I was going to write about yesterday’s visit to the Museums and Heritage Show, but when I got home from London I’d heard the terrible news of the fire at Clandon Park.
The place is special to me for two reasons. Not only is it one of the places I work with (I was there only Monday making exciting plans for the future), but also, in 1999 before I ever dreamed of working for the National Trust, it was where I got married.
So I’m not writing with my National Trust hat on. I have not been involved with the salvage operation, and I only know as much as has been on the news. I’m writing as a punter who loves the place.
And not just the place, but the collection. So indulge me for a moment, and let me share some of my favourite objects from Clandon. I fear few of these will have been a priority for salvagers, but I hope some of them may have survived.
Clandon was host to the Surrey Infantry Museum, guardians of collections from The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and Queen’s Regiment. Amongst all the medal banners and silverware was this old modest football. At first glance you might think is a relic of on those legendary Christmas football matches, but in fact this ball was dribbled across no-mans land ahead of a charge upon the trenches of the Prussian Guard.
Clandon Park was one of the first country house hospitals opened in the first months of the First World War. The soldiers who were treated there filled a couple of autograph books with sketches during their recuperation. To commemorate the centenary, we created an installation in the room that had, at that time, become the operating theatre, and displayed those original books and reproductions of some of the sketches.
For the duration of that exhibition, the contents of the room were moved into storage. There are two items which used to be on dis play there that are possibly my very favourite pieces:
Huia, Wlliam (4th Earl) Onslow’s youngest son, was born in New Zealand in 1890, and at the bottom of this frame is a tiny picture of him as a baby, lying an a Maori feather cloak,
and this is that cloak. As I said I have no idea of their fate, but news of the loss of these two objects more than any other treasures from Clandon, will upset me the most. I’m almost welling up, just thinking about it.
Finally, an object that always made me smile:
From the Gubbay collection, a Staffordshire piece inspired by Chinese art. I hope it survives to make me smile again.