‘Some day the war will be over and we shall meet again – or we shall meet if we can bear to face the chairs that will stand empty.’
Rev J H Hopkinson –Hulme Hall Warden 1905–1914 writing in January 1916 to the Hulme Hall community
Established in 1870 as a Church of England Hall of Residence for students of Owens College, Manchester, Hulme Hall has grown and adapted to meet the changing face of university life in Manchester over the past 147 years.
The Hulme Hall community faced its biggest examination throughout the First World War. 250 students and staff of Hulme Hall served in the armed forces between 1914 and 1919. This figure accounts for over 50% of the total number of students who passed through the Hall after it reopened in 1887.
Forty did not return home.
The first to be killed was Second Lieutenant Wilfred Trevelyan who was hit by shrapnel whilst repairing a support trench near Ypres in May 1915. The last was Major Ernest Cunliffe who passed away in the Lake District in March 1919 after contracting an illness whilst serving at Military hospitals in Manchester and France.
Very few books focus on the life and times of a particular hall of residence during the First World War. Piecing together never before published letters, photographs and documents, Chairs that Stand Empty captures the characters and heart-breaking stories behind the names on the Hulme Hall War Memorial. Stories such as those of;
Charles Hamilton Murray Chapman; whose family posthumously published the children’s book he had painstakingly written and illustrated before the start of the war.
Friends Wilfred Treveylan and James Henderson; who went off to war together in 1915. Wilfred was killed shortly after arriving in France whilst James went to on win the Military Cross only days later when fighting desperately against wave after wave of enemy attacks.
Robert Bedford; who wrote vividly of his time in Gallipoli, Sinai and finally France; particularly touching is his record of seeing bodies his friends lying in the Gallipoli heat after failed attacks in August 1915.
Harold Swift’s wife, Muriel; who discovered the heartbreaking news her husband had died a month after his death when reading the casualty lists published in the Australian press.
Arthur Lord; who fought overseas underage. Wounded twice and prompted to Captain by the age of 19, he twice lied about his age on his medical board forms to avoid questions back in England.
Kenneth Barry; who reluctantly gave up his studies to enlist. He was hoping the war would soon be over so he could continue at Hulme Hall. He never returned.