17th Durham Voluntary Aid Hospital: The Red House, Etherley, Bishop Auckland

17th Durham Voluntary Aid Hospital: The Red House, Etherley, Bishop Auckland


Military nurses served under the title of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and they numbered under 300 with a reserve of 200 when war broke out.  There were another 600 civilian nurses to call upon.  They were disciplined, trained and had to be over 25 before joining [indicating that they were serious about their vocation].  They set off for France with little idea of what was in store for them.  Initial preparations involved setting up hospitals well behind the lines.  Within weeks, the scale of the operation had exploded.  Urgent help was needed.

The British Red Cross and the Order of St. John formed the Joint War Committee.  They pooled their resources in order to provide the military with medical support services under the protection of the Red Cross emblem.  County branches of the Red Cross had their own volunteers called Voluntary Aid Detachments [VADs].  In August 1914, there were already 9000 VADs and their ranks were to be increased greatly, aided by the recruiting skills of the “great and the good”.  Many “gently-bred young ladies” volunteered as well as many thousands of young working class women and girls eagerly wanting to “do their bit” for King, country and their loved ones at the front.  In total, about 90,000 volunteers worked at home and abroad during the Great War providing vital aid to military forces caring for sick and wounded sailors and soldiers. These men and women carried out a range of tasks such as nursing, transport duties, organisation of auxiliary hospitals, convalescent homes, rest stations and work parties.

VAD Poster


Immediately following the outbreak of war, buildings were secured together with equipment and staff so that the organisation could provide temporary hospitals as soon as the wounded began to arrive from France.  The most suitable were established as auxiliary hospitals which were attached to central Military Hospitals looking after patients who remained under military control.  Eventually, there were about 3000 auxiliary hospitals throughout the UK.  There were 28 in County Durham, one of which was the 17th Durham Volunteer Aid Hospital, The Red House, Etherley, Bishop Auckland.

These were surplus properties provided by local councils and private homes offered by wealthy families, some particularly grand such Brancepeth Castle, Windlestone Hall and Seaham Hall in County Durham.[2]  The Stobart family, coal mining entrepreneurs and leading members of the former County Militia recently reorganised into the Territorial Force, offered one of their properties, Red House at Etherley.


The War Office fixed payments based on the numbers of patients treated and the grant increased annually during the war to the highest rate of £63.14 shillings per year for each patient [£1.4s.6d per week].  This covered full hospital treatment, food and other costs.


Local doctors did much voluntary work in these hospitals but in 1917 the War Office decided to make payments to them for their services.  Auxiliary hospitals were usually staffed by:

  • A commandant who was in charge of the hospital except for the medical and nursing services
  • A quartermaster who was responsible for the receipt, custody and issue of articles in the provision store
  • A matron who directed nursing staff
  • Members of the local VAD who were trained in first aid and home nursing
  • Cooks which usually was a paid job

The volunteers were usually too old or too young to work in a military hospital.  Many were unable to leave home for 6 months due to family commitments but could sign a 3 month contract with the auxiliary hospital.  The age limit for VADs was 21 for those based in the UK and 23 for those posted abroad but apparently these restrictions were soon ignored. Princesses to parlour maids volunteered and stepped away from their formal roles to take up the challenge.[3]

VADs who were to make a name for themselves later in life included:

  • Agatha Christie who served as a VAD nurse in Torquay
  • Vera Brittain [4] served from 1915 and was posted to France in 1917
  • Enid Bagnold [5] who served in London.

