IPSWICH: Wherstead Park Hospital, Wherstead


Wherstead Park, The Street, Wherstead, Ipswich, Suffolk

Wherstead Park House : Wherstead Park Hospital. Courtesy of Heather Anne. Johnson

Wherstead Park House : Wherstead Park Hospital. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Wherstead Park House (built on the site of an earlier residence) has a foundation stone dating to 1792.  The original house was designed for Sir Robert Harland who, in 1813, exchanged the estate with Mr. John Vernon of Orwell Park on the other side of the River Orwell.

In June 1937, Wherstead Hall became a temporary home for 100 Basque refugees.  They were 100 children brought to safety, escaping the dangers of the Spanish Civil War.  Refugee children were also looked after in Wickham Market, Suffolk.

Sisters Chloe Armorel & Hope Mureur (“Poppy”) Vulliamy and the Hall’s owner Stuart Paul, were three people who helped bring them to Wherstead.  The sisters were daughters of Ipswich-born Solicitor and Ipswich Coroner Lionel Hastings Vulliamy and his wife Fordham, Essex-born Nellie (nee Lingham).  The two sisters were passionate supporters of the Spanish Republic.  The following web pages explain this part of Wherstead Hall’s history:





Today, after once being the headquarters for Eastern Electricity, the property offers conference rooms and a venue for weddings.

At the outbreak of WW1, the owners Mr. and Mrs. Charles Edward Dashwood converted part of it into a convalescing auxiliary hospital (affiliated to the General Military Hospital in Colchester).  It only accommodated 12 beds.

In addition to the building being used in this way, the Park grounds were used as a staging depot for horses before they began their journey across the Channel for France & Flanders.

Bury Free Press, Saturday 29 January 1916 [sic]:



Mr. J. Maitland Wilson (the County Director) presided at a meeting of the Grand Council of the Suffolk Branch of the British Red Cross Society held at the County Hall, Ipswich, on Friday afternoon. … The Red Cross Hospitals in the county have done splendid work during the past year, and have been conducted in a most efficient manner.  All the hospitals, with the exception of Lord Iveagh’s hospital at Elveden Hall and Lady Beatrice Pretyman’s convalescent home at Orwell Park, are now receiving Government grant, … The number of patients received in the different Red Cross hospitals and hospitals working in conjunction with the branch up to November 30th, 1915, is 7,229. … …” 

Evening Star, Ipswich – Thursday 05 February 1916:

“… Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Dashwood are running and personally supervising at Wherstead Park …” 

Bury Free Press, Saturday 29 January 1916 [sic]:


… The total number of beds in the Red Cross hospitals at the present time was 783, and in addition there were in the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital, Broadwater and Wherstead 290, totalling 1,073.  They would be interested to have their attention called to the splendid work being done in Ipswich on behalf of the sick and wounded. …”


There is no doubt that others assisted in the running of this establishment but they remain unknown.  No Service Cards are online for the Hospital, on the British Red Cross website. Perhaps many of the employees of Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood helped in this establishment, one way or another?

DASHWOOD, Mr. Charles Edward (Donor of Wherstead Park House)

Born 1857 Great Cumberland Place, London.  Son of George Astley C. Dashwood and his London-born wife Harriett Anne

1861 Census:      Stone Lodge, Sproughton, Suffolk. Father “Esquire”; Mother “Hon. Mrs.”; three sisters; two brothers; and seven servants.

1871 Census:      Wherstead Park House, Wherstead. With Step-father Lord Montague N. Graham; mother; one brother; one sister; Governess; and twelve servants.

1881 Census:      74 Park Street, Chelsea. “Following a profession or Calling”; 3 servants; and future wife Emma Baker, who was also “Following a profession”.

1981, 20 Oct:      Married Emma Baker at St. Stephen’s, Westminster, London.

1891 Census:      Wherstead Park, Wherstead. Charles & Emma together; two visitors; seven servants.

1901 Census:      Bluegates, Wherstead, Suffolk. Charles (“Owner of Wherstead and Belstead Estates”/”Employer”) & Emma together; and three house servants.

1911 Census:      Bluegates, Wherstead, Suffolk. Landowner. With wife and five servants.

1935, 29 Apr:      Charles Edward Dashwood “of Holbeck-road Scarborough” died.

