The Clive Museum at Powis

A view of the Clive Museum and Tipu Sultan's palanquin at Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales.

The superb collection of artefacts from India displayed in the Clive Museum is the largest private collection of this type in the UK.

The web article below was published in 2017 to briefly highlight the Clive Museum at Powis. We have a long way to go but we are accelerating plans to reinterpret the stories of the painful and challenging histories attached to the history of Powis Castle. This will take time as we want to ensure that changes we make are rooted and sustained, and underpinned by good research.
In total, the Clive Museum features more than 300 items from India and the Far East, dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries, including ivories, textiles, statues of Hindu gods, ornamental silver and gold, and weapons and ceremonial armour.
This impressive collection was created by two generations of the Clive family: Robert (who became known as Clive of India) and his son Edward, who married Henrietta Herbert, daughter of the 1st Earl of Powis (2nd creation).

Robert Clive

Robert Clive (1725–74) served in India several times between 1744 and 1767. He was employed by the East India Company, which promoted trade between India and other countries.
Robert Clive, 1st lord Clive, by Nathaniel Dance
A painting of Robert Clive, 1st lord Clive, by Nathaniel Dance. Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales
Robert Clive, 1st lord Clive, by Nathaniel Dance

There was considerable local unrest and Clive was authorised by the British government to defeat local uprisings, which he did successfully, amassing huge personal fortune at the same time.

Henrietta Herbert and Edward Clive

The marriage of Henrietta Herbert to Edward Clive in 1784 joined the two families and provided a sound financial future for Powis.
Lady Henrietta Antonia Clive by Sir Joshua Reynolds
A painting of Lady Henrietta Antonia Herbert by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales
Lady Henrietta Antonia Clive by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Following in his father’s footsteps, Edward was appointed Governor of Madras in 1798. Unusually for that time, Henrietta and their two daughters joined him in India, staying for three years and collecting many Indian artefacts. 

Collecting Indian artefacts

Tension between the local population and the British increased in the late-18th century. The Indian opposition was led by Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the southern Indian state of Mysore.
Events inevitably came to a head at the Battle of Seringapatam in 1799. The British forces were led by the Governor General, Lord Mornington, assisted in administrative affairs by Edward, 2nd Lord Clive, Governor of Madras.
Tipu Sultan was defeated and many of his possessions were acquired by the British as spoils of war.
Spectacular items were presented to the Clives which can still be seen at Powis today including; Tipu’s magnificent state tent, made of painted chintz; a gold and bejewelled tiger’s head finials from Tipu’s throne; and two cannon positioned either side of the castle entrance.
The gold, bejewelled tiger head finial at Powis Castle
A gold, bejewelled tiger head finial. Part of the Clive Collection at Powis Castle, Pwys, Wales
The gold, bejewelled tiger head finial at Powis Castle

Indian interior

The Clive collection is housed in an area that was originally part of the long, 18th-century ballroom.
In about 1904, G. F. Bodley remodelled the room, shortening it and creating a separate room beyond it, which was used as a billiard room.
In 1987, the billiard table was moved to the room that had been the servants’ hall in the castle, and the room was set up to display the magnificent collection of Indian artefacts.