Changing the Boulle cabinet display

When you next visit Attingham you may notice that changes have been afoot in the Inner Library. A new display of books has been created in the beautiful red tortoiseshell Boulle cabinet that was bought by William, 3rd Lord Berwick, in 1833.

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The Boulle cabinet


The display in the Boulle cabinet needs altering periodically as if books are always kept open in one place then the leather spines and the animal skin glue holding the pages to the binding is at risk of cracking. Harvey James, a book conservation specialist, advised that we rested the books that we’d displayed previously in the cabinet as they had been out for a while. Helped by a volunteer, I replaced the books that had previously been displayed on the bookcase shelves for a well earned rest and created a new display.

As well as including books essential to tell Attingham’s story, like the 1827 sale catalogue and memoirs of Harriett Wilson, the courtesan who was sister to the 2nd Lady Berwick, I tried to link with topical historical themes. This year Attingham is celebrating Humphry Repton, employed by the 2nd Lord Berwick to landscape the grounds. His Red Book for Attingham is on display in the West Ante Room. Books about English Deer Parks and by Gilpin, a key player in the Picturesque landscaping movement and influence on Repton, can be seen in the Boulle cabinet.

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Evelyn Philip Shirley Esq., Some Account of English Deer Parks with notes on the management of deer,  1867

Also topical for 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One and I included some of the 8th Lord Berwick’s military books in the display. He spent some time in the Shropshire Yeomanry at Morpeth and the battered, water stained appearance of some of the covers shows he was carrying the books with him in service. You can read more about Attingham’s World War I stories here.

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Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick, in military uniform


The display was also a lovely chance to showcase the beautiful illustrations and marbled patterns in some books. I am particularly fond of the humorous illustration in a book of Chinese Costumes that shows a tea gatherer and some monkeys. According to the book ‘A very singular expedient has been resorted to for gathering the tea in places so difficult of access… Monkeys are trained to climb these heights, and to strip the leaves from the bushes.’ The author explains that ‘these kinds of assistants are not the most easy to be procured; for the monkeys, in this employment, cannot be guided wholly by artificial instinct’ and need lots of food rewards to train them to climb up to the tea bushes by means of cords.

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M. Breton, Costume of China, Volume 2 Arts, Manufactures &c, 1813


When handling books clean, dry hands or latex gloves are best because white cotton gloves can reduce sensitivity and abrade the books. Before they were placed in the cabinet or put into storage, the books were placed on foam book blocks to be condition checked and cleaned. Two soft pony hair brushes were used to clean the books as the outside needs to be cleaned separately from the pages because the covers contain tannin, which could stain the pages if the same brush was used to clean them.

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Me cleaning one of the beautiful Gould’s British Bird books that was sadly too big to display


We kept an eye out for problems like mould growth or an infestation of insects, like silverfish or booklice. A lot of these problems are prevented as Attingham’s environmental monitoring system means that conditions in the Inner Library are ideal for the preservation of books. We need to ensure that books don’t become damp, as this would encourage pests and mould, or too dry as this might cause cracking and damage as the pages and covers are made of different materials and so expand and contract at different rates. Luckily the books were fine, although some show signs of previous damage. One of the schoolbook belonging to Noel Hill, 1st Lord Berwick, had a lovely example of old bookworm holes at the edges!

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One of the scribbled on school books – Gradus ad Parnassum sive Novus, Thresaurus, 1738


Cleaning the Fireplaces

Attingham Mansion is rather lucky when it comes to fireplaces, with many examples of Greek and Roman influence and mythology, they are very much a statement of a grandiose past. My name is Simon and I regularly volunteer at Attingham helping with conservation work. I have had the privilege recently to give the fireplaces a little tender loving care to keep them in their resplendence for the present and future generations, and this blog post is concerned with this.

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Me in the midst of cleaning


Like all things, including us, a little bit of intervention is needed to keep them at their best and prevent further deterioration, and this is really what Preventive Conservation is and what my work as a conservation volunteer involves. Each year in the closed season the house gets what we call a ‘deep clean’ to take the opportunity to get the jobs done that would be difficult to do when the house is open and busy with visitors. So, for the past few weeks I’ve been helping the house team with the fireplaces.Fireplace cleaning by Simon 3

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Cleaning in progress with resultant mucky swabs!


Whilst working on the mantelpieces I would sometimes notice small areas of damage and these can really fire the imagination if you let them – was it an overworked servant; a disgruntled Lord; or a drunken RAF officer that chipped the frieze, who knows?

