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.

Memorial services

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

Attingham Park

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.

Paint window in Inner Library North Wall

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.

Discovering a 1920s Christmas at Attingham


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Here at Attingham, we have been preparing the Mansion for a 1920s Christmas.


Christmas decorations in the Entrance Hall, 2014. © National Trust/R & A Knisely-Marpole

Christmas decorations in the Entrance Hall, 2014. © National Trust/R & A Knisely-Marpole

During this decade the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick made Attingham their home following their wedding in 1919. They held parties for the local school children and gave Christmas gifts to the tenants and servants.

The 8th Lord and Lady Berwick, 1928.

The 8th Lord and Lady Berwick, 1928.

To prepare for our 1920s Christmas theme we carried out research in the Attingham archive to learn what Christmas was really like for Lord and Lady Berwick. The couple worked on the interiors of Attingham and they frequently had visitors staying such as artists, writers and musicians. Sadly, Lady Berwick’s father died in 1921 but her mother and sister visited Attingham regularly.


Lady Berwick (in white) with friends and family, 1920s.

Lady Berwick (in white) with friends and family, 1920s.

We have some examples of Christmas cards that were sent to the Berwicks, such as a 1933 card from the author Barbara Cartland. In 1927 she married into the McCorquodale family who lived at nearby Cound Hall, Shropshire. Earlier, in 1922, Lord and Lady Berwick invited the McCorquodales to dine at Attingham to celebrate the work to put the large Dining Room in order.

Christmas card from Barbara McCorquodale (née Cartland) to Lord and Lady Berwick, 1933.

Christmas card from Barbara McCorquodale (née Cartland) to Lord and Lady Berwick, 1933.

To see a 1928 photograph of Barbara McCorquodale at her writing desk, please click here.

Christmas cards did not necessarily have to have a festive theme in the 1920s. In the Attingham collection is a c.1930 card intended to be sent by Lady Berwick to her friends and there is no indication of Christmas apart from the printed text inside.

Lady Berwick's Christmas card c1930.

Lady Berwick’s Christmas card c.1930.

Our written archive also informs us that post was delivered at Attingham on Christmas Day in the 1920s. The General Post Office stopped delivering letters on Christmas Day in 1960.

The c.1870 mahogany letter box in the Entrance Hall at Attingham.

The c.1870 mahogany letter box in the Entrance Hall at Attingham. Attingham Park © National Trust / Claire Reeves.

The tradition of sending cards goes back many years. Greetings cards can be traced back as early as the ancient Chinese and Egyptians who each exchanged messages of good will to celebrate the New Year.

But it was not until the Victorian period that the first published Christmas card appeared. This card highlighted the plight of the poor during the festive season and was made in 1843. Commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and designed by John Calcott Horsley, the card showed a family raising a toast with scenes of charity at the sides. Each card was sold for a shilling. To see an image of the card and to find out more, please click here.

Early English cards were often quite plain and rarely showed religious or winter themes.  But cards soon became fancier with glitter, embroidery, lace and fringes on them. A great deal of work went into making each card. You can view a 1920 British Pathé film about making Christmas cards by clicking here.

Today, cards are a multi-million pound industry, although a growing number of people are making their own again.

Do you keep your Christmas cards or re-cycle them? Many National Trust houses still retain cards once received by family members. To take a look at some Christmas cards from the 20th century, please click here. Search for ‘Christmas card’ and then ‘Explore and refine’ by the date of ‘20th century’.

A 1928 Christmas card from the collection at Erddig, Wales. Erddig © National Trust / Erddig Photography Team

A 1928 Christmas card from the collection at Erddig, Wales. Erddig © National Trust / Erddig Photography Team

A Christmas card with a photograph from Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Massey, 1928, of the Canadian Legation, Washington. Polesden Lacey © National Trust / Andrew Fetherston

A Christmas card with a photograph from Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Massey, 1928, of the Canadian Legation, Washington. Polesden Lacey © National Trust / Andrew Fetherston

You can see the 1920s Christmas decorations at Attingham from 10.30 everyday (last entry 3.30) until 23rd December which is the final day to see them. Follow the story of the Berwicks and the local community in the 1920s and enjoy the sparkling lights, baubles and costume. On the three weekends before Christmas you can also see Charleston dancing in the Dining Room by local group, Revel in Dance. For more information, please see our website.


Seashells, seashells…


The team at Attingham Park have been busy condition checking and cleaning the fascinating collection of shells kept in a cupboard in the Boudoir. The work provided a wonderful opportunity to show the collection to visitors as the cupboard door is only opened on rare occasions. The shells are sensitive to high light levels and over time, can fade and become brittle. We periodically clean these objects and we do so using a soft pony hair brush.

