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Visitor’s Book for Calcot Park

In about 2007 we acquired  a collection of books from the estate a kinsman of the Heber-Percy family in a cottage close to the country house of the eccentric musical composer Lord Berners at Faringdon near Oxford. In the collection was this visitor's book (which later sold on the web for a low four figure sum..)

VISITOR'S BOOK FOR CALCOT PARK AND HUNGER HILL (EARL OF ROSSLYN 1914-1935). Oblong 4to (13" x 10"). Handsome red grained full leather binding with coat of arms in gilt on cover, slightly rubbed and slightly stained but sound VG. About 60 leaves. The visitor's book from 2 country houses owned by the Earl of Rosslyn (1869-1939)- Calcot Park and Hunger Hill. 3 photographs of these imposing houses pasted to first page. The first part, at Calcot, runs from 1914-1918. The second, larger part at Hunger Hill from 1925-1935. Signatures from Calcot include Diana Wyndham, Lord Wemyss, Countess Sutherland, Blanche Somerset, Arthur Balfour, Joseph Joffre, Admiral Jelicoe, Dame Nellie Melba, George Robey, Horation Bottomley, J. M. Barrie, Raymond Poincare, Douglas Haig, Herbert Asquith, Eleanor Glyn, George Vth and Queen Mary (the last 13 all appear to have stayed over one weekend in the summer of 1916). The visitors to Hunger Hall combine the old grand Rosslyn friends and the Bright Young Things crowd of their son Hamish St. Clair Erskine (Erskine had been at Eton with Robert Byron and James Lees-Milne and was leader of a "thoroughly irresponsible set." His name cropped up in a Home Office report on the greatest Eton scandal of the day when the actress Tallulah Bankhead was rumoured to have held an orgy with Hamish and his friends in a hotel at Bray.) Erskine, a "reckless charmer", was engaged to Nancy Mitford- this came to nothing; he was the first of a series of unavailable men that she fell in love with. Visitors during this time included Lady Rosslyn's great friend and mentor R. H Bruce Lockhart almost every weekend, Tom Mitford, John Betjeman (seven times, sometimes with Penelope Chetwode), Alan Pryce Jones (4), Peter Watson (3), Robert Byron, Nancy Mitford (3), Nancy Beaton (5), James Lees-Milne and Alvilde Bridges (5), Randolph Churchill, Peggy Evans (4), David Tennant, Victor Rothschild (3), Honor Guinness, Anthony Blunt, Henry Yorke (ie Henry Green). Calcot Park is now a Golf club.

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10 thoughts on “Visitor’s Book for Calcot Park

  1. admin Post author

    The books came from a sizeable cottage with large garden about a mile from Lord Berners place Faringdon House near Oxford. It was a member of the Heber Percy family related to Rosslyn but not sure which about 12 years ago, sorry. I don't think it was the one who was briefly engaged to Nancy Mitford…we were brought in by an antique dealer who was buying all the chattels (deceased estate). Sorry can't help much!

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  2. Jeff

    Such an august group who visited Calcot Park over a single weekend during the summer of 1916. Do you recall what weekend (or even month) that was? The costly Battle of the Somme was fought over that summer — still the record holder for the number of UK war dead on a single day (July 1). My grandfather fought there, and his brother Jimmy died on that day …

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  3. admin Post author

    Sorry Jeff. That visitor's book is long gone.The date could be fairly easily ascertained from biographies and memoirs- especially those of the royals and JM Barrie and Balfour. If I find time I will look. N

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  4. Jeff

    Thank you. I fear, however, you may be hard pressed to find any mention of this high-flight confab of WWI luminaries, at least on the Internet. I have looked, and can find none. Although I was born and raised in Edinburgh, I have spent most of these last 55 years in the USA, and have no access to the libraries wherein the diaries, memoirs, etc., may reside. George V did keep a rather meticulous diary, but the Royal Archives of the 20th century are not easily accessed, if at all. I was hoping to write an article about Calcot Park for the Sinclair family genealogical and clan society, and may still do so. It certainly would be nice, however, if I could pin down the exact date of the meeting within the historical framework of the times …

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