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Bust of Pitt the Younger resplendent with polish


Anyway, I digress, the first thing we do is give them a check to see if any new damage has occurred or if there are any areas of concern that need reporting. Sometimes we discover small areas of rust which mostly can be buffed out with a little metal polish and cloth or, if stubborn, a non-woven abrasive pad with a little polish on. Then it’s a case of giving them a good dust with a hog’s hair brush which is more robust than the pony hair ones we use for more delicate objects, but is fine on marble. Most years a good dust and a clean with deionised water before a coat of wax or black leading is applied is all that is required, but this year we decided to give them a bit more attention.


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Partially waxed showing how the wax covers scratches.


Every few years it is good practice to give them a more intensive clean and after brushing and vacuuming the dust we armed ourselves with cotton swabs, buds and a solution of white spirit and deionised water. This was applied via the cotton to all the more awkward to reach places to remove most of the dirt that has accumulated there. You may have noticed I used the word ‘most’ as the aim is not to have the object looking brand new rather to keep it presentable with its historical context intact.

Once all the residue had evaporated (excess can be dabbed off with a paper towel) we then started to apply the wax with a clean brush in a circular action and, after some time to allow it to dry, buffed it with a clean cloth. Once the wax had been applied to the marble and metalwork we finished off with black leading the areas of the grate that needed it. And that is essentially how we look after the fireplaces in our care ready for another busy year in front of their admiring audiences.

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Two of the cleaned fireplaces ready for the visitors to enjoy.



The aftermath of Christmas in the mansion


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By this point in the year you’ve probably packed away your Christmas decorations and it’s the same at Attingham. Although, as might be imagined, tidying up after our 1940s Christmas took place on a much larger scale in the mansion!

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The volunteer flower arrangers gathered all the Christmas arrangements into the Dining Room

The mansion was closed on Christmas Eve so that the house team and volunteer flower arrangers can remove the flower arrangements and as many of the Christmas trees as possible. If they were left too long in the mansion when it is closed then decaying flowers or falling pine needles might damage historic surfaces, even though we tried to protect them as well as possible with sheets of Melinex plastic. The water used to prolong the life of the flowers and trees might damage the collection by leaking or evaporating into the atmosphere and raising humidity levels. The basement volunteers were also busy in the aftermath of Christmas packing away food that was made for displays so that it did not decay or attract pests.

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Volunteer flower arrangers and basement guides hard at work

It felt strange to be putting away Christmas decorations the day before Christmas but it was satisfying to know we’ve made a start undecorating ready for the New Year. The Butler’s Pantry was used as a store for decorations as they were carefully removed from the trees and organised ready for reusing next year. Having a separate bag for each of the three different colours of baubles on the Drawing Room tree helped.

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Caroline, Laura and Andy removing baubles from the Drawing Room tree

Removing the vintage teacups that were individually wired onto the branches of the Dining Room tree was particularly nerve-wracking. Unwinding the tree lights can sometimes be tricky, especially the ones that were cable tied to the trees!

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Laura taking the decorations off the Octagon Room tree

It was high time to remove many of the trees as they were dropping lots of needles. The needles falling off the Servant’s Hall tree as it was undecorated sounded like monsoon rain falling onto the plastic protection!

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Timber! The Drawing Room tree is down and on plastic protection to stop the historic carpet being damaged.

The warden team helped with removing the trees from the house and loading them into their trailer to take to burn on the estate. Some of the trees were so large that they needed to be sawn into smaller sections so that they fitted through the doors without causing damage. It was easier bringing them in when they were compressed in netting bags!

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The Boudoir tree loaded onto the wardens’ truck

With Christmas out of the way the house team are now deep cleaning the mansion and returning furniture moved over Christmas to the show rooms. You can enjoy guided tours of the mansion this winter and maybe see some conservation work in progress. Winter Mansion Tours take place at timed intervals on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until the 11th of February and can be booked via the National Trust’s What’s On web page for Attingham, or call 03442491895.


Cooking for a 1940s Christmas

Hi I’m Jenny and I started as a volunteer Basement Costume Guide in July 2016.


Jenny in her 1940s land girl outfit stood by the Servants’ Hall tree. (c) National Trust

Christmas is just around the corner and this year we are celebrating as though we’re in the 1940s; this was chosen to celebrate 70 years since the National Trust began running Attingham Park. We have used homemade decorations around the property to illustrate the motto of the 1940s, “make do and mend”.