DASHWOOD, Mrs. Emma nee Baker (Donor of Wherstead Park House as a Hospital)

Born 1857 St George Hanover Sq., London. Parentage ?

1861 Census:      ?

1871 Census:      ?

1881 Census:      74 Park Street, Chelsea (the home of future husband). With Charles Edward Dashwood; “Following a profession”; and three servants.

1981, 20 Oct:      Married Charles Edward Dashwood at St. Stephen’s, Westminster, London.

1891 Census:      Wherstead Park, Wherstead. Charles & Emma together; two visitors; seven servants.

1901 Census:      Bluegates, Wherstead, Suffolk. Charles (“Owner of Wherstead and Belstead Estates”/”Employer”) & Emma together; and three house servants.

1911 Census:      Bluegates, Wherstead, Suffolk. With Landowner husband and five servants.

1956, 31 Dec:      Emma died, death registered in the Ipswich Registration District.


Cameron Highlander Regimental Sergeant-Major Alexander McKinnon (S/10716)

The Wherstead Park Hospital nursed back to health one of the heroes of the Battle of Loos, Cameron Highlander Regimental Sergeant-Major Alexander McKinnon D.C.M. (and bar).  Alexander arrived at Wherstead at the beginning of December 1915, suffering from rheumatism.  He was discharged 23 August 1916.

Seaforth Highlander Sergeant Arton

Badly wounded towards the end of the Battle of Loos, Sgt. Arton was eventually sent back to England and admitted to Colchester Military Hospital.   He was then transferred to Wherstead Park Hospital, arriving there at the end of October 1915.

ooOoo  ooOoo

On 05 February 1916, the Ipswich ‘Evening Star’ printed an article about Scottish regiments’ action at the Battle of Loos.  The two men mentioned above are featured in the article, which was reproduced in the Scottish ‘Stirling Observer’ on Saturday 12 February under the title of DUNBLANE N.C.O. WHO TWICE WON THE D.C.M.”.  It is felt interesting enough to transcribe the ‘Evening Star’ article in full here [sic]:

“Unfortunately, there is nobody less inclined to talk of his achievements than the average soldier, who is modest to a degree when it comes to talking of his fighting prowess.  He may be a real good fellow, a genial companion, but his conversation more often than not will generally be confined to things quite alien to his calling.  The extraordinary part about it is that this inborn modesty of the soldier is far more pronounced in those who have done some act of conspicuous gallantry.  Therefore when one day last week an interview was sought with a Scottish non-commissioned officer Regimental-Sergeant-Major McKinnon, twice the winner of the D.C.M., who has been nursed back to health at the hospital Mr and Mrs C. E. Dashwood are running and personally supervising at Wherstead Park, one had a foretaste of what might be expected.  The Sergeant-Major, every inch a soldier, who has served over twenty-five years in the Cameron Highlanders, was as uncommunicative as a man could possibly be as to his brilliant leadership during that terrible battle of Loos, which saved the situation for the British on the particular section at the front.  The Sergeant-Major’s cool judgment and daring would probably have not become known at the present time but for a remarkable coincidence, by no means the first during the present war.  The Sergeant-Major, who is 45 years of age, has spent considerably more than half that time in the Army, for he has entered upon his twenty-sixth year of service.  

At the time war broke out he had only left the colours a few months on a pension which probably no man ever more greatly deserved, for during the whole of the time he was in the Army he had served many years abroad, and had twice been on active service—namely, in Egypt and throughout the whole of the South Africa campaign. Absolutely wedded to a military life, Sergeant-Major McKinnon had a great dislike when the time for his leaving the Army arrived to disassociate himself from everything military, and hence it happened that he welcomed the opportunity of taking an appointment which enabled him to play no small part in the training of the country’s soldiers of the future.  In his native place of Dunblane he became instructor at the Queen Victoria School—an institution on all fours with the Duke of York’s school, which was erected as a memorial to Her late Majesty. 

