Requisitioned: The British Country House in the Second World War (Hardback)John Martin Robinson
Hardback Published: 01/05/2014
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Requisitioned analyses twenty houses around Britain, who endured a number of varying wartime roles - whether they be hospitals, storage areas, troops billets, headquarters for senior staff, or seats of foreign governments in exile. Supported with a wealth of wartime imagery, as well as personal collections from those that resided in the houses, this is a welcome tribute to the country houses that were requisitioned by Churchill's government to serve their country. We all know of Bletchley Park's role in the war - a Victorian mansion and its grounds leased by the Ministry of Defence in the late 1930s and turned into the world-famous codebreaking centre. But Bletchley Park was the rule, rather than the exception - countless stately homes were requisitioned, acquired by, or lent to the war effort for all sorts of purposes: military command centres, barracks, hospitals, to house the nation's art collections out of range of the German bombers, listening and monitoring centres (Hanslope Park, Chicksands Priory and Beaumanor Hall all feature in The Secret Listeners), as HQ for MI5, evacuated schools, or even, as in the case of Badminton House, an unwilling refuge for Queen Mary, who arrived with vast retinue unannounced one day and stayed for the duration of the war. Requisitioned, will tell the stories of many famous, and some obscure country houses before, during and after World War Two. In quite a few cases the war did for the house altogether: at Egginton Hall in Derbyshire departing troops left all the taps on and the resultant flooding rought the ceilings down and rotted the woodwork forcing its demolition. Both Shillinglee in Sussex and Appeldurcombe on the Isle of Wight were burnt out by the Canadian or Australian troops billeted there (the latter remains a shell preserved by English Heritage). In other cases like Chicksands or Southwick in Hampshire the house was lost to the military for good, the former saw its estate disfigured by Nissen huts and transmitter masts. For many country houses the pre-war heyday was not matched by the post-war era - Wentworth Woodhouse saw its estate grounds opencast-mined; Mentmore saw its contents sold off to pay death duties. Bletchley Park, however - a thoroughly undistinguished mansion architecturally - has found belated celebrity thanks to its wartime role, though its estate is gone for good as a consequence to the military huts built in the grounds. Certainly in many cases, after the war the house was never the same again.
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd