Every National Trust property has its own archives which can contain material ranging from family photographs, to contents inventories, press cuttings and personal letters. Our archives at Polesden Lacey are full of treasures and remain an invaluable resource for our staff and volunteers.
Over the last few months we have been working on a project to relocate the archives to our conservation store. In the process we have audited all of the material in a large number of files and boxes to ensure that everything is stored correctly to best archival standards. All archive materials must be stored in acid free boxes and acid free plastic sleeves where necessary. Otherwise acids in paper the folders and sleeves can react with the stored materials and cause damage over time.
The project also included checking and scanning photographs to ensure we have a digital versions in case the originals deteriorate or become damaged or lost.
Mrs. Greville was a great traveler and visited much of the world during her lifetime. Our archives contain travel photos from her trips overseas including many labelled ‘Eastern scenes’ and in the image below are rolled photographs entitled ‘Scenes of Palermo’. It may seem unusual to store photographs rolled in this way but its would cause more damage to to now relax them after being rolled for so long.
The ‘Eastern scenes’ show pyramids in Egypt, the ruined Porte du Temple de Jupiter in Lebanon, camels being ridden across the desert amongst many more. Although there are some personal photographs of Mrs Greville abroad, most of the photographs in this collection would have most likely been sold to tourists as souvenirs and have captions stating the location and the photographer Felix Bonfils.
Alongside our press cuttings books, our archives contain further cuttings and some personal letters. The image below is one of a collection of many condolence letters sent to Mrs Greville on the death of her husband Ronnie in 1908.
The archive also contains photos of staff and their families around the estate. Many of these have been donated by descendants of these staff members and are an invaluable tool in learning more about life as a staff member at Polesden Lacey. The following image captures a group of construction workers posed in the branches of the cedar tree. It is thought that these contractors may have been from White Allom & Co. who were brought in to work upon the house when it was first brought by the Grevilles.
On her death Mrs Greville ordered most of her personal records to be destroyed. This makes what we have left even more important into gaining an insight to the life of our patron. As well as ensuring the archives are best cared for, this project has been a great opportunity to reassess what our archives contain so that they can continue to be put to good use in telling the story of Mrs Greville and all who visited, lived and worked at Polesden Lacey.