Library project at West Horsley Place together with The Arts Society East Surrey

The West Horsley Place Trust – the charity established to save Grade I listed West Horsley Place and its surrounding estate so that they can be enjoyed by the public – today announces an important National Lottery Heritage funded collaboration with The Arts Society East Surrey Area to record the 10,000 books that are held in the historic house’s library.

Heritage Volunteers from The Arts Society will undertake the project and, with expert guidance from leading conservator, Caroline Bendix, the volunteers will also learn how to assess the condition of the books, how to clean them and how to make minor repairs so that the books are protected for the future.

Dating mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries, the books are from the library of Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe (1915 – 2014), who owned West Horsley Place from the 1960s, residing there each summer.

When Mary died in 2014, she made two major bequests: the first, a gift of 7,500 of the most significant books in the West Horsley Place library to Trinity College Cambridge.  The Crewe Collection, as it is now known, was created by Mary’s father, Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe, and Mary’s grandfather, Richard Monckton-Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton.  Both had studied at Trinity College Cambridge and their collection is recognised as being one of the most important private book collections in Britain.

The second bequest was the gift of West Horsley Place to Mary’s nephew, the historian and former University Challenge presenter, Bamber Gascoigne.  In the course of the 20th century, West Horsley Place had fallen into disrepair, eventually being added to Historic England’s At Risk Register.  Determined that West Horsley Place should be enjoyed by the public, Bamber and his wife Christina generously transferred ownership of the manor house and its 380-acre estate to a charity, the West Horsley Place Trust.  Once repaired, the Trust’s vision is that West Horsley Place will become a welcoming space for the community to share and enjoy with arts, culture, history and nature at its heart.

This project with The Arts Society East Surrey Area is part of An Historic Estate without Barriers, a pioneering two-year programme of public consultation and activity devised by the West Horsley Place Trust that will, for the first time, enable a wide range of people from the local community to experience how heritage spaces can transform health and well-being.

Ben Pearce, Director of the West Horsley Place Trust, said:

“This project with the Arts Society’s Heritage Volunteers has been planned for some time now and we are really looking forward to getting underway once the Government’s Covid-19 restrictions allow. Working in partnership with other local charities and organisations, we will explore how we can best support our local community.  Opportunities to learn new skills are an important part of our vision, and we are grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for enabling this collaboration with The Arts Society.”

Hilary Ely, Heritage Volunteer Co-ordinator, The Arts Society East Surrey Area, said:

“We are so looking forward to starting this project, which was originally due to start last year but was postponed in response to the pandemic.”

“The Arts Society is the UK’s biggest arts education charity, and our Heritage Volunteers play an important part in helping to save Britain’s heritage.  From the conservation of books to projects in historic parks, gardens and houses, and cathedrals, Heritage Volunteers are busy all over the UK working to conserve and protect its treasures.”

“The 10,000 books that remain in the library at West Horsley Place form an important part of an even more extensive country house library. The care of the collection will prove a wonderful opportunity for our volunteers to learn new skills, while ensuring its preservation for the future. A library such as this has grown and changed over time, and undoubtedly discoveries will be made that will help us to understand more about the lives of the people of West Horsley Place.”

The project is due to begin at West Horsley Place this summer, subject to restrictions being lifted.

For further information about West Horsley Place: www.westhorsleyplace.org

For further information about The Arts Society East Surrey Area: https://theartssocietyeastsurreyarea.org.uk/

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