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West Horsley Place - Heritage Volunteering

At West Horsley Place, The Arts Society has volunteers working in the library and several are members of TASHL. To date we have cleaned, catalogued and carried out minor repairs when necessary to over 3,000 books with many tens of thousands of books left to discover.

If you would like more information please go to and have a look at the Tales from the Library Blog to see what treasures we have discovered on the shelves from Amelia Opie, a contemporary of Jane Austen to the Victorian explorer Richard Burton, and not forgetting a Suffragette's story.

The Monckton-Milnes family founded the present day library at West Horsley Place with the book collections of both Richard Crewe-Milnes and his son Robert. The Crewe Collection, seven and a half thousand of which were donated in the Will of Mary Duchess of Roxburgh to her father's university, Trinity College Cambridge, forms the atmospheric library with floor to ceiling bookcases. It is in the West Wing - the oldest wing of the house dating to 1425.

The first Lord Houghton, Richard Crewe-Milnes wrote both poetry and prose, including the first biography of the poet John Keats published in two volumes in 1848. Richard was the centre of a literary circle in the middle of the 19th century. He had famously proposed to Florence Nightingale on two occasions, unsuccessfully. He remained a tireless supporter of her work, and named one of his daughters from his marriage to Annabella Crewe after Florence. On his death she wrote to her sister "His brilliance and talents in tongue or pen... were chiefly inspired by good will towards man".

His son Robert was a Liberal politician in Asquith's cabinet and held the positions of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Secretary of State for India where he was instrumental in commissioning Lutyens to design New Delhi, and then Ambassador to France. His library contained a fine collection of French history and literature. He followed his father's literary interests and his first book of poetry was praised by Alfred Lord Tennyson. He also wrote a biography of his wife Lady Peggy Primrose's father, the Prime Minister, the Earl of Rosebery.

Lord Crewe and Lady Peggy moved into West Horsley Place in 1931. Their daughter Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe inherited West Horsley Place and when she died in 2014, she left the house and the 380 acre estate to her nephew Bamber Gascoigne. He in turn established a charitable trust to maintain the property.

The National Heritage Lottery is funding the work carried out by volunteers from local Arts Societies in East Surrey.


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