Shell Cupboard, Boudoir

It is important to store shells in the right environment as organic acids given off by certain resins, paints, adhesives and types of wood and cardboard can attack calcareous materials like shells. In damp conditions this causes white growths known as Byne’s disease, so it is important that humidity levels are monitored in the house.

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The shells were the collection of Susanna Hill. Susanna was second wife of Thomas Hill, né Harwood, and mother to Noel Hill the First Baron Berwick of Attingham. Previously it was speculated the shells were collected by Sophia, the Second Lady Berwick.

Records show that naval officers were to give sailors a bottle of Arrack (strong wine) in exchange for seashells that they had collected. Such shells would enrich the collections of wealthy ladies like Susanna.
As early as 1744 there are letters recording Susanna’s interest in shell collecting. In 1745 a large box of shells to be sent on to Attingham arrived in the Raven Inn in Shrewsbury. Since she began her collection before the building of Attingham, it may be that the cupboard in the Boudoir was fitted purposefully to house Susanna’s shell collection when Attingham Hall was built for her son Noel in 1782.

Many wealthy people of the time had a cabinet of curiosities where they kept shells and semi-precious stones. Shells were born of the sea just as, according to Greek and Roman myth, Aphrodite/Venus was. Therefore, shell collecting was deemed highly suitable for ladies as a symbol of love and femininity. To view Attingham’s shell collection on the National Trust Collections website, please click here.


Often cabinets of curiosities were formed from items collected on the Grand Tour. However, the shells at Attingham come from further afield.


The collection contains many varieties of shell including cowrie, conch, marlin spike, mitre, helmet, turbo, conus, volute and liguus shells. As well as shells there are some sea urchin shells, seahorses and the egg of an ostrich, which lays the largest eggs of any living bird. The shells originated from places such as the Caribbean and Africa, with many of them coming from the Indo-Pacific. Sailors and naturalists collected shell specimens that would be sold in dealers’ shops.


608945.1 seahorse

608944 egg

‘Conchylomania’ started in the seventeenth-century when the Dutch East India Company began bringing back amazing shells from Indonesia. The Dutch shell collector Jan Govertsz van der Aar was particularly celebrated, although the interest in shells soon spread to other countries. Shells and shell motifs were so popular that the mid-eighteenth century Rococo style derives its name from the French for shell. Wentletrap shells from the Philippines were especially prized and sold for vast amounts, equivalent to over £60,000 today!


Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, the Second Duchess of Portland (1715-1785) was an avid shell collector, her collection being the largest of its time. She helped to make shell collecting fashionable for wealthy British women.


Decorating rooms with shells was a popular pastime for ladies of leisure. Many eighteenth-century ladies, like Mary Delaney and Lady Fane, designed shell grottos and made shell art. The cousins of the Attingham Hill family, the Hills of Hawkstone, decorated the walls and ceiling of a chamber in their grotto with shells, pumice and other ‘petrifactions from the deep.’ Hawkstone Park in North Shropshire is now open to the public. For more information please click here.


Attingham is not alone in having a shell collection. Many National Trust properties have shells in their collection, from the shells arranged to form a basket of flowers bequeathed by Ellen Terry that can be seen in Smallhythe Place, to the decorative pictures made of shells at Greenway, including two beautiful shell pictures from c.1800 bought by Agatha Christie. Arlington Court and Wallington have particularly good shell collections, the one in Arlington Court having boxes of shells arranged decoratively like those at Attingham.

Shell flowers in basket on wood base with glass dome.

Shell picture

Shells in box

Three images above from National Trust Collections website. Please see links in paragraph above for further details on these objects.


Hawkstone Park Leisure (1993) ‘Hawkstone, A Short History and Guide,’ Walding Associates

Hays, J. (2009) ‘Sea Shells and Sea Shell Collecting’

National Trust Collections website

Owsianiecki, C. (2011) ‘The art of the seashell,’ The Examiner,

Sandwith and Stainton (2002) The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping, The National Trust

(2006) The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping, The National Trust


Book Cleaning in the Inner Library


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We recently cleaned and condition checked Attingham’s book collection in the Inner Library. It is a task done every three years to make sure that the books don’t have problems like mould growth or an infestation of insects, such as silverfish or booklice. Luckily, no problems were found as the conditions in the Inner Library are ideal for the preservation of books, being neither damp nor humid which would encourage insects and mould growth.



The metal lattice of the upper bookshelves is open to freely admit the air, preventing conditions inside the bookcase from getting damp. Unfortunately, this means that dust blows in and can be seen on the tops of the books! The Octagon Room cases contain silk and this is because documents relating to the estate would have been stored here rather than beautifully bound books.

