My Christmas was very busy this year, full of all the things I love; work, sweet things, crafts, family, friends and glitter! Here are a few highlights from my festive season! This year we spent even longer getting Hardwick Hall … Continue reading
I have been really interested in all of the events commemorating the centenary of the First World War and was hoping I could contribute in some small way.
Hardwick has its own connection to the war in one of the members of the Cavendish family, affectionately known as ‘Lord John’.
We have Lord John’s suit of armour on display in the back of the Entrance Hall, and I had never really though about its history or the man who had owned it. With it being a suit of armour I didn’t even consider that it could have such a connection to the First World War. The two images, ‘knight in shining armour’ and ‘tommy in the trenches’, seem like they should be hundreds of years apart and not within the span of one man’s career.
Lord John was born on the 25th March 1875 to Emma Elizabeth Lascelles and Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Edward Cavendish, has was the youngest of their three sons.
As the youngest son John would not inherit the family property, or be expected to follow his father into politics, so he made the military his career. He joined the First Regiment of Life Guards, a Cavalry Regiment, on the 3rd February 1897.
He was part of the First Regiment of Life Guards and served with distinction in the South African Was, for which he was awarded a Distinguished Service Order in April 1901. When the Great War broke out in 1914 Lord John joined the British Expeditionary Forces and was deployed to France on the 16th August 1914.
Less than three months later on the 20th October 1914 Major Lord John Spencer Cavendish was killed in action.
An account of John’s death by an unknown soldier, dated 24th October 1914, who served alongside him recalls that John was killed instantly by German Maxim Machine Gun fire whilst leading a regiment trying to hold the line in the village. The account talks about how well liked John was, saying that he was so nice to work with, and how much his regiments would feel his loss.
After his death Lord John’s family received a huge number of letters of condolence, showing how well thought of he, and his family, were thought of. Lord John had a successful military career earning the respect of those he served with and recognition for his good service.
I started my search for information within Hardwick’s own information, then looking on Google (where else!) where I found a website that catalogs graves: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=55956202
The Find A Grave website was really useful for getting the basic information and then using Ancestry.com, a brilliant site for this sort of research, I was able to flesh out the story a little more. I typed in the little bits of information I had found already and Ancestry recommended sources it thought matched, so helpful. I ended up finding several scanned images of primary sources which were absolutely fascinating!
Finally I contacted Chatsworth Archives to see if they could help me with any information about the actual circumstances of Lord John’s death. All I had up to this point was dates when things happened, but no details which was frustrating. I had though they would be too busy to help but they were really helpful and had a number of sources, including the account of Lord John’s I mentioned above.
I have really enjoyed doing this project and even though the story had a tragic end it was nice to know Lord John was so well though of, I have become rather fond of him! On monday I shall be remembering Major Lord John Spencer Cavendish and the men like him who served in the Great War for what they believed was right.
If you want to find some more information about the events taking place over the next four years or about the men who gave their live in the Great War I have included some links I found interesting and useful below.
First World War Centenary Information: www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/first-world-war-centenary
Lives of the First World War: www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org
Every Man Remembered: www.everymanremembered.org
Imperial War Museums: www.iwm.org.uk/corporate/projects-partnerships/first-world-war-centenary-partnership
It has been a very exciting (and busy!) couple of weeks at Hardwick as we have been getting ready to open a new exhibition highlighting our ‘Great Hanging’ embroideries. Many, many months ago (three years actually) the first of the Great Hangings went away to Blickling Conservation Studios for conservation work. This is the start of a long-term conservation project for Hardwick. The Blickling Textile Conservation Studio Blog has lots of interesting info and nice pics of the conservation work they did on Penelope.
Eventually all four beautiful works of this set will be displayed in the Hall in a new exhibition that is being created specifically for this project. They are going to be displayed in the Butler’s Pantry, that used to house an introductory exhibition about Hardwick Estate. The past couple of weeks we have been focusing in installing Penelope in this space and getting it ready to open to the public.
I was not working at Hardwick when Penelope went away for conservation, but remember seeing the hanging on display in their screens in the Entrance Hall. Duchess Evelyn placed the embroideries in these screens, where previously they had been displayed on giant A-Frames, and prior to that hung on walls. Now it has reached the point where these virtuous ladies really need some TLC.
