Monday, August 29, 2016

Old photo postcard of Brackenhurst Hall in Southwell


This interesting old photo postcard shows a handsome 19th century estate in central England. Across the bottom of the postcard, someone has written, in black ink: "BRACKENHURST HALL, SOUTHWELL, NOTTS." Southwell is the town and "Notts" is short for Nottinghamshire, which is the county.

The lower-left corner of postcard indicates that it was an A.J. (Alfred John) Loughton photograph, and we can go to that modern-day website for an in-depth examination of Brackenhurst Hall's history. It was built in 1828 for the Rev. Thomas Coates Caine and later became home to the Sir William Norton Hicking clan. Around 1948, it was sold and became Brackenhurst College, which focused on agricultural studies; that college was then absorbed into Nottingham Trent University in 1999.1

The back of the postcard is blank except for one line, written in the same hand as the printing on the front. It states: "LIVED HERE FROM MARCH 20TH 1918 TO APRIL 23RD 1918."

According to the Houghton website, Brackenhurst Hall was used as a military hospital during the Great War (July 1914 to November 1918). Various sources say it had 50 to 60 patient beds during the final years of the war. I don't think it's a huge leap to guess that the person who wrote on this postcard was a wounded English soldier who was recuperating at Brackenhurst for a month in the spring of 1918.

But we'll never know for sure. And we'll never know who that staffer or soldier who wrote on this card was.

For more on this topic, check out the Wartime Memories Project's page on hospitals, which includes this excerpt:
The nature of the fighting during the Great War led to a huge number of injured soldiers and the existing Military medical facilities in the United Kingdom were soon overwhelmed. A solution had to be found quickly and many civilian hospitals were turned over to military use, a large number of asylums were also converted to military hospitals, with the asylum patients being sent home, often to unprepared families. ...

With the wide range of serious injuries before faced, hospitals began to specialise in certain types of injury in order to provide the best treatment, with soldiers being sent by train to the relevant hospital. Many large houses and hotels were used as Convalescent Hospitals.

Those being treated wore a blue uniform with a red tie, known as "Hospital Blues", once a solider was deemed fit enough to leave convalescence, he would return to one of the Command Depots for the rehabilitative training after which they would be allocated to a battalion, frequently a different battalion or regiment to that in which he had previously served, as his place would have been taken by another man to maintain numbers.

Those who did not recover sufficiently to return to active service were issued with a Silver War Badge, SWB, to wear on their lapel, this signified that they had completed their war service.

Footnote
1. At the moment I was writing this post, the home page of Nottingham Trent University featured a large image of old rotary phones, which threw me for a bit of a loop.

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