Training and Duties

As the name suggests, VADs were volunteers and did not get paid.  They had to pass exams to receive their first aid and nursing certificates.  Talented VADs could take specialist courses to become masseuse or X-Ray technicians.  Hospital duties were required 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so volunteers would work on a shift basis providing “a caring, traditional role, carried out locally”.  VAD nurses “found themselves given most of the dirty work and at the sharp end of many a professional nursing sister’s tongue”.  The “sheer drudgery of hospital work – scrubbing, cleaning, emptying slops, laundry and often compulsory attendance at prayers…washing, changing dressings and cooking” was undertaken by the willing VADs.  Those of a more wealthy background, in addition to their regular duties, may well have brought flowers from home, offered to write letters and called upon their circle of friends for money to provide sweets, cigarettes, papers, soap and bedsocks.  There was a lengthy list of Official Instruction to Members, for example uniforms were to “be worn smartly and in a uniform way and not to suit the taste of each individual.  No additions or alterations such as furs, veils, bowties or shirt collars worn over the coat are permissible”.  There were daily inspections.  There was no scope for a little feminine adornment, “all powder, paint, scent, earrings or jewellery etc should be avoided”.  VADs were under instructions to “perform all duties cheerfully and thoroughly…be patient, willing and attentive and to avoid all gossip…”  They were photographed regularly and their stories appeared in many newspapers and magazines.  They found themselves admired and by the end of the war “assumed an almost mythical position”.

“There’s an angel in our ward as keeps a-flittin’ to and fro

With fifty eyes upon ‘er wherever she may go;

She’s pretty as a picture and bright as mercury,

And she wears the cap and apron of a VAD” [6]

Special Service

The main body of VADs served at home but in February 1915, the War Office proposed that VADs could help at Royal Army Medical Corps [RAMC] hospitals which had hitherto been staffed by army nurses and orderlies from the RAMC.  VADs worked abroad from May 1915 particularly France, Malta and Egypt.  Male VADs were frequently sent to France to work as transport officers, ambulance drivers or orderlies in hospitals.


Generally those treated at the auxiliary hospitals did not have life threatening injuries but needed time to convalesce.  Servicemen preferred the auxiliary hospitals to the military hospitals because the discipline was not as strict, conditions were less crowded and the surroundings were more homely.

Community Help

Local Red Cross working parties were formed across the country and organised the supply of hospital clothing including socks, shirts, blankets and belts for soldiers.  They also made essential hospital equipment such as bandages, splints, swabs and clothing.  Work depots were established in every major town to collate and despatch clothing from working parties.  Items were sent to the local Red Cross HQ or directly to soldiers in auxiliary hospitals at home or abroad.



The Red House was provided by the Stobart family, an influential family who had developed a number of collieries locally such as the Etherley Jane and George pits [at Witton Park and Escomb respectively which were closed by 1915], Chilton colliery near Ferryhill some 10 miles distant, more locally, the West Tees/Railey Fell colliery at Ramshaw [worked by a number of drift mines], Etherley Rush pit and Newton Cap colliery near Bishop Auckland.



[photo courtesy of the Stobart family descendants]


[from a contemporary postcard]

The VA Hospital, Etherley operated between 18 March 1915 and 15 April 1919.  Mrs. Jessica Octavia Stobart was appointed Commandant and over the duration oversaw 9 administration and 97 household appointments [37 domestic and 60 hospital orderlies].  With regard to medical matters, 5 local doctors and 1 chemist could be called upon.  Nursing duties were carried out by 41 full-time nurses and part-time assistance from a bank of 157 VAD nursing members.  Some details follow.


  • Commandant: Jessica Octavia Stobart, wife of William Ryder Stobart of H. Stobart Coal and Co. was appointed Commandant of the VA Hospital between 18 March 1915 and 15 April 1919.  She was in charge of all matters concerning the hospital except for the medical and nursing services.
  • Quartermaster, responsible for the receipt, custody and issue of articles in the provision store: Dorothy Frances Russell [nee Stobart, Jessica’s oldest daughter] held this position until 30 September 1917.  Miss Doris Eunice Fleming took over until July 1918 then Miss Alice Gertrude Headlam until 15 April 1919.
  • Honourable Treasurer: Mr. Edward Stobart occupied this position from 18 March 1915 to 15 April 1919. Edward was William Ryder Stobart’s half-brother.
  • Accountant: Miss Helen Marguerite Tait held this position for the duration, filling in as chauffeuse as required. Miss Katherine Bickmore was assistant accountant between May and July 1918. Katherine’s mother, Ethel [nee Stobart] was relative of William Ryder Stobart.
  • Secretary: Miss Maud Carter was employed between 5 November 1916 and 1 February 1919
  • Chauffeuse: Miss M. Richardson [2 July 1916 to 5 January 1917] and Miss Gertrude Dawson [3 January 1917 to 15 February 1919] filled this position.
  • William Ryder Stobart and his half-brother, Captain Henry Francis Stobart [retired] who in 1911 lived at Red House, offered their services as required.


