Who was Charles Wade?

Charles Wade's spectacles resting on a book, part of the collection in the Living Room at the Priest's House at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

Snowshill Manor as we know it, was founded in the early 1900s by Charles Wade - but who was he?

Born in the suburbs of London in 1883, Charles Wade was the son of Paget and Amy Wade – owners of several sugar estates in the West Indies.
At the age of seven, he went to live with his Grannie Spencer in Great Yarmouth.


‘Grannie’s cabinet’

Grannie Spencer was a stern woman who scorned any form of luxury however, she was a keen collector and, every Sunday, Charles would marvel at the items in ‘Grannie’s cabinet’, where she housed her collection – you can see this very cabinet in the manor today. It wasn’t long before Charles began collecting too.
It started with a small bone model of St Michaels, bought with 18 weeks’ worth of pocket money and sparked a lifelong love of collecting in a young Charles.


Architect and artist

Despite not being a great student at school, Charles went on to secure work as an architect. Alongside his flair for architectural visions and drawings, he also loved to draw and paint for pleasure.
When his father died in 1911, Charles inherited enough money to stop work and absorb himself in his passion for collecting which he used to further his collection. And while serving with the Army in the First World War, he spotted Snowshill Manor up for sale.


A home for his collection

On his return, he purchased Snowshill Manor, a Tudor manor house with adjacent cottage and 14 acres of land and set to work revamping the house and turning the farmyard into a cottage garden into an Arts and Crafts garden with the help of M H Baillie Scott.  While his collection took pride of place in the main manor, Charles set up home in the small Priest’s House opposite.
Word of his collection soon spread among literary and artistic types, and he welcomed several notable people to Snowshill Manor in the early 20th Century, including J.B.Priestly, Virigina
Woolf and even Queen Mary.


Marriage and death

It wasn’t until his 60s, that Charles met his wife – 44-year-old vicar’s daughter Mary Graham. They married in 1946 and lived at Snowshill Manor before spending increasing amounts of time in St. Kitts in the early 1950s.
During a visit back to England 5 years later Charles was taken ill and died at Evesham. Mary survived him by many years, ending her days in the nearby village of Broadway.
Several years before he died, Charles approached the National Trust asking them to accept the Manor as a gift to safeguard the future of his collection – an offer which was accepted.
House Steward Jennifer Rowley-Bowen said: "Charles Wade was an avid collector of extraordinary objects; an artist, poet and craftsman, he saw beyond the ordinary and created a magical world for himself at Snowshill Manor. We love sharing this story with visitors, who get a sneak peek into the life of an interesting man."