Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

The library at Mount Stewart secured

April 30, 2014
View of Lady Londonderry's Sitting Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/Peter Aprahamian

View of Lady Londonderry’s Sitting Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/Peter Aprahamian

It has just been announced that the library at Mount Stewart has been acquired by the National Trust from the estate of the late Lady Mairi Bury. These books, spread across a number of rooms in the house, document the intellectual, cultural and political life of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family since the eighteenth century.

Lady Londonderry's Sitting Room, Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Lady Londonderry’s Sitting Room, Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The library was purchased for just under £100,000, with funding from the Royal Oak Foundation, the B.H. Breslauer Foundation, the Northern Ireland Museums Council, the Friends of the National Libraries, Doreen Burns and Terence and Di Kyle.

View of the Castlereagh Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

View of the Castlereagh Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Some of the books were owned by Charles Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry (1878-1949) and his wife Edith (1879-1959). They were both actively engaged in politics and in addition Edith was a notable gardener and cultural patroness, all of which is reflected in the books they collected.

The Castlereagh Room, Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Castlereagh Room, Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

In his study of northern Irish country house libraries, The Big House Library in Ireland, Mark Purcell notes how the ownership inscriptions in the books at Mount Stewart provide evocative evidence of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century family and social networks.

Bookplate of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, incorporating a portrait by Philip de Laszlo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Bookplate of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, incorporating a portrait by Philip de Laszlo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

A first edition of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) at Mount Stewart, for instance, belonged to one of Lord Londonderry’s ancestors, Amelia Ann Hobart (1772-1829), while an 1813 copy of Pride and Prejudice owned by her half-sister Caroline, Lady Suffield (d.1850), remains at their parents’ house, Blickling Hall.

A note on one of the bookshelves in the Castlereagh Room at Mount Stewart, with instructions to borrowers. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

A note on one of the bookshelves in the Castlereagh Room at Mount Stewart, with instructions to borrowers. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Other books that have ended up at Mount Stewart were once in the possession of Amelia and Caroline’s great aunt, Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk (c.1688-1767), the mistress of George II who built the exquisitely Palladian Marble Hill House.

A Gilded Age cottage in Cambridgeshire

August 13, 2013
Regency-period wheelbarrow in the Library Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Regency-period wheelbarrow in the Library Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I have just seen a copy of the newly published Treasures from Lord Fairhaven’s Library at Anglesey Abbey, written by Mark Purcell, William Hale and David Pearson. The authors describe the extraordinary collection of books assembled at Anglesey Abbey by Huttleston Broughton, 1st Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966) between the 1920s and the 1960s.

The south front of Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The south front of Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

Lord Fairhaven was the eldest son of Urban Hanlon Broughton (1857-1929), an Anglo-American sanitation and mining entrepreneur, and Cara Rogers (1867-1939) the daughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840-1909), an American oil, gas, copper and railway tycoon. Rogers was an exponent of the rise of the monopolistic businessman in late nineteenth-century America, which saw him and other ruthless titans like John D. Rockefeller, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan amass stupendous fortunes.

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, with its infinity mirrors and William Kent-designed silver chandeliers. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, with its infinity mirrors and William Kent-designed silver chandeliers. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Although this book is strictly speaking about Fairhaven’s library, it also clearly shows how his tastes more generally were shaped by his American plutocratic background. The appearance of Anglesey Abbey and its gardens reflects the ideas of Gilded Age arbiters of taste such as Edith Wharton (1862-1937). Anglesey Abbey is, in effect, a Gilded Age ‘cottage’ preserved in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

Regency rococo revival mantle clock by James McCabe in the Library. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Regency rococo revival mantle clock by James McCabe in the Library. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Fairhaven loved British art and architecture, and he had the ancient Anglesey Abbey – latterly used as a farmhouse – carefully restored and – in phases – extended. But the interiors were done up lavishly, complete with fitted carpets and central heating, relatively rare at the time. And he gradually filled the house with a very fine, if also very personal, collection of paintings, bronzes, tapestries, furniture, clocks and books.

The library desk, said to have come from Houghton Hall and possibly used by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The library desk, said to have come from Houghton Hall and possibly used by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Library, as described in this book, ‘is a slightly modernised 1930s take on the historicist style in vogue in Britain and America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – with just a hint of Gotham City and the Bat Cave.’ This book once again triumphantly proves the point (previously made by Mark Purcell here and here, for instance) that books are not just information carriers but also biographical, social and cultural signifiers.