Local doctors did much voluntary work in these hospitals.  In 1917, the War Office decided to make payments to them for their services.  Five local doctors made themselves available – Dr George C. Caldwell from Crook, Dr Arthur C.H. McCullagh and Dr Thomas A. McCullagh from Bishop Auckland, Dr J. Meikle from Heighington and Dr William Patulla from Spennymoor.  The Chemist/Dispenser was Joseph W. Clemitson from Crook.

A matron directed nursing staff,we are not 100% certain who held this position. Professional nurses and local VAD members who were trained in first aid and home nursing took up positions at the VA Hospitals.  The whole time positions usually were designated at some rank – staff nurse, sister, nurse or nursing member.  The part-time positions were all filled by nursing members.

There were several whole time nurses employed for most of the duration:

  • Miss Mary Naomie Hopwood; 5 April 1915 to 15 April 1919, from Etherley.
  • Miss Dora Prest; 10 October 1915 to 15 April 1919, from Heighington.
  • Effie G. Robinson; 4 October 1915 to 11 May 1918, from Stockton-on-Tees, staff nurse
  • Miss Joan T. Stephens; 28 September 1915 to 4 February 1919, from Croft.
  • Mrs. Eileen Walker [nee Stobart] 1 May 1915 to 31 December 1918, from Etherley.
  • Miss Gertrude Young, 28 October 1915 to 15 April 1919, from Roddymoor.
  • Mrs Alma Grant; 18 March 1915 to 30 December 1917, from Low Etherley.

The whole time nurses came from across the country including Scotland, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Ireland and one from Canada but over half were from the north of England.  144 of the 157 part-time nursing members were from the local area, particularly Bishop Auckland, Toronto, Newton Cap, Tow Law, Crook, Roddymoor, Stanley, Etherley, Toft Hill and Weardale. [Appendix 1]

Etherley VA Hospital: Commandant Mrs. J.O. Stobart [centre] possibly with her daughters

Dorothy Russell [Quartermaster] and Eileen Walker [Nursing Member]

[photo courtesy of the Stobart family descendants]

Date unknown: Etherley VA Hospital staff:

Commandant Mrs. J.O. Stobart seated in the centre of the front row.

The man behind to the left could be Henry Stobart and the other man could be Edward Stobart

[photo courtesy of the Stobart family descendants]


There were whole time female domestic positions associated with the everyday running of the hospital, such as cooks, laundry maids, stores and pantry maids, general service maids.  These were usually paid jobs.  Over the duration, there were 37 female staff employed, 4 of whom were part time and 1 [possibly 2] unpaid. Several women occupied the position as cook including Mrs. Dorothy Pulleine from Gainford between 27 September 1915 and 30 October 1916 and Mrs. A. Nelson from Sunderland, between 12 August 1916 and 15 April 1918.   Other long term staff included Miss Rose McWilliams from Thornaby-on-Tees [laundry maid from 19 August 1916 to 21 January 1919], as was Miss Ethel Green from Stockton-on-Tees, [21 October 1916 to 19 October 1918], Miss Norah Cooper from Scarborough [storeroom and pantry duties from 5 November 1916 to 15 April 1919] and Miss M.E. Lawrence from Etherley Lodge [general service from 10 September 1916 to 15 April 1919].

