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Memories of war at country estate

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HISTORIC Brodsworth Hall is set to step back in time to the dark days of the Second World War with a new exhibition.

And visitors are being urged to share their wartime memories to capture a snapshot of life at the country estate between 1939 and 1945.

To stir local memories, a series of reminiscence sessions will be held next month featuring an actress playing the part of wartime house maid Mollie Hindle, a real life employee at Brodsworth during the era.

In the 1940s, Brodsworth and many of its estate buildings were taken over by soldiers, initially from the 44th Home Counties Infantry Division, and then the Royal Artillery, all part of the larger 1 Corps.

It was from these troops that Mollie came to find her future husband, Walter Nicholls.

Walter was billeted in the stable block at Brodsworth where Mollie and her family lived, as her father was the estate foreman.

The couple married in 1942 at Brodsworth Church, just before Walter’s section moved away.

After the war they settled in Kent, but their two daughters, Janet and Celia, spent most of their school holidays at Brodsworth staying with their grandparents who were still living in the stables.

After many years living in Kent, Janet returned to live in the Brodsworth area in the 1970s - and she returned to the hall to meet the actress playing Mollie.

She said: “I think it’s excellent that this project will allow people with memories of Brodsworth Hall during the war to share them to become part of this fascinating exhibition.

“Meeting the actress that will play my mother as part of the reminiscence sessions was very moving, and I’m sure she’ll do a great job of telling my mother’s tale and encouraging others to share their stories too.”

The memories captured at the reminiscence sessions will be used to form an exhibition, as part of a project named Duty Calls: The Country House in Time of War, which goes on display next year largely thanks to a £99,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Caroline Carr-Whitworth, curator of Brodsworth Hall, said: “Brodsworth was significantly affected by both world wars, but particularly during World War II when the hall and its estate were used by the military as billets.

“This had an enormous impact on all of its occupants from the owners to the people working on the estate’s farms and nearby villages such as Marr, Pickburn and Hampole.

“We have a wide range of source materials already – from estate and personal archives from the early 20th century, to oral histories recorded by those who remember the house through the years, but we are hoping we can uncover many more through these reminiscence sessions, and people contacting us.”

A session will be held at Woodlands Library on December 12 with a further session at Brodsworth Hall on December 14.

Places on the December 14 session must be booked in advance by emailing brodsworthwar@english-heritage.org.uk, or calling David Alcock on 01482 318961.

 

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