Lord Londonderry's ministerial box returns to Mount Stewart
We have just taken possession of the Ministerial Box of the 7th Marquess – lost from the Collection some years ago and now reunited with Mount Stewart.
The Ministerial Box, which was owned by Charles Stewart Henry Vane- Tempest- Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry (1878- 1949), known as Lord Stewart until 1884 and Viscount Castlereagh between 1884- 1915. Londonderry was a British peer known for his political career in Britain and Northern Ireland.
He is best remembered for his tenure as Secretary of State for Air and his desire to come to an understanding of Nazi Germany with the intention of avoiding war in the 1930s. This Ministerial Box dates to the 1930s when Londonderry was a Member of the British Parliament. It would have been used by him to carry his bills and documents.
It is a red leather covered box, similar to a briefcase, and would have been used to transport official departmental papers from place to place. Such Boxes are sometimes referred to as Despatch Boxes in government documents but should not be confused with the Despatch Box from which speeches are given in Parliament.
On the exterior of this ministerial box is the insignia of George V, King of UK and British Dominions and Emperor of India from 1910-1936, so it can be dated to the 1930s. Also on the exterior is the following text: The Most Hon. The Marquess of Londonderry K.G. written in gold. The exterior has a brass carrying handle set into the back edge and a lock and key at the front edge. It has the makers ‘John Peck & Sons, Nelson Square, Blackfriars’ (manufacturers to H.M. Staty office), written on the interior. Inside there are compartments for documents along with pens.
The item is of national significance. Lord Londonderry played a significant role in British politics, as well as in the newly founded Northern Ireland Government. Essentially a statesman of the old order, Lord Londonderry struggled to sustain a career in the politics of the twentieth century. In spite of this, he did hold significant office during his lifetime. Notably, in the 1930’s he was created Secretary for Air in the British Cabinet, and did much to develop the RAF, introducing their use of radar. Undoubtedly, his development of the RAF during his position in the Cabinet was crucial in preparing Britain for the Second World War. Leaving Government in 1935, he continued to use his aristocratic influence to attempt to de-escalate rising tensions between Britain and Germany, leading him to be accused of making friends with Hitler.
The Ministerial Box is an interesting connection to the political career of Lord Londonderry, and will allow as to tangibly present his contributions to national politics during a crucial time in the interwar years.
This acquisition has been made possible with funding from NT and purchased with assistance from the NIMC Acquisition Fund