Books as social history

March 26, 2013
View of Gardner Wilkinson Library at Calke Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

View of Gardner Wilkinson Library at Calke Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Mark Purcell and Nicola Thwaite have recently published a fascinating collection guide to the libraries at Calke Abbey.

Some of the library shelves at Calke with books on exploration and travel. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Some of the library shelves at Calke with books on exploration and travel. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Calke Abbey was acquired by the National Trust in 1985 and was consciously preserved as a house on the brink of ruin, a snapshot of a moment in time and a multi-dimensional archive of the history of a particular family.

Bookplate of Sir Henry Harpur, 5th Bt (1708-1748). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Bookplate of Sir Henry Harpur, 5th Bt (1708-1748). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

As Mark and Nicola demonstrate, the books at Calke are a record of the tastes and occupations of various generations of the Harpur-Crewe family, including ‘music, novels, big-game hunting, spiritual anguish, exotic travel, improving the estate, suing the neighbours, saying your prayers, learning Latin, catching rats, or choosing the upholstery.’

The Library at Calke. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Library at Calke. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Certain generations of the Harpur-Crewe family suffered from extreme shyness and other forms of unsociable and obsessive behaviour, which today we might describe as symptoms of hereditary autism.

Bookplate of Sir John Harpur, 4th Bt (1680-1741). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Bookplate of Sir John Harpur, 4th Bt (1680-1741). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

This family trait expressed itself, for instance, in the huge collections of geology and taxidermy assembled by Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe (1846-1924). But it is also evident in the progressive transformation of the house into a time capsule – which, poignantly, makes it all the more valuable for us today.

Of books and their owners

February 5, 2013
18th-century pamphlets in the Library at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©National Trust Images

18th-century pamphlets in the Library at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©National Trust Images

The colleagues at Dunham Massey have just created an online classroom called the À Ma Puissance Channel. It will feature interviews and lectures given by various experts and produced by Unity House Films, originally for the benefit of Dunham’s volunteers but now universally accessible.

First up is Mark Purcell, our libraries curator, with a brisk gallop through the different types of libraries the National Trust looks after, and the insights they provide about social and intellectual history.

Lady Mary Booth, Countess Stamford (1704-1772), who bought and read some of the books now in the Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

Lady Mary Booth, Countess Stamford (1704-1772), who bought and read some of the books now in the Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

As Mark says, the libraries in the historic houses of the National Trust contain relatively large numbers of books which would have been ordinary or even ephemeral at the time of their publication, and which for that very reason have not survived in large numbers. The collection of pamphlets at Dunham Massey is one example of such a group of rare ‘ordinary’ publications.

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The library of the 1st Lord Fairhaven, a 20th-century millionaire bibliophile, at Anglesey Abbey is at the other end of the scale in being full of beatifully produced books. But even there the perceived value of certain books was subject to change: the first edition of Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, originally bought purely for amusement, is now a valuable rarity.

Early 20th-century editions of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with bindings by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, in the Library at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Early 20th-century editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with bindings by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, in the Library at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Mark gives many more fascinating examples, illustrating that subtle but immensely valuable feature of historic houses: the eloquence of objects in their original settings. I am looking forward to many more such talks.

Lady linchpin

May 9, 2012

Portrait of Lady Mary Booth, by an unknown hand. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

I recently came upon this portrait of Lady Mary Booth (1704-1772) and was struck by her lively and open expression.

Bird’s eye view of Dunham from the south-west by John Harris, ca 1750. ©National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak

Lady Mary was the heiress to the Dunham Massey estate. Unusually for the time, her father, the 2nd Earl of Warrington, wanted his only daughter to have full control of her property. He left it in trust for her benefit, rather than leaving it to her outright, so that when she married it wouldn’t automatically be transferred to her husband.


Portrait of Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford, by an unknown hand. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

When she did marry in 1736, at the relatively late age of 32, it was to the much younger Harry, Lord Grey of Groby, later 4th Earl of Stamford. She was the linchpin that brought the Booth and Grey family estates (at Dunham Massey and Enville Hall, respectively), together.

The Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Although it was probably an arranged marriage it seems to have been a succesful one. The Countess of Stamford was highly educated and intellectual, and the books with her bookplate in the Dunham library include natural history, poetry, plays and religious topics.

View of the Brownian planting in the New Park at Dunham, by Anthony Devis, 1767. ©National Trust

She also developed the New Park at Dunham, where she may have employed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to create one of the newly fashionable landscape gardens.

