The Orderly Room

The Orderly Room exhibition at Snowshill Manor

The Orderly Room has been created to help share the story of Charles Wade's conscription in World War I.

‘‘How it is possible to entirely escape…in the midst of all the horrors of war" reflected Snowshill Manor's former owner Charles Wade on returning from the battlefields.

Royal Engineers

Conscripted to serve in 1916, Mr Wade was called up as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers in 1917. Unsuited to army life and seeing devastation all around, Wade turned to the painting and drawing that he had enjoyed since childhood, as a way of escaping the awful sights of war. Ruined landscapes were depicted as whole again and he created scenes of fantasy gardens.

A chance discovery

Assigned the duties of Orderly Room Clerk, he dressed and decorated his accommodation to recall the comforts of home. While working in France, he discovered a copy of Country Life magazine with a notice for the sale at auction of Snowshill Manor.

On his return home after the war, he found the Manor was still for sale and in 1919 he was able to buy it. He restored it to its former glory and filled it with his collection of craftsman made objects, true to his personal motto ‘Let Nothing Perish’.

Re-created room

This new installation represents Charles Wade’s WW1 Orderly Room in France. It shines a light on a little-known part of his past and examines his own statement: "How it is possible to entirely escape from the most terrible surroundings in the midst of all the horrors of war?" in relation to his wartime environment, his artwork and the creation of Snowshill Manor. 

The Orderly Room installation, which you can access without entering the Manor house, is situated in a cellar which was, up until now, inaccessible to visitors. It was used to store some old bikes and an ancient and very heavy old fire engine.

A refuge from the horror of war

Sue Denison, Conservation Assistant at Snowshill Manor, said: "It's been brilliant to see this room come together - sharing an important story in Snowshill Manor's history - the moment Charles Wade formed the idea of buying and saving the Manor.

"He was the Orderly Room Clerk and made the space something of a refuge from the horrors around him. so visitors will see the walls lined with sandbag hessian, maps with neat edging, a 'pleasing cover' for his bunk; and see the drawings he did to soothe the trauma of his situation. It's gives us a new insight into Charles Wade's character."

The new room, which opened in August 2016, will remain in this guise until the end of 2018.