Catalogue description Letters from Lady Catherine Ashburnham, Ashburnham Place in Ashburnham, to Rupert Gunnis

This record is held by East Sussex Record Office

Details of amsll/6732/1
Reference: amsll/6732/1
Title: Letters from Lady Catherine Ashburnham, Ashburnham Place in Ashburnham, to Rupert Gunnis

The letters cover the period 1943-1946 and are addressed from Ashburnham Place, unless otherwise stated; there is also correspondence between Felix Hull, Francis Steer and Nigel Gunnis dated 1965 concerning the donation of the letters to the record office. Lady Mary Catherine Charlotte Ashburnham (1890-1953, always known as Lady Catherine) was the daughter of Bertram, 5th Earl of Ashburnham, and inherited Ashburnham Place in 1924 on the death of her uncle Thomas, 6th Earl of Ashburnham. The contents of Ashburnham Place and part of the estate were sold after her death in January 1953; a further portion of the estate was disposed of in 1957. Rupert Forbes Gunnis (1899-1965) entered the colonial service in 1923, and served as private secretary to the governor of Cyprus (1926-1932); he was than inspector of antiquities for the Cyprus Museum, and published 'Historic Cyprus' in 1936. He returned to England in 1939. He purchased Hungershall Lodge, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and devoted his time to antiquarian pursuits, particularly the study of British monumental sculpture. His work 'Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851' was published in 1953, and has been the basis for later revised editions. The letters are a vivid reflection of life during the war in the part of the country known as 'doodlebug alley', and there are many references to the ever-present threat in 1944. Lady Catherine alludes frequently to the weather, and the privations of war; many letters concern her research into genealogy and the Ashburnham pictures, in which she was assisted by Gunnis. For a pedigree of the Ashburnham family and research notes by Lady Catherine, see ASH 116-118, 2800. Lady Catherine's cousin and land agent, John Richard Bickersteth (1897-1967), makes frequent appearances; he was also a member of East Sussex County Council and served as chairman of the Records Committee. He was the younger son of John Bickersteth (1850-1932) and his wife, Lady Margaret Ashburnham (1851-1933), a daughter of Bertram the 4th Earl Ashburnham. Lady Catherine died suddenly on 5 January 1953 and the estate was inherited by John David Bickersteth (1926-1991), who was the son of Edward Bickersteth (the elder son of Lady Margaret) who died in 1945, and his wife Evelyn, née Burton. The reference given includes the number given to the letters when they were bound; any gaps relate to interleaves. The dated letters appear first (AMS 6732/1/1-57); followed by undated (AMS 6732/1/59-61); incomplete letters (AMS 6732/1/63-67); and letters concerning the donation of the records (AMS 6732/1/69-73).

Date: 1943-1965
Held by: East Sussex Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Former reference in its original department: AMS 6732/1
Language: English

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