Morden Hall Park's war history uncovered in new theatre production

Sapper William Williams, Ist Reserve Battalion, Royal Engineers

Sapper William Williams, Ist Reserve Battalion, Royal Engineers

First published in News
Last updated
Wimbledon Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Chief reporter

The fascinating history of Morden Hall Park’s war years has been dramatised by a theatre group who have researched family stories and historical archives.

Long-lost stories of nurses and a carpenter who worked at the park during the First World War have been found by the Attic Theatre Company who present their discoveries in a play, Fields Unsown.

Among those to work at the Morden Road venue previously run by the Hatfeild family was William Williams, Gilliat Edward Hatfeild's estate carpenter.

Play artistic director Louise Hill said when they came to send his regiment to France, they found they had two men too many, and because Williams' name came at the end of the alphabet, he was sent to South Africa and then on to India.

Wimbledon Guardian:

Naomi Everson who plays a nurse in the show reading her lines

He returned at the end of the war to become farm bailiff for the Hatfeild family.

Another story uncovered was that of Corporal Ernest Welch, one of the many men who were treated for shellshock at Morden Hall.

Miss Hill said Mr Welch had lost his voice as a result of the horrors he had witnessed, but after 11 months of being treated under the regime of Frederick Mott, a consultant based at the Maudsley Hospital, he recovered his voice after dreaming that it had returned.

Welch's story was reported across the world.

Wimbledon Guardian:

A newspaper article about Ernest Welch.

Mr Mott studied shellshock and psychological trauma throughout the war, and while initially believing that traditional methods like electrotherapy would work, came to believe that distraction and gentle exercise - such as gardening in the grounds of the hall - would be more beneficial.

Miss Hill, 36, said: "People can expect to hear a new story about a place they may be familiar with.

"People are very attached to the park and know about the Hatfeild legacy but this side of things isn’t known about.

"The exciting thing is we are telling these stories for the first time."

Assistance from the Merton Historical Society and local people helped to put the final project together, and children from Cricket Green School will be performing a 10 minute play set in the trenches each day bar the Wednesday, with further events occuring on the Sunday.

Fields Unsown, a play by Catherine Harvey and Louise Monaghan. September 17 to September 21; 2pm and 6pm; Morden Hall Park; Tickets: £8 to £12; from www.attictheatrecompany.com, Mitcham Library or the National Trust Shop at Morden Hall Park.

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