The Clive Museum at Powis

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The superb collection of artefacts from India displayed in the Clive Museum is the largest private collection of this type in the UK.

In total, the Clive Museum features more than 300 items from India and the Far East, dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries, including ivories, textiles, statues of Hindu gods, ornamental silver and gold, and weapons and ceremonial armour.

This impressive collection was created by two generations of the Clive family: Robert (who became known as Clive of India) and his son Edward (who married Henrietta Herbert, daughter of the 1st Earl of Powis (2nd creation)).

Robert Clive

Robert Clive (1725–74) served in India several times between 1744 and 1767. He was employed by the East India Company, which promoted trade between India and other countries.

There was considerable local unrest and Clive was authorised by the British government to defeat local uprisings, which he did successfully, amassing a personal fortune at the same time.

Henrietta Herbert and Edward Clive

The marriage of Henrietta Herbert to Edward Clive in 1784 joined the two families and provided a sound financial future for Powis.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Edward was appointed Governor of Madras in 1798. Rather unusually for that time, Henrietta and their two daughters also went to India and stayed for three years.

Collecting Indian artefacts

During this time, Henrietta and Edward collected various Indian artefacts. However, the tension between the local population and the British increased in the late-18th century, with the Indian opposition led by Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the south Indian state of Mysore.

Events came to a head at the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799. The British forces were led by the Governor General, Lord Mornington, assisted in administrative affairs by Edward, 2nd Lord Clive, Governor of Madras.

Tipu Sultan was defeated and many of his possessions were acquired by the British as spoils of war.

The spectacular items presented to the Clives included Tipu’s magnificent state tent, made of painted chintz; one of the gold tiger’s head finials from Tipu’s throne; and the two cannon in the courtyard, either side of the castle entrance.

Indian interior

The Clive collection is housed in an area that was originally part of the long, 18th-century ballroom.

In about 1904, G. F. Bodley remodelled the room, shortening it and creating a separate room beyond it, which was used as a billiard room until 1952.

In 1987, the billiard table was moved to the room that had been the servants’ hall in the castle, and the room was set up to display the magnificent collection of Indian artefacts.

Hindu–Gothic

The design of the room and display cases are intended to evoke the architecture and style of India, but within an English setting.

This style (known in Britain as Hindu–Gothic) was used for the exterior of Brighton Pavilion, which was built for the Prince Regent (later King George IV) between 1787 and 1823. The display cases were made in 1986–87 by the Sussex cabinet-maker John Hart, to designs by Alec Cobbe.