January Thoughts

Cambridge looks pretty good in the snow, but the pavements get alarmingly icy after a while. But it is curious how attractive it makes everything look, different cleaner, more unified. The melting of the snow has left all the fields around Cambridge very wet and the Cam fairly high.

I have been working on my forthcoming book The English Country House Drawing Room, which I am enjoying hugely, tracing the elusive origins of this important room type in inventories and other sources; the book will also include a selection of important drawing rooms in English country houses newly photographed.

Another project took me to the research department of the Imperial War Museum reading the correspondence of a first war officer Lt Col Herbert Trevor, who wrote regular letters home to his parents, Sir Francis and Lady Trevor, I am looking for the references to his home, but am immensely moved by the evidence of a life of full of action, promise and a sense of courage, dreadfully wasted when he is killed in 1917.

One of the threads I followed was the story of the horses he took out from Oxfordshire, and whose health and condition are frequently referred to until they were both killed by the same shell. His parents send out two dogs, who find life at the front quite hard, but are useful ratters. One is smuggled out in a general’s kit bag; much care is taken in trying to get the dogs home.

The handwriting gets increasingly looser as the young officer becomes more and more tired by endless trench warfare, and then a last note to his parents, I am well; then the notice of his death in action. What a terrible waste it all seems nearly a hundred years later. There is something very personal about the letters; it is a privilege to read them. I feel humbled.

Best Play: saw Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville with Sam West and Anna Friel, hugely enjoyed.

Recent articles: The Liberal Use of Colour: the history of the National Liberal Club and Anyone for Drinks in the Library, both in Country Life magazine.

New Book: pleased to announce the publication of Moggerhanger Park, which I have co-edited with Jane Brown with essays by a group of distinguished authors on the history of this important Sir John Soane designed house

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