When I was going through some photos recently I realised that I had some pictures of the Shell Room at Basildon Park that I had not shared with you.
The Shell Room is an amazing room, but very difficult to photograph. It is a very dark, and the cabinets that contain the shells are lit by artificial light which makes taking pictures rather tricky. So this is just a very small flavour of what you can see if you actually visit.
How do we come to have a room full of shells in an 18th Century House you might well ask. It is an interesting story. Lord Illife's mother, Lady Charlotte Iliffe was a great collector of shells. Lady Charlotte was quite a reserved lady, and when she travelled with her husband abroad on business rather than going to meetings or functions with him she preferred to spend time on the beach and engaging in what became her passion of collecting shells.
When Basildon Park was given to the National Trust the gift included Lady Charlotte's shell collection. It turned out to be one of the largest and most importantly privately held shell collections in the country. Because of this the National Trust felt that it really should be displayed and shared with the public.
The National Trust commissioned an artist called Gordon Davies to produce panels and cabinets to adorn the room that became the Shell Room in order that Lady Charlotte's collection could be displayed.
When I give guided tours I always tell visitors about the fact that Lady Charlotte was very well thought of in shell collecting circles and she was therefore invited to be come a member of various conchological societies. Of course the main reason that I tell visitors this is because it took me so long to work out how to pronounce the word!
I wish that I had more photos to share this amazing story with you, but I hope that these few pictures will give you a flavour of what there is to see and I will keep on trying to get more photos on the sunnier days at the house!
This is the bottom half of one of the cabinets showing one of the panels that Gordon Davies produced.
These amazing shells are carved oyster shells, they are amazingly detailed and beautifully made.
One of my favourite things in this room to point out to children - especially small boys! - are these bleeding tooth shells!
They also love the spiny oysters.
I hope that you enjoyed your visit to the Shell Room with me.