It was here, in 1917, that the poets Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) and Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) first met. Within these walls, some of Owen's and Sassoon’s greatest war poetry was inspired and written, and their resulting friendship was to have a significant and lasting effect on literature, influencing our view of the war. On the medical front, significant advances were made in the treatment of neurasthenia (shell shock) and the development of psychiatry. The work of the doctors at Craiglockhart War Hospital was ground-breaking for the time and the friendship between Sassoon and his doctor, Dr William H. R. Rivers was to become life-long.
The original Craiglockhart campus building opened as a Hydropathic Establishment in 1880. The War Office requisitioned the building during the First World War, for use as a hospital for the treatment of officers suffering from neurasthenia, commonly known as shell shock.
The few months Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon spent at Craiglockhart in 1917 were productive for both of them. Their relationship was mutually beneficial to their work, particularly to Owen who was only beginning to find his poetic voice.
As a tribute and commemoration to Owen, Sassoon and other poets of the First World War, the University established The War Poets Collection in 1988, on the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice: 11 November 1918.
Primarily, the War Poets Collection aims to collect the works of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and selected contemporary poets and to set them in their literary, historical and social context.
In addition to this original collection policy, the University now acquires items and information relating to other individuals with connections to Craiglockhart. This includes the medical and nursing staff, officers treated in the war hospital, and information associated with the Craiglockhart College of Education.
The Collection comprises of more than 650 items, including:
•First edition books and volumes of poetry by Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and selected contemporary poets
•Biographies and published letters
•Photographs and memorabilia pertaining to the war hospital and the history of the Craiglockhart building
•Poetry recited by Sir Daniel Day Lewis, Nathaniel Parker, Allan Little, Ian McMillan and Pat Barker
• Anthologies of poetry and prose
• Critical works
• Information regarding the lands and building of Craiglockhart, encompassing various periods in its history
• Information regarding individuals who had connections with Craiglockhart campus building.
The War Poets Collection also contains photocopies and some original issues of The Hydra: the magazine of Craiglockhart War Hospital, which published some of both Owen and Sassoon's poems.
All of the items in the Collection can be found using LibrarySearch. The Collection can also be accessed during core Craiglockhart Library business hours. See our Exhibition and Visiting page for details.
Enquiries should be directed to the Curator, Catherine Walker, in the first instance.
To find out more about the war poets, the Carmichael family, the history of Craiglockhart and the psychiatric therapies carried out here, further background information can be found by clicking on our Education page.
The War Poets at Craiglockhart.