During current refurbishment work on the offices at Harewood House, a hidden gem has been revealed. We’re not talking about a piece of unknown Chippendale or a Turner watercolour, but a brief insight into the lives of two workmen who were working on rooms on 14th April 1912 - an anniversary that’s been much talked about over the recent month.
Found behind a panel on a doorway, E Sunderland and E Wilton wrote:
Sunday April 14th 1912
1503 persons drowned
705 persons saved
Commander Capt: Smith
This disaster happened near [illegible]. The boat was the largest afloat and on her maiden voyage.
Robert Kay, Harewood’s chief decorator, who himself has worked at Harewood for 37 years, knew of Edgar Sunderland from his predecessor who remembered the man. ‘He was well known for leaving time capsules and notes around the House. We recently found photographs and newspaper cuttings behind a wall in the State Gallery from 1896. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy and find out more about the legacy of people working at Harewood and we never know what we might find next. I started work on the door panel on 14th May and it was eerie finding this exactly 100 years and one month from the date of the sinking, particularly as this year sees the centenary.’
Henry, 6th Earl of Harewood would have been in his early twenties on this date and the rooms continued to be used by the Lascelles’ family through the childhood’s of the 7th Earl of Harewood, who died in July last year, and his son David Lascelles, the 8th Earl of Harewood and his brothers. In the early 1980s , Harewood revealed its most extraordinary find, handpainted Chinese wallpaper which had originally hung in the Chintz Bedroom in 1769 by Chippendale’s men. But as fashions changed, it was removed, stored and forgotten for almost 2 centuries. This fabulous wallpaper was conserved and re-hung in the newly refurbished East Bedroom for visitors to enjoy in 2008.
Harewood continues to evolve, both as a visitor destination and a major player in Yorkshire’s heritage. The University of York is currently engaged in an archaeological dig on the site of Gawthorpe, which was the predecessor to Harewood House. The dig will form a major element of Harewood’s major forthcoming Medieval Faire at the end of June and the 5 year celebration of Medieval at Harewood. This is the second summer students from the University of York have been working in the grounds and finds continue to astound.
Harewood continues to provide clues to its history, some that we search for and some that we come upon by chance. Harewood and its people might change across the centuries, but if anything is a constant here, it is change and Harewood looks forward to embracing finds in the future .... now where did Robert put that Jubilee time capsule?
Harewood House Trust, Harewood House, Harewood, Leeds LS17 9LG
0113 218 1010