Following the death of the 8th Lord Berwick in 1947, the 8th Lady Berwick continued to be a pillar of the community through her work within the local branch of the Women’s Institute (WI) in Atcham. At this point, Lady Berwick was employing relatively few members of staff in the mansion; Mrs Durwood (Cook/ Housekeeper) and a maid, with occasional extra help. Greater numbers of volunteers are working in the Kitchen as it was decided we would be members of the WI that have come in to help Lady Berwick prepare for the afternoon tea party set up in the Dining Room.


A volunteer preparing a 1940s recipe. (c) National Trust 

Instead of the food the volunteers make being used for the afternoon tea party in the Dining Room the food is offered to visitors as ‘tasters.’ These are made using recipes from the WI during the 1940s; the recipes were created during a time of rationing when they ‘bulked out’ their ingredients. The most notable method was using mashed potatoes in pastry so less flour is needed; when visitors tried jam tarts made with potato pastry they said how hard it was to tell the difference from normal pastry. 

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A 1940s display in the kitchen. (c) Holly Kirby

In 1943 the Shropshire WI became infamous for producing more jam than any other county. During this frugal era sugar was distributed via permits and they had to come up with creative flavours based on the limited food available. In honour of this achievement we have been making jam using their original recipes, ranging from relatively normal flavours like blackcurrant and gooseberry to the more unusual ‘High Dumpsie Dearie’ (derived from the phrase “I dumps it all in ‘ere dearie,” this flavour is made up of whatever they could find, we used apples and plums). One of the most surprising flavours was ‘Carrot Jam’ used in jam tarts as ‘tasters.’ The visitors were impressed with the flavour of the jam, remarking they would never have known it was carrot as it tasted of apricots.


Some of the jams made using 1940s recipes. (c) National Trust

Other ‘tasters’ made include mince pies, scones, rock buns, chocolate pinwheels and carrot cookies, all made using wartime recipes and all thoroughly enjoyed by the visitors! 

The last day to see us in the Mansion is Saturday 23rd December then in 2018 the Mansion will reopen on the 17th February.

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Attingham’s kitchen set out for a 1940s Christmas. (c) Holly Kirby

Decorating Frenzy


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Many visitors come to Attingham during December to see our spectacular Christmas trees and beautiful flower arrangements.  In order to put this all together a small team of staff and volunteers worked tirelessly through November putting up themed decorations, draping paper chains, and adorning each tree with hundreds of twinkling fairy lights.

We start planning Christmas months in advance to make sure we get every detail right.  This year our theme is a 1940s Christmas. Each Christmas tree inside the Mansion has its own theme that reflects a story about what happened at Attingham and in the wider world during the 1940s.


Putting the lights on the Entrance Hall tree


Before we could start putting up decorations we had to move some fragile items in our collection like ceramics and textile chairs due to the high numbers of visitors at this time of year.  We also needed to completely clear the 1830s Dining Room table setting ready for its seasonal redisplay as a 1940s Christmas tea.  We packaged away the fake food on the table, and protected the ormolu centerpieces which we moved to a safe and secure location.


Katie and Holly packing away the Dining Room table


The large Axminster carpet in the Dining Room needed to be moved.  First we gave it a very gentle low-suction vacuum to get rid of dust on the surface, then we covered it in acid free tissue paper (for protection)and rolled it in the direction of its pile.  Because of its size we had limited options for storage!  After much debating we decided to house the rolled-up carpet along one wall of the Picture Gallery so that we could have the shutters open in the Dining Room and so that it would not be in people’s way.


Members of the house team rolling up the carpet


We also had our talented volunteer flower ladies making displays around the house.  They were based in the Picture Gallery for the last week in November and created flower arrangements of all shapes and sizes for the various rooms in the house, linked in with the themes for each space.


The flower ladies’ base: the Picture Gallery


After the chaos of decorating, we had a day to clean up the mess that we had made before the house opened.  We gave everything an extra dust and vacuum, and then we were able to sit down and have a relax after a month of hard work.


The tree in the Inner Library


It’s been lovely to hear visitors’ comments about the mansion decorations this year.  You can come and see us through December until Saturday 23rd December.

Thinking of visiting for Christmas next year?  In 2018 we’ll be asking everybody to book tickets to their Mansion visit in advance through the website, so please keep and eye out for more details next year.

Christmas is coming


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With Christmas just around the corner, we have started decoration production in the mansion. Considering this year’s theme is 1940s (a time of thriftiness and ‘make do and mend’), we are hand-making a lot of our decorations which means that we had to start early to get them done in time.  We started making at the end of August, and made enough decorations for the 11 sensational trees in the mansion.