Volunteer male orderlies were also engaged – 58 men over the duration plus 1 described as “handy man” and 1 described as “transport of orderlies”.  The “Handy man” was Mr. Isaac Elland from Etherley who was employed from 18 March 1915 to 14 April 1919.  Mr. Amos Clark from Three Lane Ends, Escomb was engaged between 18 March 1915 and 15 January 1917 and he was described as “transport of orderlies”.  All of the men resided in the local area.

It appears that there was a nucleus of whole time nurses on site and a bank of nursing members who could be called upon as and when required.  Virtually all of the female domestic staff were whole time, in paid employment.  With regard to the orderlies, there seems to be have been a bank of volunteers who were called upon as and when needed.

As snapshots, the following details illustrate the workforce employed at various dates.

  • At 1 December 1915, there were 9 whole time nurses and a bank of 103 part-time nursing members available. For domestic duties, there were only 3 permanent members and 1 part-time member of staff and a bank of 47 male orderlies.
  • At 1 December 1916, there were 15 whole time nurses and a bank of 60 nursing members. For domestic duties, there were 10 whole time staff and a bank of 42 male orderlies.
  • At 1 December 1917, there were 17 whole time nurses and a bank of 20 nursing members. For domestic duties, there were 15 whole time and 1 part-time member of staff and a bank of 19 orderlies.
  • By 11 November 1918, there were 19 whole time nurses and a bank of 8 part-time nursing members. For domestic duties, there were 12 whole time staff and 8 orderlies.

Most VAD positions were filled by people from the local area.  In terms of access, Etherley was still somewhat remote.  There were no motor bus services at that time and people made use of horse and cart and bicycles.  They had to walk most local journeys.  The Weardale Branch railway line which went from Bishop Auckland westwards to Wearhead and offered a passenger service.  There was a station at Witton Park [called Etherley], some 2 miles distant from Red House, Etherley.  At this time, places such as Tow Law and Crook were linked into Bishop Auckland by rail.  Amos Clark from Escomb, was engaged on transport duties and it is presumed that his major function was ferrying the orderlies and nurses to and from the station at Witton Park.  In addition, Mrs. Stobart employed 3 ladies [Miss Helen Tait, Miss Gertrude Dawson and Miss M. Richardson] as “a chauffeuse” therefore it is assumed that a Stobart family motor vehicle would be available to pick up the more important employees or visitors.  A motor vehicle driven by a young lady travelling along the roads of south west Durham would be a rare sight.


No records have been traced/researched which relate to the number of patients or their injuries.  An undated group photograph shows 54 patients and 15 nurses, Commandant Mrs J.O. Stobart and 2 other members of staff.  This may represent the average intake of patients and nursing staff required to look after them.

Details for the following 3 soldiers are known:

Private Robert Mothershaw

Private Robert Mothershaw, 6th Battalion, the Leicestershire Regiment died of wounds 17 September 1916 aged 31, and is buried in St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard, Etherley.  Robert was originally from Willenhall, Staffordshire, enlisted 24 August 1914, entered France 29 July 1915 and almost a year later 14 July 1916, he suffered a gun-shot wound [GSW] to the neck.  He was treated at 34 Casualty Clearing Station and No.3 General Hospital.  24 July 1916, he was taken to the UK.  After treatment, it is assumed that he was sent to Etherley VA Hospital for convalescence but sadly, he died suffering from “septic pneumonia” resulting from shrapnel wounds received in action.  His death certificate confirms that Mary E. Laidler was present at his death.   Sister Laidler served as a whole-time VAD at the hospital from 1915 to January 1917.

Private Philip Gill

The Etherley school log for February 1917 reports that former pupil, Philip Gill, was a patient at the VA Hospital.  Philip Gill was born about 1898, the son of Emma Brunskill and lived at High Etherley.  Philip worked as a coal miner.  He was also a territorial soldier serving with 6th battalion, the Durham Light Infantry and enlisted into this regiment but was later transferred to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.  Having being wounded on the Somme, 26 September 1916, he received treatment and was sent to Etherley V.A Hospital for recuperation.  It appears that his wounds were particularly serious and he honourably discharged from the army, 6 July 1917.

