Stokesay Court opened as a convalescent home for soldiers (ordinary ranks) on 19th April 1915, initially with beds for 10 men. In 1916 the number of beds was increased to 30. It was unusual in that every man had his own room.
Mrs (Margaret) Allcroft, the owner, was appointed Commandant. She had been widowed in 1911 when her husband, Herbert Allcroft, died of cancer. In 1913 she lost her younger brother Albert to pneumonia, followed two years later by her elder brother, Sir William Russell (3rd Bt) who died while staying at Stokesay Court.
Both her husband and her brother were nursed through their final illnesses by Lilian Weekes (nee Williams) a qualified nurse from Shrewsbury who had two sisters who also became nurses. When the hospital opened Lilian was joined by her sister, Alice Williams.
Wounded and sick soldiers arrived on trains at Shrewsbury from Southampton and were taken to Berrington War Hospital at Atcham. After assessment they would be transferred to a hospital with an available bed. The average stay was around six weeks. If well enough, soldiers would have been expected to help with chores. For recreation there were concerts, boating trips and sports. Men wore “Blues” uniforms while in hospitals and lived under strict rules, e.g. “under no circumstances” were men “allowed to use a public house”.
The family moved into the Stable House in 1915 while the house was used as a hospital. Mrs Allcroft’s children Russell and Jewell were living at home. Jewell helped the nurses and a special child’s nursing uniform was made for her.
Waste Not Want Not – Recipes from the First World War leaflets have been discovered in the Stokesay Archives, giving an indication of what was served and eaten. These are now available as a printed booklet. Click here for further details.
Mrs Allcroft remarried Brigadier General John Rotton (Royal Artillery) in January 1917. Their wedding at Onibury Church was attended by soldiers and nurses.
Almost 300 letters written from the soldiers to Mrs Allcroft (Rotton) survive, along with a substantial archive which includes early admissions records, photographs of the soldiers in blues uniforms, hospital accounts, details of rationing including monthly returns showing amounts consumed, orders for Red Cross supplies, details of concerts, whist drives and other activities both indoors and outdoors. There are striking posters, particularly from the immediate post war period.
We have carefully catalogued the soldiers’ letters. They present a moving account of the time spent at Stokesay Court (often referred to as “the happiest time of my life”), as well as glimpses into the soldiers’ lives, family concerns, and the general living conditions of the time. A searchable list of the men’s names, regimental numbers (where known) and dates of their letters is being prepared to add to our website which we hope will be helpful to anyone researching their families and ancestors.
Items have also survived from Brigadier General Rotton’s archive, among them some interesting maps and Christmas cards. The General was posted to Cologne for a period of 2 years at the end of the war where Mrs Rotton visited him. She brought back examples of Notgeld (emergency money) and even a poster torn from a billboard announcing the acceptance and signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
We have set up an exhibition in the Business Room.
Hear about Stokesay’s role and history here
Letters sent from soldiers (and their families) who stayed at Stokesay Court Auxiliary Military Hospital during WW1 are filed alphabetically and the regimental number is listed where it is known. If you would like further details of a particular letter, please get in touch.
Search the British Red Cross records.