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Private buildings in UK taken over by Government


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#1 Moonraker

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 04:06 PM

I have the vague impression that in WWII buildings, indeed whole villages (eg Imber, Tyneham), were commandeered by the Government, with the owners having no choice and having to leave.

To what extent did this happen during the Great War in the UK? Places like Beachborough Park, near Folkestone, Charlton Park, near Malmesbury and Cliveden, near Maidenhead, appear to have offered gladly as hospitals as early as 1914 but presumably the Government had the powers to take over any buildings they wanted, either for the duration or for overnight billeting. In Andover during the wet winter of 1914-15 policemen were knocking on doors telling the householders that "it was a choice of British or German soldiers" (that is, if you don't help the war effort by taking men in, then the Germans will invade). This suggests a degree of voluntarism.

And no doubt many of the landed gentry felt morally obliged to make their large houses available. But I wonder what level of pressure did the authorities put on the owners of Longleat, Wilton and Highclere Castle?


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#2 truthergw

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 05:21 PM

Judging by the number of ' stately homes ' used as hospitals and rest homes, I do not believe that too much pressure had to be applied. Most aristocrats and owners of large houses would wish to be seen to be doing their bit. Most would have members of the family serving and many of the women were involved in fund raising and so on. Perhaps there would have been an element of foresight in volunteering. Putting one's home forward as a hospital for officers of one's son's regiment would forestall any other use required by a government department.

#3 NigelS

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 05:09 PM

...presumably the Government had the powers to take over any buildings they wanted, either for the duration or for overnight billeting.


The 'Defence of the Realm Act, 1914' gave the government, or more correctly the 'competent naval or military authority and any person duly authorised by him' # wide ranging powers for taking over property not just for billeting, but for any reason connected with the war effort; The act was, as would be expected, modified extensively during the course of the war with notifications given in the London Gazette, but the initial version, from August 1914, can be found here Click

(# from the Act: "competent naval or military authority" means any commissioned officer of His Majesty's Naval or Military Forces, not below the rank of commander in the Navy or lieutenant-colonel in the Army, appointed by the Admiralty or Army Council, as the case may be, to perform in any place the duties of such an authority. )

Possibly offering your property voluntarily, rather than waiting to have it taken, was the better option.

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