Were you ever stationed at Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster? Can you give us any clues as to what was going on there between 1940 and the end of the war?
We are a group of volunteers helping the curators at Brodsworth to prepare an exhibition on ‘The Country House and War’.
The House was requisitioned in 1940 and certainly received units regrouping after Dunkirk. The 44th (Home Counties) Division, led by General Percival, used the House and there is evidence of occupation by the Royal Artillery and the Signallers. There was a tent village in the park, but officers had the comfort of accommodation in the House or in the homes of local people.
Our research is part of a joint project with the Yorkshire House Partnership which will coordinate exhibitions at several country houses in Yorkshire in 2012. Perhaps you have memories of Hickleton, Wentworth Castle or other houses? Brodsworth Hall is our particular interest, but we should be pleased to hear from anyone with memories of Yorkshire’s country houses in wartime.
We hope to tell the wider story of the Brodsworth Estate, including those who served in the forces, the families remaining on the Home Front, evacuees, and the military incomers who stayed for a short time and moved on - who knows where?
Please Contact: Trudy Pankhurst Green, Hall Farm, Common Lane, Clifton Village, Maltby, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S66 7RX.
Tel. 01709 860275.
Brodsworth Hall WWI and WWII
Conscription came in in 1916 but several of the Estate Staff volunteered for service early in WW I. Of the 10 men commemorated on the WWI memorial window in Brodsworth Church six had been employed on the Estate, amongst them Allan A Simpson, the Estate Clerk. An employee who survived the war was Richard Mason who volunteered in December 1914 and was awarded both the DCM and the Military Cross. The depletion of the Estate workforce including the absence through war of such major figures as the Agent, the Butler, the Head Gardener and the Head Gamekeeper would have had a significant effect on the running of the Estate and brought about a change in role for some women taking over responsibilities which had previously belonged to men. Men who were unfit or too old for military service found their roles changing as they had to take on additional duties.
Charles Grant-Dalton, nephew of Charles Thellusson, the owner of the Estate, and his brother fought in WWI, Stuart Grant-Dalton becoming a distinguished pilot. Several women in the family became nurses, Adeline Thellusson eventually becoming Matron at St Dunstan’s. Constance Thellusson was concerned that the Estate should be as self sufficient as possible. She decreed that the family and staff should eat game rather than meat from the butcher – to the point where some of the staff became very tired of such a diet.
The family and Church organised estate working parties to knit comforts for the troops. The schoolchildren also knitted busily. A newspaper report of 1915 speaks of the 40 schoolchildren having completed 1032 articles, socks, scarves, mittens, belts etc. The children enclosed slips of paper with their names and addresses in the articles and the replies they received from the troops were read out in school.
Brodsworth Hall, surrounding land and buildings were requisitioned in June 1940, the Hall becoming one of the bases of Northern Command. In the first wave of troops to be billeted here was the 44th Division Royal Artillery with Signals Support evacuated from Dunkirk and arriving in a very exhausted condition. In the later stages of the war a Transport Regiment, working with the Royal Engineers on bridging, trained intensively for a few weeks at Brodsworth before moving south to take part in the Normandy landings in early June 1944. Members of the Royal Military Police were billeted at the Hall and one resident remembers African American servicemen driving trucks through the local villages.
During the war the family remained in the Hall. The army had the use of the Smoking Room as an office, the Dining Room, Billiard Room and a sitting room. They also had the use of some family bedrooms and former servants’ bedrooms. The army chefs used the Victorian kitchen and bought game from the Head Keeper and fruit and vegetables from Frank Weeks who had taken over the running of the kitchen gardens. Troops were also billeted in the Park and in Home Farm and its buildings.
Charles Grant-Dalton was a Colonel in the Home Guard. Sylvia Grant-Dalton was involved in organising knitting, sending other supplies to the troops, organising the distribution of evacuees and as a Red Cross. Pamela, their daughter, served as a driver in the Air Transport Auxiliary.
The family and village organised numerous events raising money for such causes as Wings for Victory, Doncaster Royal Infirmary and the Linen League.
In 1939 children, mothers and babies were evacuated from Leeds. Captain and Mrs Grant-Dalton with other car owners from the village organised transporting them to their hosts. Rural living did not suit them very well and the mothers and babies soon returned to Leeds. Some of the children remained and after initial problems settled into the normal life of the village school.