One of Charles Wade's Indonesian theatre masks at Snowshill Manor. ©NTPL/Stuart Cox

A recent post about Indonesian textiles by Courtney Barnes over at her Style Court blog made me think about the Indonesian masks at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire.

©NTPL/Stuart Cox

They are part of the collection of Charles Wade (1883-1956), who trained as an architect, but who really came into his own as an artist, craftsman and collector.

The South front of Snowshill Manor seen from the garden. ©NTPL/Nick Meers

Wade bought Snowshill in 1919 and gradually transformed the old Cotswold manor house into an Aladdin’s Cave.

The Seraphim room. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

He gave the rooms evocative names, such as Seraphim, Mizzen and A Hundred Wheels. Wade and his friends organised amateur theatricals in the house using items from the collection as costumes and props, and with candles and a smoky fire for extra effect.

©NTPL/Stuart Cox

Wade’s collecting was motivated by a love of craftsmanship. The scope of his collection expanded from British objects to include items from southern Europe and West and East Asia. 

Javanese masks representing the evil spirit Rangda. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Wade gave Snowshill to the National Trust in 1951.

9 Responses to “Masquerade”

  1. columnist Says:

    The picture you show of Snowshill is an interesting one, as if of two houses glued together, the left half with its twelve paned windows, and the right more simple. Can you tell us more about the architecture? I checked on the NT website, but it does not seem to elaborate, except for noting the obvious. It’s a very pretty house, but if I’d had my chance I would have made the facade symmetrical in all aspects.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes this is one of those modest manor houses that developed piecemeal. The earliest parts of the house date from about 1490. In about 1600 a certain John Warren added more rooms on the south side, and these now form the right-hand side of the south facade which you can see in the photograph. This was then the narrow side of the house, with the main entrance being on the west facade.

    In about 1720 a subsequent owner, William Sambach, added more rooms on the south-west corner (with the twelve-paned windows that you noted), but he also inserted a door (with his arms in the pediment above it) into the older part of the facade, and made it into the main entrance.

    So quite messy, as you say, but that seems to have been part of its attraction for Charles Wade.

  3. Janet Says:

    Aladdin’s Cave, indeed! What an interesting house. And. . . do I spy a Dutch cabinet underneath all those goodies in the Seraphim Room?

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Janet, your eye is obviously conditioned to recognise Dutch things, after your recent trip to Holland 🙂 I will check the inventory.

  5. John Bennett Says:

    I am not ordinarily susceptible but Snowshill has an undoubted atmosphere. There is a tangible sense of the past here, no doubt in part brought on by the dusty, musty smells of the various antique collections on display. Something undoubtedly surreal inhabits the collection of old bicycles; and the samurai warrior room will haunt the imagination for years to come! The anecdote of Wade tolling bells and calling out the dead while marching through the house in jackboots while his terrified guests quivered in the main hall awaiting the arrival of this phantom, all contributes to the unique, spectral quality of the house.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes smells are very important, aren’t they, in the way they affect us directly in a non-intellectual way. At Dennis Severs’s House (not NT) in London they employ smells in a very theatrical way, but NT properties are now also increasingly trying to ‘harness’ smells – as well as sounds and other direct sensory experiences.

  7. style court Says:


    The pictures really do convey a sense of craftsmanship behind the masks.

    Now, you’ll have to elaborate on how NT is harnessing smells! Not completely sure if you meant banishing or using them for evocative purposes.

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Sorry, I very much meant using smells, as an added means of communication. Of course this has always been the case with old houses, with their aromas of leather, polished wood, textiles, and flowers and country air outside, but various projects are now underway to use smells more consciously. As you say, I should do a post about it – if only we had ‘sensory internet’ 🙂

  9. style court Says:

    Ah! Leather, flowers, country air — I love it. Definitely share more!

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