Creating paper baubles

As well as the overall 1940s theme throughout the house, each room will have its own more personal theme.  In the Drawing Room the decorations will be inspired by music.  For this tree we made a large treble clef as a tree topper and will decorate the tree with baubles made out of sheet music.  On top of that we have been making metres upon metres of paper chains which we plan on hanging from the ceiling to make it look like a canopy of music.


Papier-mâché tree topper and baubles

The theme for our largest tree in the Picture Gallery is inspired by a girl from Hiroshima called Sadako Sasaki who was affected by the atom bomb dropped on the city at the end of the Second World War.  She heard the ancient Japanese legend that if she made 1,000 origami cranes then she would be able to have a wish.  Unfortunately, she died before her 1,000 were completed, but her classmates continued making them in her memory.  We have spent the past few months making as many paper cranes as we could to decorate our tree which will represent peace and those whose lives were affected by the Second World War.



A box of origami cranes

The Inner Library will have the theme of books.  We have acquired some books which cannot be sold from our Second Hand Bookshop, cut out the pages, and turned them into decorations.  This meant that we had different shades of paper on the tree, which really helped to add an interesting effect.  The main decorations for this tree were the lattice baubles which we made by stapling paper together in various shapes.  It was very simple to make and looks really beautiful on the tree.



Some of our library bauble prototypes

Other tree themes in the house this year contain our dried flower tree (which our flower team have been drying in preparation), a crystal chandelier theme for the Boudoir, and a 1940s tea party for the Dining Room.



A collection of some of the dried flowers



Converting a watering can into a tea pot for our Dining Room tree topper

The Mansion reopens on Saturday 2nd December for visitors and the last day of opening will be Sunday 23rd December, so make sure you come along and see all the beautiful festive decorations.  Please see our website for details:

Copper Cleaning


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With the summer holidays over and done with we decided to make a start on cleaning the copper in our kitchen.  We clean the copper once a year to remove dirt and fingerprints which corrodes the metal.



Tarnished copper pans next to a freshly polished pan


Finger prints are a big problem with copper, as a good deal of our collection is within reach.  As a shiny and attractive metal, people want to touch our pots and pans, and do so frequently.  This leaves dark tarnished patches on the surface of the copper, and sometimes even fingerprints are left corroded into the pan.


A handprint corroded onto the copper


It isn’t just our skin that corrodes the metal though, copper turns dark brown over time which is due to sulphide gases in the air.  This tarnish is a natural protective coat that stops any damage being done to the copper underneath.


The line between tarnished and clean


Copper can also tarnish by producing green crusty or powdery spots, which is caused by the presence of moisture, organic acids (like those in our skin), or by other pollutants in the air.  This means that if you keep your copper in a damp place, it will be more likely to tarnish faster and more intensely.


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A collection of our copper pans and molds. Photograph National Trust Charles Gibson


If you wanted to browse Attingham’s collection of kitchen objects, go to:

Select ‘Attingham’ as the property and select ‘Historic Services / Food & Drink preparation’ as the category.

Picture Store Stories


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One of my current projects is inventory checking the storerooms, a task usually done every five years. However, a number of items in the Picture Store have not been catalogued on the National Trust Collections website so this means an extra thorough inventory check is needed this year to get everything sorted. Another project is rehousing the photograph collection to a special Photograph Store and I am assembling photographs in the Picture Store to take there.

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Engagement & Conservation Assistant Laura working in the Picture Store

The inventory check provides an ideal opportunity to examine the condition of stored objects. Some need their acid-free paper packaging renewing. This paper is used to protect items from dust because it does not transfer damaging acids, which cause permanent damage and decay, to historic objects that it is in contact with.

Some of the most impressive items in the Picture Store are the panels of early nineteenth-century French wallpaper depicting Indian scenes. These once decorated the 8th Lady Berwick’s bathroom and she left instructions that the window should be kept open to ensure the paper was well ventilated to preserve it. Today we monitor humidity levels in the stores as too much moisture in the air might cause mould growth on the paper.

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A panel of ‘Tiger Hunt’ wallpaper by Velay © National Trust / Claire Reeves

More wallpaper is housed in a map chest but this time it’s tiny fragments taken from various rooms. These offer evidence of how the rooms were decorated over the years. These wallpaper fragments are from Attingham’s First Floor and might help inform how we redecorate these rooms in future.

