First World War and the National Heritage Collection

Many country houses and castles, now in the care of English Heritage, were requisitioned and adapted for a variety of uses during the First World War. They became convalescent hospitals, military bases and training camps, signal stations and more.

Soldier with horse

Visitors to some of these sites this summer will be able to discover more about the Home Front, through a series of events and exhibitions that tell the story of life at this time.

English Heritage's newest event series, 'War and the Horse', will bring to life the attitudes and tactics seen amongst British forces in the build-up to, and during, the early days of the war. A mixture of dramatic re-enactments, educational talks, music and children's activities will imaginatively examine the crucial role of the horse in the war, with a particular focus on the powerful imagery of the cavalry of 1914 as they prepared for action.

Properties with activities taking place in 2014 include:

Wrest Park, Bedfordshire

This stately home became a convalescent home for wounded and recovering soldiers from the front line.

'War and the Horse' will feature at the St George's Day Festival on 26-27 April, while 'Wrest at War' on 25-26 May will dramatically commemorate both the First and the Second World War. 

Wrest Park

Wrest Park today

Scarborough Castle, Yorkshire

On 16 December 1914, the bombardment by the German Imperial Navy of the North Yorkshire coast resulted in a number of casualties and fatalities. Among the sites hit by shells was Scarborough Castle, a medieval castle that housed barracks, a fortified gun emplacement, batteries, signal station and command post.

The 'War and the Horse' event will take place on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 August. 

Scarborough Castle and harbour

Scarborough Castle and harbour today

Dover Castle, Kent

Dover Castle has been a key military fortification for nearly a thousand years. During the First World War, the site housed a garrison, batteries, signal station and command post.

The 'War and the Horse' event will take place on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 September.

Aerial view of Dover Castle

Dover Castle photographed in 1920 (Aerofilms EPW000349)

Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire

Both the family and those who worked on this country houses estate were dramatically affected by the First World War. An exhibition will run all year within the house, telling some of the fascinating individual stories of those who left for the front line, as well as those who were left behind.

A series of Brodsworth at War events will run from May to September, as costumed interpreters showcase life at this time.

Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall

The formidable stronghold of Pendennis Castle, a key part of the coastal defence strategy, was a manned battery and training centre during the First World War where members of the armed forces were billeted.

A new exhibition scheduled for 2014 will explore the written records of this period, including letters and diaries.

Aerial view of Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle photographed in 1928 (Aerofilms EPW021716)