Lady Ela story continues

Posted On June 3, 2017
June 03, 2017

When Lynda Herity joined Friends of Chorleywood House Estate she became curious about Lady Ela Russell whose family bought the main house in 1892 as a Dower House for the Duchess (Ela’s Mother) so she began to research tales and records of Lady Ela’s life. In spring 2015 she had collected enough information and artifacts to set up a small exhibition, much of it dedicated to Lady Ela. The display, located at the Estate Summer House, is open to the public on most Bank Holidays, Apple Day and a couple of Sundays in August.

Over time local people have passed on their own recollections and memorabilia and a couple of recent additions and discoveries have been especially rewarding.

“I had found out a lot about the history of the Estate but didn’t know much about Ela herself” says Lynda. “So I was really excited after meeting the Archivist to be offered the opportunity to meet up with the assistant curator at Woburn Abbey, home of the Bedfords and Ela’s birthplace. I have visited there before but this time I was given access to areas not open to the public. Special permission had to be given by Andrew Russell, the Duke of Bedford! It was amazing. They have an extraordinary collection of photographs, paintings, drawings and books written by Ela and two of her Nephews. It was interesting that Ela had been looking after the dowager duchess in Latimer House, rented at the time. There’s an oil painting by Ela dated March 1897 showing the Dowager Duchess, Lord Tavistock, Sir Edward and Lady Ermyntrude Malet standing on the front steps overlooking the valley at Latimer House. There are lots of photographs of young Ela with her siblings, a few of her sitting room at Woburn which she took and developed herself plus many of her paintings of family and the rooms at Woburn. She was an accomplished artist.”

Bill Cattle of Chorleywood, whose father was Lady Ela’s houseman, had already donated photos and paintings including an original oil and copies from Ela’s sketch book so links were becoming apparent. Bill had lived in South Lodge of Chorleywood House with his family then moved to North Lodge at the current entrance to the House and Mews. Ela would often give Bill gifts. When Bill died earlier this year his wife Pat loaned for use in the summer house exhibition a splendid copy of the Illustrated London News (to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria on the throne), Lady Ela’s letter opener, a leather and sterling silver belt with an impressive crest and her pocket-size leather bound watercolour sketch book.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw that she was wearing the belt in one of the photographs at Woburn. It was so satisfying being able to fit more pieces of the Ela jigsaw together after my visit although there are still a lot more to slot in before we complete the picture!

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw that she was wearing the belt in one of the photographs at Woburn. It was so satisfying being able to fit more pieces of the Ela jigsaw together after my visit although there are still a lot more to slot in before we complete the picture!

The Summer House Lady Ela Exhibition opens on Sunday 13 August, Sunday 20 August and Sat 7 October (Apple Day)

Chorleywood House Estate, WD3 5FL www.chorleywoodhouse.org.uk/

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