A remarkable archive has survived at Stokesay Court from the time of the First World War when the house became a VAD Auxiliary Military Hospital between April 1914 and December 1918.  It was a hospital for soldiers (not officers) and unusually nearly every man had a room to himself.   The Commandant was the owner, Margaret Allcroft (Margaret Rotton following her remarriage to Brigadier General John Rotton in 1917).  She took a personal interest in the welfare of the men, and encouraged them to write to her after they had left.

Nearly 300 letters survive from around 150 individuals, including some from the men’s wives.   The lives that emerge from the letters transport the reader back to that time.  It is clear that for many of the men, their stay at Stokesay gave them a brief experience of sanctuary, where war receded into the background.  In the letters they reminisce about their activities at Stokesay, including concerts around the piano, with the Commandant at the keyboard.

Fundraising concert held 5th March 1918

Fundraising concert held 5th March 1918

In addition to the letters, there are many unusual documents including photographs, admissions records for 1915, details of rationing and food consumption, details of activities such as concerts and whist drives, Red Cross regulations for dress and more, and even the hospital accounts.   There are finally some noteworthy souvenirs from a trip to Germany in 1919.

A group of volunteers are studying the letters and carrying out research into some of the individuals named. Examples from this archive will be on display at a First World War themed weekend on 18th and 19th April – see events listing for details.

Caroline Magnus