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Wallpaper fragments in the Picture Store

Our volunteers researching the ancestry of the Berwick family were thrilled to see this heraldic shield together with a list of the names of families from whom the Berwicks claim descent.

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The heraldic shield of the Noel-Hill family

The Picture Store offers a treasure trove of information about the families the Berwicks married into, notably Teresa Hulton later the 8th Lady Berwick. As a girl Teresa dreamed of becoming a concert pianist and trained at Munich. Her music manuscripts are beautifully bound and are interestingly shaped more like books than the A4 manuscripts used by musicians today.

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Music books owned by the Hulton family

Teresa never became a professional pianist, although she continued to play at charity concerts throughout her life. She met Thomas Henry Noel-Hill, 8th Lord Berwick, before the First World War and corresponded with him throughout the war years. Their letters reveal their shared love of the arts and in one letter Teresa mentions meeting ‘Bakst the ballet artist who to my astonishment has made two flattering and rather pre Raphaelite pencil drawings of me! Quite small, done in two mornings.’ She sent one to Lord Berwick and he wrote back:

‘What a delightful new year’s gift you have sent me. A thousand thanks. I like the Bakst drawing immensely, it is a most charming and graceful portrait of you, and a very good likeness, as the artist has given you your eyes and expression, which is the essential I think to make a portrait like the sitter. You could not have sent me anything I liked better as a souvenir of you.’

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Teresa Hulton by Leon Bakst, 1916

Following her marriage Teresa wrote for magazines and the articles, kept in a box in the Picture Store, offer a fascinating glimpse into her life and interests. They include an account of attending the coronation of George VI, advice on dressmaking and discuss the dachshunds that she bred.

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The 8th Lady Berwick’s article in Eve, January the 11th 1928

Some items in the Picture Store are linked to sadder episodes in Attingham’s history. These are the memorial services for Gioconda, Teresa’s sister, and the 8th Lord Berwick. Gioconda died in France in a bus accident in 1940 on her way from Italy to England where she had arranged to live with her sister at Attingham. It was a tragic blow for Teresa. Following the 8th Lord Berwick’s death in 1947 Attingham was transferred to the National Trust to be enjoyed by the nation. It’s nice to think that my work in the Picture Store is continuing to deepen knowledge about the collection and make Attingham’s treasures more accessible.

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Memorial services of Thomas Henry Noel-Hill and Gioconda Mary Hulton


Gentlemen’s clubs


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As part of our focus on the Inner Library on the masculine side of the house, we have been looking into how the male members of the upper class spent their time.

The Regency bookcases in the Inner Library at Attingham Park. Image by Robert Thrift, 2008.

The Regency bookcases in the Inner Library at Attingham Park. Image by Robert Thrift, 2008.

Gentlemen’s clubs became popular in London in the 1700s due to the decline of the coffee house. Britain’s first coffee house opened in 1650 and was a place where high society gentlemen would meet for good conversation and drink the highly priced coffee and chocolate. But the gentleman’s club began to take over in the 1700s and provided an environment for the cream of male society to wine, dine and gamble freely.

Club membership was a visible marker of one’s social identity. There were over 400 such establishments around London during the Regency period but they had strict membership limits and long waiting lists. As well as the opportunities to make connections and climb the social ladder, for most men, clubs provided a second home. At the clubs, they could relax, take their meals and stay overnight if required.

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Part of the current display in the Inner Library at Attingham Park, Shropshire.

Card games and large debts

Games played at the clubs were Faro, Hazard, Whist and Macau these were played to the highest stakes. Some men built up large debts but were helped by other family members. For example, in the mid-1700s , Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland, father of Charles James Fox, had to pay off 11 million of his sons gambling debts. Although it wasn’t long before his son was back at the gaming table again.

Gambling could ruin a man and his family. One such example is Sir John Bland, 6th Baronet. Bland was born in 1722 and died, unmarried, at the age of 33 in Calais. At the time when he inherited the baronetcy in 1743, the family estates included the entire city of Manchester and much of the surrounding countryside. Yet by the time he died, he had gambled away every single house and field and died intestate and penniless.

The Drawing Room at Attingham Park, Shropshire.

The Drawing Room at Attingham Park, Shropshire. Card games would also be played by ladies during evening entertainments. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Attingham’s links to gentlemen’s clubs in the Georgian period

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Lords Berwick were all members of White’s gentleman’s club in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Thomas, 2nd Lord Berwick was also a member of Brooks’s and Boodle’s clubs. We know that the he spent extravagantly, but did he lose money at the gambling table? We do not know for certain but his name does not feature in the list of bets in White’s famous betting book. Another member of White’s in the early 1800s was Ernest Brudenell-Bruce, the nephew of the 2nd and 3rd Lords Berwick.