Clever waiters

April 3, 2012

Black basaltes ware bust of the actor David Garrick, on a dumb waiter in the Book Room at Wimpole Hall. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Courtney Barnes recently mentioned the tiered tables known as ‘dumb waiters’ on her blog Style Court. These tables were originally developed in the eighteenth century as convenient pieces of furniture to keep food and drink available in the evening after the servants had been dismissed. The traditional name presumably refers to the tables’ role as mute servants, rather than mentally challenged ones.

The Book Room at Wimpole. The plasterwork in the forground dates from the James Gibbs phase of the room, while the elliptical arches were designed by John Soane. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I have found another example of such a tiered table in the Book Room at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. I am not sure whether this particular one was originally used to hold food and was later moved to the library, or whether tiered tables were sometimes specifically made to hold books.

The chimneypiece and overmantel mirror in the Book Room designed by Soane. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The two main library rooms at Wimpole have a fascinating history. The original Library was created by James Gibbs in the late 1720s to house part of the the huge collection of books and pamphlets of the manic accumulator Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford.

View from the Book Room into the Library. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Gibbs also created part of what is now the Book Room by annexing half of the orangery and turning it into an anteroom to the Library. This room was extended in 1806 by Sir John Soane for Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke. Soane designed the characteristic elliptical arches decorated with paterae, executed by the plasterer John Papworth.

The Library at Wimpole, originally created by Gibbs for the 2nd Earl of Oxford. The windows at the far end and on the left were added later. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The history of the books at Hardwicke is even more convoluted: almost all of the 2nd Earl of Oxford’s books left Wimpole after his death, but the 1st Earl of Hardwicke brought in his own collection, as well as one inherited from Lord Chancellor Somers. His sons Philip Yorke, the 2nd Earl, and Charles Yorke also added to the books at Wimpole, including a collection inherited by the latter’s wife from Tittenhanger in Hertfordshire.

View of the Library looking towards the Book Room. The set of library steps began its life as a pulpit. The pair of globes dates from the early nineteenth century. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Philip Yorke, the 3rd Earl, sold some books in 1792 (while simultaneously commissioning Soane to enlarge the Book Room) and Charles ‘Champagne Charlie’ Yorke, the 5th Earl, sold a large part of the library in 1888. In the 20th century Captain and Mrs Bambridge once again added collections of books. These included some rare editions of Rudyard Kipling’s works, Elsie Bambridge being his only surviving child.

Stepping up

January 25, 2012

Bench-cum-library-steps, at Coughton Court, Warwickshire (inv. no. 135342). ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

In response to the previous post Margaret McAvoy asked how that bench at Coughton Court actually transforms into a set of library steps.

Regency-period 'Patent Metamorphic Library Chair' by Morgan and Saunders (inv. no. 871315) in the Library at Saltram, Devon. ©NTPL/John Hammond

So here you can see how it works: you simply flip it on its side and ascend the little steps inserted between the legs.

The armchair 'metamorphed' into a set of steps. ©NTPL/John Hammond

I have found a few more images of ‘convertible’ library steps.

Chair that converts into steps, in the Library at Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, built 1820-1832 by Thomas Hopper for George Hay Dawkins-Pennant. ©NTPL/John Hammond

There seems to be a variety of ways to transform chairs and benches into steps, and it clearly appealed to the cabinetmaker’s ingenuity.

Bench containing a set of library steps, supplied by Thomas Chippendale in 1767-8 for the Library at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire (inv. no. 959724). ©NTPL/Jonathan Gibson

There are some relatively simple and modest examples, and complicated and grand ones by the likes of Chippendale.

The Nostell Priory library steps unfolded. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

You can do some more browsing for library steps in the National Trust Collections database.

Osterley’s library restocked

September 30, 2011

The Osterley Library before the recent rearrangement of the books. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

National Trust curators Lucy Porten and Mark Purcell have just told me about an exciting project underway at Osterley Park, west London, to revive the identity of the library there.

The collection of books at Osterley was one of its chief glories, but it was sold in 1885 to fund repairs to the fabric of the house. Other books had been brought in to dress the shelves, but they were not particularly appropriate to the room designed by Robert Adam in 1766 and did not really reflect what had been there previously.

