Day trip to Polesden Lacey – National Trust, Wesam Mohamed, PhD Fellow Aarhus University, ITP 2015

So excited to return back to the UK for the first time since the ITP 2015! As part of my role as PhD Fellow at Aarhus University, I am participating in a research trip at the British Museum. It was perfect timing and allowed me to join the ITP team in Brighton, attending the MA conference.

Polesden Lacey – National Trust

On Wednesday October 2nd, we visited Polesden Lacey, an Edwardian country retreat owned and managed by the National Trust. The house was owned, and gifted to the National Trust, by Dame Margaret Greville who lived at Polesden Lacey from 1906 to 1942. This house used to host a lot of parties. The guest lists included the Royal Family, Winston Churchill, Beverly Nichols and Queen Ena of Spain. ‘This is a delicious house…’ remarked Queen Elizabeth, who spent her honeymoon in Polesden Lacey in 1923.

For all of that, the house was designed to give a prestigious impression through a wonderful garden with marvelous scenery and 15 luxurious rooms, designed by famous designers such as the Gold Saloon designed by the Ritz Hotel architects Mewès and Davies. Currently the National Trust is aiming to open 10 further rooms in the house, including King Edward VII’s suite.

The National Trust is a charity founded in 1895, for the protection and preservation of heritage. They look after many places throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including 780 miles of coastline, over 248,000 hectares of land, over 500 historic houses, castles, ancient monuments gardens and parks and nature reserves. They host about one million objects and works of art, and they have more than 5 million members.

The management team uses an impressive style of interpretation inside the house: “feel at home“. Their aim is to make the visitors feel that they are in a living house and real home, rather than the traditional atmosphere which can sometimes be found in museums. Accordingly, the house includes very few showcases, and doesn’t include labels for its collections. Instead of labels, they give numbers for each object and they provide print materials in each room for those who seek more information.

The stories of the people who lived, worked, and made their own special memories at Polesden Lacey over the last century is presented for the first time in a new exhibition, Polesden Voices. Among others, the exhibition tells the story of Marie-Adeline Liron, who was Margaret Greville’s maid from 1908 and until her death in 1942. She used to accompany Mrs Greville in her travels, and used to help her to change outfit up to six times a day!

The installation showing their travels includes a postcard dated back to April 8th 1930, and says “We shall be in Cairo in a couple of days”.

Polesden Lacey has the largest number of volunteers I have ever seen. According to Caroline Williams, House and Collections Manager, the site includes 900 volunteers, 500 of which are working inside the house. We could easily see how passionate and knowledgeable the volunteers are. They are keen to help all the visitors to have a memorable visit. Their work extends from guiding the visitors inside the house, to conservation, cleaning and playing music!

It’s also noticeable how the management are proud of their volunteers, and we could see their names mentioned in many places in the house.