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Portrait miniature, watercolour on ivory, Noel Hill, 1st Lord Berwick (1745-1789) by Jeremiah Meyer, RA (Tübigen 1735 – Kew 1789), circa 1768. Attingham Park © National Trust / Claire Reeves

(c) National Trust, Attingham Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Noel-Hill, 2nd Baron Berwick of Attingham, FSA (1770-1832) by George Romney (Dalton-in-Furness 1734 – Kendal 1802). Attingham Park © National Trust

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William Noel-Hill, 3rd Baron Berwick of Attingham, MP (1772-1842) attributed to George Sanders (Kinghorn, Fife 1774 – London 1846). ©NTPL/John Hammond

(c) National Trust, Attingham Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Ernest Augustus Charles Brudenell-Bruce, 3rd Marquess of Ailesbury and 9th Earl of Cardigan (1811-1886) by John Hayter (London 1800 – 1891). Attingham Park © National Trust

White’s club

The oldest club in the world, White’s, opened its doors in 1693. Its founder was an Italian immigrant called Francesco Bianco but he opened the club under the pseudonym ‘Mrs. White’s Chocolate House’. The club, located in Mayfair, burnt down in 1733 and moved to 37-38 St James’s Street. By 1783 it was the headquarters of the Tory Party.

Membership to White’s was notoriously difficult. There needed to be a proposer and two seconders for the new member. Then the applicant’s name would be placed in the membership book to collect signatures until 35 names were gained to back up the proposed member. Then the new member would be balloted, one black ball would mean no admittance to the club and was known as having been ‘blackballed’. The club was split into two halves with an older men’s club and younger men’s club. Then in 1871, the two clubs merged.

White’s famous betting book lists numerous bets from births, deaths and marriages, to wars and earthquakes. Lord Alvanley made his famous bet to a friend that one raindrop would beat another to the bottom pane of White’s famous bow window. Sadly it wasn’t recorded whether the bet was won or not.

White’s most notable member was the iconic Regency figure, George Beau Brummell. He became a member in 1789 but in 1816 Brummell fled to France to escape the debtors’ prison. His final wager was listed in White’s betting book in March 1815, and noted as ‘not Paid’ in January 1816. Brummell later died in 1840 in an asylum after suffering the effects of syphilis.

White’s remains the most exclusive of all London clubs. The bar has not been shut for 200 years and even today, the club has a nine-year waiting list. Membership is still refused to women, although Queen Elizabeth II visited the club in 1991. It is interesting to imagine what kinds of bets are being placed there today!

Boodle’s club

Boodle’s was the true Englishman’s club. A club for country squires, it was the only establishment without scandal. The club was founded in 1762 by William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne. The club was named after the head waiter, Edward Boodle, who was baptised in Oswestry, Shropshire, 1722.

Boodle’s is regarded as one of the most prestigious clubs in London. It counts many British aristocrats and MPs amongst its’s members today as it did in the 1800s. Dining at Boodle’s was all about etiquette, if members failed to wear the appropriate attire, they were required to take their meal in the formal room known as the ‘Dirty Room’. Boodle’s also is known for its famous orange fool dessert and its gin. Famous members included the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill.

To see images of Boodle’s, please click here and search ‘Boodle’.

Brooks’s club

The ultra-exclusive Brooks’s was regarded as a Whig club, founded in 1764 by Messrs Boothby and James after they were blackballed from White’s. Its original location was number 6 Pall Mall. Later it moved to its present location in St James’s Street. Taking its name from the wine merchant and money lender, William Brooks, the club had around 550 members in the early 1800s. The games, Macau and Faro were indulged to such an extent that vast fortunes were lost.

Brooks’s club, for a while was favoured by the Prince Regent over White’s until he changed his preference after his friend, Jack Payne, was Blackballed. Another famous member included Charles James Fox who became a member at the age of 16. Sir George Trevelyan, 2nd Baronet (1838–1928) was a member. He was the grandfather of Sir George Trevelyan who was Warden of the Adult Education College at Attingham Park from 1948.

To see two Thomas Rowlandson pictures of gaming at Brooks’s, please click here and here.

