The CMS Team has now been up and running for a year, and have progressed in to the Print Room, our third room since beginning. The Print Room is on the second floor of the Outer Wicket / Gatehouse Tower. It was another room that made up Eddy Sackville-West’s apartment. If you have been up to the Print Room you will appreciate the HUGE task we have in cataloguing all the documents, printed and photographic materials.
The task is particularly urgent because of the dilapidated state of the the room, and later this year the room contents will be carefully packed away for building work to commence in 2015. The room environment at the moment is particularly unstable and incredibly harmful to the hundreds of photos and letters that have been stored here.
The print folios – of which there are many – are thankfully not on the CMS Team remit as they require specialist cataloguing and conservation. These beautifully bound collections of prints are probably the oldest objects in the room, and it is not clear exactly when they were placed here. The rest of the archive dates from around the turn of the last century and contains material from the late 1800’s right up to the 1950’s.
At first glance, this task was daunting, so breaking it down into chunks seemed like a good plan of attack. An initial check through the boxes of papers revealed hundreds of photographs and documents belonging primarily to Eddy Sackville West and his father Charles (Charlie). Luckily, most are in pretty good condition and will be a valuable resource in the coming redevelopment of this space.
Our first job was to sort through the piles of documents and put them into categories, tagging any that were particularly badly damaged. It can be challenging to do this efficiently – it’s hard not to waste time poring over each photo trying to work out who’s who, or trying to decipher signatures on the letters.
Many of the photos depict Eddy Sackville West and his friends, some dating from his Eton days, and provide a fascinating glimpse into his life and social circle. Others relate to Charles Sackville West’s time as a military attaché in Paris and his life with his second wife, Anne.
Charles Sackville-West married Anne Meredith Bigelow, an American actress, in 1924 shortly before he retired from the military. For the next five years he served as Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey and many of the letters and photos we found relate to their time there as well as his subsequent retirement to Knole.
Anne was an enthusiastic actress and her position as Lady Sackville enabled her to hold many theatrical soirees here. The photographs suggest that she was fond of using Stone Court to stage productions, and that she and Charlie frequently entertained the great and the good at Knole.
There are also several boxes of cartes des visites and cabinet portrait cards dating from the 1800’s. These cartes des visites were the precursor to the printed calling / business card and were usually presented to the host when visitor came to call. The sheer number of these cards indicates that the inhabitants of Knole at this time had an extremely busy social life!
With the documents categorised, we record and describe each item and bundle them in small groups to be scanned. This is the most effective way of ‘photographing’ documents because it’s very quick and we can attach a scan to each record. If you’ve seen any of us hogging the photocopier – that’s what we were up to!
Next we enter each record onto CMS and assign a number, making sure to attach the scan file number to the CMS record for ID purposes. Lastly we mark the CMS number onto the object with a soft pencil. The whole process is extremely time consuming, but will hopefully enable future researchers to access this amazing resource.
In the meantime, we will keep plugging away at the piles of documents and hope to surface by the summer!
Annie, Conrad, Louise, Tony & Vicky – aka the volunteer CMS Team