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Search is on for wartime East End babies born in a castle

PUBLISHED: 18:03 22 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:37 05 October 2010

A SEARCH is under way for East Londoners who were born in a castle during the Second World War. It is 70 years since Willersley Castle was taken over by the Salvation Army when the Mothers Hospital in Hackney was bombed in the Blitz

A SEARCH is under way for East Londoners who were born in a castle when it was turned into an emergency maternity hospital during the Second World War.

It is 70 years since Willersley Castle in Derbyshire was taken over by the Salvation Army when the Mothers Hospital in Hackney was bombed in the Blitz.

Mums-to-be were evacuated from East London to escape the nightly bombing to the castle near Matlock to give birth in comparative peace.

Willersley Castle echoed to the cries of newborn for seven years with 4,000 births.

It might have conjured up a picture of a draughty old castle with damp dungeons and a smelly moat.

But it had long been converted into a hotel before the outbreak of war, so comforts were on hand when the expectant mums were evacuated from the East End.

It reverted to a hotel after the war. Now the owners want to mark the 70the anniversary of its wartime maternity role with a three-day reunion from March 7 to 10 for those born within the castle’s walls.

“Our special celebration dinner on the second night has a few samples of authentic 1940s delicacies,” said general manager Tim Rogers.

“Most of those 4,000 babies returned to London and may still be there. The reunion is a chance to come back to the castle where they were born.”

He has lined up nightly entertainment and activities for those who want to return to their place of birth and share their stories with others.

The babies, of course, are now approaching 70 years old.


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