Penelope returned to Hardwick at the beginning of the month, and we brought her into the newly refurbished Butler’s Pantry to await the arrival of her custom-made display case. The vision for the Butler’s Pantry has been to turn it into a really absorbing gallery space where your attention is focused solely in Penelope and eventually the rest of the Great Hangings.
The Great Hangings were created by Bess out of clerical vestments her husbands collected from their involvement in the dissolution of the monasteries. Originally there were five hangings, each featuring a strong woman from history or mythology that Bess admired. The five women originally featured in the five hangings were Penelope, Lucretia, Artemisia, Zenobia and Cleopatra. I love that Bess herself has now joined the ranks of these women, and is a role model to others as these five were to her!
Penelope was the wife of Odysseus (also knows as Ulysses). It took Odysseus 10 years to return from the Trojan War, all the while Penelope waited for his return, not knowing if he was alive or dead. During this time she was harangued by many suitors wanting her hand in marriage. She told the suitors that she would marry once she had finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law. So every day Penelope sat at her loom and carried on her weaving, and every night when she was alone she un-wove the work she has just done so the task would never be completed. Eventually Odysseus did return and rid his home of the suitors that had been taking advantage of his lands and possessions for too long, and he and Penelope were joyfully reunited!
Penelope is depicted alongside Patients and Perseverance on our hanging, two virtues she definitely displayed and that Bess must have admired. The tapestries hanging in the High Great Chamber also depict Penelope as the follow the story of Odysseus (Ulysses) returning from Troy. I studied the Odyssey at A-Level and think it is a really interesting story full of myth and magic, fantastic creatures and plenty of danger! Worth a read if you enjoy mythology and adventure.
Her display case has been fitted with perspex panes as large as we could get them, so as to interfere with the piece as little as possible. It has also been chosen to reduce and reflections so visitors can see Penelope clearly. It works really well and you barely notice it is there, I just hope we don’t get sticky fingers touching it as removing fingerprints off our display cases seems to be an endless job already (I don’t know how people in museums cope!).
As well as her custom-made display case Penelope has had state of the are LED lighting fitted overhead, set specially to pick out the wonderful colour that still remains in the piece. Each embroidery is made a church vestments, this mean each piece of the image is made from the most fantastic fabrics, velvet and brocades covered in gold and silver threads and spangles! I have been doing a detailed condition check of the piece and keep getting distracted by the way the detail had been created, there is so much to see!
I am so pleased to have been involved with this project, in the small way I have been, and so proud of the team for creating a stunning exhibition fitting for such a work of art, and I am in no doubt that Penelope and Bess would have been very pleased with the result! The exhibition officially opened 18th June so if you can come and have a look for yourselves!
The next Great Hanging to head to Norfolk is Lucretia. Lucretia’s story does not have the happy ending Penelope’s does, but luckily the embroidery will have a happy ending and return to us as beautiful as the first now looks! Having seen Penelope’s transformation I cannot wait to see the four virtuous ladies on display, conserved and looking fab. However that is some way off yet so I will have to follow Penelope’s example and be patient.
I love Christmas, the atmosphere, the food, the music, the sparkles! So I have been really looking forward to decorating Hardwick for our Christmas opening. I loved transforming Powis Castle for the Fairy Tale Takeover last year, it was a lot of work but such a fun process and well worth the effort! This year has been quite different, it has felt like a much bigger project and with someone else planning it; it has been nice to discover what is happening.
The National Trust Christmas theme this year is a traditional Christmas. This is a little tricky at Hardwick as Chatsworth was where the family spent the festive season, using Hardwick Hall as their hunting lodge. Duchess Evelyn spent some time with her family at the Hall, and her children would put on plays for the rest of the family. This is one of the stories we will be telling while we are open this December.
The team at Hardwick were determined that this Christmas was going to be bigger and better than ever! This meant bigger trees, and they are HUGE! I spent all week spelling of pine, clothes full of needles and hands covered in sap. The trees were difficult to shift and lift but looks so impressive now they are in place and decorated!
Decorating them was a mammoth effort. The trees in the Entrance Hall are so tall even we struggled to reach them off our tallest ladder. We had to hang the lights and the decorations at the top using a hook on a pole, everyone kept saying it was like watching Krypton Factor seeing us do it!