Black Country Bugle
The fallen Black Country boy who rests in a country garden
Garden of National Trust house features memorials to servicemen
Numerous dignitaries, including King George V and Winston Churcill visited
THERE’S some corner of a Buckinghamshire field that is forever Black Country.
Much earlier this year we made a trip to the gardens and house of Cliveden. Cliveden is an English country house and estate in the care of the National Trust in Buckinghamshire, on the border with Berkshire.
Cliveden has been the home to a Prince of Wales, two Dukes, an Earl, and finally the Viscounts Astor. Later, during the early 1960s when it was the home of the 3rd Viscount Astor, it became the setting for key events of the notorious Profumo affair.
At the beginning of the First World War, Waldorf Astor (later the 2nd
Viscount Astor) offered part of the estate as a hospital to the British Army. They turned down the offer, but Waldorf then offered the land to the Canadian Red Cross, who accepted. As a result, the Duchess of Connaught Red Cross Hospital was opened to treat injured allied troops, with a capability of holding up to 110 patients at any one time, but by the end of the war this number had risen to 600.
Nancy Astor was often found helping out at the hospital and numerous dignitaries, including
King George V and Winston Churchill visited. Though American-born, Nancy moved to Britain to marry Waldorf Astor after divorcing her first husband. She became the first woman to sit* as a Member of Parliament, representing the Conservative party and serving from 1919 to 1945. Often criticised for her anti-semitic and pro-nazi views, hers is an altogether other story. Although a relatively small number of the 24,000 troops treated at the hospital died, in 1918 the 1st Viscount Astor’s sunken Italian garden was adapted to provide a memorial to the fallen. A mosaic floor was replaced with turf in which gravestones were later set, along with a sculpture by Edgar Bertram Mackennal, of a symbolic bronze female figure. The hospital did not close until 1985 and was left derelict for several years before its demolition in 2006.
The War Memorial Garden is to be found in Cliveden’s formal gardens and contains 42 war graves from the First World War, each with a stone set in the turf. Mackennal’s statue overlooks the graves and below it reads the inscription, “They are at peace. God proved them and found them worthy for himself.”
For full details of the War Memorial Garden, readers can visit www. crcmh.com
You might ask what this has got to do with the Black Country. There are two graves in Cliveden’s garden, one of which has a definite connection with our area. The first commemorates Private Lenard Herbert Garland, born in Wollaston, but it is thought that this is almost certainly the village in northern Northamptonshire and not the one near Stourbridge.
However, Thomas Page, recorded as having died aged 37 years on 20th
May 1916, was definitely born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. Service number 166058, Thomas served in the 2nd Battalion of the Canadian Pioneers.
So, at this time of remembrance, might I be allowed to amend the words of Rupert Brooke from his poem, ‘The Soldier’? ...
“If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a Buckinghamshire field
That is for ever Black Country.”
*A pedant’s footnote: Nancy Astor was the first woman to take her seat as an MP in 1919. A year earlier Constance Markievicz had become the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons, but as a member of Sinn Fein, she did not take her seat.