Bowood home front exhibition marking First World War centenary

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Curator Jo Johnston in the Orangery Curator Jo Johnston in the Orangery

An exhibition of paintings, photographs and documents related to the Lansdowne family and Bowood in the First World War will be staged at the stately home for the conflict’s centenary.

The display, put together by Bowood’s curator and archivist, Jo Johnston, examines the part the house played and how the wartime experience altered the lives of those on the estate.

It will be on show in the Orangery, which became an auxiliary Red Cross hospital from 1915 to 1919, with 20 nurses looking after 54 convalescing patients.

The hospital was set up by the 5th Marchioness of Lansdowne, who became its commandant and was awarded an OBE for her wartime welfare work.

Mrs Johnston, who began researching last year, said: “Bowood’s own story mirrors the nation’s wartime chronicle and pulls together the particular tales of so many individuals.

“The war saw the end of an era for the country’s big estates, with much of the labour force either not surviving the four-year conflict or not returning to their original occupations.

“Fewer men, fewer resources and ensuing economic and social change all played their part in realignment for estates such as Bowood.”

The 5th Marquess and Marchioness of Lansdowne lost their younger son in the war. He was killed in action at Ypres in October 1914. Lord Charles Mercer Nairne was a major in the 1st King’s Royal Dragoon Guards.

His grandson, the present Lord Lansdowne, said: “Last December, the Orangery at Bowood House was buzzing with shoppers during our annual three-day Christmas Extravaganza.

“A visit to the exhibition will undoubtedly be a salutary one, with wounded servicemen pictured in hospital beds in the same spot where shopping stands have more recently been pitched.

“The considerable sacrifices made by so many in both world wars and the pleasures that we now enjoy today on account of them will very much come to the fore in 2014.”

Mrs Johnston is looking for people with wartime stories about Bowood. She would like to hear from the families of two patients – Corporal RG Martin of New Zealand, who fought at Gallipoli, and Private Hughes from Carmarthen-shire, who died from tetanus.

Get in touch via j.johnston@ bowood.org. The exhibition will be open 11am to 5.30pm, April 1 to November 2.

For information visit www.bowood.org

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