Duty Calls: New wartime exhibition launches at Brodsworth Hall & Gardens, near Doncaster

New high-res images of the exhibition, and historic images from wartime Brodsworth, are now available from the English Heritage online media bank at:


The impact of World War II on one ofYorkshire’s great country houses, Brodsworth Hall nearDoncaster, will be explored in a new exhibition and a series of events throughout 2013, which will see the story of the building, the Grant-Dalton family who lived there and the residents of the Brodsworth estate retold 70 years on.

“During the Second World War, Brodsworth Hall was requisitioned for use by the army, but it was not only the army’s occupation of the house that affected Brodsworth – men from the estate were called up into the army, or served in the Home Guard if they were farming, a ‘reserved occupation’.  A workforce comprised largely of women were left to manage the house and gardens, whilst the indomitable mistress of the house, Sylvia Grant-Dalton, led a valiant effort to support the troops overseas with a host of schemes and initiatives to galvanise local people into getting involved in the war effort,” comments property manager, Paul Robson.  “We’ll be remembering all these different aspects of Brodsworth at War through a new exhibition in the Hall itself, and an array of events in the gardens.”

Indeed, the events throughout the year condense the five years of World War II into a season, from an event marking the requisitioning of Brodsworth taking place over the May Day bank holiday weekend (4-6 May 2013) to a 1940s fete over the weekend of 22 & 23 of June, recreating one of Sylvia’s fundraising events featuring traditional stalls and a coconut shy!  Whilst 1940s songstresses, the Spitfire Girls, serenade the crowds, a full size replica Spitfire will take pride of place on the lawn at the front of the house!

Young recruits will be put through their paces by a recruiting sergeant alongside members of the 9 Army Group Royal Artillery as Brodsworth Hall demonstrates ‘Training for D-Day’ on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 August, with an impressive 5.5” gun transported to the site on a Matador gun tractor especially for the occasion.

Over the May half term week, all eyes return to the Home Front, recreating Brodsworth’s very own version of the Dad’s Army-favourites with the help of Pontefract Home Guard re-enactors.  Visitors will learn some of the tricks of the wartime make-do-and-mend culture, which was heartily embraced by the Grant-Daltons, meet the local ARP wardens and even learn about how some clever individuals managed to beat the rationing and put some extra meat on the dinner table by employing the clever skills of the master falconer!

Complementing the war-time re-enactments will be Brodsworth Hall’s usual series of summer Sunday Afternoon Band Concerts, featuring many ofSouth Yorkshire’s top brass bands, running every Sunday from 14 July until 29 September on the South Terrace.  Visitors on Saturdays in July, August and September (on weekend when there are no wartime events) will be able to enjoy Victorian Garden Games, including skittles and quoits, on the front lawn.

Brodsworth Hall’s wartime events programme is part of “Duty Calls:  Brodsworth Hall in Time of War,” a project which has been generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  It is also part of a wider initiative of the Yorkshire Country House Partnership, ‘Duty Calls: The Country House in Time of War”, a series of exhibitions and activities exploring the impact of war on the country house and its communities, on show throughout Yorkshire in 2013 and 2014

Brodsworth’s project has involved gathering of oral testimony from the local community, and the exhibition at the hall. Visitors will be able to find out more about how the household and estate faced the challenges of war, including sharing the house with the army and the evacuation of children from Leeds to the village to keep them safe from air raids and attacks. Several recordings of people’s memories from this time can be listened to throughout the house.  The exhibition also looks at the experiences of Brodsworth and its community in the First World War, and events are being planned for 2014. 

For more information, please visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/brodsworth or call 01302 722598.

Brodsworth Hall & Gardens is open daily from 29 March from 10.00am to 6.00pm (Hall open 11.00am to 5.00pm).  Admission prices are £9.60 for adults, £8.60 for concessions and £5.80 for children, which includes admission to the Hall.  English Heritage members get in free.


Duty Calls: Brodsworth Hall in time of war

Exhibition information

Visitors to the Duty Calls exhibition at Brodsworth Hall will notice some additions to the usual displays on the ground floor, as well as exhibition and interactive displays in some of the bedrooms.  Exhibits include:

  • The Commanding Officer’s Office on the ground floor (normally the Morning Room), with maps and plans that were left behind at Brodsworth Hall after the war.  The room also features a 1940s phone and typewriter.
  • The Dining Room table is set with dinner for the CO – stew with potatoes and vegetables, and a sponge pudding and custard for desert.  This would have been served on a tray from the Victorian kitchen in the Servants’ Wing.
  • The Home Guard uniform of Charles Grant-Dalton is displayed in the Billiard Room
  • A display of jumble and knitted items being sold to raise money for the war effort sings alongside a 1940s radio in the South Hall.
  • The library was used by the family as their dining room whilst the main dining room was in use by officers; this room has been set out ready for the family’s evening meal.
  • Interactive displays around the house enable visitors to hear the voices of those with particular memories of Brodsworth during the war years – fascinating verbal histories from eye witnesses.
  • The exhibition rooms on the first floor feature assorted memorabilia including a nurse’s uniform, shaving set and letters of thanks from soldiers who received garments knitted by women from the estate
  • The children’s room features children gas masks, 1940s clothes to try on, and an interactive console featuring audio histories, facts, figures and even a game which recreates the gun tower on top of Brodsworth Hall. 

One of the stories from the war is of how one of the soldiers manning the anti-aircraft gun on the roof accidentally let it off one night, shattering two sides of the glass skylight over the main stairs.  This was apparently repaired with Perspex from an aircraft, and the soldier had to peel potatoes for a week as punishment!

In the main exhibition room, the displays tell the story of Brodsworth Hall throughout WWI and WWII – a sneak peak of 2014’s focus on World War One.


About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  HLF has supported over 33,000 projects, allocating £4.9billion across the UK including £380m to 2,845 projects in Yorkshire & the Humber alone. Website: www.hlf.org.uk

For more information on the Yorkshire Country House Partnership, please visit   www.ychp.org.uk

For further media information, please contact:

Jay Commins – PRO English Heritage (Yorkshire)

Tel: 01904 500698

Mob: 07810 546567

Email: jay@pyperyork.co.uk