Just days before the outbreak of the First World War, Nostell Priory held a great country house party.
Those last hours of calm and celebration, before the 1914-18 conflict, would become known as the party at the end of the world. And to mark the centenary of the Great War, the party was recreated at the grounds.
Nostell Priory had been in the hands of the Winn family since 1654.
Rowland George Winn, the future third baron St Oswald, celebrated his 21st birthday by hosting the party for the whole estate, including servants, tenants and villagers. They had no idea that the world as they knew it was about to come to an end. Only a few days later, war was declared and the way of life of Nostell and its people changed forever.
Rowland was amongst the first British soldiers who entered the war with the Coldstream Guards, leaving for France in August 1914.
In November that year, his family received news that he had been killed in battle. But the war department had made an error, he was actually very badly wounded.
His younger brother, Charles, also enlisted on October 1915, aged just 17.
In 1917, he lost an eye in battle but fortunately for the family, the two sons returned home at the end of the war.
In Sunday’s commemorative re-enactment of Rowland’s last birthday party, visitors played the parts of the guests and took part in traditional Edwardian games and activities.
They also took a trip back in time to Professor Tubby’s Photographic Parlour, where they dressed in traditional clothing and posed for family portraits.And there was tea and cake, music from old gramophones and a cinema showing archive films.
Visitors learnt about what happened to the people who attended the ‘party at the end of the world’, whether they lived, were wounded or died in conflict and Yew Tree Theatre group told the story of Rowland George Winn’s romance with actress Evie Carew. He caused a scandal when he secretly married her in 1915.
Lynne Minett, visitor experience and marketing manager, said: “More than 800 people enjoyed the Party at the end of the World event and the vintage games, silver band and photographic parlour were a real hit.
“We have received some very positive feedback and it was great to recreate the last country house party atmosphere before the outbreak of World War One nearly 100 years to the date.”
Nostell Priory has also been running a Red Poppies, White Butterflies World War One project during the past year to uncover tales from the war and find out how the estate and its community were affected.
It will run a war-themed audio trail of the parkland with the stories from Monday, August 4 until Sunday, August 10.
Chris Blackburn, house and collections manager, said: “This is really our finale to a wonderful project that has seen Nostell and its community come together and share stories about how lives were changed by World War One. It’s been a moving experience discovering some very touching tales.”
Pic credit: D Russell-Price