As part of Beam’s role as Creative Producer for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Great Place Scheme we have recently commissioned Derbyshire based artist Heidi Luker as part of the creative programme, to produce a performance and video documentation to explore the heritage of Willersley Castle in Cromford, Derbyshire and in particular its role as a maternity hospital during the Second World War.

Heidi says, “When I moved here from Tottenham, London, I was told that the castle became a maternity hospital the Second World War. The hospital was set up by the Salvation Army and run by the Hackney Mothers’ Hospital to allow thousands of expectant mothers from North London, to escape the constant air raids in order to give birth safely.

I would like to research the stories of these mothers, to explore their experience of leaving home to give birth in Willersley Castle and hopefully locate or tape interviews with surviving babies and their families.

I am also keen to find out how the rural communities of Wirksworth and Cromford reacted to so many London women and nurses billeted with families in the area and how the two different communities communicated and adapted. “

Heidi is also looking to contact the “Princes and Princesses of Willersley”. If you were born at Willersley Castle, and are willing to share any personal accounts and photos of your experiences, and those of your mother about your time in Derbyshire please do get in touch with her at

Heidi’s overall aim is to create a fictitious drama and digital documentation based on these joint memories to highlight how these two distinct communities came together and what it was like to grow up with the castle as your place of birth as recorded on your birth certificate.

Heidi is a multi-disciplinary Sculptural Artist & Theatre Designer and often works within Community Arts, designing and delivering theme based Public Participation Art Projects for organisations and events. You can find out more about Heidi at

This project is funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England for the Creative Programme of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Great Place Scheme.

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