World War I book reveals history of Bignor

L-R David Johnston, Katherine Slay and Viscount Ned Mersey with the autograph book

L-R David Johnston, Katherine Slay and Viscount Ned Mersey with the autograph book

ONE Petworth author couldn’t quite believe his luck when, perusing the shelves of a Midhurst antiques shop, he stumbled upon the find of a lifetime.

Author and photographer David Johnston was browsing Midhurst antiques shop Mullaby’s, in June Lane, when he found a small autograph album owned by a nurse in the first world war, dated 1915.

“I didn’t even know there was a military hospital here until I found the book,” said David.

“I thought it might be something of interest, but then took it home, and oh my gosh, was I surprised and excited.”

And now David has joined forces with Lord Ned Mersey, of Bignor Park House, and Katherine Slay from the Chichester Records Office, to unearth the background of the stately home.

The fascinating little book – which David has donated to the records office – was owned by nurse Beth Richardson, from Fittleworth.

In it are dozens of messages, photographs and sketches from the soldiers she looked after.

The grand home doubled as a hospital in the early years of the war, with the ground-floor rooms transformed into wards for recuperating soldiers.

There are only four surviving records from war hospitals in the country, making David’s find even more unique.

David and Katherine are now appealing to anyone else who may have information regarding military hospitals in the area.

For the full story, see next week’s Observer (May 8).

Anyone with any information can email midhurst@jpress.co.uk or email David Johnston on david.rg.johnston@googlemail.com




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