History and The Mobile Phone: Re-animating the World War 1 Auxiliary Hospital at Temple Newsam House

‘Posted by Bethany Rowley’

The home of Viscount and Lady Wood, Temple Newsam Auxiliary Military Hospital was opened on the 29th October 1914. With Edward Wood on active service with the Yorkshire Hussars, Dorothy Wood was in charge of the overall administration of the hospital. Her staff consisted of a matron, two trained nurses and five Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurses when the first patients, sixteen Belgian soldiers, arrived at the hospital on the day that it opened.

The whole of the south wing of the house was made available as a hospital. The maximum capacity was fifty beds spread throughout the grounds and first floor of the wing. This increased as the war progressed, as did the number of VAD nurses. In the three years this house was used as a hospital, over forty nurses from all over the country worked under Lady Wood, treating mainly Belgium, British and Irish soldiers.  Although the war would last another year, Temple Newsam Hospital closed its doors on 23rd November 1917. This was owing to Edward Wood’s military employment. The Wood family moved to London and the house was shut up and left in the hands of caretaker staff.

Although Lady Wood did not participate in nursing duties, it was because of the commitment and dedication that she showed alongside her nursing staff, that six-hundred and fifteen wounded soldiers were given respite at Temple Newsam. The shortest length of nursing service was one month and one week and the longest was thirteen months.

Yet, it is the lives of these nurses that have been the focus of an interdisciplinary project (which I feel lucky to have been involved with) here at the University of Leeds over the last few months. As part of the LITE Project looking at creativity and the mobile phone, Dr Scott Palmer aimed to bring their experiences ‘back to life’.

This was a collaboration with Leeds Museums and Galleries and the project was funded through the IGNITE scheme by the University of Leeds Cultural institute. It resulted in site-specific, durational live performances and mediatised material at Temple Newsam House over the May bank holiday weekend, as well as a bespoke smartphone tour to be experienced in the formal gardens and terraces.

More information about the ‘immersive’ relational performance for the general public which took place within Temple Newsam House and grounds on the 5 – 7th May 2018, can be found here: https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/leeds-stately-home-s-war-hospital-days-recalled-living-history-at-temple-newsam-1-9149018 and https://signalspace.leeds.ac.uk/within-this-house-temple-newsham-house-may

With Dr Scott Palmer and Dr Maria Kapsali, the App created by students at the University of Leeds (special thanks to Elle-Maxwell Wood, Fran Partlett and Alannah Marchewka) is what the blog post will now focus on:

History and The Mobile Phone:

This is a free digital experience designed for visitors to Temple Newsam. It can be downloaded to a smartphone to provide a free augmented nomadic performance, triggered via GPS location technology. The aim was to provide a lasting visitor experience in the formal gardens and grounds after the live ‘Within This House’ performance had left the site.

‘This multi-media tour offers a journey back in time to 1917 and centres on the experiences of the nurses and members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) that worked there between 1914 and 1917.  It allows participants to explore the grounds of Temple Newsam House where they will discover aspects of Lady Dorothy Wood’s Auxiliary Military Hospital.

During the course of the experience visitors will encounter both historical facts and creative responses, designed in the hope of inspiring unexpected interactions with the surroundings at Temple Newsam. With no time limit, each of the 10 stops is denoted by a marker on the digital map within the app – they can be experienced in any order although it makes sense to start at number 1 located within the courtyard. Each stop is triggered by GPS location, many include audio and video files and are best experienced with headphones!’ (1)

You can download the Tour for free via these links:

For Apple iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/university-of-leeds/id1300911118?mt=8

For Android, Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mytoursapp.android.app1348


(1) https://signalspace.leeds.ac.uk/within-this-house-multimedia-tour/