The Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire, is set to stage a unique exhibition to commemorate the start of World War I.
‘Life on the Eve of War’ will focus on the golden age of the stately home - immediately before the outbreak of war, and just before estates across the land lost their Downton-style grandeur.
Visitors to the exhibition can relive the lives of those involved through photographs, letters, and artefacts reflecting life at Shugborough at that time.
Objects that link directly with the early stages of the war include a souvenir mug decorated with the national flags of the Allies and souvenir linen handkerchiefs showing a map of central Europe surrounded by the flags of the Allies. These reflect the feelings of National pride that were apparent in the first year of the conflict. Other items on display will include servant’s uniforms and the new high tech domestic appliances of the time such as cookers and vacuum cleaners which helped to make the servants lives a little easier.
The exhibition running from 21 March to 24 October 2014, will give people the chance to find out how the Great War forever changed the lives of those living and working on this famous English estate.
Cllr Mike Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children, Community and Localism with Staffordshire County Council said:
“The outbreak of World War I changed the world for ever, and the lives of millions of people, including those that lived and worked at Shugborough.
“As we approach the centenary of the start of the First World War, it is essential we continue to teach future generations about the legacy of the conflict. We must never forget the great sacrifices made during the Great War and exhibitions like this along with our other activities will help keep it at the forefront of people’s memories.
“As a Council we have many activities taking place over the next four years to commemorate Staffordshire’s role in the Great War. The county has as good a claim as anywhere in Britain to be the national focus for the commemoration of World War I. The National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas is a national and international centre for commemoration, while the Cannock War Graves cemeteries, the Staffordshire Regimental Museum and many memorials offer poignant reminders of the Great War.”
The exhibition focuses on the Anson family, who lived at Shugborough, and their servants in the period leading up to the outbreak of war, and during the first months of the conflict.
At the beginning of 1914 life on the Shugborough Estate continued on its traditional path. The Anson family enjoyed a privileged lifestyle in Staffordshire and London with servants to look after them and to run their homes and estate. But the war, which would last for over four years, would change the world of those that lived and worked on the estate completely.
In 1911 - the year of the last census to be taken prior to the outbreak of war - domestic service was still the biggest employer of women and girls in the country. Shugborough employed a number of indoor servants including a housekeeper, house-maids, stillroom maid and a laundry maid.
At the same time, Shugborough employed a number of estate workers, including gardeners, gamekeepers and waggoners.
The exhibition also helps to explain how things changed from 11 August, 1914, when the call went out for volunteers to join one of the most devastating conflicts in history.
Shugborough, of course, also lies close to the UK’s living centre of remembrance, The National Memorial Arboretum, at Alweras, Staffordshire.
For more details on the exhibition or shugborough visit www.shugborough.org.uk