West Horsley Place Trust – the charity established to save Grade I listed West Horsley Place so that it can be enjoyed by the public – is seeking volunteers to help catalogue and discover more about the family papers and letters held at the historic house.
The activity is part of History Revealed, a project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund providing volunteers with opportunities to explore the archive and books at West Horsley Place in order to develop new skills.
Recently, volunteers from The Arts Society East Surrey Area have attended workshops to begin to assess, clean and record the many thousands of books that remain at West Horsley Place.
Now, and in partnership with Surrey History Centre, the charity is inviting members of the local community who would like to take part in understanding more about and recording the archive at West Horsley Place to get in touch.
The documents belonged to Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe, the last private owner of West Horsley Place, and they relate to Mary’s family, the Crewe-Milnes. The papers are believed to date back to the 17th century and are an important historical record.
When Mary died in 2014, she left West Horsley Place to her nephew, the historian and former University Challenge presenter, Bamber Gascoigne. Determined that the historic house and surrounding 380-acre estate should be available to the public as a welcoming space to share and enjoy history, heritage, nature and arts, Bamber and his wife Christina generously transferred ownership of West Horsley Place to a charity, the West Horsley Place Trust.
The Trust is fundraising to conserve and repair the Grade I listed manor house, which is currently on the Historic England ‘At Risk’ Register, and through projects including History Revealed it is creating opportunities for the community to learn and draw inspiration from this historic estate.
Clare Clinton, Arts, Heritage & Learning Manager at West Horsley Place, said:
“The archive includes thousands of letters and documents, and it is a treasure trove of stories waiting to be explored.”
“Our community is at the heart of our vision for West Horsley Place and we are committed to creating opportunities for people to flourish and grow. In addition to shedding light on our history and learning how to record archival material, our volunteers will receive training in producing interpretation and in exhibition design.”
“We are grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting this project, and we look forward to getting the project underway as soon as possible.”
Michael Page, County Archivist at Surrey History Centre, said:
“This is a fascinating archive, documenting the activities and lands of many generations of the Crewe-Milnes family, particularly the Marquess of Crewe and his wife Margaret who bought West Horsley Place as a summer retreat. When the Trust inherited West Horsley Place, papers were stored all over the house, like a gigantic, jumbled jigsaw and the prospect of understanding how all these letters and papers fit together and what they can tell us about past lives, loves and careers is a very exciting one.”
Workshops are scheduled to begin next year. For further information and to register interest in volunteering at West Horsley Place: