St James’ Church, Badsey, was again the venue for a reading of letters from a family who lived in Badsey a hundred years ago. “An Evening with the Sladdens of Seward House – Letters from a Badsey Family in 1916”, followed on from events in 2014 and 2016 covering letters written in 1914 and 1915. The performances form part of The Badsey Society’s latest project, “Badsey, Aldington and Wickhamford – a rural community’s view of the Great War”, which has gained funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund through its First World War: then and now programme.
Early in 1879, a recently married couple arrived at Seward House, Badsey, with their young son, Jack. Julius Sladden was in business at Sladden & Collier’s Brewery in Evesham. Seven more children followed, all born at Seward House. The family quickly became involved in village life and were to remain a major influence in Badsey for over a hundred years until the death of the youngest in the family, Miss Juliet Sladden, in October 1984, at the age of 86. After the death of Juliet, Seward House was sold and a huge archive of letters was deposited at Worcestershire Record Office. Many of these letters span the years of the First World War and have been transcribed by a team from The Badsey Society. The letters provide a first-hand account of events as they were unfolding. Juxtaposed between monumental international events are the relatively mundane events happening at home in Badsey.
It is these letters which formed the basis of the evening’s performance. Members of The Badsey Society played the parts of the Sladden family. Patsy Miller, who is the great-niece of Julius Sladden, the patriarch, returned to play his wife, Eugénie, and her husband, Anthony, played the part of Julius. Other members of the cast included Will Dallimore, Ross Davies, Martha Morrey, Jane Neill, Robin Neill, Mellangell Roe-Stevens, Chris Smith, Sandra Sparrow, Terry Sparrow and Tony Spinks. The script was written and produced by Maureen Spinks.
This year’s event began with Arthur Sladden serving in France with the Royal Army Medical Corps, George Sladden in France with the Civil Service Rifles and Cyril Sladden with the 9th Worcestershire Regiment on the Gallipoli peninsula. Several members of the Sladden family (the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Cyril Sladden) were amongst the audience.
Next year’s event, “Letters from a Badsey Family in 1917-18”, will take place in the autumn of 2017.