Lady Meux of Theobalds Park

Sir Henry and Lady Meux at ThobaldsTheobalds Park in Cheshunt Hertfordshire was once home to the characterful Lady Valerie Meux. Built in the 1760s by George Prescott, Esq, its slightly elevated position would have provided stunning views over the Lea Valley, and today is occupied by the De Vere Hotel.

Sir Henry and Lady Valerie Meux hunting at Theobalds.JPGThe estate was acquired by Sir Henry Meux, a brewer from London, in the 1820s. It was under the ownership of Henry’s son, also named Henry, and his wife Lady Valerie Meux, that Theobalds perhaps witnessed its most colourful period of history.

Born in 1847, before she married into the wealthy Meux family, Valerie Susan Langdon worked as an actress and according to her obituary in the New York Times she had met her husband whilst performing in Brighton. Rumours have however suggested a more scandalous meeting whilst working in Holborn. Her flamboyant character wasn’t too popular within the aristocratic society she had married into, and the marriage had in itself caused quite a scandal.

Nevertheless, once comfortably embedded in the family seat at Theobalds, Lady Meux was not reluctant in making her mark. Fascinated by Egyptian history, she established a museum of Egyptian antiquities at Theobalds, a collection of over 1,700 items. She also improved and enlarged the estate with additions including a swimming pool and indoor rolling skating rink – all impressive features for her to entertain her many guests, including the Prince of Wales and Winston Churchill.

Temple Bar at Theobalds

Perhaps her most lavish influence was persuading her husband to purchase Temple Bar from the City of London, which was residing in storage, so that she would have a grand entrance to her estate. The iconic gateway designed by Sir Christopher Wren remained at Theobalds until 2003, when it returned to Paternoster Square, London. This was not the only extravagant purchase she had persuaded her husband to spend his money on. Race horses were also a passion of Lady Meux’s and so she had her husband buy them for her, which she would race under the name of Mr Theobalds.

In 1881, Lady Meux commissioned James McNeil Whistler to paint her portrait. His portrait Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux can be seen today at the Frick Museum in New York, and Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux belongs to the Honolulu Academy of Arts. A third portrait was also commissioned although was never finished due to a dispute between Whistler and Lady Meux. It was subsequently destroyed by the artist.

Following her husband’s death in 1900, Lady Meux had become concerned for the British forces during the Siege of Ladysmith of the Second Boer War. Her offer quickly to finance artillery was rejected by the War Office, but fearsome as she was she went ahead and did it privately anyway, supplying 12 field guns.

After the war, she got to know Sir Hedworth Lambton, a senior naval officer at Ladysmith. So impressed was she with Sir Hedworth, she left everything, including the Meux brewery, to him in her will on the proviso that Sir Hedworth change his name to Meux, which he readily did on his benefactress’ death in 1910. Sir Hedworth Meux went on to become Admiral of the Fleet and a Conservative MP. His hunting trophies, a tiger and leopard, from an expedition with King George V (then the Prince of Wales) were for many years on display at Cedars Park, Cheshunt and today can be seen at Lowewood Museum.

Theobalds ParkThe Meux family continued to live at Theobalds until 1929. Since then, the house has been used as a hotel, a school and college, before re-opening as a hotel as it is used today.

 

 

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‘School’s Out’, New Exhibition at Lowewood Museum

School's Out poster low res

Opening on Saturday 10 October, ‘School’s Out’ gathers together memories and objects from the Borough’s schools history. Curated by Lowewood Museum’s Youth Panel, this special exhibition has something for everyone to enjoy.

Below is a gallery of images from Lowewood Museum’s photographic collection of schools through history.

Archaeological objects on display at Lowewood Museum

Last year, Lowewood Museum refurbished its archaeology display which explores the history of the Borough of Broxbourne, from the very earliest times up to the 1600s.

On display are some of the most interesting objects in the Museum’s collection. Find out more about them in this blog and pop into the Museum and see them and many more fascinating objects on display.

Cloak toggle

Iron Age 800 BC to 43 AD

IMG_1691

This toggle, made from a piece of antler, was found in Turnford in 1954. Antlers and bones were used throughout the later prehistoric period to make things like toggles for fastening clothing, as well as needles, pendants and dice. The objects themselves, like this one, are often decorated with concentric circles, a pattern typical of the Iron Age period.

 

Gold Aureus of Trajan

AD 114-117

Gold Aureus of Trajan. Lowewood Museum Application

Found by metal detectorists on land adjoining Ermine Street, Cheshunt, this coin came to the museum through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The finder kindly waived their prize money and the Museum was able to purchase it with a grant from the Hertfordshire Heritage Fund.

Baselard Dagger

Late 1300s

Dagger

In 1918, this dagger was found by a workman beneath a hedge near Dark Lane, Cheshunt. It was sent to the Royal Armouries Museum in 1954 to be identified, and was found to be a most interesting find. It remained on loan with them until 2014 when it returned to Lowewood Museum. This type of dagger was specifically for civilian use and the form of its surviving silver sheath-mount shows it was originally accompanied by a small by-knife for domestic use.

 

Lowewood Museum is free to attend and open Wednesday – Friday, 10am – 4pm and Saturday, 10am – 5pm. Members of the public can call the Museum on 01992 445596 to find out more or follow the Museum on Twitter @Lowewood.

James Ward, RA

James Ward

James Ward was an English painter and engraver, often referred to as the greatest animal artist of the early 19th century. Born in 1769, he expressed fine drawing ability from a young age. His career began at the turn of the century when he was commissioned to create a series of animal portraits for the Board of Agriculture, leading to his reputation as a skilled animal artist.
Ward’s abilities led to a commission to paint both Wellington’s charger Copenhagen and Napoleon’s Marengo. He became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1811, and by 1814, the public saw him at the height of his reputation. It was during this time that Ward produced Gordale Scar, one of his most ambitious and greatest works.

In 1828, he moved into Roundcroft Cottage in Park Lane Cheshunt where he lived for 30 years. Ward is now ranked among the leading artists of the British Romantic movement.

The new gallery at Lowewood Museum features a number of his animal and landscape paintings and sketches. His works also feature in many museums and galleries, most notable the Tate Gallery, London.