The first Lady Ela exhibition documenting the life of Lady Ela and the history of Chorleywood Estate opened in spring 2015 at the Summer House in the Estate grounds. A year on there is a lot more to reveal, says curator Lynda Herity. The exhibition re-opens this coming Easter weekend.
“The response to the exhibition has been amazing” says Lynda Herity, “Letters have arrived, we have had donations of items relevant to the Estate and we are privileged to be showing the WI 1965 scrapbook for the first time to the general public.”
Lady Ela Russell bought Chorleywood House in1892 and Lynda has set herself the task of finding out about the lady as well as the history of the Estate
“ We have gathered lots of new material over the year. I visited Woburn Abbey, home of the Bedfords (Ela’s family) hoping they would have lots of information on her and was really disappointed that nothing was recorded but then I discovered one of her watercolours framed in an upstairs room! Local resident Bill Cattle (who once lived in South Lodge as his father William, was Estate Houseman) has given us more photos , some from a wonderful sketch book of Lady Ela’s with several watercolour sketches which will also be added to the exhibition.”
Also on display will be the 1965 WI scrapbook featured in the February issue of Chorleywood Magazine.
“While investigating the disappearance of a commemorative tree plaque, Friends of Chorleywood House Estate (FOCWHE) discovered a Chorleywood 1965 competition scrapbook out together by the WI. It’s especially significant because Lady Ela of Chorleywood House was the first President of the Chorleywood (Afternoon) WI group when it was founded in 1919.”
The book is packed with accounts and observations, photographs, letters, newspaper cuttings, tickets, timetables, programmes, stamps , samples of fabrics from clothing and interiors and watercolour illustrations.
One of the most exciting Exhibition follow ups has been an email from Darlene MacGillivray of Ontario Canada whose aunt Mary Brady Thornton (1908-1994) was matron at Chorleywood House from 1940-1944, looking after 30+ children evacuated from London.
“Darlene discovered our exhibition on the website and told us that Mary had many wonderful stories of her times at Chorleywood House with the children. She said there were challenges but also some happy times. She sent us three wonderful photographs too ”
My Aunt used to say that each had their own gas mask, even Bowser her dog and somehow, he always knew when the siren would sound and they would have to take cover – he would be the first one in their safe place! My Aunt spoke of five bombs landing in proximity to the house, but they did not detonate.
Bowser was a gift to my Aunt Mary from her husband Lawrence, when they arrived in Chorleywood from Montreal, in 1939 and rented a small home there and kept my Aunt company. Lawrence was killed on active war duty, in April of 1940, on his ship in the North Atlantic.
Mary returned to Canada (with Bowser) and worked as a nurse at a children’s hospital in Montreal, until her retirement in 1973. She never remarried and never had children. She considered the children from Chorleywood House as her own. She revisited Chorleywood only once in 1961.
Lady Ela and her Estate
Easter Weekend, Fri 25, Sat 26 and Sun 27 March, 11am – 5pm. Summer House, Chorleywood House Estate, WD3 5FL www.chorleywoodhouse.org.uk/
Related post: Memories of Chorleywood ‘ouse
Evacuee Lena Goodman’s letter