I'm now on the third week of my placement and the time has flown by! After two weeks of research, sifting through the archive at West Horsley Place, Surrey History Centre, the National Archive, and online resources, it was time to share the story of West Horsley Place during the Second World War.

The first task I had to tackle this week was turning my pages of notes into a coherent and engaging talk for volunteers. It was difficult to organise the different themes that arose between 1939 and 1945, but I decided to build the first half of my talk on the history of the house, the evacuees and the Canadian soldiers who lived there, and the second half of my talk on the wartime work of Lady Crewe. This allowed me to tell two stories that existed in parallel with each other which focus on different topics. It was important to me to highlight Lady Crewe’s wartime work, as I have an interest in spotlighting women’s history.

My second task this week was turning my research into an audio guide. Some stories have obvious physical locations, such as the evacuees' Christmas party in the Hall. But where in the house can you feel the presence of Lady Crewe the most? I spent an afternoon walking around the house, searching for rooms and routes that fitted with the story I wanted to tell. I decided that Lady Crewe’s story would be told as you gaze at her portrait, and also in the Mulberry Room. This is where her books from Colonel Rémy (the French commander and resistance fighter) are kept. I am grateful to Hilary Ely, lead volunteer on the library recording project, for uncovering these books and helping me to locate them.

I decided that it was best to learn about the history of the Canadian soldiers from the drawing room. Here you can look over the fields and woodlands where they built their camps and imagine the Canadian Prime Minister and Canadian commanders meeting under this roof - as they did in August 1941.

The West Horsley Place visitor book was a significant find for me this week. The volunteers have discovered that this book records the visit of the Canadian Prime Minister, two military commanders and a diplomat recently returned from Vichy France. This confirms that there was a significant Canadian military presence in the village and that the home of Lord and Lady Crewe was seen as a safe meeting point. It also shows a stark contrast to the social events that filled the house before the war, with guests coming for luncheons and dinners. Their signatures take up space between blank pages, and there are no more recorded visits until 1946.


I found this week very enjoyable as I love sharing history and stories. Being able to express the history of the house and its inhabitants in different formats has allowed me to think about the history that I want to tell, the voices that I want to focus on and the audiences I am fortunate to share my work with.