The Stewart Museum at Burnby Hall Gardens has been very fortunate to receive a donation of three previously unknown photograph and postcard albums to add to its archive recently.
The pictures contained in these albums were taken and collected by Major Percy Stewart’s brother Herbert Galloway Stewart and date from the period 1902 to 1924. They were donated by Tim O’Sullivan from Exmouth in Devon who had originally purchased them in 1976 at an auction of a clergyman’s personal effects.
Very recently, he began researching their contents and made contact with the Gardens.
The albums contain a mixture of postcard scenes and original photographs taken by Herbert on his travels around the UK and Europe, and feature trips he made to Italy and Greece, scenes of activities on board the ships that he travelled on, and a few family snaps.
But of most interest to the Stewart Museum are several photographs of Burnby Hall and its gardens taken when the house was still called Ivy Hall back in 1905. Several of these are previously unseen and were taken by Herbert on a visit to See Percy and Katharine Stewart at Christmas that year.
Up until 1919, when the Stewarts changed its name, Burnby Hall was originally called Ivy Hall. When they leased it on their marriage in 1901, the house belonged to the Powell family (solicitors in the town), with Percy and Katharine purchasing it three years later.
Of great interest are photographs showing the interior and exterior of the house, in addition to a scene showing ‘The Lake’, newly-created in 1904. An interior photograph illustrates the very opulent lifestyle that the Stewarts enjoyed at that time and reflects their desire to have the best of everything in their house and gardens.
A further photograph shows a garden area immediately at the front of the house. This contained a small fountain and appears to have been situated in the area where the woodland between the council and public carparks at the Gardens is currently situated.
March 2016 sees a decision being made on the Gardens’ Round Two Heritage Lottery Fund bid to restore the lakes, recreate the original Rock Garden as the Stewarts would have known it, and to restore the Edwardian Potting shed as a visitor feature.
The acquisition of these new photographic albums, adding to those already in the Stewart Museum archive, comes at a time when pictorial records of the life and times of Percy and Katharine Stewart are more important than ever as evidence of the fantastic legacy they left behind.
Herbert Stewart (1867 to 1960) was one of Percy’s younger brothers and a very keen photographer. Readers will recall that albums of photographs featuring his life in Russia between 1908 and 1917 were discovered in the National Media Museum in 2013, leading to some international interest.
A spokesperson for the Gardens said: “From a heritage perspective for us here at the Gardens, they are a unique and welcome addition to the Stewart Collection, and we’re really grateful to Mr O’Sullivan and his wife for donating them to us.”
• Photographs courtesy of the Stewart Museum.