“Let nothing perish” – the Charles Wade archive

Thanks to the patient work of volunteers, the fascinating archive of Charles Paget Wade has now been fully catalogued. Charles Paget Wade purchased Snowshill Manor near Broadway in 1919 to display his growing collection of objects, chosen to demonstrate what he regarded as the “essentials of design, colour and craftsmanship”. By the time of his death in 1956, Wade had acquired more than 20,000 objects, ranging from an ancient Egyptian alabaster pot to different types of clocks, ornate inlaid cabinets to wagons, Samurai armour to early velocipedes – as well as 2,250 pieces of 18th and 19th century clothing and much more besides. He could afford all of this because of the plantations and other businesses he had inherited in the West Indies, especially the island of St. Kitts.

Charles Wade’s personal motto was “let nothing perish” and, in keeping with this, he also kept many thousands of documents. In 2005, the National Trust, which now owns Snowshill Manor, deposited many boxes of Wade’s papers at Gloucestershire Archives.  The papers include correspondence, information on Wade’s personal and business finances including the St Kitts estate and plantation, bills and receipts for his purchases, theatre programmes, postcards, Christmas cards and travel documents, as well as notebooks and sketch books. There are also papers from his mother, his sisters, his wife and some of his friends, especially F. P. Hart, whose naval career from 1896 to 1940 is documented.

 

Bill for an antique pram, 1914- one of Charles Wade’s many purchases (D10423/box 5/34)

 

All these papers have now been listed in detail by a small but dedicated team of volunteers. Over the past seven months they have carefully examined the contents of some 40 archive boxes, compiling over 3000 entries for our online catalogue .   The volunteers were recruited from the Snowshill Manor room stewards. Their expert knowledge of the Wade family and the objects on display at the Manor was invaluable in helping them to interpret the documents, and new information about some of the Snowshill artefacts was discovered in the process.  The volunteers enjoyed learning a new skill and finding out new facts about the Charles Wade, his family and his extensive collection. Here are some of their comments:

” Jane liked the insight into the Wade’s lives & particularly the postcards as they showed the friendships enjoyed by the family. I liked the collection of receipts as it gave a real insight into how Charles, & then he & Mary, lived on a day to day basis. It also confirmed the stories of Mary’s devotion to animals with the vets’ bills which have survived. I had been told that amongst other things she had introduced Charles Paget Wade to cats – and here is the evidence.”

“As a volunteer Room Guide, I’m always keen to learn as much as I can about the Snowshill collection in order to provide our visitors with accurate and entertaining information.  It was a privilege to be involved with the archive project which enabled me to enhance my knowledge of a wide range of items, as well as giving more insight into Mr Wade himself through the handling of his correspondence.  I also much appreciated the dedication and professionalism of the Gloucestershire Archives team.”

“I found my 29 weeks at Gloucestershire Archives cataloguing the Charles Wade papers incredibly engrossing and rewarding. To bring some order to such a rich historical collection, making it accessible to the public for the first time, was exhilarating and valuable. I particularly enjoyed the idea of helping to build a more detailed story of an unusual personality, adding to our knowledge of his motivations and inspirations, and providing all that with a wider audience through the Archive”

You can view the catalogue for the Snowshill archive by searching our online catalogue using the “finding reference” D10423. The documents can all be consulted in our public searchroom.

Gloucestershire Archives is supported by the work of many valued volunteers. Please get in touch with volunteer co-ordinator Paul Evans if you would like to find out more about opportunities to get involved.

The National Trust was given Snowshill Manor and gardens in 1951 and has managed the property ever since so that the public can see and appreciate what Wade had achieved. Find out more here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/snowshill-manor/

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