Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
This collection has 35,257 items online
What makes Calke Abbey special is its survival after an era of decline and the National Trust’s response to this, presenting the house and its collections as they were found in the early 1980’s. Its collections are astonishingly diverse; room after room is filled with cases of butterflies and birds, shells and eggs, toy soldiers and minerals, which gives a fascinating insight into the people who lived and worked here. There are over 8,000 books divided between two separate libraries. The main collection is the ancestral library of the Harpur-Crewes, rich in eighteenth and especially nineteenth century books, often of a markedly domestic kind, with novels, natural history and devotional books predominating over connoisseur books. The library of the Egyptologist Sir John Gardiner Wilkinson (1797-1875), a cousin of the Harpur Crewes, contains learned books on classical art and archaeology, as well as antiquarian material and books from the Balkans and the Middle East. The family were avid collectors but also they tended not to throw anything away so the collection comprises an eclectic mix of country house contents including local ceramics, family portraits and sporting pictures (late 17th - early 20th century including outstanding Ferneleys); a Baroque state bed with Chinese embroidered silk hangings in pristine condition (probably made for George I c 1715 and given by his grandaughter, Princess Anne to her lady-in-waiting, Lady Harpur in 1734); a collection of early 19th century furniture by Marsh and Tatham and wide-ranging natural history collections. Rooms vary from the claustrophobically furnished Drawing Room to the atmospherically desolate Kitchen.