The Sergeant-Major, when the help of the seasoned soldier was such a pressing need, had not be asked to rejoin the colours.  He forthwith threw up his appointment, and once more entering the Cameron Highlanders, became Sergeant-Major of the 5th Battalion. This afforded him special gratification, for it is Lochiel’s own battalion, which he still commands in France.  The 5th was the first battalion of the Cameron Highlanders formed for the new Army. It was raised in August, 1914, and went to the front last May.  The men of the battalion soon had a taste of trench life, for after a short time in billets they were sent to the trenches in Armentieres neighbourhood.  From that district they gradually worked south, being occupied in the main with trench holding.  On this account they were frequently under fire, and narrow escapes from death were of such common occurrence that in course of time the men came to regard them as part of an ordinary day’s routine. 

The Cameron Highlanders’ first great fight was at Loos, where the battle commenced on the 25th September, and was continued with terrible fierceness for twelve days.  In that battle four divisions of Scotch regiments took part.  That portion of the attacking line of British troops, which was resting on the Foss pit-head, was composed of the Camerons, Seaforths, Gordons, and Black Watch took part.  It was thought possible on the night before the attach that the Germans might get an inkling of what was to happen in the morning, and to prevent being caught unawares the British troops were compelled to stand to in their trenches throughout the night.  Great enthusiasm prevailed along the British front when the men mounted the parapets of their trenches for what was to the 5th Camerons their first great charge.   Bravely led by their officers, they made a dash for the German front-line trenches, but, of course, many fell on the way.  It was in this first big rush forward that the greatest number of men were put out of action.  The officers in proportion to the men suffered worse, because after two days the Camerons had lost all theirs, and it was for this reason that Sergeant-Major McKinnon found it necessary to take command.  He presumes—so far he has had no official communication from the War Office—that it was the part he then played that won for him the D.C.M.  It was most extraordinary coincidence, on the same day—September 27—in 1901, he won the D.C.M. in the South African War for bravery at Zande, near Bleomfontein.

The Camerons, with the other troops on their flank, went on and on until they had advance into the German lines for over a mile.  At this period Sergeant-Major McKinnon was surprised to find the adjutant of the Camerons was alive and was up with the troops.  The collected together the fragments of the regiments just mentioned, and were able to muster 1014 men all told.  They made another charge, and fairly drove the Germans before them.  The survivors of first thought little of their diminishing numbers, but when it realised that they were gradually dwindling, and there were no troops coming up to support them, a halt was rendered necessary, and immediately the remnants started to dig themselves in.  For three days these brave fellow held on to their hastily-made trenches and patiently waited for reinforcements, which had they been forthcoming, would have ended in the Germans being pushed much further back, for, as the Sergeant-Major said, they were already on the run.  Unfortunately the supports were not forthcoming, and a retirement was necessary.  When the Camerons were relieved they were occupying what until just before the Loos battle had been the German second-line trenches. 

It may be explained that for some time prior to the battle of Loos the Seaforth Highlanders had acted as sister battalion to the Camerons in the trenches, and it was in this way that Sergeant-Major McKinnon became acquainted with Sergeant Arton, of the Seaforths.  The latter in the end did not get off so lucky as the other non-commissioned officer just mentioned.  Sergeant-Major was only slightly wounded towards the end of the Loos battle, and he was eventually brought to England.  Being sent to the Colchester Military Hospital, he was ultimately transferred to a branch of that great hospital at Wherstead Park.  Sergeant Arton arrived at Wherstead towards the end of October, but when in the early part of December Sergeant-Major McKinnon was also sent there, the two were naturally amazed at meeting again at such a place, seeing that there is only accommodation for twelve patients.  But for Sergeant Arton no one at Wherstead would ever had heard of the exact details concerning Sergeant-Major McKinnon’s brave deeds, because directly they were able to renew their battlefield friendships, the first-named soon made it known to all at Wherstead that Sergeant-Major McKinnon was one of the heroes of the battle of Loos. 

Questioned as to the character and style of the German trenches, Sergeant-Major McKinnon said they were rather deeper than those of the British, and the dug-outs were eight to ten feet underground.  After the battle of Loos Sergeant-Major McKinnon said the Camerons, or what was left of the 5th Battalion, were sent to the Ypres district, and it was while in the trenches there that he contracted rheumatism and had to be sent home.  There is no wonder that the Sergeant-Major is so afflicted, because they were often standing in water knee-deep, and sometimes it was up to the waist.  The Sergeant-Major had high praise for the food supplied at the front, which in quantity and quality, and particularly the former, exceeded anything they had in the South African war.  In South Africa seldom did the troops get anything beyond Army biscuits, but now he said they regularly had tasty and nourishing food in the shape of tins of a kind of haricot, comprising meat, potatoes, carrots, turnips, haricot beans, which, being already cooked, had only to be heated.”


