Country Life magazines
Now that the house is closed for conservation over the winter months, the House Team have a chance to assess each item in the collection individually. Recently we finished cleaning the Library and were able to take a much closer look at one of our favourite items: three vintage Country Life magazines from the 1930’s. These magazines have a very important role to play in memories of Nymans' heyday.
From 1924-1928 Leonard and Maud Messel undertook a remodelling of Nymans house to create their dream mock medieval manor.
This large scale project attracted the attention of Christopher Hussey, the editor of Country Life magazine, who wrote an article in 1932 about the newly designed Nymans.
The article ran as a three week serial starting on 10th September 1932. The first two articles in the series described in incredible detail the changes to the house that Leonard and Maud made. The third article was dedicated to Leonard’s work in the garden. To begin with, Hussey's viewpioint alludes to the idea that the recreation of a house is a bad idea, but the beauty of Nymans won him over despite this.
“This has been accomplished with a skill that amply justifies a course that, under different circumstances, might be open to attack by those who regard ‘reproduction’ as in all cases reprehensible”.
Hussey also dreams up a romantic history for the property, and the origin of the name “Nymans”. He imagines a great valiant knight of Edward I’s being granted the property as a reward for his prowess on the battlefield. We don’t believe any of this to be true.
We’re very thankful for the Country Life article, as the photos taken to illustrate the articles make up the majority of our evidence of what the house looked like before the 1947 fire. Without them, our visual knowledge would be virtually non-existent. We still use these photos often in the house to show visitors what Nymans used to be like.
Above the fireplace in the destroyed library was a very rare and valuable Velasquez painting. During the fire the brigade gave Leonard the choice of having either this painting saved, or one of his Mother, Annie. Leonard chose the one of Annie, and the Velasquez painting was destroyed. But here it is, photographed by Country Life, in pride of place above the Library fireplace.
Isues of all three articles in the series are on display in the current Nymans Library. The magazine is a popular talking point amongst volunteers and visitors because of the vintage adverts printed on the cover. They include adverts for Chinese tea leaves, Brandy, Cadbury’s chocolate, and a plea for funds for the first Free Cancer Hospital, which is now NHS Royal Marsden.