social media using #LightsOut

Where The Poppies Now Grow

Author, Hilary Robinson, shares with us why she wrote her latest book Where the Poppies Now Grow.


The Story Behind The Story

Seeing the beautiful and moving pictures of primary school children planting poppies as part of the World War 1 commemorations has been truly inspiring.

13.tifThe educational initiative by the Royal British Legion aims to help young people understand the impact but it will also, undoubtedly, encourage them to find out more about members of their community who were affected by the conflict.

If I’d had the same opportunity when I was a child I may have been inclined to find out more about my great uncle, Sjt, G B N Johnson who fell on the tenth day of the Battle of the Somme.  He was just 22 years old.

For it was many years later, at a family wedding, that my great aunt told me how devastated her mother Jane, my great grandmother, had been when she learned of the death of  Norman.

The shock was devastating.

Every morning, thereafter, for the rest of her life,  Jane would stand at the top of the stairs and visualise the excited commotion of the morning when Norman returned home on leave for what was to be the last time.  Gripping the bannister she would pause and say “it’s alright Norman I’ll be with you soon.”   And even then, frustratingly, I didn’t ask much more.

In 1914  Norman was working in a gentleman’s outfitters in Reading.   He’d volunteered to fight for his county, like so, so many others.

The great uncle of my illustrator, Martin Impey, also fell at the Somme.  Arthur Sainty died a few weeks later aged just 19.

And so it seemed wholly appropriate that we should dedicate our book Where The Poppies Now Grow, to them.


The story, specially written for young children, is a work of fiction and, in homage to the war poets, has been written in rhyme. Through the words and the pictures we have tried to recreate the sense of duty and pride of the time and to celebrate the human condition.  That, no matter what, friendship is a more powerful force than conflict.

Martin Impey’s incredible artwork is true in detail – right down to the black buttons (instead of brass)  of the Rifle Brigade – of which both our uncles were part.03.tif

Our aim is the same as that of the Royal British Legion – to engage young children in that period of history so that they will develop an appreciation for the scale of suffering which was to shape the 20th century world.

It has been an honour to play a small part in the centenary commemorations and to indirectly support the work of the poppy planting initiative.  We were particularly humbled when one reviewer paid us the ultimate compliment by saying that after reading Where The Poppies Now Grow, “children will never look at the poppies in the same way again.”

Hilary Robinson

July 2014

Where The Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey is published by Strauss House Productions.

You can purchase Where the Poppies Now Grow, and Hilary and Martin’s other First World War themed book The Christmas Truce on Amazon. A third book will be available so watch this space…


Epping Forest District and World War One Community Project

Epping Forest District Museums Audience Development Officer, Francesca Pellegrino, tells us about their community project.

Epping Forest District Museum is working on a project to help document the links between the district and World War One. The Museum does have a selection of World War One objects within the collection but we felt it was important to discover any other stories, memories or objects that people had and make a record of these.

As part of the project the team will be going out and about into the district, holding Heritage Events in various venues for people to drop in with anything they might have to share with us. The objects will be recorded and stories documented and these records will become part of the Museum’s collection.  Once the Museum reopens after redevelopment we have plans to commemorate World War One through our displays but in the meantime the Museum has a small community cabinet exhibition planned for August this year. The exhibition will be put together from items discovered on these heritage documentation days and will be on display in the reception of the Civic Offices in Epping from August.

Our first event took place at Budworth Hall in Ongar on Saturday 21st June. The event was run alongside the Ongar Millennium History Society and we had around 100 people turn up on the day to hear about our project, the Museum’s redevelopment and see some of the objects on display from the History Society. In particular it was great to see the guest book from the Cock Inn in Ongar which is part of the History Society’s collection.

cock inn guest book

This image shows pages from the book, signed by soldiers from the South Mid. Royal Engineers passing through Ongar on 22nd August 1914.

Several people brought objects and memories to share with us and hearing the stories and seeing the objects was a special experience for the team, both fascinating and emotional. It was great for the Museum team to be able to document some of these stories. One gentleman had objects and papers relating to his uncle and father who both came from Ongar and fought in the First World War. Below you can see his father’s discharge papers.

discharge papers

Discharge papers for G. Perry

You can find out more on the website,  Museum blog or Facebook.

We are still looking for stories and objects connecting the Great War and the district. If you have anything you might like to share with the Museum team then please get in touch via email museum@eppingforestdc.gov.uk or telephone 01992 716882.


Benfleet’s War 1914 -1920

Tuesday 1st July to Wednesday 16th July

To commemorate the start of the First World War, Benfleet Community Archive in association with Essex Libraries are holding a two week show at Benfleet Library. The show covers aspects of life from 1914 to 1920 that affected people in Benfleet.