Alexander McKinnon’s Presentation Watch – from ?the people of Dunblane. Courtesy/© of Chris Emsley

Alexander McKinnon’s Presentation Watch – from ?the people of Dunblane.
Courtesy/© of Chris Emsley.

Alexander McKinnon was born in March 1873, in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.  He was a son of Iron Moulder John McKinnon and his wife Mary (nee O’Hara).

1881 Census:      The family was living at 47 Hall Road, Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire.  Father John’s occupation was “Riveter”.  Alexander’s maternal widowed grandmother (Margaret O’Hara, born Barrow!) was with them; as was Uncle James (O’Hara), who was also a “Riveter”.

1891 Census:       ?

1891, 16 July:      Enlisted into the British Army – serving until 15 May 1914, a period of almost 23 years.  During this time, his conduct was described as “exemplary”. This was Alexander’s first period of service and, for this, he received the following: the Distinguished Conduct Medal ; the Queen’s Sudan Medal; the Queen’s South Africa Medal, with clasps for ‘Johannesburg/Diamond Hill/Wittebergen; the King’s South Africa Medal, with clasps ‘South Africa 1901/South Africa 1902’; the Khedive’s Sudan Medal, with clasp for ‘Khartoum’; and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

1901 Census:      Not in the UK.  Serving in South Africa, in the Boer War.

1901, 27 Sept:    Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, for bravery at Zande, nr Bleomfontein.

1906, 1 Jan:         Alexander married Annie Lauriston at Falkirk.  Alexander’s occupation was “Colour Sergeant Cameron Highlanders”; his age was given as “34”; and his usual address was “40 High Station Road, Falkirk”.  Alexander’s parents were both deceased.   Annie’s occupation was given as a “Domestic Servant”.

Alexander and Annie had four children: John A. (bn 2.10.1906 Inverness); Catherine (bn 18.5.08. Salisbury/Tidmouth, Hants.); Mary (bn 14.10.09. Aldershot/Tidmouth, Hants.); and Alexander (bn 11.8.12. Edinburgh).

1911 Census:      8 Dalgety Street, Canongate, Edinburgh, Scotland. “39” years old. Born “Gibraltar”!! “Soldier. C[olou]r Sergt. Instructor 9th R.H.”  With wife Annie and children John A.; Catherine; and Mary L.

1914, 6 Sept:      Alexander enlisted for World War One service, at Dunblane, Perthshire.

1915, 10 May:    Alexander served in France from this date.

1915, 27 Sept:    Alexander won a Bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal – see afore-transcribed newspaper article.

1915, 21 Nov:     Alexander was returned to England – he arrived at the Wherstead Park Hospital at the beginning of December, suffering from rheumatism.  His Service Record shows he was “At Home” until 23 August 1916, when he was medically discharged from the Army. Apart from the Bar to his D.C.M., Alexander received the 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; and Victory Medal for his World War One service.

No citation has been discovered for the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal for Alexander McKinnon’s Boer War action but its award was recorded in the London Gazette dated 27th September 1901: THE LONDON GAZETTE, SEPTEMBER 27, 1901. 6319: … The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. To be Companions of the Distinguished Service Order. … Sergeant A. Mackinnon. …” The afore-transcribed newspaper article implies that he won it “for bravery at Zande, near Bleomfontein”.

The citation for the bar to Alexander McKinnon’s DCM appears here:  SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE,. 11 MARCH, 1916. 2737: “… 10716 Regimental Serjeant-Major A. McKinnon, Depot, Cameron Highlanders (formerly 5th Battalion).  For conspicuous gallantry and ability. On the capture of an enemy position, no officers being left, he took command and with great courage and ability organised the defence of this section of the line, which he held until relieved. On another occasion he again exhibited great ability in organising the men although mixed up with two other brigades(The Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded for service in South African War, vide London Gazette dated 27th September, 1901, page 6319.)

Mr. Chris Emsley is acknowledged here, for his great contribution to Alexander McKinnon’s profile – as he stated: Alexander “would have needed a big chest to wear all his medals”!

NEXT: IPSWICH: Woolverstone Red Cross Hospital