Sheffield students search for Chatsworth wartime evacuees

Three students from the University of Sheffield are searching for evacuees sent to Chatsworth House during World War Two.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 5:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 4:01 pm
Penrhos College girls skating on Canal Pond at Chatsworth during the Second World War

The landscape architecture students Katie Wright, aged 19, Carrie Bayles, 20 and Cindy To, 22 are designing a long border at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, which runs at the Peak District stately home from June 5 to 9.

Their border, called A Sense of Place, is inspired by 250 girls who were evacuated from Penrhos College in North Wales.

Katie said: “Learning about the girls touched us personally. As women ourselves, we understand how these crucial teenage years shape the women you become and this inspired us to create a design which looks at their sensory experience at Chatsworth House.

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University of Sheffield students Cindy To and Katie Wright, whose garden border design for Chatsworth Flower Show was inspired by the story of schoolgirls who were evacuated to the house during the war

"We would like to get in contact with the girls who boarded the house during this time, and invite them to come and see our long border.

“We are finding this difficult as we don't have any contact details to get in touch with them - we would love them to see what they think of our border."

Five years ago, 48 former pupils returned to Chatsworth for an exhibition on the house in wartime.

"It is emotional, " said Ann Delves, then 80. "Chatsworth has always had a special place in my heart, it still does more than 70 years later."

One of the grand rooms at Chatworth that was turned into a temporary bedroom for the girls

Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, daughter of the tenth Duke, was reunited with some of the schoolgirls she joined for lessons.

The Star reported: “Some of the stories of pyjama parties on rooftops and mischief-making in the grounds echoed the pages of a St Trinian’s caper.

“But these ordinary girls were always aware they were in the most extraordinary of settings. So much so that one woman recalled how a mere ink spillage in an English class made it in to the house’s historical records.”

"I slept between Henry VIII’s feet, at the foot of a portrait in the yellow drawing room, " added Ann.

Pupils from Penrhos College competing in the high jump in the Chatsworth gardens

Fellow pupil Nancie Park, who later moved to Edensor next to Chatsworth, said: "I missed my family. It was very cold during the winter.

“We had to wear dressing gowns to bed and do what we could to keep warm. But it was the war, there was no use complaining, you just got on with it because you had to."

Exhibition curator Hannah Obee said: "The headteacher of Penhros was looking for somewhere, she had been warned a year before that the Government would move in if war broke out but she wasn’t able to say anything at first.

"The duke was keen to offer Chatsworth for the war effort, but a school was a more preferable option than the army moving in, so the arrangement suited them both perfectly."

If you can help the university students, email [email protected]