Private George Gillham

Private George Gillham, 2nd Battalion, the London Regiment enlisted 15 February 1915, entered France 9 April 1916 and his battalion took part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme 1 July 1916.  Private Gillham suffered a gun-shot wound [GSW] to the right shoulder and was evacuated to the UK, being treated at the Beaufort Hospital, Bristol.  After recuperation, he was send back to France in January 1918, joining 1/Hertfordshire Regiment.  Private Gillham was wounded for a second time – GSW to the left thigh, 29 March 1918.  The next day, part of his leg was amputated at a Casualty Clearing Station.  He was then transferred to No.6 General Hospital, Rouen where the upper third of his leg was removed.  He was taken to the UK, to Sunderland War Hospital and on the 26 April 1918, a secondary amputation was found necessary.  He was left with a 5” stump.  Private Gillham was sent to Etherley VA Hospital for convalescence.  In January 1919, he was considered ready for an artificial limb.  In February 1919, he was discharged from the Army.

Whilst at Etherley, he met Polly Stubbs from Phoenix Row.  George and Polly married and had 3 children Joan, Sybil and Bill.


All social and charitable occasions were directed towards the service of the war.  Residents and children from the neighbouring villages of Evenwood, Ramshaw, Cockfield and further afield at Middleton-in-Teesdale and Cotherstone provides aid, comforts and entertainment for the wounded of the Etherley VA Hospital [Appendix 2]


Many VAD organisers were honoured by the King.  Mrs. J.O. Stobart was awarded an OBE in the Birthday Honours List, June 1918.

Mrs. D.F. Russell, Miss M.N. Hopwood, Miss J. Stephens and Mrs. E. Walker received the St. John’s Ambulance War Service Badge

VAD nursing members were awarded a war service medal from their County organisation.

Durham VAD Workers Medal

[photo courtesy Brian Carter]


Several VADs who served at Etherley V.A Hospital had either previously served in France or moved on to France to assist in the war effort.  The 9 VADs known to have served at some stage are:

  • Lily Brine from Bishop Auckland who served as a “ward maid” at Etherley VA Hospital
  • Elizabeth Harrison from Wooley Colliery who served as a VAD nursing member
  • Edith Howitt from Sunderland who was a cook
  • Margaret Nicholson from Shiney Row who was a VAD general service member
  • Elsie Pratt, White Lea House, Crook who served as a VAD nursing member
  • Dorothy Helena Pulleine, the White House, Gainford who served as a cook
  • Greta Scott, Broomhill, Longhill, Morpeth who served as a cook
  • Christine Jean Tait, “The Fields” Etherley who served as a nursing member
  • Jessie McLennan, “Strathnairn”, Stanhope who served as a nursing member

Details for Christine Tait and Jessie McLennan are given below:


Christine Jean Tait was born c.1890 at Witton Park, the oldest daughter of James and Helen Tait.  James, born in Scotland, was a colliery clerk and farmer, living at Etherley Grange in 1901.  The family were relatively well off being able to afford the services of a cook and a housemaid.

By 1915, 24-year old Christine lived at “The Fields”, Etherley a together with her younger sister, 21-year old Helen Marguerite – this may have been the family home.  Helen was employed at the Etherley Voluntary Aid Hospital as an “accountant and chauffeuse” from 18 March 1915 to 15 April 1919, the full duration of its existence.

Christine worked as a nursing member [whole time] at the Etherley V.A Hospital from 18 March 1915 to 15 March 1916 before going to France to serve as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse at the St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples, northern France, from March 1916 to January 1919.