Subtle difference: the Osterley Library with the Norris books added - and with an opened jib door. ©National Trust/Claire Reed

However, in 1991 a collection of antiquarian books was bequeathed to the National Trust on the death of Norman Norris, a slightly enigmatic Brighton book collector. Norris came from a family of collectors and antiquarians, and his book collection was largely assembled during and immediately after the second World War, when many British country house libraries were being dispersed.

Virginian Eared Owl, in a copy of William Hayes's "Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park", 1794, purchased at auction for Osterley in 2010 with the help of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As Mark Purcell says in his article in The Book Collector (vol. 55, no. 4, Winter 2006), the collection includes topographical books, sixteenth-century Italian books, early novels, fine illustrated books, classical texts, books in French, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English books and a group of early library catalogues.

Fold-out illustration of Copt Hall, Essex, in Farmer's "History of ...Waltham...", 1735, with an Osterley Park bookplate and purchased at auction for Osterley in 2009. ©Sworders

Some of the books from the Norris bequest were used to restock the similarly depleted library at Ham House. The remainder have now been added to the shelves at Osterley by Lucy, Mark and House Manager Claire Reed, where they give a good impression of the kind of books that would have been there pre-1885. In addition (and as mentioned in a previous post on the Osterley library), we occasionally have the opportunity to buy back some of the books that were actually at or are associated with Osterley. 

Amazingly, it was discovered that the Norris collection includes a catalogue of the Osterley library, including listings of the books laid out on the tables and desks. This will now allow us to recreate the look of the library even more authentically.

Tending to the books at Townend

September 15, 2011

Conservators at work in the Townend library. ©National Trust

I recently spotted this image of a trio of book conservators seemingly completely absorbed in their work at Townend, in Cumbria (via the National Trust Libraries and NTTownend Facebook pages).

A selection of improving books from the Townend library. ©NTPL/Graham Edwards Photography 2004

Caroline Bendix is compiling a database recording details of existing damage to the books, Helen Golding Miller is carrying out small repairs in situ and Nicholas Pickwoad is looking at the volumes that need to go away for studio conservation.

Townend's vernacular Lake District architecture. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

This project has been made possible by a £40,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation, with match funding from the National Trust.

Title page of an anti-slavery tract published in 1817, in the library at Townend. ©NTPL/Graham Edwards Photography 2004

Townend is a rare survival of a Cumbrian yeoman farmhouse dating from the seventeenth century.

The kitchen at Townend. ©NTPL/Rob Talbot

The house was inhabited by the Browne family for over four hundred years. They were sheep farmers who prospered through careful management and advantageous marriages.

Pages from 'The Merry Musician; or a Cure for the Spleen', published in 1716, in the Townend library. ©NTPL/Graham Edwards Photography 2004

The house contains the gradual, evocative accretion of posessions. The small library is a fascinating record of the interests and preoccupations of successive generations of the family.

The Regency library at Ickworth

August 30, 2011

The Library at Ickwworth. A number of important pictures in this room were acquired in 1996 with the help of the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Following the post about the Regency library at Stourhead – and again inspired by Mark Purcell’s National Trust Libraries Facebook page – I wanted to show a few images of the Regency library at Ickworth, in Suffolk.

Portrait of the 1st Marquess of Bristol by Hoppner. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

This room was created by architect William Field in the late 1820s for Frederick William Hervey, 5th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bristol, with furnishings by Banting, France & Co, who also worked for George IV and William IV.

Italian marble chimneypiece in the Library, installed in 1829 but probably acquired much earlier by the Earl-Bishop. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The 1st Marquess had inherited the half-built house in 1803 from his mercurial father, Frederick, 4rd Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry. The height of the Library, and of several other rooms in the main Rotunda, reflects the Earl-Bishop’s belief that high-ceilinged rooms kept his asthma at bay. He seems to have had a yen for circular buildings, as evident in one of his other projects, the Mussenden Temple at Downhill, Co. Londonderry

The Rotunda, Ickworth's central block. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The Earl-Bishop quarrelled with his son and out of spite left his personal fortune to a distant cousin (although he couldn’t deny him the entailed English family estates). It took the 1st Marquess until 1821 to amalgamate sufficient funds to re-start work on the house.  

Page from a seventeenth-century Italian mansucript in the style of Ulisse Aldrovandi, c. 1600, in the Library at Ickworth. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

The curtains and upholstery in the Library were replaced in 1909-11 by Frederick William Hervey, the 4th Marquess, with green and silver damask from the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company. The 4th Marquess also moved the Regency carved and gilded pelmet boards from the Drawing Room into the Library.


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