It may be popular for picnics and walks, but Lydiard Park had an entirely different use more than 60 years ago.
For the Swindon Borough Council-owned stately home and park was requisitioned by the military during the Second World War and in the late 1940s it housed a German Prisoner of War hospital camp.
On Saturday, 20 July a new display opens in Lydiard House, telling the stories of the staff, doctors, guards and prisoners in 160 Camp, through photographs, maps, diaries – even paintings by one of the inmates. Alongside the display, there will be a fun quiz trail for children to decode secret messages.
Sophie Cummings, Collections Manager at Lydiard House said: “Very little has been written about the Prisoner of War camp system in Britain during the Second World War and often few records or photographs exist. Lydiard House museum staff and volunteers have consulted archives and libraries to research 160 Camp and we have been very fortunate in recently being loaned items that bring alive the little known story of this camp at Lydiard Park. Much of the material in this new display hasn’t been seen by the public so we are delighted to be able to share this significant story in Lydiard Park’s recent past with a wider audience.”
The display will show how Lydiard Park began to house German Prisoners of War from late 1943. Most were infantry soldiers and officers but the camp also held German army medical staff who helped provide care to the injured soldiers.
The camp held around 220 prisoners. As they recovered they were transferred to work camps or repatriated back to Germany at the end of the war. One of the stories in this display focuses on the life of John Bailey, the camp interpreter.
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Regeneration and Culture, said: “This is a fascinating exhibition, particularly as it uncovers a piece of Lydiard’s history which not many people will know about. The display has something for all the family and I would like to thank all the staff and volunteers who spent many hours putting it together.”
Lydiard House is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11am to 5pm. The house is closed Mondays, except Bank Holiday Monday 26 August. Normal admission charges to the house apply – £9.50 for a family ticket, £3.70 for adults, £3.20 for seniors and £1.80 for children.
Joint tickets, which include entry to the beautiful 18th Century Walled Garden are also available, priced at £12 for families, £4.70 for adults, £4.20 for seniors and £2.30 for children.
For more information on Lydiard Park visit www.lydiardpark.org.uk or call 01793 770401.