archive 2013 to 2015 Research Project

Thank you to the many people who have contributed family stories of relatives who were at Beaufort and other documentation.

We are delighted with all the help we have received. But we always want more. If you have any information that you think might be of interest do get in touch..

We also have a team of regular volunteers who research over a few months an area from the many aspects of running a War Hospital. If you are interested in joining our Research Team. See  below for further details about our Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund project.

‘We were really  impressed by the ambition of Glenside Museum, thEFCF logo jpegis project is a great example of how a smaller museums can use funding to unlock the stories held in their collections.’  Museum Association and Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund


Postcards from a War Hospital 1915 – 1919

Glenside Hospital was a purpose built asylum which opened in 1861.  During WW1 the building was commissioned by the War Office and re-named The Beaufort War Hospital. It is probably most famous for its connection with the artist Sir Stanley Spencer who worked there as an orderly. His murals at Burghclere were inspired by the building and the people.

Wounded soldiers arrived at Bristol Temple Meads Station and were taken to the hospital which is just outside the city. From 1915-18 the hospital accommodated twenty nine thousand patients, thirty beds were reserved for mental health patients. As well as accommodating wounded soldiers from the Bristol area, many of the wounded were Commonwealth Soldiers from Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

At present the narrative of the Museum is that of the former asylum, however the story of The Beaufort War Hospital is an integral part of the history of the building and will widen the interest in the museum and its collections. The Museum currently has a slide show of images from The Beaufort War Hospital and, it mentions, but has not developed, its connection with Stanley Spencer and Burghclere, nor with any other WW1 heritage.

The Museum has a small collection of artefacts relating to The Beaufort War Hospital, including a several stretchers, pairs of crutches, and medical equipment. The Museum also has a collection of fifty archive photographs including picture postcards which the soldiers sent to their friends and families, not just in the UK but worldwide. The postcards give us a glimpse of the life of WW1 wounded soldiers at a large hospital in a provincial English city. Soldiers in wards, in the grounds, posing with friends and medical staff, individual portraits, summer fetes, plays, musicals.  Immediately one wants to know, who they were, what had happened to them, and where they came from. This wonderful and un-tapped resource has huge potential for interpretation, education and display.  The picture postcard is an evocative piece of history; consider who sent it, who received it, what was written on it, and what was its significance at the time?

This project would provide an opportunity to build relationships with other more established Museums.  It would enable Glenside Hospital Museum to link into local, national and worldwide projects, which are being developed to commemorate WW1; putting the Museum on the map and encouraging people to visit the heritage site and online resources.

The starting point is the ordinary picture postcard and its’ context in extraordinary times. It has humanity and accessibility at its core. This project is utterly contemporary as it addresses image and messaging – what would you send and why?

Volunteers and audience will be encouraged to participate and share their own family stories from WW1. These memories and stories (oral/written/image) will add to The Museums Collections.  The work of collecting new material and digitisation has already begun under the current HLF Project.  For this project the volunteers would aim to digitise and present the Beaufort War Hospital material online. It envisaged that this project will bring in new volunteers who are particularly interested in the history of WW1.

By encouraging empathy with this simple idea we will able to engage museum visitors, students and school children with the wider themes of Empire and The First World War.

Volunteer roles:

The museum is flexible on the roles of volunteers. We have a wide variety of work that volunteers undertake and there is always more to do. We have a team of people who help with all aspects of museum work, from maintenance to producing exhibition material.  Some volunteers join the regular team during opening hours at  the Museum. Others work on projects from home. We are therefore able to tailor your involvement to your skills, interests and availability.

Below is a list of activities of work that we would like help with

·         Archiving and cataloguing the collections

·         Researching soldiers in archives and collecting material from other sources

·         Researching for display purposes

·         Developing our digital presence

·         Tour guides

·         Arranging special exhibitions

·         Helping with public enquiries

We provide 1-1 training for any aspect of interest.

We prefer to meet informally to discuss your skills and what you may like to do to help.  

In the first instance email Stella Man our volunteer coordinator at: