Document of the Month, November 2017: Minna Bradhurst’s First World War scrapbook

Our Document of the Month for November 2017 is a scrapbook created during the First World War, which was recently purchased for the ERO by the Friends of Historic Essex. Caroline Wallace, a History MA student from the University of Essex, is currently undertaking a project to investigate its contents, and what it can tell us about life in Essex during the First World War.

Throughout the years which mark the centenary of the First World War, the Friends of Historic Essex, the charity which supports the Essex Record Office, are running the Essex Great War Archive Project. The project aims to collect First World War documents relating to Essex to add to the ERO archive so they can be preserved for current and future generations, and to conserve and highlight documents already within the collection.

The project has included purchasing relevant documents which have come up for sale, which otherwise would have remained within private collections. One such document is a scrapbook dating from 1915-1918 which was kept by Minna Evangeline Bradhurst of Rivenhall Place (now catalogued as Acc. A14491).

The book contains material from 1820 onwards, but primarily covers the First World War period from 1915 to 1918. This scrapbook is part of a set of four , the other three  all being in private hands, although the Essex Record Office does hold microfilm copies of them.

Minna was born in 1865 to an old Essex society family, the Woods. She married Augustus Maunsell Bradhurst, an American, in 1893, and the following year the couple had their only child, a daughter, Christine (sometimes known as Heaven). In later life, one of Minna’s contemporaries described her as ‘a most amusing and delightful lady, of great character, and always dressed as through for a Buckingham Palace garden party’.

The scrapbook includes much of Minna’s life which was not war-related; for example, several pages are dedicated to press cuttings about her own wedding, detailing the outfits of the bridal party, the gifts given, and the names of those who attended.

The majority of the book, however, dates from the war years. During the time that she was compiling this scrapbook, Minna witnessed the impact of the First World War on her family, society and the country. As a lady of independent means, and with time on her hands, Minna’s scrapbooks cover every aspect of her life. They hold a detailed, and personal, account of what she held to be important; the society people she took an interest in, any mention of her family in the local and national newspapers (numerous pages are dedicated to such press cuttings), photographs of loved ones and of interesting places, invitations, tickets, concert programmes, and letters that delivered both good and bad news.

Minna was the niece of Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, one of the highest  ranking, most experienced and well-known military men of the age. Minna took a great interest in her uncle’s career and achievements, and included a huge number of press cuttings about him in her scrapbook. Another cutting describes Minna winning a silver cup at a fete in Ilford for being the Essex resident with the largest number of relatives involved in the war – 64 uncles, cousins and nephews were with the armed forces in one way or another, and several female relatives were engaged in various kinds of war work.

Large amounts of the volume are dedicated to the war work of Minna’s daughter, Christine, who was in her early 20s during the war years. Christine volunteered as a general service Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) worker at Earls Colne Auxiliary Hospital and put her considerable artistic talents to use putting together fundraising concerts and events to raise money for the Essex branch of the Red Cross Society. Not only did she organise these, but she also wrote many of the plays and songs, and performed them on stage. Included in the scrapbook are many of the concert programmes from these events.

Minna’s husband, Augustus Bradhurst, volunteered as a Special Constable, and later in the war became a naturalised Briton and joined the Essex Volunteer Regiment. The scrapbook includes several pictures of him in uniform and on maneuvers in the county, along with letters about his appointments.

The material in the scrapbook has suggested several avenues for further research, some of which will be published on this blog in the coming months.

The scrapbook will be on display in the Searchroom throughout November 2017.

______________________________________________________________________

If you would like to find out more about life in Essex during the First World War, join us on Saturday 25 November 2017 for the Friends of Historic Essex Autumn Lecture, which will include two talks on the Essex coast during the First World War; find out more here.

If you have a First World War project of your own that you would like to get up and running, join us for a First World War project Discovery Day on Friday 8 November 2017; full details here.

 

3 thoughts on “Document of the Month, November 2017: Minna Bradhurst’s First World War scrapbook

  1. Sounds wonderful. Would I be able to consult the researcher about whether Mrs B knew the Luards of Witham ? Probably the only Witham family of sufficiently elevated class. Though any who lived there would be of interest !! It is a bit surprising that there wasn’t a hospital at Rivenhall place, as there was in many big houses with enthusiastic ladies living in them.

  2. I just found this – in 1981 I spoke to Mrs Vera Howell (nee Turner) about her childhood in Witham. She was born in about 1910. She remembered this about the Bradhursts.

    “And also my mother used to go to Rivenhall, to Rivenhall Place, people named of Bradhursts lived there years ago, I was only very small then and I remember my mother having a black frock and a cap with white and she used to go and help. And I always remember her going when they had a daughter named Heaven [laugh] She married a Lord Fitzwilliam or Fitzgerald or somebody this Heaven did, and she had a twenty-first birthday and she had an enormous cake, I don’t know how many tiers. Well my mother went and helped at this twenty-first birthday party because they had everybody that was anybody and others besides, at this place, and I remember my mother coming home and bringing a big box with great big chunks of icing sugar. Icing off this cake. I was very young then I think, I could only have been about three, but I do remember that. ”

    There are also two photos of a “Pastoral Play” in Witham in 1920, a fete and play organised by Witham branch of ‘Comrades of the Great War’. It is probably Miles Thompson and Miss Bradhurst on the throne as King and Queen. The Queen is dramatically swathed in white.

    Miss Bradhurst also “rendered songs” with Miss Pearce at a social meeting of the Witham WI in 1919.

    • Hi Janet, thank you for the information, I will pass it on to Caroline, and ask her to get in touch with you re. whether there is anything linking the Bradhursts with the Luards