Gambling for the poor

In contrast, the gambling life of the poor was a far more different story. For the working class, gambling was illegal, a law which had been set by King Henry VIII.  Gamblers from the working class met in the so called ‘copper gaming hells’. They betted with gold and silver ‘hells’ (a form of coin). These gambling hells were often operated by shady characters under the radar of the law. The hells had numerous entry systems and grills for swift entry and exits.

The gamblers would buy fractions of lottery tickets (not a full ticket) and also gambled on ratting, a grisly contest where bets were taken on how many rats would be killed. The notorious bull terrier, Billy, killed 100 rats in under 6 mins. Another of the blood sports was duck baiting where bets would be taken how long the duck could stay alive. Similarly, cockfighting took place, where bets were taken at 2 guineas a battle. There was also bare knuckle fighting the first bare knuckle champion was called James Figg who claimed the title in 1719. If caught gambling, the punishment was branding, public shaming, imprisonment and hanging.

Gambling on the horses goes back as long as people have been able to ride. Race meetings attracted large and disorderly crowds. The working class also enjoyed attending these meetings to the disgust of the upper classes who thought the working classes were missing work and becoming idle. Gambling was seen as a heinous sin for the poor but not for the rich.

Thomas Henry Noel-Hill, 8th Lord Berwick

Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick was a member of some of the most prestigious London clubs and local associations. We have gathered from his letters that he may have preferred the Paris equivalents more than their London counterparts. From the 1920s, he was a member of two clubs in Paris: The Travellers Club and The Jockey Club. In around 1923 he became a member of both the Carlton Club and St James’s Club in London.  He was also a member of the Shrewsbury Hunt Club and was also involved with the Shropshire Society in London which was more of a forum for social gatherings.

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Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick, early 1900s. Attingham Collection.

Reading into Ruin


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This year we are celebrating 10 years since the start of the Attingham Re-discovered project in 2006. Each month we are focusing on a room in the Mansion and how that room has evolved over time. This month we are looking at the Inner Library and the West Ante Room.

Re-discovering the Inner Library

The Inner Library was designed as a breakfast room in 1782 for Noel Hill, 1st Lord Berwick. His son, who became the 2nd Lord Berwick in 1789, was such an avid book collector that he had the room converted into a library in the early 1800s.

(c) National Trust, Attingham Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Noel-Hill, 2nd Baron Berwick of Attingham, FSA (1770-1832) by George Romney (Dalton-in-Furness 1734 – Kendal 1802). Attingham Park © National Trust

The 2nd Lord Berwick employed the architect, John Nash, to work on Attingham Hall. In c.1805, Nash designed the pink trompe l’oeil (‘fool the eye’) decorative scheme on the ceiling. Nash’s designs were at the height of fashion, as were the bold colours and sense of illusion in the decorative scheme.


Detail of ceiling and cornice in the Inner Library. National Trust Image.

The walls of the Inner Library were painted red, a popular Regency colour choice associated with strength and masculinity. The dado was painted to imitate grey marbling, similar to that in the Entrance Hall. In 1827, the carpet was a crimson-ground Axminster and there was a ‘slate and stone colour octagon roset-pattern Floor Cloth’ like the one in the Entrance Hall.

The Regency bookcases in the Inner Library at Attingham Park. Image by Robert Thrift, 2008.

The Regency bookcases in the Inner Library at Attingham Park. Image by Robert Thrift, 2008.

Thomas Donaldson, a Shrewsbury carver and gilder, fitted the lattice work doors in 1812. The open lattices prevent conditions in the bookcases getting damp, so are ideal for preserving the book collection.

In the twentieth century, the ceiling and dado decoration were painted over in white. As part of the Attingham Re-discovered project, in 2001, the white paint was removed from the ceiling to reveal John Nash’s decoration and the dado decoration was partially revealed on the dado ten years later.

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The original grey marbling painted decoration on the dado in the Inner Library.

In 2011, re-created curtains, poles and finials were installed to represent the look of the room in the Regency period. They were re-created using surviving samples and documentary descriptions.

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The Re-created Regency curtains which now hang in the Inner Library, West Ante Room and Octagon Room.

Rediscovering the West-Ante Room

It is not entirely clear how the West Ante-Room was first used when built in the 1780s but in the 1810s it became a library space for Thomas, 2nd Lord Berwick. At this time, it would have been one of five library spaces in the new Attingham Hall building which encircled the old house, Tern Hall (demolished 1856/7). The room had grey painted walls with a wood graining scheme on the dado. The curtains would have been pink and hung above the blue and crimson scroll-pattern carpet.

