I am one of the Conservation Interns here at Polesden Lacey and part of my internship is to help to catalogue some of the Cuttings books that Mrs Greville created over her lifetime … or rather the servant she assigned to the task!
The Cuttings books consist of around 14 books filled with newspaper articles, photographs, magazine articles, pamphlets, flyers, telegrams – basically any mention of Maggie and Ronnie Greville and Mr McEwan (Maggie’s father) in any format was saved and pasted into these Cuttings books. They were started in the 1890s, with Maggie and Ronnie’s wedding along with mentions of Mr McEwan’s political career and philanthropy (especially the money he donated to Edinburgh University) and last up until her death in 1942.
The book that I am currently cataloguing is about Ronnie’s political career as MP for East Bradford. He stood as the Conservative candidate in the 1896 by-election and the 1900 General Election. Both times he won by a large margin against both Liberal and Labour candidates.
Ronnie’s move into politics was due to his retirement from the military, plus his political connections with Maggie’s father, Mr McEwan, and major conservatives like Lord Salisbury, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. His political career was framed by the Boer War along with issues concerning the length of the working day and Old Age Pensions. He eventually retired from politics in the 1906 General Election.
So what is involved in cataloguing the Cuttings books?
The first step is to assess the condition of the spine and the front cover. Each mark is carefully recorded along with any possible pest damage like silverfish.
Each page has to be carefully catalogued as each one contains a wealth of information. The page is divided up by how many articles/photographs/telegrams/images there are and then each one is carefully read/examined to create a short synopsis and its relevance to Maggie and Ronnie Greville. The condition of each article is also checked and recorded so that any future conservation work required can be logged.
One of the long-term goals of this project is to take photographs of each page so that the articles and the information they contain can be made more accessible. It would also mean that future handling of the books can be minimised as the books are fairly fragile; as you can imagine in books around 100 years old!
This project helps to give us a real and fascinating insights into Mrs Greville and Polesden Lacey, and although they are not all flattering, these books are a memorial of the strength and vibrancy of Mrs Greville’s character.