The St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Étaples was the largest voluntary hospital serving the British Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The hospital had a staff of 241, all from the St John Ambulance Brigade, and was considered by all who knew it to be the best designed and equipped military hospital in France, caring for over 35,000 patients throughout the war.

As a Base Hospital, patients received by the hospital came from the Casualty Clearing Stations, which were situated a few miles behind the front line.  It provided treatment, surgical support and some degree of convalescence to patients before they were evacuated to hospitals in the UK or returned to their units. During the course of the conflict, the hospital was expanded several times. Initially containing 525 beds, when it opened in September 1915, the hospital was able to accommodate 744 patients by spring 1918.

Christine will have witnessed the full horror of war.  During her time there, casualties from all the major battles in which the British Army fought would have been brought to Etaples for treatment.  The hospital itself was not immune from attack.  On the night of the 19th May 1918, the St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital was hit by a bomb which killed 5 members of staff. Shortly after, on 31st May, a second bomb hit the hospital, resulting in 11 deaths and 60 casualties. This second attack left no department undamaged and rendered the hospital incapable of continuing.

The decision was taken to move what remained of the hospital up the French coast to Trouville, where it operated from October 1918 to 1st February 1919.

Christine married William Haig in 1922 within the Auckland registration district. The following announcement appeared in the Yorkshire Post on 7 April 1922:

“The marriage arranged between Dr William Haig DSO, Galvelmore, Creiff, and Miss Chritine Tait, The Fields, Etherley, Bishop Auckland, will take place quietly at the Parish Church, Etherley, on Tuesday April 25, at 2pm. No invitations are being issued but friends will be welcome at the church.”

It seems that Christine probably moved to Scotland after that as the probate calendars record that she died at Gelvelmore, Crieff, Perth and Kinross. Her husband and sister, Helen Marguerite Whitworth, are mentioned in the record.

JESSIE B. McLENNAN [1881 – ????]

Jessie was born in Inverness, Scotland c.1881.  Her ancestry has not been researched.  In 1911, she lived at Croft Cottage, Stanhope with her younger sister Mary and her husband, Frederick Paterson.  He worked as a dental technician.  30-year old Jessie is recorded as a “dressmaker”.

By 1915, Jessie is recorded as living at “Strathnairn”, Stanhope.  Jessie aged about 34, was engaged as a voluntary aid nursing member at Etherley V.A. Hospital between 25 May 1915 and 13 June 1915.  She worked 130 hours.

According to her VAD record card, Jessie then went to work at the 4th Northern General Hospital in Lincoln, spending just over a year there (1 July 1916 – 12 July 1917). She was then transferred to the 59th General Hospital in St Omer, France where she worked until 14 April 1918. It seems likely that Jessie was transferred when the 59th General Hospital moved from St Omer to Rouen. During the rest of April and the whole of May 1918, she worked at the 24th General Hospital at Etaples. Her last posting was to the 3rd Stationery Hospital at Rouen where she served from 29 May 1918 to 9 March 1919. Jessie McLennan was officially demobilised on 24 March 1919. According to her entry on the medal index rolls, she was a VAD attached to the Territorial Force Nursing Service, rather than the more usual Red Cross or St John’s.  Jessie will have witnessed the full horror of war.  During her time in France, casualties from all the major battles in which the British Army fought would have been brought to these hospitals for treatment.

After the war it seems as if Jessie returned to Stanhope. She appears on the registers of electors for the town until 1928. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to trace Jessie any further. Any additional information about her would be gratefully received.


Etherley VA Hospital staff suffered their own family heartbreak, including:

William Ryder Stobart was the half-brother of Major George Herbert Stobart.  He entered France in August 1914 and served the duration of the war as a staff officer.  Their youngest brother, Second Lieutenant John Geoffrey Stobart, Rifle Brigade was killed in action 15 March 1915.  This tragic news would have reached the Stobart family as they commenced their duties with the Voluntary Aid Hospital.

