Peek into Greenway's cabinet of curiosities
We're highlighting curiosities of Greenway's collection throughout the year and inviting you to respond creatively to them. Perhaps an object suggests a character to you, a subtle plot, or a poem?
Greenway's curious collection
Traditionally a cabinet of curiosities might have contained curious objects from around the world, items from nature, and other intrigues. We have searched the collection at Greenway for things that are usually hidden away, and each month are bringing them into focus. In the Winter Dining Room each month's items will form the centre of a display in our 'cabinet of curiosities' and will feature here on the website along with a writing prompt.
Let's start with this delightful writing box, to inspire you to get your pens and paper at the ready.
Writing prompt for the month: consider a character associated with this box. It could be the person who made it, the person who commissioned it, the person it was made for, a person who was interested in buying it. Write a short description of this person, and a paragraph of their thoughts when they first saw the finished box.
In honour of Valentine's Day, February's curious collection item is a shell picture with a heart at its centre. It is usually found hanging in the Morning Room, but for this month is the centre of the exhibition in the Winter Dining Room. It's one of a pair of shell pictures, circa 1800. Similar pictures are thought to have been produced in shipping ports, for sailors to buy to bring home for their sweethearts.
Writing prompt for the month: what do you think is special about Greenway? Could you write a love letter or poem to it, or choose another special place and dedicate your love letter to that? What is your special place like? Why do you love it? How does it make you feel?
In March, with Mother’s Day is in our thoughts, the exhibition is reflecting on afternoon tea and the celebration of spring. The object of the month is this cobalt blue ceramic teapot with gilt edging. Decorated with a white oval spring flower design. There’s nothing like a nice teapot to get a good brew, and they are especially good for sharing.
Writing prompt for the month: would you like to write a poem or a reflection on taking tea or about your favourite spring flower? This can be an exercise in detail, where you consider all the senses. How does it smell? Be precise about size, colour and shape. Where is the flower found? What vessel is the tea in, and how does it sound, look and taste?
The Easter holidays are the focus of the cabinet during April. We've spotted quite a few egg-shapes in the collection around the house, and have chosen the object of the month as it ties in with both Easter and April showers. This umbrella has an decorative egg at the end of its handle made from tigers eye.
Writing prompt for the month: think about the hand that holds this unusual umbrella handle. You could write a short character description of one or two paragraphs, or a poem about April showers.
Writing prompt for the month: inspired by one of the music box's tunes 'Ye Banks and Braes' written by the poet Robert Burns, could you write a poem? Or you could write some prose with a small scene where someone is playing a music box. Who are they? Where are they? What does the music meen to them?
We are taking some time this month to explore and understand D-Day and the experience of the Second World War at Greenway. The object of the month is an oil painting on board of the LCI 87 Flagship, part of Flotilla No 10. During the Second World War, Greenway was occupied by Flotilla 10 of the U.S. Coast Guard making preparations for D-Day. The painting is of one of their ships, and on the reverse there is handwritten information about ships attacked, lost or damaged on D-Day, giving details such as ‘beach morning of D-Day’.
Writing prompt for the month: members of the planning team stayed in the house, from January 1944, until just before D-Day. It had taken 11 months to journey to this spot on the River Dart. Could you write a paragraph of diary entry for one of the men staying here, from their first day of arrival?
July and August
In these summer months we are thinking about play at Greenway. Sports days and traditional outdoor games are the order of the day! A croquet mallet is the object for these month. It is usually stored by the stairs at Greenway, alongside other games equipment, fishing rods and more. This mallet is made by Jaques of London, and was purchased from Harrods. It is made from wood. There is a croquet lawn to the side of the house at Greenway, and there are photographs within the collection of people playing there.
Writing prompt for July and August: can you write a poem which celebrates and includes the evocative sounds of sport in summer? Or did you have a favourite game or activity you played with friends or family in the summer holidays? Write a descriptive paragraph sharing your anecdote remembering a moment of summer sport.
September and beyond
You'll soon be able to see here what the key item will be, and find out about the writing prompt for the month. Throughout the year, the curious collection's key items will be listed here before they go on display, so please do check back to find out what's coming up.