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…

Education Update: Essex Police Museum

Our research volunteers have been working very hard to uncover stories from Essex so that they can be compiled into an exhibition, to be launched in September.

Meanwhile our museums have been meeting with teachers to work together to create educational sessions on the First World War, using collections, that will last beyond the life of the project.

Becky Wash from the Essex Police Museum has been working with volunteer Mick Ford and teachers from Chelmer Valley High School.

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Here’s summary of their plans:

Research

Mick Ford has done a large amount of research relating to the Fire Brigade during the Great War.  A Fire / Police connection can be made with the L32 crash near Billericay, although the police museum does not have any material relating to the L32 crash. A model of the L32 is currently on loan to Stow Maries Aerodrome.

The museum’s main WW1 story is the L33 crash at Little Wigborough. This occurred on the same evening as the L32 crash, however there appears to be no fire connection with the L33 crash.

Volunteer Adrian Jones is currently researching the story of Zeppelina and Charles ‘Zepp’ Smith. Trustee Maureen Scollan is researching Dr Salter – a Special Constable and doctor who helped give birth to Zeppelina, and Special Constable Edgar Nicholas.

Schools

Mick is a teacher at Chelmer Valley School. He has introduced me to the art and history teachers and together we have arranged for a short assembly on March 12. The assembly will run with a powerpoint presentation. We have chosen ‘Zeppelins’ as our topic.

From our presentation, the year 9 pupils will create a piece of artwork based on ‘The Nightmare’  – a pastel on display at the museum. As an incentive I have offered to choose and display one student’s piece.

The history teacher showed keen for a loans box of objects, photographs and copies of original documents, laminated. This would be fairly simple to create, and there is funding within the project for this.

A combined ‘Emergency Services’ Loans Box could help boost outreach figures for both the Essex Police Museum and Essex Fire Museum and would also help with the limited time curators have delivering a session.

The history teacher was also in favour of visiting the museum for a delivered session and admitted that although it would be more difficult to arrange it would not be out of the question.

More information about the Zeppelin raids can be found in the Essex Police History Notebook No.7 and in our blog post Zeppelins over Essex. The L33 story was also featured on the BBCs WW1 at Home website.

This is a great start and we wish the Police Museum every success with their plans.

Researching the impact of World War I on Braintree District

Taken from the Braintree Museum website (with permission)

Written by Curator, Jennifer Brown.

Braintree District Museum is one of the partner museums working with Essex County Council on their project ‘Now the Last Poppy has Fallen’. This project aims to research the impact of the First World War on the lives of individuals, families and communities in Essex. It will result in a touring exhibition reflecting on stories from the Essex Home Front, develop museum education sessions for schools and reflective school performances and commission artists to produce performances relating to these stories. The museum is very excited to be a part of this project.

The project group look at Braintree District Museum's World War I archive. Left to Right - Carl, Tony Morrison (Essex-on-Tour & Last Poppy Co-Ordinator), Mike, Jackie, Hannah and Chris

The project group look at Braintree District Museum’s World War I archive.
Left to Right – Carl, Tony Morrison (Essex-on-Tour & Last Poppy Co-Ordinator), Mike, Jackie, Hannah and Chris

Yesterday, Tony Morrison, Co-ordinator of the Essex-on-Tour programme and Project Manager of the Last Poppy project, and five local volunteers visited the museum to view our World War I archive. The group enjoyed looking through the highlights of our collection, including a nationally significant collection of documents and photographs relating to the East Anglian Munitions Committee. Led by Francis Crittall and Mr Stokes of Ransomes and Rapier Ltd., this committee steered a group of 42 local industries who between 1915 and 1918 produced a total of 5 million shells as well as many other important products for the war effort, and dramatically drove down the costs of production. This high turnover at low prices made a massive contribution to the government’s shell supply and helped to save the lives of many troops on the front line. Prior to the establishment of the Committee each gun crew was limited to 5 shells per gun, which led to the death of many of our troops. Below is a photograph of volunteer Chris holding one of the 18lb shells produced at the Crittall factory at Braintree. Other highlights include postcards sent from many different World War I battle zones, and ID papers of men enrolled on vital war industries locally and who were therefore exempted from military service.

Chris with a Crittall 18lb shell

Chris with a Crittall 18lb shell

Seeking Home Front Stories

The volunteers have chosen some exciting initial research topics, including first-hand accounts of the Zeppelin raid on Braintree in 1916 and the voluntary war work of Margaret Mercer, Ariel Crittall’s mother, behind the lines in France. However, we are still looking for more stories about life on the Home Front and the impact of the war on the people of Braintree District. If you have any information, artefacts, or stories to share please do get in contact with us.

You can contact the museum by phone, 01376 325266 or by email, info@braintree.gov.uk.

Beginning to carry out your research

Time is ticking onwards and research for the Last Poppy project should be underway. Some of our volunteers attended the Essex Record Office on the morning of Wednesday 18th December to find out how to use the county archive.

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Archivist, Allyson Lewis and Audience Development Officer, Hannah Salisbury gave volunteers a tour of the ERO including a visit to one of the store rooms, helpful advice on how to use the online cataloge ‘Seax‘ and an introduction to original documents.

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Hannah has created some really useful guidance notes which can be found here and will be placed on the Helpful Resources page too:

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An interesting set of documents, that Allyson produced for the volunteers, was some letters written to and from nursing sister Katherine Luard, daughter of Bixby Garnham Luard. She was born in 1872, and served in the Boer War and First World War. She was awarded the RRC, the Royal Red Cross for her military nursing service. Katherine included a hand-drawn sketch of her living quarters, a tent she was staying in at the time. The Luard family documents can be found by searching on Seax, reference D/DLu.

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Seax reference D/DLu

We welcome blog post submissions from anyone with stories from Essex during the Great War. See the guidance above for further information.