Never seen before Darwin images digitised by Shropshire Archives
Albums of ‘never seen before’ images of Darwin House have been digitised after being found in Shropshire Council’s archives.
The faded sepia images, contained in a series of old family photo albums dating from the late Victorian period, show images of Darwin House, birthplace of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) – formerly known as The Mount.
The albums are part of an only-recently catalogued collection of archive material relating to the Corbet family of Shropshire, which is held at Shropshire Archives in Shrewsbury.
The images were uncovered by John K Hughes, Shropshire Council’s project officer working on the reimagining of Darwin House.
“The connection to the Corbet family is through Kathleen Phillips, who married Hugh Dryden Corbet in 1903. Her father John Spencer Phillips, who purchased the former seven-acre Darwin estate in 1884, was a wealthy banker and, in 1898, became the chairman of Lloyds Bank.
“I suspect that these wonderful, faded sepia images have probably not been seen in living memory, so this is an absolutely incredible find and fills in many of the missing gaps we have been searching for in the course of our research. They will certainly go a long way in helping to further understand the complex history of one of the town’s most significant buildings.
“I am sure some of the images will be of particular interest to the residents of Darwin Gardens, whose properties were built over the Darwin’s large kitchen garden and flower gardens in the 1930s.”
The albums have now been digitised by the Shropshire Archives team.
Robert Macey, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for culture and digital, added:-
“Shropshire Archives holds documents and photographs that are truly priceless when it comes to recording our county’s rich history.
“I am delighted that, having been rediscovered, the images in the albums have been digitised and preserved for posterity.”
The albums capture scenes of the now lost beautiful gardens created by the Darwins in the early 1800s, together with images of the stables and the impressive vinery and greenhouse located in the grounds. Interior images depict the entrance hall with its grand ‘floating’ stairway and an adjacent room believed to have been the consulting room of Dr Robert Darwin, Charles’ father.
A more informal side of life at Darwin House circa 1900 is also shown, with scenes of picnics in the garden, riding bicycles and feeding the ducks. Additionally, there are many examples of fine, well-groomed horses in the courtyard – reflecting John Spencer Phillips’ keen interest in horsemanship and ‘four in hand’ carriage driving.
During his ownership a number of substantial modifications were made to the former Darwin home, including the addition of the now familiar front porch with its Doric columns, extensions to the courtyard stable block and, in 1906, the addition of a billiards room, which replaced the Darwin’s greenhouse on the mansion’s east wing. Not to mention certain cosmetic modifications to the interior.
The organisers of the DarwIN Festival, which runs throughout February 2024, have curated an exhibition of the newly rediscovered documents which will be on display at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery from today (Monday 5 February 2024). The exhibition is supported by Shropshire Council’s museums service.