In 1914, Morden Hall was home to Gilliat Edward Hatfeild. Hatfeild’s father, a tobacco merchant, had bought the Hall from the Garth family in the 1870s. On his father’s death in 1906, Hatfeild returned from running the family business in Virginia. He decided to live in Morden Cottage in the grounds of the Park, thinking it more suitable for a bachelor. When war broke out in 1914, Hatfeild offered the Hall to the War Office for use as a military hospital.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has supported the Fields Unsown Project created by Merton-resident Attic Theatre Company. The project, through which the company used original research to create an audio trail, an exhibition, a specially commissioned play and this dedicated heritage website, uncovered some of the lost war-time stories of Morden Hall Park.
At the beginning of the project, very little was known about the contribution made by the people of Morden Hall Park during the First World War. The Red Cross knew the Hall had been used as an auxiliary hospital with 100 beds, but it was missing from their lists of hospitals. The London Hospital, which took over the Hall after the war, knew nothing about its former life as an auxiliary hospital. In the course of our research, we learned that the Hall became a small hospital for soldiers of below officer rank, and operated under the supervision of the Fourth London Hospital at Bethnal Green. Through its association with the Maudsley Hospital, a mental health hospital still in operation today, Morden Hall played a key role in Dr Frederick Mott’s pioneering new approach to the treatment of shellshock and psychological illness. The Hall also informed the campaign for nurses to be formally trained and registered: Ella Chapple, a young nurse from New Zealand whose MP father was instrumental in promoting the bill which became the Nurses Registration Act 1919, nursed at the Hall, while her sister Nelca nursed at Morden Grange, another property belonging to Gilliat Edward Hatfeild. We have also explored the lives of the local people who lived and worked at the Hall before, during and after the war, including two young gardeners who left Morden Hall Park for the front line.
The play Fields Unsown was staged in the grounds of Morden Hall Park in September 2014, one hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War. Our Fields Unsown Exhibition opened at Morden Hall and then toured to libraries across Merton. In these pages, we present the untold stories of Morden Hall Park and its auxiliary hospital, which informed the play and the exhibition. You can also download our Fields Unsown Audio Trail, which takes you on an hour’s stroll around Morden Hall Park in the company of soldiers and nurses who lived and worked on the estate during the First World War.