In Yorkshire, as in Lancashire, the Victorian dining chairs and antique chests of the county’s stately homes have stood the test of time, and even survived the odd war or two; but what impact did these conflicts have on the lives of the families who actually lived in these houses and used the furniture?
Duty Calls: The Country House in Time of War is an innovative new project launched by the Yorkshire Country House Partnership (YCHP); a collaborative union between York University and thirteen of Yorkshire’s finest country houses. Timed to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of WWI in 2014, Duty Calls is a series of exhibitions and other events detailing the impact that war and conflict has had on nine of those properties over the centuries.
When visitors from Cumbria see the Victorian balloon back dining chairs and antique cabinets of a property like Brodsworth Hall, it is easy to imagine them in the context of a family home. Harder to imagine are the people who might have used them. Brodsworth was heavily affected by both world wars and, besides losing many male family members and staff, acted as a billet for evacuees, POWs and military personnel, something that is addressed through an exhibition of photographs, artefacts and written testaments.
Going further back, Fairfax House in York today houses such 18th century gems as a Chippendale Director antique mahogany pedestal desk . The exhibition, “In the Name of the Rose” focuses on the Jacobite rebellions and their effect on home interiors and furniture design.
Just think: the Victorian mahogany partners desk in a Preston antiques dealer’s window could once have handled correspondence from the Boer War.
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