Benfleet memorial

The heart of the show is the personal stories behind all 37 names on Benfleet War Memorial: where and when they were born, their parents, where they lived, where they served and how they died. We have some information for every name, but it could still be enhanced. At the March Show, where we showed a smaller version of this exhibition, we were given a photograph of one of the men who died. So we are hoping this will spur more memories and documents from people.

As well as this we are covering issues of how women and children were affected in the war as well as displaying a number of posters from the war.

The team will be there on some days to show artefacts, show facsimile and real documents, run movies from the period and answer questions.

The days the display is open are:

  • Tuesday 1st July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there and there will be an official opening by The Mayor of Castle Point.
  • Wednesday 2nd July 9 am to 5.30 pm.
  • Friday 4th July 9 am to 5.30 pm.
  • Saturday 5th  July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there.
  • Tuesday 8th July 9 am, to 5.30 pm.
  • Wednesday 9th July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there. Also it is Schools Day.
  • Friday 11th July Library is Closed.
  • Saturday 12th July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there.
  • Tuesday 15th July 9 am to 5.30pm.
  • Wednesday 16th July 9 am to 5.30pm. From 2 pm to 5 pm the members of the archive will be there to close down the show.

Please come along.

See Benfleet’s War Exhibition Poster

If you shed a tear…

Researcher, Ted Sparrow tells us about his online publications about the North Essex coast during WW1, in our next guest blog.

If you shed a tear poppy

If you shed a tear

In the first decade of this century a number of local churches produced memorial books telling the stories of those lost in the service of our country. To commemorate the centenary of the Great War an e-book has been produced entitled “If you shed a tear”. This is compiled from the memorial books of a dozen coastal parishes on the North Essex coast between the rivers Colne and Blackwater. It contains over 200 profiles of men associated with these villages killed in that war.

Those looking for a smooth narrative will be disappointed. This book is in fact a scrap book compiled by the local community and is dedicated to the Generation that endured the Great War. The odd press cutting, letter home or photograph still nurtured by their family is all that remains and is supplemented with such information that is readily available in the public domain.

The introduction describes the project to tell the stories of our Fallen. Thereafter the book is broken into 3 major sections. Firstly chapters1 to 8 discusses 1914 and how various groups in the community became involved in the war. The second section has profiles of other men lost in the 3 years 1915, 1916, and 1917. The final year of fighting is covered in the last section, which also summarise the cost to our community.

The title incidentally derives from a paragraph which reads: –






You are invited to download the book “If you shed a tear”.

There is no charge.

It is given free so that as many people as possible may read their sad stories and admire their sheer courage.

The file has some 385 pages and will take several minutes to download.

See link:  http://issuu.com/tollesbury

The Valiant Men of Essex

This book is published in the Centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War 1914 – 1918. It is intended as a tribute to all those who endured the horrors of that war and to honour the memory of those awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

The seventeen represented here are associated with Essex as encompassed by the county boundaries of that time. Two were awarded the naval version of the Victoria Cross from the Battle of Jutland and Gallipoli.

Those to the Army included the very first given, which were at Nimy Bridge Mons and the Battle of Le Cateau in 1914. On the Western Front they were earned in the Battle of Saint Eloi, Passchendaele and two in the crucial battles March 1918 during the German “Kaiserschlact” campaign.  Another was at Vimy Ridge while the last were in the final weeks of the war at Canal du Nord and at Havrincourt. Their ranks also include a padre and a doctor plus four from the Dominions. Thus this group is fairly representative of all those who earned the award.

One was earned in Palestine and another in Mesopotamia. In this last case he was seriously considered for a bar to the VC but Lt Gen. Sir S Maud, GOC Troops at Kut did not want to set a precedent – a double VC was unknown at the time.

So please read their stories that they may be remembered and so live on in people’s memories.

You can also find The Valiant Men of Hertfordshire and The Valiant Men of Suffolk on the website.

Centenary of the First World War: Our Legacy

Stuart Hobley is Development Manager for Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in the East of England. In this blog he outlines the sort of projects that HLF is supporting along with steps your group can take to make an application for funds.

As we begin Centenary commemorations, it is clear that many local groups want to learn more about the First World War and how it changed their community. The impact of the war was far-reaching; in many cases tragic but often inspirational and a source of pride for communities across the East.

To help communities explore how the War shaped all aspects of life, we have a number of grant programmes that can provide essential funds to support research, displays, special events etc. – a whole variety of activity that will give everyone the opportunity to be involved in this legacy.

If you're looking for funding take a look at the Heritage Lottery Fund's website

If you’re looking for funding take a look at the Heritage Lottery Fund’s website

What is your community’s story?

Here at HLF I get to talk to so many different groups about a wide variety of project ideas; what’s clear to me is the shear breadth of themes and issues that you can explore. From the lives of soldiers to those left behind to those who objected. There were extraordinary advances in technology and in 1915, the Women’s Institute was created to help support the country. There was tremendous impact on our agricultural workforce and many new organisations were formed to support the wounded and disabled servicemen who returned.