The Inner Library at Attingham Parking during book cleaning month.

The Inner Library at Attingham Parking during book cleaning month.

When handling books clean, dry hands are best or latex gloves because white cotton gloves can reduce sensitivity and abrade the books. To take a book from the shelf, ideally it should be pushed gently from the back and never pulled out by its spine! The book is then placed on a foam book block and then cleaning can commence!

Two soft pony hair brushes are used to clean the books. A separate brush is used for the outside because the covers often contain tannin, which would be transferred onto the pages and stain them if the same brush was used to clean them.

'Picturesque Views of Edinburgh,' with two pony hair brushes and one hogs hair brush.

‘Picturesque Views of Edinburgh,’ with two pony hair brushes and one hogs hair brush.

The book is opened by no more than ninety degrees and a second brush used to clean the first and last few pages, where any problems are most likely to show. Many of the books have beautiful illustrations, signatures by members of the family, short inscriptions and an amazing assortment of marbled pages.

'British Birds, vol. 2, Water Birds,' Thomas Bewick, 1832.

‘British Birds, vol. 2, Water Birds,’ Thomas Bewick, 1832.

Whilst dusting is in progress, the dust is collected in a special museum vacuum which has a low suction and a paper funnel fitted to the nozzle and placed at the end of the book block. The shelf is cleaned using a robust hogshair brush and then the book can go back in place! A gap is left behind it so that air can circulate freely.

Marbled paper from Elizabeth Radcliffe's 'Gaston de Blond & c.', 1826.

Marbled paper from Elizabeth Radcliffe’s ‘Gaston de Blond & c.’, 1826.

The books in the Inner Library mostly date from the mid-seventeenth to early twentieth century and were all owned by the family. Thomas, 2nd Lord Berwick, was an avid book collector. He acquired over 3000 books and had a special catalogue made of his collection in 1809. He converted what had been the Breakfast Room into the Inner Library in 1812.

Copy of 2nd Lord Berwick's 1809 Library Catalogue made by Ludlow Bookbinders.

Copy of 2nd Lord Berwick’s 1809 Library Catalogue made by Ludlow Bookbinders.

Unfortunately, much of Thomas’s collection was lost in the sales in the 1820s, so many of the books at Attingham today belonged to later members of the family. They include novels, poetry, art, history, travel, bird, botanical, geography and law books.

'The Byron Gallery,' 1833, from 'Don Juan'

‘The Byron Gallery,’ 1833, from ‘Don Juan’

Most fascinating are the seventeenth-century schoolbooks which appear to have been brought second-hand for the children of Thomas Harwood. Samuel, the eldest son of Thomas Harwood’s second marriage, who died young, seems to have been a budding artist and used blank pages for sketches and caricatures!

'Clavis Graecae Lingvae,' 1647.

‘Clavis Graecae Lingvae,’ 1647.

In one book one of the children, possibly Noel, later 1st Lord Berwick, had been doing lines to practice his handwriting. This book is charred at the edges. Perhaps he got so annoyed with his studies that he threw it in the fire!

'The Young Clerk's Tutor,' 1664.

‘The Young Clerk’s Tutor,’ 1664.

Volunteers and visitors came up with some great questions about the books. Here are a few questions and answers:

How were the edges of the books gilded?

This would have been done before the cover was applied and is a great way of protecting the edges. The pages were sewn together and put between wooden boards which were clamped in place. The edges of the pages were scraped smooth, burnished and painted with bole which was rubbed dry and the paper burnished again. Then a coat of size and the gold leaf was applied. When dry, the edges were burnished to produce a lovely shine!

Scott, 'Anne of Geristein' 1829.

Scott, ‘Anne of Geristein’ 1829.

How were pages marbled?

Coloured inks were floated on water or size. Various tools were used to move the colours to create patterns and then the paper was carefully placed on top. The technique was first encountered by European travellers in the Middle East in the seventeenth-century.

Edward Wakefield 'Wakefield's Ireland', Vol 2, 1812.

Edward Wakefield ‘Wakefield’s Ireland’, vol 2, 1812.

How was marbling applied to the edges of the books?

As with gilding, the pages were clamped between boards. Each edge was then lowered onto the surface of a trough in which ink was floated to produce a marbled pattern.

Edward Wakefield, 'Wakefield's Ireland', vol 2, 1812.

Edward Wakefield, ‘Wakefield’s Ireland’, vol 2, 1812.

How was tree marbling done?

A marbled pattern was floated on water but instead of inks pigment from the green shells of walnuts, oil of tartar or potash in rainwater were often used. Leather bound book boards were placed on the marbled water and each board bent down the middle so that water and colour flowed to the centre of the board leaving ‘branches’ and congregating in the middle as the ‘trunk’.

