New exhibition asks ‘what is home?’ with art installation inspired by historic mansion’s past as a school for boys

Press release
Published : 15 Mar 2019

A new exhibition at the National Trust’s Croome Court in Worcestershire, that once housed a school for boys, will explore the question ‘what is home?’ through the voices of former pupils and children currently in care.

What is Home, 16 March 2019 – 1 July 2020

For hundreds of years, Croome was home to the Earls of Coventry. However, the sweeping ‘Capability’ Brown designed landscape and grand 18th century mansion house are only part of the property’s eclectic history.

The exhibition What is Home will invite visitors to reflect on a more recent time, in the 20th  century, when Croome was home to the St Joseph’s School for Boys [1] for pupils aged six to 13, from disadvantaged backgrounds who came to live and study away from their families.

The boys’ stories of their time at the school are as varied as their backgrounds, some happy, some sad, and many very moving. What is Home takes its inspiration from these experiences.

Artist Kashif Nadim Chaudry has worked with former pupils of the school, some of whom now volunteer at Croome, and with children currently living in care, to ask what home means to them. [2]

Each participant has answered the question through a personal object they have loaned to Croome for a new artwork which will feature in the exhibition. Nearly 100 objects have been loaned by the participants, the youngest just 17 months old, the eldest over 70.

These personal objects include a pink bootie that represents safety and warmth, pennies that can finally pay for a lost mother’s trip to visit her sons, and a rosary that began a lifelong devotion – each object telling the story of an uncommon life.

Rachel Sharpe, the National Trust’s Creative Partnerships Manager at Croome, said: “The word ‘home’ means something different to everyone and some people may not even feel that they have a home. Croome is a place where people other than the aristocracy have lived, and this project is about giving those people a voice.

“We‘ve collaborated closely with ex-pupils of St Joseph’s and children in care at each stage of the project, learning from their unique life experiences.

“Nadim has collected and curated these extraordinary and poignant testimonies through expertly crafted workshops and conversations, which have resulted in a thought-provoking artwork of artistic and social significance.”

The artwork consists of a large box with intricately detailed fretwork which houses the personal objects, some set in motion within the structure, representing the participants’ transitionary lives.

Accompanying testimonials compiled by writer William Gallagher are placed around the room, explaining each object’s significance and the story behind its inclusion.

Croome volunteer Pete Chlebko is an ex-pupil of St Joseph’s School for Boys and chose an object for the What is Home installation. He said:“My item is a book written by Enid Blyton from the Famous Five series.  I loved to read these books when I was little, my mum used to send them to me when I was in care before I came to Croome.  But when I got to St Joseph’s I wasn’t allowed to read books like this, and I missed my books.”

Artist Kashif Nadim Chaudry said: “For me, it’s the beautiful stories that are attached to these objects, which bring this exhibition to life.

“It’s been a real privilege to hear these stories in all their colourful variety. I hope that visitors will have a sense of this, through a fleeting glimpse into the lives of people who may not have had a ‘traditional’ sense of home.”

After exploring the artwork, visitors will have the chance to see original items that remain from the time when St Joseph’s School was housed at Croome.

A film showing how the project was developed will also be part of the exhibition. Interviews with the artist as well as some of the ex-pupils of St Joseph’s will be available online.  

The exhibition opens on Saturday 16 March 2019 and closes on 1 July 2020

For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome.

- Ends -

Notes to Editors

[1] In 1948, Croome was sold to the Diocese of Birmingham, and for 30 years it opened its doors to boys between the ages of 6 and 13. The pupils from various disadvantaged backgrounds came to live and study away from their families, at that time being considered unable to be educated within the state system. Croome ceased to be a school in 1978.

[2] All artists on the project were selected because of their past experience of working through socially engaged practice.  Both Kashif Nadim Chaudry (Lead Artist) and William Gallagher (Writer) have worked extensively though participation.

What is Home is delivered by the National Trust through Trust New Art, the National Trust’s programme of contemporary arts, in partnership with Families and Communities Worcestershire County Council, Chatback Productions and supported using public funding by Arts Council England and a donation from the Tony Brooks Legacy Fund.

About Kashif Nadim Chaudry

Nadim is a Nottingham born, bred and based visual artist, predominantly making sculpture and installations.  He graduated from the Textiles BA at Goldsmiths College, London and has been practicing as an artist since around 2010, when he had his first solo exhibition in Nottingham.  His route into textiles came through a family history in tailoring, his mother is a tailor as were her parents, so he’s grown up with fabrics and a love of craftsmanship.

He has had various solo exhibitions such as ‘Swags & Tails’ at the Asian Triennial, Manchester in 2014 and ‘MEMES’ at Lakeside Arts, University of Nottingham, which were the end product of being artist-in-residence for two years.  More recently in 2016, a unique exhibition was at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, where he worked collaboratively with the Turner Contemporary Studio Group to create a new work.  The Studio Group were 19 local makers, artists and craftspeople and collectively they were the commissioning body that selected to work with him.  Together, over a period of about a year and a half, they created a largescale sculptural installation: ‘The Three Graces’ which was a weaving together of all of their skills.

About Croome

Croome was inherited by the 6th Earl of Coventry in 1751, on the death of his father. The new Earl set about creating a thoroughly modern building, working with the most talented new designers of the day. Two of these people were ‘Capability’ Brown, and Robert Adam. Brown reshaped both the landscape and the Court, while Adam’s work focused on the interiors and furniture.

In 1948, however, Croome was sold, as the 10th Earl had died in France in 1940, and the family trust was no longer able to keep it viable as a home. Croome was sold to the Diocese of Birmingham and became St Joseph’s School for Boys.  The boys came from various circumstances including disadvantaged backgrounds. Aged between 6 and 13, boys then moved onto Besford Court at age 13. There were 140 pupils enrolled at the school at any one time and were taught by nuns and teaching assistants. Croome ceased to be a school in 1978.

After Croome had closed its doors to St Joseph’s School for Boys it became the headquarters for the Hare Krishna, and then a club and later a private home. All these roles have left their mark on Croome. The landscape was first acquired by The National Trust in 1996 followed by the house in 2007. 

About the National Trust

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy.  More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything the charity does.

Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than 26 million people visit every year, and together with 5.2 million members and over 61,000 volunteers, they help to support the charity in its work to care for special places for ever, for everyone.

For more information and ideas for great seasonal days out go to: www.nationaltrust.org.uk.