George Caile from Toft Hill was engaged as an orderly between 7 October 1916 and September 1917.  His brother, Lance Corporal John Caile, 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards was killed in action 21 October 1914.

Alfred E. Gaskin from Toft Hill, was engaged as an orderly between 20 March 1915 and May 1916.  He was to serve in France in the RAMC.  His brother, Private Fred Gaskin 7/Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 1 July 1916.

Amos Clarke from Escomb, was engaged between 18 March 1915 and 15 January 1917 with special responsibility for the transport of orderlies.  His son, Private John Clarke, 1/6 DLI, died of wounds 27 March 1918.

Miss Clara Summerson from Cockfield, was engaged as a VAD nursing member between 8 October 1916 and 10 April 1918.  Her sister, Miss Alice Summerson, was also engaged there between 18 January 1917 and 15 April 1919.  Their father was Herbert W. Summerson of Garden House, Cockfield, [colliery and quarry owner]. Their older brother, Second Lieutenant H.W. Summerson, 9th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment died of wounds 5 June 1918.

Miss Marcia Maxwell-Stuart was a staff nurse [whole time] employed for a 7-month period in 1917 [5 March – 17 October].  Her address was given as Beechstone, Sheffield.  Marcia was the daughter of Edmund and the Hon. Mrs. Maxwell-Stuart of East Lulworth, Dorset, late of Batworth Park, Arundel, Sussex.  The family suffered the loss of 4 sons, her brothers:

  • Lieutenant Joseph J. Maxwell-Stuart, 9th Bn., Duke of Wellington’s [West Riding Regiment] died 2 March 1916.
  • Lieutenant Edmund J. Maxwell-Stuart, 175th Coy., Royal Engineers died 26 April 1916.
  • Second Lieutenant Henry J.I. Maxwell-Stuart, 3rd Bn., Coldstream Guards died 9 October 1917.
  • Lieutenant Alfred J. Maxwell-Stuart, 1st Bn., Coldstream Guards died 24 August 1918.


Date unknown: Etherley VA Hospital: VAD nursing member Annie Watson, centre, standing

[photo courtesy of Alan Vickers]

Date unknown: Etherley VA Hospital staff & patients

[photo courtesy of the Stobart family descendants]


Date unknown: Etherley VA Hospital patients with nurses undertaking gardening duties

[photo courtesy of the Stobart family descendants]


St. Cuthbert’s cemetery, Etherley: Private R. Mothershaw’s Headstone

[photo courtesy of Kevin Richardson]


 George and Polly Gillham with their family

[photo courtesy of Anthea Tallentire]

November 1917:

The wedding of Miss Dorothy Francis Stobart & Capt. H.A. Russell R.F.A. 

at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Etherley.  Photo taken at Etherley Lodge

Front Row: Margaret [Peggy] Stobart 3rd right, possibly William Ryder Stobart 2nd right

[photo courtesy of the Stobart family descendants]


There were 5 part-time nursing members who worked in excess of 2000 hours over the duration:

  • Mrs. Florence Favell, 25 September 1915 to 27 August 1918 [3648 hours] c/o Dr McCullagh, Bishop Auckland
  • Miss Agnes Wardle, 12 June 1915 to 30 December 1918 [3410 hours], honours 1 mention [daughter of Dr Mark A. Wardle, Castle Square, Bishop Auckland]
  • Mrs. Edith Moses, 12 April 1915 to 13 March 1918 [2530 hours] from Tow Law
  • Miss Elsie Pratt, 11 July 1915 to 3 May 1919 [altered to this date] [2510 hours] from Crook
  • Miss Clare Summerson, 8 October 1916 to 10 April 1918 [2380 hours] from Garden House, Cockfield

14 other nursing members worked in excess of 1000 hours:

