Poignant 'Battle of Somme' artwork unveiled at Dudmaston Hall

8th April 2014

Poignant 'Battle of Somme' artwork unveiled at Dudmaston Hall Poignant artwork recreating the horror of the First World War trenches has gone on display for the last time at Dudmaston Hall.

The National Trust attraction near Bridgnorth is exhibiting the ‘Battle of the Somme’ made from brown paper and cardboard by students from Birmingham City University.

Originally on display at the university for just two weeks and featured on BBC news, the art work was due to be re-cycled. RAF Shawbury responded to public appeals and came to the rescue housing it in their Mess until last week when they handed it over to the National Trust.

On display until the end of October, the installation takes visitors on a journey back in time to show the hardships and struggles of soldiers in the battlefield.

Life-size trenches, a dug out and injured soldiers are some of the sets that have been created out of brown paper, which give a touching snapshot into a ‘typical’ day on the battlefield during the First World War.

Lucy Hancock, one of the artists, said: “I never expected the response that we’ve had from the paper project. I’m happy that it’s been moved here so that more people can view it and enjoy it. It’s been challenging rebuilding and adapting it at new venues but I’ve really enjoyed it."

Bennie Fung, another of the artists, commented on the public response to the piece “…it is rare to see such patriotism exhibited…it is truly touching as an artist.”

With a budget of only £450 and less than four weeks to complete the installation; First Year Theatre, Performance and Event Design students also composed sound-effects and impressive lighting to create colour. They drew on inspiration from the work of leading war poets Wilfred Owen, Woodbine Willy and Charles Hamilton Sorley, who all wrote about the shocking and sad horrors of life in the trenches.

This will be the last move for the artwork and Dudmaston have been asked by the students to ‘lay it to rest’ at the end of the 2014 season.

Visitor Experience and Conservation Manager at Dudmaston, Tessa Lovell, said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to display this thought provoking and innovative installation. It continues the last owner, Sir George Labouchere’s, love of supporting up and coming artists, his own collection on display in our Galleries, and also links with the loss that the family here experienced to the awful battle that was the Somme.”

“Our visitors are amazed by the level of detail the students have painstakingly created, there are even the notorious rats that infested the trenches! There’s a really poignant atmosphere in the Old Kitchen Gallery, where the display is located.”

Dudmaston has close links with the First World War and will this year be telling the story of Sir Geoffrey Wolryche-Whitmore who served on the Eastern Front in Egypt plus the effects on life on the Estate in their exhibition ‘Conflict and Continuity?’

Geoffrey served behind the lines and his story is one of frustration and an unjustified feeling of lack of worth. Being extremely hard of hearing Geoffrey was held back in Cairo when his unit moved on to the front. He took a job training officers in topography and visitors can find out, through his letters home, how this affected him, and his frustration at not being able to do “his bit”.

At home the focus is on the numerous diaries of Geoffrey’s sister Evelyn; the time spent nursing by his sister Olive (Rachel Labouchere’s mother); and the photographs of the young Rachel, who spent much of her time with her cousins, the Hamilton-Russells, at Burwarton.

Dudmaston Hall is open Sundays to Thursdays from 1pm to 5pm, (2pm to 5.30pm on Sundays) For further information visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dudmaston