New rooms on display
We had the biggest year ever planned for tours and exhibitions, however coronavirus put a stop to that for the time being! We have so much for you to feast your eyes on when we eventually reopen. Such as: the Military Hospital Exhibition, the John Talbot Clifton Exhibition (now complete with stunning uniforms), the Priory Exhibition, and the Jacobean Bedroom, but here is an insight into one in particular.
HENRY TALBOT de VERE CLIFTON'S SITTING ROOM
This is one of our new rooms on display for the 2020 season which was scheduled to open at Easter.
The last Squire of Lytham Hall was better known as Harry and was the eldest of five children. His father was Squire John Talbot Clifton (the explorer) and his mother was Violet Mary Beauclerk Clifton. Harry was born in 1907 and inherited the Lytham Hall estate in 1928 upon the death of his father. He spent little time at Lytham, preferring to spend most of his earlier adult life in permanent suites in swanky London hotels. That was of course after he'd tried his hand at film directing in Hollywood, which is where he married the American actress Lilian Griswold. The marriage was a sham and didn't last long, in fact Harry never married again. Harry's love of gambling, drinking, and socializing in high places eventually led to the dissipation of the Clifton family wealth. He continued to sell off parts of the estate to support his frivolous lifestyle. Harry also had a love of fine art and was a collector of faberge eggs, of course many of these were later eventually sold to prop up his spending. He followed the Clifton family tradition with his love of racehorses, even attempting his hand at being a 6'4" jockey, and also had a fascination with clairvoyancy. Harry was acquainted to the author Evelyn Waugh. It is claimed Waugh based his character of Sebastian Flyte on Harry from the famous novel Brideshead Revisited. Later, Harry would only visit Lytham occasionally to carry out his duties as Lord of the Manor, and to visit his mother Violet who lived alone at the hall, apart from a few staff.
Photographic evidence, letters, and interviews with Clifton staff who are still living, prove this was the actual private room Harry used when spending time at the hall. However, photos also suggest at one point it probably doubled up as his bedroom too. Prior to that, some photos suggest it was perhaps used as a study/private room for his younger sisters Avia and Aurea. Over the last few hundred years, there is no doubt the room will have seen many different Clifton residents at various times of it's life.
Putting together and curating the room of a twentieth century Squire in a Georgian house, takes a lot of thought, investigation, acquisition, and careful consideration. Harry's lifetime spanned an important part of a century that saw the birth of popular radio, television, and even two world wars. Whilst Harry will have enjoyed the quality furnishings of his predecessors, he would have also had a desire to own goods in the art nouveau and deco styles, along with a few mod-cons of the decades. This is a balance we have achieved extremely well. Note a few things such as the deco clock, nouveau vases, the gramophone, bakerlite radio, faberge style eggs, his poetry books, racing and period newspapers, tarot cards, clairvoyancy manuals, cigar cases, drinks trolley with champagne, framed photographs, a deco three piece suite in a country house damask fabric, and even a photo of his precious Bentley. The bureau bookcase shows many examples of letters and contracts carrying his signature, along with the famous hand & dagger Clifton Crest. One picture on the wall shows Rufford Abbey in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire. This is a historic house that Harry purchased and only visited a few times! It was the family seat of Savile family. The 3rd Baron Savile inherited it as a minor in 1937, after which his trustees sold the house and split the estate into different lots. Harry apparently bought the country house and ancient priory without even seeing it. It suffered from years of decay before Northamptonshire City Council purchased it in 1952. Due to crippling debts, Harry eventually had to part with Lytham hall in 1963. The final bits of the estate were signed over in 1965 to Guardian Royal Assurance, whom he owed much of his debt to. This sadly brought an end to the Clifton's ownership of Lytham which had spanned across four centuries.
We hope to see you all sometime in the future. When we reopen make sure you come on one of our fascinating tours and see our newly opened rooms and exhibitions. Take care and stay safe