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Anglesey Abbey’s treasures

Metal gilt and enamelled musical tower clock in chinese taste, fashioned as 4-tier pagoda. Known as the Pagoda clock at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
Pagoda clock at Anglesey Abbey | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The National Trust looks after a treasure chest of history. From artistic masterpieces and vast tapestries to precious personal possessions, the range and breadth of the collections is astonishing. The BBC TV series 'Hidden Treasures of the National Trust' shares the stories behind some of these remarkable objects. Discover more about some of the treasures in the Anglesey Abbey collection that you can see when you next visit.

Pagoda clock

This spectacle has delighted people since the 1800s. In the shape of a pagoda, the clock not only tells the time but also puts on an automated spectacle every three hours: a tune plays upon 12 bells, while three jewelled pineapple plants on each tier of the pagoda lift from their pots and spin around. The Pagoda clock has recently been repaired by our Horologist and features in series 2 of the BBC's 'Hidden Treasures of the National Trust'.

Centre detail of the Shield of Achilles by Philip Rundell at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
Shield of Achilles at Anglesey Abbey | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Shield of Achilles

Five of these shields were made in silver gilt between 1819 and 1824, all of them considered masterpieces of Regency silver. This shield, which is currently on display in the house, was bought by Lord Fairhaven in the mid-20th century. It has a central scene of Apollo driving the chariot of the sun, surrounded by symbolic representations of constellations. There is also a broad frieze with a series of scenes from the Iliad, bordered by a narrow band of waves representing the ocean.

Discover more about the Shield of Achilles

Anglesey Abbey Tapestry

This tapestry, woven from wool, silk and metal threads, was commissioned by Lord Fairhaven in 1934. The Cambridge Tapestry Company, who made this tapestry, operated during the early 1900s but used techniques from the 1600s. By the 1930s the company was struggling financially. Lord Fairhaven supported the company with accounting and by commissioning this tapestry. Anglesey Abbey is shown surrounded by Cambridgeshire landmarks, thereby placing it at the heart of the local landscape.

Take a closer look at the tapestry

Tapestry of Anglesey Abbey House made from wool, silk and metal thread
Anglesey Abbey tapestry made from wool, silk and metal thread | © Robert Thrift

Gainsborough's Rocky Coastal Scene

Thomas Gainsborough is one Britain’s most loved artists. The Suffolk-born painter is best known for his society portraits which brought him commercial success, but his landscapes were highly influential in establishing the genre. Lord Fairhaven filled his home with English landscape paintings. Mettingham Castle is around 13 miles from the Suffolk coast and looks very different to the ruin in this imagined landscape. You can see this Rocky Coastal Scene with Ruined Castle, Boats and Fishermen in our current exhibition: Artists of East Anglia. The exhibition is open daily from 11am - 3pm on the ground floor of the house.

Statue of Saint Christopher

A carved and painted limewood sculpture of the former Saint Christopher is displayed in the Dining Room at Anglesey Abbey. The story of the giant Christopher carrying Christ across a river is depicted in this excellent example from the school of limewood sculpture that centred around Ulm, South Germany, from around 1450 to 1525. Christopher talismans remain popular with travellers to this day.

Learn more about the statue here

Embarkation of George IV from Whitehall: the Opening of Waterloo Bridge, 1817, John Constable, RA (East Bergholt 1776, London 1837). Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

Anglesey Abbey and Lode Mill's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Anglesey Abbey and Lode Mill on the National Trust Collections website.

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The South Front of Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

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Sevres Wine Cooler, showing nymphs worshipping the bust of Pan, from a service made for Louis XVI, dated 1792, in the Porcelain Lobby at Upton House, Warwickshire

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Painting on display in the Upper Gallery at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

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