Contribute to our collection of historic letters
They might not be works of art or priceless objects, but in many ways the historic letters in our care are just as precious thanks to the poignant tales they contain. Now we’re calling for people around the country to pick up your pens and get writing, in order to add your lockdown experiences to the national story.
National Trust Head Curator, Sally-Anne Huxtable, says: 'Our archives house thousands of letters written across the centuries, including many penned during times of separation. They show the power of the written word to reassure, soothe and uplift, even during times of great hardship.'
From the carer of a Second World War evacuee keeping in touch with her billet’s parents, to the wife of an admiral who wrote to him almost daily during his many years at sea, these letters show how people throughout the centuries have used written word to maintain ties even when conflict, sickness or physical distance kept them apart.
Share your ‘lockdown letters’ with us
'Writing a letter is a time-honoured way to tell friends and family that they are in our thoughts, that we care for them and look forward to being together again', says Sally-Anne Huxtable.
We’d love it if people could share that sense of togetherness and record their feelings by sharing a letter for our archive for the future.
We’ll then select some of the letters to archive in the same way that we store other key documents of historic interest. They’ll be professionally recorded and accessible to future researchers, shedding light on peoples’ day-to-day experiences of this extraordinary time in national life. Some of the letters will also be chosen for publication.
Your privacy is important to us
Submitted letters may be published and included in the Trust’s historic archive for future research purposes. We may need to correspond with you and process your personal data in order to manage the publication and archiving.
Tales from our letter collections
In 2016, a bundle of 100 letters dated 1917-18 were discovered behind a chimney stack at the Five Arrows Hotel near Waddesdon. It’s believed that the correspondents were Jack Cox, who went on to become Head Chauffeur to the Rothschilds who owned Waddesdon, and Eliza Turnham, whose father was landlord of the hotel. In the affectionate letters, Jack thanks Elsie for boxes of apples, cigarettes and photographs to him, and relays news from France.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
One very special letter, penned and illustrated by Beatrix Potter in 1893, went on to make history. Writing to a friend’s son who was ill with scarlet fever, she begins: 'I don't know what to write about so I shall tell you a story of 4 little rabbits, whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter…'
Keeping in touch with evacuees
The National Trust Museum of Childhood in Derbyshire holds a letter from 1940, written by M. Saddington to Mrs Vallins, the mother of an evacuee. It tells how her daughter has settled into her temporary home, and empathises ‘what a hardship it must be…[to] separate from children, but I think you are wise to let them come further inland.’
Fondness across the seas
Fanny Boscawen’s was the first ‘Lady of the House’ at Hatchlands Park, Surrey. Her husband Edward, Admiral Boscawen, was away for almost 10 years of their marriage and she wrote to him almost daily. Edward kept her letters close and they travelled with him to India and home again, narrowly escaping going down with his flagship when it was caught in a storm - fortunately for Edward he was ashore at the time.
Write to me, Dearest
Jane Carlyle was the wife of the great Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle, and was herself a prolific letter-writer, including regular missives to her husband when they were apart. In August 1831, having had no letter from her for almost a week, he pleads: ‘I cannot express what disappointment the delay gives…. Write to me, Dearest: Let nothing but absolute impossibility prevent thee: twice a week, that was the arrangement; ever till we meet again.’
If these letters have left you feeling inspired, then we’d love to hear from you. From the small everyday moments to the ways our lives have changed under lockdown – they’re all part of our collective history.