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I had been waiting for years (literally) for the Antiques Roadshow to visit somewhere near the archive in Devizes, and last Thursday was our big opportunity and we took it! But having decided to go, what should we take from over a million items in the collection? There is so much rich history in the archive that it really was a very tough decision.
As an avid fan of the Roadshow I knew that it would have to be either something which was valuable, beautiful or could tell a fantastic story, or preferably all three!
As wonderful as the archive is, we have very few things that are intrinsically valuable, and certainly nothing which is worth the tens of thousands of pounds like some of the beautiful items which we see on Sunday nights. The value of the items in our collection is almost entirely in the fascinating stories they tell, of those millions of women (and later men too) who gave so much for society, but whose action on the whole were relatively mundane but completely vital.
Documents tell wonderful stories, but are mostly rather dull to look at, so what could we take? What had a great story, looked good and might be worth something?
The answer had of course been rolled up in unbleached cotton calico and sat safely on a shelf unseen for the past five years. It was Lady Reading’s Tapestry!
The opportunity to tell Lady Reading’s story, who I strongly believe to be one of the most important women in the 20th Century, (right up there with Marie Curie, Emeline Pankhurst and Eleanor Roosevelt) was too good to miss.
It combined not only our founder’s story, but also the story of the WVS itself in its twenty half cross stitched panels.
What is that story and how much was it worth I hear you ask! Well, you will have to tune into the Antiques Roadshow from Bowood House next series to find out!