Article by Diana Zeuner, Editor of AIM (Association of Independent Museums) Bulletin
The Surrey Infantry Museum is contemplating the sad loss of the majority of its displayed collections following the fire at Clandon Park, the National Trust Palladian mansion near Guildford, Surrey, on 29 April.
The museum, which was housed in the cellar of the house, was gutted by the blaze, as was the rest of the building. Fortunately, at the last possible moment the Colours were snatched from the wall by the Fire Service, and have been saved.
The inferno at the historic home of the Earls of Onslow is believed to have started in the basement before spreading throughout the building, which housed an important collection of 18th century furniture, porcelain and textiles.
Some 80 firefighters battled through the night to bring the flames under control: staff and volunteers were safely evacuated and some historic artefacts were salvaged before the house became unsafe to enter.
The Surrey Infantry Museum holds the collections of the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), one of the country’s oldest regiments, and East Surrey Regiment, itself an amalgamation of regiments, which were merged in 1959 to become the Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment which later became the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
The museum opened in 1981 displaying collections of uniforms, medals and equipment. Fortunately the historic documents, books and photograph albums once housed there are at the Surrey History Centre. On display, and thought to be lost, was one of the footballs kicked across no-man’s land on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Both the Surrey Infantry Museum and the National Trust are members of AIM. AIM’s executive director, Tamalie Newbery, offered AIM’s support and added in a message to the Surrey Infantry Museum’s manager Stephen Johnson: “I just wanted to say how hugely sad we are to hear about the fire at Clandon Park today and our thoughts are with you all.”
There is a small collection of artefacts from the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) on show at The Lightbox in Woking as part of a permanent display called ‘Woking’s Story’