I am a collector of Tat;(I worry that if this jumble shop ceases to exist one day, I will be left with colossal hoarder tendencies). Charlie McCormick has a delightful collection of Constance Spry mantle vases, and Peter Hone's collection of plaster casts is something to behold. I imagine you, too, may have a collection, be it t-shirts, magazines or, like one of my friends - rocks. But I would hazard a guess that your collection has yet to kick you out of your home. Well, I do hope not. That's where we differ from the collector Charles Paget Wade, the last owner of Snowshill Manor, now owned by the National Trust. Charles was a little better off the many of us as even when his eccentric collecting tendencies took over the main house; he moved into the adjoining cottage dubbed the 'Priest House'. The name of this cottage paid homage to the manor once being owned by Wycombe Abbey before the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th Century. Snowshill Manor was then included in Henry VIII's dowry to Catherine Parr. After a slew of much less prestigious owners, Charles Paget Wade purchased it in 1919.
He was able to do so by inheriting sugar plantations in St Kitts from his father. His family had purchased the plantations after the abolition of slavery. Charles' grandfather, Solomon, was one of many people who profited from the abolition of slavery. In 1835, he received £138 from the British government for freeing nine of his enslaved people. Charles took over this business, and with his money, he started his collection and brought Snowshill Manor back to life.
Charles started collecting when he was seven years old; he had been sent to live with his grandmother, 'Grannie Spencer', who lived an austere life, but one thing she did own was a cabinet of curiosities. On Sundays, she would give Charles the keys, and he was able to wonder at her collection. This cabinet hugely inspired him, 'His first acquisitions, bought with 18 weeks' worth of pocket money, were three small bone-carved shrines of St Michael and two of the Virgin and Child.'
First, of many, he never stopped and collected 22,000 or so objects. Snowshill Manor is an Aladdin's cave of bizarre and curious objects from locks to suits of armour, masks to musical instruments. As Charles Wade put it, 'What a joy these old things are to live with – each piece made by the hand of a craftsman, each has feeling and individuality that no machine could ever attain.'
In 1952, Wade gifted the property to the National Trust - one stipulation was that no items would be labelled to stimulate guests' curiosity.
You may think, 'oh well, that's a hell of a lot of photographs there is no reason to visit', those of you who have been will know that there is far more to see than the above shows. It's a must if you are in the area.