In 1921 the room was painted pale grey with white woodwork and used as the 8th Lord Berwick’s writing room. The marble fire surround was removed by the Adult Education College (1948-76) to create space for office furniture when the room was used as the college secretary’s office.

The Attingham Re-discovered project has been reviving the mansion since 2006. The decorative scheme of the early 1800s was restored between 2008 and 2010. The fireplace was returned and the Regency decorative scheme replicated. In 2013 the finishing touch was added when Attingham books were put back into the cases.

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The West Ante Room before re-decoration but with the fireplace re-installed. National Trust image.

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Installing books into the cases following the re-decoration of the West Ante Room.

A passion for books

Thomas, 2nd Lord Berwick (1770-1832) was a patron of art and his extravagant tastes almost lead to bankruptcy. The road to ruin began during his Grand Tour (1792-4). He travelled to Italy with his tutor, Edward Daniel Clarke, whose biography describing the trip is displayed in the Inner Library today. The many souvenirs that Thomas collected included books and he developed a special interest in early manuscripts. Thomas was invested as a Fellow in the Society of Antiquaries in 1801.

(c) National Trust, Attingham Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Noel-Hill, 2nd Baron Berwick of Attingham, FSA (1770-1832) by Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807). Attingham © National Trust Photo Library

His library was a splendid sight as he commissioned bindings in London and employed local bookbinder Eddowes. Books were status symbols and collecting was one way in which Lord Berwick, who was nervous in society, may have attempted to impress acquaintances.

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An example of some of the stunning marbling and fine bindings within the collection.

Lord Berwick became increasingly extravagant, amassing over 3,000 volumes. In 1809 he had a small number of catalogues printed to list his collection. As part of the Re-discovered project, we had two copies made for visitors to browse.


Original 1809 book catalogue (right) and facsimile copy made in 2009 (left).

Bibliomania was a popular craze amongst Regency aristocrats, satirised in a poem by Thomas Dibdin (1809) that praised the 3rd Duke of Roxburge’s library. The sale of the Duke’s library in 1812 was eagerly attended and marked the founding of the Roxburge Society, one Britain’s oldest bibliophilic societies. The Berwicks’ neighbours, the Heber family and J.A.Lloyd of Leaton Knolls, were members of the Roxburghe Club. Amongst the books sold was a first edition of Boccaccio printed in 1471 that made £2,260, a record that stood for over sixty years. The Marquis of Blandford and the 2nd Earl Spencer fought over the Boccaccio. Blandford won but when he sold his library in 1819 to pay off debts, Spencer bought the Boccaccio for just £918.15s!

For sources and further information, see a blog post on the Roxburge sale and 
A Catalogue of the Library of the Late John, Duke of Roxburghe and a page on bibliomania.

Reading into ruin

The 2nd Lord Berwick’s extravagant spending was not helped when in 1812, aged forty-one, he married Sophia, a seventeen-year-old courtesan, whom he lavished with gifts. Harriette Wilson, Sophia’s sister, describes their route to ruin in her memoirs that are currently displayed in the Inner Library today. Lord Berwick’s cousin, Edward Burton, warned Thomas: ‘I fear you will go on until your affairs are quite unmanageable.’

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Sophia Dubochet, Lady Berwick (1794-1875) by Richard Cosway RA (Tiverton, Devon 1742 – London 1821). Attingham Park © National Trust / Claire Reeves

In the late 1820s, Lord Berwick moved to Italy and in 1827 he was forced to auction many of his possessions in a sale that took sixteen days and was in 213 lots. Most of his books were sold and further sale occurred in 1829. Upon his death in 1832, Attingham then entered the care of his younger brother, William. William, 3rd Lord Berwick also collected books and around 9,000 volumes owned by him were sold after his death in 1842, although some of his books remain in the cabinets today.

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English rosewood bookcase, c.1835, containing books from the 3rd Lord Berwick’s collection.

Were the books actually read?

All the books currently in the Inner Library belonged to the family. They are of varied dates and most show marks of wear that indicate they have been read at some point by the family or their guests. The collection mostly dates from the mid-1600s to the early 1900s and includes novels, poetry, art, history, travel, bird, botanical, geography and law books.

Amongst the most fascinating are the schoolbooks used by Noel, 1st Lord Berwick, and his siblings. Samuel, Noel’s elder brother who died young, seems to have been a budding artist and used blank pages for sketches and caricatures.

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Sketches can be found on some pages in the Attingham books that were used to educate the younger members of the family in the Georgian period.