Wrest Park Military Hospital

In WWI the mansion at Wrest Park, Silsoe was used as a military hospital. On Thursday, September 14, 1916 a major fire developed in the East Wing of Wrest Park. The seriousness of the fire is evident from the fact that no fewer than ten fire brigades were engaged in quelling it.

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About 160 wounded soldiers were in residence at the time. The majority were convalescent, but many of the latest arrivals had been operated upon and recent amputations were fairly numerous. Within a short space of time the wards were cleared without injury or loss of life.

Twice during the night the Ampthill Camp bugle sounded ‘parade at the double.’ The first order of the evening was for all men who had cycles or other ways of getting to Wrest Park quickly, to start off and assist with the fire. Royal Engineers from Haynes Park also atttended. The second call came nearer midnight for the men to assist with arrangements for making comfortable about 50 wounded soldiers removed from Wrest House to Woburn Abbey Hospital and to empty huts at the Ampthill Camp. The Ampthill recruits also helped with salvaging valuable furniture and paintings.

The House survived the fire but sustained significant heat, smoke and water damage, then estimated at £20,000.

By converting this fine country house into a hospital for wounded soldiers and practically maintaining it for two years at great personal expense, Lord Lucas rendered a great national service, and during the whole time his sister, the Hon. Miss Herbert, devoted herself with loving care and attention to the work of the hospital as Matron.

After the fire the authorities decided that Wrest Park would no longer be used as a military hospital. In October 1916 this decision paved the way for the Ampthill Camp to be converted into the Ampthill Command Depot and refitted for the treatment of convalescent soldiers (1916-1919). Non-commissioned officers and men of the following units were under treatment:- the Bedfordshire- , Essex-, Northampton-, Suffolk-, and the Hertfordshire Regiments.

This is how the Bedfordshire Standard reported the fire:

wrest-park-4

wrest-park-3a

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September 22, 1916

Sources: 

Bedfordshire & Luton Archive Service
The Bedfordshire Standard
English Heritage

©S.Hartley (2015-)

 

One thought on “Wrest Park Military Hospital

  1. Pingback: WWI – Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park – the Camp Diary, September 1916 | Tommy's Footprints…..

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