Quick post this week again – sorry! I’ve just started at Erddig, a few miles across the Welsh border near Wrexham, for a six-week book cataloguing project. I hope to continue blogging about items in the Hatfield collection, but also to post a few images from this National Trust property in due course.
This is a property I’ve never visited before, so it’s a great opportunity to explore a new (to me) book collection and to delve into the reading interests of another family. Like Calke Abbey, Erddig was owned by a succession of increasingly eccentric country squires, who were reluctant to introduce mod cons or to throw anything away. Throw into the mix some serious subsidence caused by coal mining and you can imagine the enormous task the National Trust faced when it took on the property in 1973. With the hand-over also came the stipulation that every object should remain in the house.
One of the fascinating aspects of Erddig is the wealth of information still in existence about the servants employed by the Yorkes. Philip Yorke I (1743-1804) composed little verses on some of the people in his service to go along with their painted portraits, commissioned at the same time. The estate archives, now deposited in the Flintshire Record Office, also hold a good record of their names and occupations.
Unfortunately, the library survey undertaken initially by Julian Roberts (Emeritus Keeper of Printed Books at the Bodleian) and updated by the NT Libraries Curator Mark Purcell in 2003 didn’t unearth the existence of a servants’ library of the kind found for example at Cragside. A single book, a collection of short stories written around 1918, bears the inscription that it is not to be removed from the Housekeeper’s Room.
When Louisa Yorke (1863-1951), 2nd wife of Philip Yorke II of Erddig, wrote this inscription and why, I have no idea. It is also impossible to know if she’d read the book herself and decided to pass it on to the housekeeper or if her directions had some other purpose. The main collection in the Library and the books in the Chapel have been catalogued and can be accessed via COPAC. My job over the next few weeks is to make a start with the books spread out over the rest of the public areas of the house, before moving on to those kept in the stores.
- Oliver Garnett, Erddig (NT, 1995; revised 2011).
- Julian Roberts, ‘Erddig library survey’ [no date]; revised by Mark Purcell, Libraries Curator, 2003
- Felicity Stimpson, ‘Servants’ reading: an examination of the servants’ library at Cragside’, Library History, 19.1 (2002), pp. 3-11
- Merlin Waterson, The servants’ hall: a domestic history of Erddig (NT, 1980)