In April, the month ANZAC day is still commemorated locally, we wrote about the 27,000 soldiers from New Zealand who were cared for at Mount Felix on the banks of the Thames opposite Shepperton during WW1.
We received a couple of emails and calls from readers eager to tell us about connections with the past. Audrey Bevington gave us a press cutting (undated) which showed photos of soldiers who were recovering at the Mount Felix hospital. As soldiers got better, they were encouraged to take part in sports, regattas and festivities adding a bit of colour to every day local life.
The nearby Thames was often used for fun events. As well as boat outings, competitive sculling events were put on with mixed teams of nurses and patients. There were even competitions for blind oarsmen, guided by a cox of course!
Another reader, Christine Andrews, told me that her mother used to take soldiers to The Weir pub, just downstream from Mount Felix. Her mother was Grace Kirk (nee Stovell) from Weybridge and lived to the ripe old age of 96.
We were also told of a rather special exhibition which is currently on at the Robert Phillips Gallery at the Riverhouse Arts Centre in Walton on Thames. The Mount Felix Tapestry has been a three year community project involving stitchers aged 6-94. The story reminds me a lot of our own Millenium Embroidery in Sunbury. This though is a series. Its 44 panels tell the story of the No. 2 NZ General Hospital at Mount Felix.
The stories chosen remember and pay tribute to the bravery of the wounded New Zealand soldiers who were treated at the hospital, as well as the nurses, doctors and members of the community who treated and cared for them.
The Tapestry was designed by Andrew Crummy. Over 500 stitchers contributed to the tapestry, from members of the Embroiderers’ Guild to primary school children. Even shoppers in the Heart, visitors to Riverhouse and the Libraries in Elmbridge have had a chance to contribute. I myself added in a couple of stitches to one of the scenes when the project was presented to the Sunbury & Shepperton Local History Society, and it was lovely to be shown around by Val Woolford from Sunbury who was involved as a stitcher.
It is a fabulous collection of images which is well worth a visit. The Robert Phillips Gallery is currently raising money to tour the tapestry but entry to the gallery is free.
Wednesday 12 April to Sunday 14 May 10am to 4pm
Robert Phillips Gallery,
Riverhouse Arts Centre,
Manor Road, Walton on Thames,