An interesting and slightly different aspect of Attingham’s recent past is its links to education. These began with the start of the Second World War when staff and pupils from the Edgbaston Church of England Girls School were evacuated to Attingham from Birmingham. The girls are shown arriving at the front entrance to the house in 1940 in the photograph below.
News of the evacuation apparently reached the Germans as in one of his notorious Nazi propaganda broadcasts, Lord Haw Haw mentioned the Church of England evacuating to a House in Shropshire. The girls themselves appeared to enjoy their time at Attingham and are shown below in the stables area preparing for a ride on their ponies.
Following the death of the 8th Lord Berwick in 1947 much of the house was leased to Shropshire County Council as an adult education college. The warden was Sir George Trevelyan, renowned as an educational pioneer and seen by many as the father of the ‘New Age Movement’. Sir George is shown below at his desk in the Octagon Room.
The college ran with some success through the 1950’s and ‘60’s featuring a number of pioneering and inspirational courses, many focusing on spiritual or mystical subjects or on theatre and the arts. Sir George and the college were both popular among the students, some of whom are shown below on the front steps to the house in the 1950’s.
Dancing featured prominently amongst the subjects taught and Sir George is shown below leading the way in a folk dancing class on the East Portico in the 1940’s.
Another photograph shows the students dancing on the front lawn in the 1960’s.
The layouts and uses of many of Attingham’s rooms were changed while the college was in residence. The Dining Room for example was used as a lecture room and the photograph below shows the room in use for orchestral classes in the 1950’s.
The college was eventually forced to close in the early 1970’s due to cuts in the County Council’s education budget. I would be fascinated to hear from anyone who came to Attingham either as an evacuee or who attended the Adult Education Collegeand remembers activities such as those shown above.
Attingham’s links to education continue through our support for The Attingham Trust and The Attingham Summer School which was founded in 1952 and offers unique art education courses for curators, conservators and architectural historians. There are also visits to the mansion by local schools on most days through the open season.
More photos from our archive will feature in our upcoming exhibition ‘Hidden Lives: Royalty, Glamour and War’ for which research is nearly complete. The exhibition begins on the 1st June and further details of this and other upcoming jubilee related events can be found here.