Elizabeth Radcliffe's, 'Gaston de Blond' &c., 1826.

Elizabeth Radcliffe’s, ‘Gaston de Blond’ &c., 1826.



Attingham’s WWI Stories


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Hello readers of the Attingham Mansion Blog!

We thought that you might like to take a peek at our new blog, Attingham WWI Stories. Here is a link to the blog homepage:

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Attingham WWI Stories has posts giving exciting insights into what was happening at Attingham and in the lives of the 8th Lord and Lady Berwick during the First World War. Posts appear monthly and show what was going on that same month 100 years ago. Based on research into letters and documents of the war years, each post will include quotes and photographs from the time.

During WWI, Attingham was tenanted by the Dutch-American Van Bergen family. The outbreak of the war found the family planning to give part of the house as a military hospital, which opened in October 1914. By 1918 there were 60 beds and an operating theatre.

Nurse uniforms at Attingham hospital compressed

During the war years, Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick, served in the Shropshire Yeomanry and as a diplomat in Paris. He had met Teresa Hulton, later the 8th Lady Berwick, before the war and continued to correspond with her throughout the war. They were married in June 1919 and began a new chapter in Attingham’s history when they came to live together on the estate.

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Teresa had grown up amongst elegant and artistic surroundings in Venice. When the war broke out she was visiting relatives in England, where she found work helping Belgian refugees who had fled to London, and translating secret documents. When Italy joined the war in May 1915, Teresa returned to Italy to work for the Red Cross. She was stationed at Cervignano, near the Italian Front Line, where she worked as a nurse and at a soldiers’ canteen.

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The mass of letters and photographs that Teresa brought with her to Attingham after her marriage provide an invaluable resource into life during WWI and they will be the main focus of the blog posts.

To make sure that you don’t miss an episode, please sign up to get the monthly posts sent automatically by clicking the ‘Follow’ button and entering your e-mail address.

Our WWI exhibition entitled The Great War for Civilisation is available to view daily from 10am in the Attingham Park Stables.

Bursting at the Seams


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Costume is a very evocative part of any collection. It provides a very personal insight into the lives of the individuals who wore them, and can often be linked to key phases in their lives. An example of this that we have mentioned before is our collection of 1953 Coronation Robes, which we were able to reproduce and have on display for the ‘Hidden Lives: Royalty, Glamour and War’ exhibition. In contrast with this formal costume though, the pieces in this blog are from a more light-hearted occasion exemplifying the 8th Lord Berwick’s playful side.

The coronation robes on display as part of our Hidden Lives exhibition.

The coronation robes on display as part of our Hidden Lives exhibition.

As alluded to in previous posts, the 8th Lord and Lady were fond of dressing up. We have multiple photographs showing some of the many occasions upon which they donned their glad rags for a do. The particular costume and occasion in this blog however are from before the marriage of the 8th Lord and Lady.


8th Lord Berwick and Hon. Mrs. Henry Brougham 3rd Baron Brougham and Vaux, Royal Albert Hall, 1910

From the dating and description of this portrait in our archives, we have been able to deduce that the event in question was probably the Chelsea Arts Club Ball in 1910. The Chelsea Arts Club Ball was held on New Year’s Eve, and was generally a theme based costume event. The Ball was described as ‘the most scandalous event on the social calendar’, although as a man in his early twenties it may not be unusual that the 8th Lord attended such an event. The photo, visible above, shows the 8th Lord in costume along with Diana Brougham, née Stunt, wife of Hon. Henry Brougham 3rd Baron Brougham and Vaux.

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We are fortunate to still possess nearly all of the components of this costume and with some details of its origin (also visible on the National Trust Collections Website). The set of hat, jacket, coat, and breeches are attributed to the costume designers and suppliers B.J. Simmons and Co. of Covent Garden, London.  B.J. Simmons and Co. designed and produced theatrical costumes between 1889 and 1959, further examples of their work can be seen via this link.

Staff and Interns - Halloween 2013

Staff Halloween Costumes 2013

Lord and Lady Berwick wearing fancy dress in the Picture Gallery c. 1923

Lord and Lady Berwick wearing fancy dress in the Picture Gallery c. 1923

The quality of this Russian style costume, as well as the others which we are aware of – the Medieval Pageant at Ludlow and the 1780s formal wear – demonstrate a certain dedication to fancy dress. A dedication that I doubt many of us could match with our own fancy dress or Halloween costumes, although I doubt we have the same budget. Regardless, these items and photos give us an insight into the Berwicks’ private and social lives, and greatly help us to better understand and connect with them and their story.