  • Miss Gladys Arnold from Wolsingham
  • Miss Bertha Curry from Seaham
  • Miss Annie Dodd from Tow Law
  • Miss Emmeline Gibson from Howden-le-Wear
  • Miss Elsie Hadeir c/o Mrs. Hunter, Toft Hill
  • Miss Edith Hall from Bishop Auckland
  • Mrs. S. Hillary from Low Etherley
  • Miss M. Longstaffe from Witton Park
  • Miss Grace Medd from Phoenix Row
  • Miss Marion Nattrass from Crook
  • Miss Dolly Ridley from Tow Law
  • Miss Mabel Simpson from Crook
  • Miss Margaret Thompson from South Church
  • Miss Annie Ethel Watson from Tow Law


  1. In August 1915, a party of wounded soldiers were entertained to tea by the Middleton Red Cross Society.
  2. December 1915, 45 soldiers and nurses from Etherley and Windlestone were taken to Cotherstone by motor cars and char-a-bancs and enjoyed a substantial tea in the Temperance Hall, followed by a concert.
  3. During 1915, the Evenwood working party for providing comforts for soldiers and sailors distributed 875 articles apportioned as follows: 500 to local men, 199 to Lady Anne Lambton for the DLI, 104 for Queen Mary’s Guild, 24 to Newcastle Infirmary, 32 to Dr Campbell, the local physician serving overseas for distribution by him and 36 to Belgians interned in Holland.
  4. In July 1916, wounded soldiers were entertained to tea at Ramshaw House by the Evenwood & Ramshaw Ladies Working Party.  They provided a tea followed by a concert and games.
  5. In September 1916, Evenwood Women’s Institute held another such occasion at Ramshaw House for the wounded when music, tea and typically for the time, cigarettes were in abundance.
  6. In August 1917, residents from the village held a fête for the wounded when 53 soldiers from Etherley Hospital and 20 from Bishop Auckland Workhouse hospital, were entertained to tea and sports by the Ladies’ Working Party.  Over £20 was raised by a large decorated waggon containing Evenwood Pierrots with their medley band of music.  After tea, 40 of the men visited Randolph Colliery. Tobacco, cigarettes and matches were freely handed round.  Before leaving every man received a present of the value of 1sh.6d. as a souvenir and 1sh. in cash.  Those wounded who were unable to leave their hospital beds received 2shs.6d. each.
  7. In October 1917, the miners of Randolph Colliery gave another entertainment to the wounded soldiers from hospitals at Bishop Auckland and Etherley. More than a hundred attended and were met at the station by the local Silver Band and conducted to the colliery field.  The afternoon was spent with football, sports and other games and then a sumptuous tea was provided in the Temperance Hall followed by an excellent concert.  Cigarettes and matches were distributed among the men and each man received a “handsome personal gift”.
  8. The £8 proceeds from the pie supper and social held at Railey Fell Colliery Institute were in aid of comforts for the soldiers and sailors.
  9. Evenwood Infants’ New School held a round of successful concerts in aid of comforts for local soldiers and sailors.
  10. The Evenwood Ladies Sewing Party held a grand concert in the Empire Picture Hall for the same cause.
  11. 21 August 1918, Etherley School held a half day garden fête in the lodge grounds in aid of the of the VA Hospital.



With thanks to Glenys Egglestone, Mike Ellis, Ianthe Tollast. Jo Vietze [DCC Durham at War project]

[1] http://www.donmouth.co.uk/local_history/VAD/VAD_hospitals.html & http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/First-World-War/Volunteers-during-WW1 & Kate Adie “Fighting on the Home Front: the legacy of women in World War One” 2013

[2] Others include Dunham Massey in Cheshire and Highclare Castle in Hampshire [the setting for TVs Downton Abbey]

[3] Kate Adie “Fighting on the Home Front: the legacy of women in World War One” 2013 p.106

[4] Vera Brittain “Testament of Youth: an autobiographical study of the years 1900-1925” 1933

[5] Enid Bagnold “National Velvet” 1935 & the play “The Chalk Garden” 1955

[6] Kate Adie “Fighting on the Home Front” p.104 unattributed verse