At the outbreak of war in 1939 Shardeloes, the family home of the Tyrwhitt-Drakes, was requisitioned as a maternity hospital to provide mothers, mainly from the south and east of London, a safe place to deliver their babies away from the danger of bombing raids. Within 24 hours, the drawing room was converted into a ward and the library to a medical store and office. 55 beds were provided with a staff of about 20. Mr. Scantling, the butler became hospital porter.
Dr Beatrice Turner, a London Consultant Obstetrician, was in overall charge. Several midwives were billeted with local residents in Old Amersham at a cost of 10s a week. They were advised to ‘bring a bike with suitable lights’ as the hospital was 1 ½ miles away.
Both the then Queen Elizabeth and the Princess Royal visited the hospital to celebrate landmark births; the Queen on 26th June 1943 for the 2,000th baby and the Princess on 9th September 1944 for the 3000th. Shardeloes had the lowest mortality rate in the country, 1.676 per 1,000. Every mother in labour had a general anaesthetic which was not common practice elsewhere.
In 1945, Mrs. Tyrwhitt-Drake was presented with a Wendy House as a token of gratitude from the 3,900 babies who had already been born in her home. The family never moved back there and the hospital continued to support the local community, eventually closing in 1948 raising the number of births to over 5,000, the most famous being Sir Tim Rice.
Dinner at Shardeloes
In November 2015 Edward Copisarow, who lives at Shardeloes, very kindly opened his part of the house for an Amersham Society fund-raising event for the Amersham Museum expansion project. A magnificent dinner for over 70 guests was arranged in The Hall, after a reception in The Drawing Room and The Library.
Between the courses, four of the “babies” read extracts from some of the stories on this page and Dr Marjory Foyle, who was a trainee doctor at Shardeloes in about 1944, talked about her life in India and Nepal and the memories of Shardeloes which she kept in her mind when homesick. See a gallery of photos taken during the evening..
Be part of the story
Amersham Museum started a project in 2015 to create a list of as many as possible of the thousands of babies born at Shardeloes when it was a maternity hospital in World War II and for some years after that. We had contact information for about 70 of those babies, many more have since been added.
Follow these links to read the stories of about 200 Shardeloes babies that Amersham Museum has collected. If you were a Shardeloes baby and wish to add your birth details, please click on this link.
(If you are searching for someone, try both married and maiden names)