Local First World War stories uncovered as centenary commemorations begin at Shropshire heritage site

Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury, is marking the start of its First World War commemorations on Saturday 19 July with a day of performances and talks exploring Attingham’s wartime stories.

The First World War affected the lives of everyone in the country – and the families connected to Attingham Park were no exception. Staff and volunteers have worked with groups across the region to research these wartime stories, and are set to share them in a series of events and exhibitions over the next four years, focusing on different themes as the centenary continues.

Saturday 19 July will see the launch of an exhibition in the Stables exploring Attingham’s stories, with oral history recordings and film clips bringing some of the key moments to life. Visitors can discover the impact of war on some of Attingham’s most well-known owners, including the future wife of the 8th Lord Berwick, who left her privileged life of balls and social engagements behind her to serve as a Red Cross nurse on the Italian front line.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a blog which will reveal the experiences of some of Attingham’s characters through extracts from their wartime letters and diaries. Both the blog and the exhibition will continue to tell the unfolding story of the war as the centenary years continue.

To mark the launch of the exhibition there will be a chance for visitors to see performances of the moving play My Dearest Girls. The 30 minute play is based on material from the Shropshire Archives and explores the impact of war on women through the eyes of Helen, a farmer’s daughter from Much Wenlock, as she waits for news from the front. Tickets are limited and will be available at no extra charge from reception on the day, with performances at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3pm.

Some of Attingham’s stories will also be brought to life with new story talks. These 30 minute mini performances form a brief but involving introduction to Attingham’s wartime history, and will be running on Saturday 19 July at 12.30 and 2.30pm. Tickets are limited and available on the day.

Visitors can also come behind the scenes on a drop-in talk to discover some of the archive photographs from the war years and find out more about how the team worked to uncover the history behind them. The photograph talk will run from 2pm – 4pm in the mansion.

Families are being encouraged to find out more about the First World War, with a summer holiday trail focusing on the animals that helped soldiers in the war years. The trail will lead families to secret files on some of these heroic animals, and little ones can collect information on their secret skills to win a prize for helping out. The trail will run from Saturday 19 July to Sunday 31 August, and is £2.50 per child.

This Saturday is just the beginning of the commemorations, with more events and exhibitions to be announced as the centenary continues. Later this summer, Attingham will be one of twenty-three National Trust properties hosting silent walks of remembrance as part of a project by artist Alec Finlay. Poet Ken Cockburn will host the silent walk of remembrance, titled “there were our own/there were the others”, on Monday 28 July at 2pm. Visitors will journey through the Attingham parkland to Atcham, and explore wartime themes with a reading of a pair of poems. At the end of the walk, poetry books and poppy seeds will be left in memory. Pre-booking is essential and can be done on 01743 708170.

Saraid Jones, Engagement and Conservation Officer, has been leading the research and is looking forward to sharing it with visitors. “Attingham has so many stories to tell, and there is so much local history we are able to share during these centenary years. Our launch day is set to give our visitors a real insight, not just into Attingham’s stories, but into the emotional impact that the war had across Shropshire. My Dearest Girls will be a highlight of the day, and I can’t wait to see the archive letters that it’s based on come to life – it promises to be an unmissable performance.”

Opening times

Attingham Park’s grounds and Visitor Reception are open daily from 8am – 7pm, and the Carriage House Café is open daily from 9am – 6.30pm. 

Standard admission charges apply to all events with the exception of the remembrance walk. National Trust members and under 5s go free. For further information please visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/attingham-park or call the property on 01743 708162.

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Pete White Pete White

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