And what speaks through all of this? The lives of those who witnessed this devastating conflict… Olive Edis, the photographer from Norfolk, employed by the National War Museum (better known to you and me now as the Imperial War Museum) to highlight the British Women’s Service; Lance Corporal Sidney Smith whose letters home were often annotated with cartoons and caricatures (and the letters themselves can be seen at Norwich Castle); or what about Inspector O’Connor who kept the streets of Bishop’s Stortford safe whilst the war raged overseas.

I’m learning about stories like this through projects we’re funding! We gave £10,000 to a group in Mersea, Essex to help people learn about fighter pilot Edgar Roberts, who would often fly out in the company of his beloved dog, Mick. A letter by Edgar was found in an old jar in 1988.. and now local children across Mersea Island are discovering even more about the War.

The lives of ordinary people who were testament to the most extraordinary events… if you are planning a project, think about the stories and people from your community. What is their story and how can you share this with others?

What sort of projects can get funding?

The projects we support deliver a whole range of activity. This could be communities working together to produce an exhibition; or young people producing a play based on historical information. We can help to fund websites, digitising records, photographs and ephemera; maybe you have something that needs conserving? We have helped to restore a whole array of existing dedications to the conflict, including war memorials, rolls of honour, and parish records.

All projects we support must help people, and wider range of people to understand and be involved with their heritage.

We even have a new grant programme called First World War Then & Now which offers grants of £3,000 to £10,000. This has been specifically developed to help local groups mark their First World War stories.

HLF can support not-for-profit groups and so far in the East of England, more than 50 projects have received funding; from restoring war memorials to using archive material to create drama. We’ve funded museums to help schools understand the impact  and supported villages to research and remember the fallen.

We want to see collaborative projects that bring communities together, especially those that help young people to understand the conflict.

How do I get started?

If you want to apply to HLF, the first thing to do is complete a project enquiry. This is a short form on our website; tell us what you want to do and how much money you think you need: we’ll then let you know if it is the sort of project we might fund. This is an effective way of getting advice and feedback from us before you apply.

We also have many good examples of funded projects on our website, along with helpful FAQs about different themes and issues. You can read these here:


Some helpful links!

So, if you want to get started why not see what other projects are doing? Some examples of other funded HLF projects can be found here:

www.hertsatwar.co.uk and www.toendallwars.co.uk

You can learn more about our grant programmes here:


Not only that, but HLF is working in partnership with a new First World War Engagement Centre based at Hertfordshire University. They too will have a variety of useful resources and can help with research. Learn more about this here:


There are also many other helpful online resources including:



You can also follow us on twitter @HLFEoE and #understandingWW1


An Essex Heroine, nurse Kate Luard

Our guest blog is written by Caroline Stevens, Great Niece of Kate Evelyn Luard. If you came to our event back in November you may recall Archivist Allyson Lewis showing us a sketch that Kate, or Evelyn/Evie to her family & friends, had drawn of her tent in the field. There will soon be a book released about her life, entitled Unknown Warriors and Caroline will share more nearer the time. Watch this space…

Katherine Evelyn Luard was born in 1872, the 10th of thirteen children born to Rev. Bixby Garnham Luard and Clara (nee Bramston). Her childhood was spent at Avely Vicarage, Essex, and Birch Rectory, near Colchester in Essex.

The Luard family on Birch Rectory Steps

The Luard family on Birch Rectory Steps

After training as a nurse at the prestigious nurse-training school of King’s College Hospital, London, she offered her skills to the Army Nursing Service and served for two years in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

On August 6, 1914, two days after the British Government declared war against Germany, Kate enlisted in the QAIMNSR (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve). She served in France and Belgium until 1918, first on the ambulance trains and then in casualty clearing stations ,and was awarded the RRC medal (Royal Red Cross) and Bar (a rare distinction) and was mentioned in Despatches for gallant and distinguished service in the field.

During this time she exchanged numerous letters with her family at home. Many of those she wrote were published in two books: ‘Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front 1914-1915’, published anonymously in 1915; and ‘Unknown Warriors: the Letters of Kate Luard, RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918’, first published in 1930. A new edition of Unknown Warriors will be published by The History Press in August 2014.

The majority of these letters are held in the Luard archives at the Essex Record Office, Chelmsford (Search Seax for D/DLu).

Unknown Warriors, due for release in August 2014

Unknown Warriors, due for release in August 2014

British Pathe News & Essex

British Pathe News have recently released all their 85,000 films on YouTube, and a quick search for Essex from 1910 – 1920 on their website turns up some interesting films from the First World War.

Thanks to Andy Smerdon, on Facebook, for highlighting some of these films.

You can view them on the British Pathe News website and on YouTube.

Screen shot of the British Pathe News website

Screen shot of the British Pathe News website