Researching Polesden’s Past

One of my responsiblites at Polesden is to manage the Interpretation and Research Assistant volunteers. They’re a small team who assist us with projects that require detailed research, as well as helping to write interpretation for some things, such as the room folders (which you can find in every showroom and contain a wealth of information). We have a number of exciting projects coming up in the next year or so, and the volunteers are proving invaluable in helping us prepare for them.

It might still be months away, but we’re already busy planning our Christmas event. After the success of last year’s, we’re going to have to work really hard to top it. I don’t want to give too much away about the theme, but we’re going back to the Edwardian period when Mrs Greville first bought Polesden Lacey. We’re doing lots of research into what Christmas was like during this period, from the food they would have eaten to the presents they would have received. It promises to be really exciting – hopefully we’ll keep up this enthusiasm for the next six months!

Another research project involves an exhibition taking place next year to commemorate the centenary of the convalescent hospital at Polesden Lacey during the First World War. Around a hundred wounded officers recuperated here during the War, and we’re lucky enough to have their names written down in our Visitors’ Book as well as some photographs. We’d love to find out more about these men and what happened to them before/after the War. Interestingly, Mrs Greville continued to use Polesden while the officers were here, and in 1920 she received a certificate, signed by Winston Churchill, thanking her for her services.

Some of the officers and a nurse who stayed here during Polesden's two years as a convalescent hospital

Some of the officers and a nurse who stayed here during Polesden’s two years as a convalescent hospital

Finally, we recently had an Historic Buildings Analysis completed at Polesden, which looked into the historic functions of the rooms with a view to eventually opening up more of the house. One of the most exciting discoveries involved the Portico Bedroom. Tradtionally thought of as a male guest bedroom due to its position away from the other guest rooms, research has discovered that it may in fact have been where the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and the Queen Mother) stayed when on their honeymoon here in 1923. Further research is needed to prove this definitively, but if it is true then it means we’re lucky enough to have two royal suites here (the other being the bedroom used by King Edward VII in 1909, currently a meeting room).

The Portico Bedroom - did the Duke and Duchess of York spend their honeymoon here in 1923?

The Portico Bedroom – did the Duke and Duchess of York spend their honeymoon here in 1923?

So those are the main research projects we’re working on here at the moment. We’ll keep you posted as to what we find out!

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