Women and Power at Croome

Maria Gunning

Women and Power is the theme for the second year of the Trust’s ‘Challenging Histories’. It will explore the complexity of the histories of power and gender and will give voice to the, sometimes hidden, lives and legacies of women who lived and worked across the special places now in the care of the National Trust.

Women and Power: National Trust shines a light on women’s histories to celebrate the anniversary of female suffrage in 2018.

The long struggle for women’s suffrage and the debates it inspired across the homes, workplaces and communities will be explored in 2018 as part of the National Trust’s commemoration to mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act.  This Act granted some women the right to vote in British parliamentary elections for the first time.

Croome will be joining the National Trust’s ‘Women and Power’ celebrations to mark this historic milestone.

RAF Defford Museum displays from 1 April 2018

Almost 700 women worked at RAF Defford during the Second World War, and although most of these were Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAFs), there were also Wrens, women scientists, technical staff, nurses, and other support staff.

2018 is the centenary of the RAF, and also of women’s involvement with the RAF, beginning with the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) formed in 1918.  With the extension of women’s suffrage in 1918 to those aged over 30 and property owners, attitudes to women were beginning to change after the First World War.

A century of achievement 1918 to 2018
A century of achievement 1918 to 2018
A century of achievement 1918 to 2018

This year, we are planning a display at our Visitor Centre, called ‘A Century of Achievement- the lives of women in the RAF 1918 to 2018’, to celebrate the lives and work of WAAFs, including some who served at RAF Defford and to reflect the changes in society towards women working, especially in what had previously been regarded as ‘male’ jobs. 

In the Canteen corridor, portraits of significant women connected with RAF Defford, TRE Malvern, or with the WRAF or WAAF, will be displayed.

Some of these women will be included in a separate display, with brief biographies, in the Canteen.

Antony Bridge: Portraits exhibition.

An exhibition of 10 paintings entitled ‘Women of Croome’ by Antony Bridge, Croome’s artist-in-residence, will be on show from 28 March, these will be portraits of the women that currently work and volunteer at Croome.

“Having been the artist in resident at Croome for almost a year now and painting the landscape, I’ve met almost all of the staff and volunteers, most of which are women and all radiating such passion for Croome. I wanted to capture the passion and warmth of these women who help to run Croome. The collection will be my first solo portrait show.”  Antony Bridge.

The new exhibition coincides with the National Trust’s year of ‘Women and Power’ programme, celebrating 100 years since some women were given the vote. All around the country the National Trust are telling the stories of women who played in history and are often forgotten … until now. Croome has chosen to look at the past, as well as the present, and this exhibition is a nod to the important work that all the women at Croome do.

The Antony Bridge portraits exhibition
Croome Antony Bridge portraits exhibition
The Antony Bridge portraits exhibition

Antony is Croome’s official artist-in-residence and this, his second exhibition at Croome, is of nine female staff and volunteers with visitors having the chance to be the final tenth portrait.

The portraits are displayed in the niches of the Long Gallery in the house where statues of deities of ancient Greek and Roman worlds once stood.   Life-size artist mannequins will emulate the poses of these deities each accompanied by a portrait and an object of significance of each person.

Antony Bridge's portraits of Rachel Sharpe
Croome Antony Bridge portraits Rachel Sharpe
Antony Bridge's portraits of Rachel Sharpe

“Antony is an exceptional portrait artist and we really wanted to explore this side of his work at Croome.  As we are exploring more women’s stories this year, we thought it was apt that Antony painted women currently working and volunteering at this special place.  The women featured in the exhibition were both selected and drawn from a ballot so they represent a broad cross-section of roles that women have on site.  We’re very excited for the launch as it means so much to many people who love Croome.”  Amy Forster-Smith, Croome’s Visitor Experience Manager. “

Visitors are also being encouraged to enter a competition giving them the chance to have their own portrait painted and displayed in the tenth niche alongside the other portraits for the duration of the exhibition.

The exhibition will run until the end of the year. 

Artist in residence Antony Bridge
Croome Antony Bridge in croome landscape
Artist in residence Antony Bridge


The Problem About Beauty - Exhibition in the Drawing Room - 10am to 4pm

We know some amusing details of Maria Gunning’s short life and that she was a silly and vain girl. We have described her in this way for many years and told the stories of the infamous moments of her life, but is this all there was to this young woman? Have we been misled? This exhibition sets out to investigate the problematic story of the famous, tragic beauty.

Framing Beauty exhibition
framing beauty exhibition
Framing Beauty exhibition