Current exhibition: 'Eastbury Saved'
'Eastbury Saved' is a permanent exhibition, which opened in October 2018, as part of our 100th anniversary partnership project ‘We Love Eastbury’. This project commemorated the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ (SPAB) involvement in saving the house from demolition as well as its successful fundraising campaign that helped the National Trust acquire it for the Nation in 1918. It tells the story of the house from 1883 to 1918, and explores the building’s place in the wider social and industrial changes happening during that time.
The exhibition is accessible to view on all open days and features family-friendly activities, SPAB furniture on loan, information on key people associated with the National Trust, historic photographs of the local area and ephemera from the period.
The project was made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, supported through the Heritage Fund, as well as money from the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, the Friends of Eastbury Manor House and the Barnet National Trust Association.
On 11 July 2019, the recently commissioned animation by Salmagundi Films will be launched as part of this project. If you’re a National Lottery player you can visit the house and exhibition for free during July and October 2019. It is thanks to you that we’ve been able to celebrate this important milestone in our history. To gain your free entry during these months please bring a National Lottery ticket to present at admissions.
Here are some quotes from the exhibition:
'Yet another famous house of the late Tudor period is threatened with demolition.'
- Burlington Magazine, 1916
In the early decades of the 20th century, the keen eyes of investors and developes, the pressing need for housing and the defence of London during World War One, all threatened Eastbury, just as they had many other large historic houses.
'Long galleries wreathed with cobwebs and half filled with lumber'
- D W Coller, author of The People's History of Essex, 1861
During the 19th century, Eastbury was a shell of its former self. No longer a gentleman's home with extensive land, but a busy market garden and farm that was in gradual decline. London communters began to vastly increase Barking's population, and field by field, the old market gardens and farmland were lost to development.
'It is all we can do to keep pace with the destroyers'
- Water Godfrey, London Survey Committee, 1913
Development spread unchecked around cities, threatening Britain's historic landscapes and buildings.
'The octopus, spreading it's tentacles across the countryside...'
- England and the Octopus, 1928
Though the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the National Trust were formed in the late 19th century to campaign for heritage and landscape, there were still few planning laws to protect them as the 20th century began. By the early 20th century, the Octopus was extending its long reach to Barking. Politicans and people held very different opinions about Eastbury's future, some seeing it as a vital part of local heritage, others concerned that the money could be better spent than saving it.
'The ancient houses of Britain become more dear to those who watch over their destiny'
- The Builder, 1917
The mass destruction of World War One focused the minds of those who wished to preserve historic buildings, though it diverted the attention of the authorities away from the issue. In 1917 Eastbury was requisitioned for use as a Balloon Apron, one of ten protecting eastern and north-eastern approaches to London. Norman Wilkinson, a threatre designer who was steeped in arts and history was stationed nearby. He noticed the damage and alerted the SPAB. Wilkinson was instrumental in limiting the damage to Eastbury. In 1918 the National Trust purchased the house.