Stories from the First World War

SDC14696Members of WCT visited Ypres, Belgium, in May 2015.  At the First World War museum In Flanders Field in Ypres, there are many stories of extraordinary and ordinary people who played their part in the war.

Here are a few of them:

Marie Curie and her contribution to the Great War

Herman Nohl, German soldier and Professor of Philosophy

Nellie Spindler, field hospital nurse from Wakefield who was mortally wounded

Albert Edwin Wheeler from Bristol who fought at the Battle of Mons and survived

Read more stories:

Elsbeth Schragmuller, who managed the German Military Intelligence Service in Antwerp

Maurice Tuytens, a Flemish soldier who kept a diary of his war experiences until he was badly wounded on 22nd April 1915

Gerard De Martelaer, a Belgian soldier who was wounded in the Final Offensive on Ypres in 1918, hours after helping a wounded villager to safety

EXPERIMENTAL WORKSHOP - using texts to create sounds and record voice

EXPERIMENTAL WORKSHOP - using texts to create sounds and record voice

A fun and experimental workshop on January 15th, led by sound artist, Adrian Newton, involved improvisation and recording of texts, based on WW1 research carried out by the group.  Read and listen to more …

This was the last session in WCT’s Autumn Programme, a series of sessions led by practitioners, Roz Conlon (Dance/Movement in the Crypt of Wimborne Minster), and Karen Wimhurst (music/song).  Each session explored WCT’s research material about World War One, through different creative forms.

The History of Beaucroft House - Red Cross Hospital in the First World War

The History of Beaucroft House - Red Cross Hospital in the First World War

The house appears to have been situated at the junction with Beaucroft Road and Beaucroft Lane in Colehill. The address is now listed as 29 Beaucroft Lane. There is a large house down a small lane at this point which may be the original house but now divided up. The chimneys look similar to those in photos. The Coach House became a house called Beaucroft Mews, 25 Beaucroft Lane.


Information taken from The Village on the Hill: the story of Colehill in Dorset by George Sadler [Dorset Publishing Company, 1992]

The land was originally part of the Hanham Estate. In 1867 Thomas Rawlins purchased the fifteen acres bounded by Beaucroft and Northleigh Lanes from Camile Cailard and Alexander Copland, trustees of the will of Sir James Hanham. The top of the hill was wooded with pine trees as shown in the 1885 Ordnance Survey map and this was one of the main reasons for the wealthy to relocate to Colehill as it was considered very beneficial for ones health.

Beaucroft House, its lodge and coach house were built in 1876.
The estate was purchased by Mrs Bernarda Lees in 1881, who also bought the remaining Hanham land (amounting to 6 acres) in this part of Colehill in 1885 from Phelips Brooke Hanham who had inherited it from Sir James Hanham. She later bought the Pleasure House Plantation, a ten acre wood between North Leigh House and Beaucroft Lane. Apart from the Northleigh property, Mrs Lees had become the owner of all the land bounded by Wimborne Road, Northleigh Lane and Beaucroft Lane, together with a narrow strip of land beyond Beaucroft Lane. This formed the Beaucroft Estate.

Mrs Lees was born Bernarda Turnbull in Mexico. She married Thomas Lees who was the joint owner with his cousin of the Lees and Wrigley Cotton Mill in Oldham, Lancashire. She was widowed at the age of 37 in 1879 and brought her five daughters and a son to Dorset on account of the health of Eliot, her son, who suffered from asthma. He was created a Baronet in 1897 and lived at Lytchett Minster. According to the memoirs of Henry Habgood, a local horse and cart haulier (born in 1880), Mrs Lees and Mrs Paget of Park Homer House “ran the village”.

The Beaucroft Estate was broken up on the death of Mrs Lees in 1913. She left 200 books to the new Colehill Library. Her sons-in-law sold off the upper part of the land adjoining Wimborne Road in plots of various size. A large plot was bought by a man called Lamperd, a retired coal merchant. The remainder still covered 32 acres from Beaucroft Lane to Northleigh Lane.

In World War One, the house was converted into a Red Cross Hospital in the early months of 1917 to help deal with the wounded from the Front. Miss Carr Glyn was the Commandant and soldiers in their “Hospital Blue” were a familiar sight.

After the war it became the home of a retired Royal Navy Captain, George Steer, who farmed there until his death in 1928. The next owner was named Bullock and it then became the home of Sir Charles Rugge-Price and later Miss Marjorie Alderton and was then bought by a limited company, the Beaucroft Estate Ltd.

A photo on page 119 shows the house when owned by Rugge-Price circa 1935.

In World War Two United States troops were billeted at Beaucroft House and the grounds used as a park for American artillery. Their tanks were parked in Highland Road.

Beaucroft House was divided into 3 self-contained houses in 1953.

School Drama Clubs perform their work

School Drama Clubs perform their work

Performances with students from two Colehill Schools – St Michael’s and Beaucroft, took place at St Michael’s School Arena Theatre on Wednesday, July 16 at 2pm.

Jeff Hart, from Dorset Community Foundation, watched a rehearsal and commented, ‘It was very moving to see how well the students from St Michael’s worked with Beaucroft students.’

During workshops students joined in a role-play in which school children of 1914 were prepared for a visit by the Rev Fletcher from Wimborne Minster, introduced by the cane-happy Headteacher, played scarily and convincingly by Christian, from Beaucroft.

As the Rev. Fletcher, Tony used information gathered through research at Priest’s House to trigger a scene from the students. In role, he explained some of the circumstances of the war and its impact on Colehill and Wimborne – children having to do household chores; looking after their brothers and sisters; knitting socks and scarves for soldiers in the trenches.

Rev Fletcher explained that the Government had asked for all children to go collect conkers. The children wanted to know why, but Rev. Fletcher said it was ‘a national secret’.

The young people acted their own scene, playing children hunting in the Colehill woods for conkers and discussing their lives in the war. We ended with an elder sister coming to collect her younger sister, as there was “news” about their father waiting at home.

Feedback from teachers was very positive and we’re looking forward to the next session in June.

This is a series of 6 sessions, funded by an Education Award from Dorset Community Foundation, offering inclusive free workshops to 50 local young people, aged between 8-13 years, exploring themes and characters behind stories researched by WCT.  Working with Tony Horitz, they will create a short performance at their schools, casting light on the perspective of young people of the time – hopes and fears, work and leisure.


Working with Priest’s House Museum

Working with Priest’s House Museum

As part of our research about the impact of the First World War on the lives of people living in Wimborne and surrounding areas, we held two ‘Gathering Family Memories of World War One’ drop-in events at Priest’s House Museum, supported by Curator, Emma Ayling. People told us about handed-down memories, and brought several intimate and poignant objects, including photographs and letters relating to family members in the Great War.  They told stories about the emotional legacy of war, and how its effect has been felt through generations.

One significant object was the Autograph Book of a local music teacher, who became a Nurse at the Beaucroft Red Cross Auxilliary Hospital – a small book full of untold stories.

For more information about our research, please see News Blog

Listen here to an interview on Radio Solent about this project

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