First World War Comes to Life at Nat

by Catherine Smyth Media

VISITORS took a step back in time to the First World War when they visited Bacup Nat on Saturday.

Thanks to a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Grant, the former back yard at the historical society’s museum on Yorkshire Street, Bacup, has been transformed into a snapshot of Fern Hill Auxiliary Hospital.

The society of volunteers secured funding in July and opened the diorama exactly 100 years to the day since Fern Hill, in Stacksteads, accepted its first patients.

It has been a labour of love for local historian and author Wendy Lord who spent a year researching the stories of soldiers who were cared for in the hospital by combing old editions of the Bacup Times.

“Fern Hill House was the home of William Mitchell who died in March 1914,” said Wendy. “His daughter decided to give the house to Bacup to be used as a military hospital.

“There are no official records of the hospital and all we could find was some old Red Cross cards giving details some of the nurses and in 1920 there was a list published in the Bacup Times of all the staff who had worked in the hospital.”

Wendy used the information to write a book Nursing Heroes: The Fern Hill Story, create a presentation for the room and three large information panels.

Two mannequins represent a nurse and a wounded soldier in hospital blues and The Nat had authentic uniforms created using original fabrics.

There is a hospital bed, panelled walls and original equipment from the society’s collection. Hospital smells add to the effect.

“This is now a permanent feature,” said Wendy. “It will be added to next year because we are having a sister’s uniform made and we will have two special days when people can ‘Meet the Nurse’ and ‘Meet the Tommy’.

“We are hoping to get schoolchildren to look around and learn more about the First World War and the local history of what happened close to their home.”

AccRoss College students have also recorded the soldier’s accounts.

In total 730 men were treated at Fern Hill and its extension at Acre Mill Sunday School, which opened in the summer of 1917. The hospital finally closed in February 1919.

Thanks to the research, Wendy was able to trace Stanley Everitt, whose father Fred had been a patient in the hospital in Christmas 1917 after he was injured and had his leg amputated. Fred was from Bacup and served in the 1st and 4th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment.

In December 1915 the Bacup Times reported how Fred’s brother William was killed in action, Fred was in hospital with an illness before returning to the front, while his brother Thomas was a prisoner of war.

Mr Everitt, 79, spotted his father on one of the information boards and said: “My father died when I was 17. He was grand but I do not have a lot of memories of him. This is great.”

Bacup Nat is joining the special Christmas event in Bacup on December 13 when Mrs Ibbit’s Christmas will be held with authentic food, drink, a Christmas tree and presents from the war.

Wendy added: “I am very grateful to everyone who has helped make this a reality and to Castleton Textiles, from Bacup, who donated the curtains.”

Bacup Natural History Society

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