Monday, 18 August 2014

Ferguson's Gang...Introducing Miss Givings and Miss Terious

Copyright The Telegraph, 2008 
Have you ever had a moment of discovery that totally and completely knocks you for six? Well today, I think I know how Howard Carter felt when he discovered Tutankhamun's tomb. Okay, so maybe my discovery wasn't as fantastic as that, and there was no physical labour like digging or archaeological mastery. I stumbled across my discovery when reading a book, and I feel like I've unearthed something really wonderful. 
 As many of you know, I (Helen) am currently writing my Masters thesis on the National Trust and lots of boring academic stuff that I find interesting and only my fellow museologists (shout out to those reading) do. However, today during my research, I came across a secret society, and some women who deserve to be commemorated and glorified by What They Wore Yesterday. In 1927, a group of young women, inspired by Clough William-Ellis's quest to save the countryside, took up arms as it were, and formed Ferguson's Gang. Adopting pseudonyms and elaborate disguises, the group acted as vigilantes, and through using their personal wealth and fundraising methods, they managed to raise thousands and thousands for the National Trust. Members of the group included Margaret Pollard, niece of William Gladstone and acclaimed Cambridge scholar. 
  Its almost impossible to find photographs of the group in action; the above photo is from a rare outing they took without their masks. From what stories I've read, I've deduced that they always operated with a melodramatic flair; masks and costumes, and wonderful noms-de-guerres; their donations were made publicly and very theatrically- imagine a bank robbery in reverse. One donation was made in the form of Victorian coins worth £100, whilst another was a bundle of notes stuffed into a cigar.

  The most important thing about these women, aside from their ballsy fabulousness, was their determination to preserve Britain's heritage. Aside from all the funds they raised, they bought five properties from their private wealth in order to save them. They dramatically raised the profile of the Trust, and contributed massively to what it has become today.

  So, why have I fallen in love with this elusive, and rarely heard about sisterhood? Because what they did then is exactly what this blog tries to do today- preserve pieces of the past that are in danger of dying out. The best bit of it all? YOU CAN STILL JOIN FERGUSON'S GANG. Miss Givings, and Miss Terious, and enjoy their list of their top ten National Trust houses!

 1. Killerton House, Devon
A roaring fire, cosy rooms, a piano to die for and the most excellent costume exhibition, this is a house we could see ourselves living in!

2. Lyme Park, Stockport
The house of houses, this really ignited our passion for all things National Trust. Add a little Pride and Prejudice and you have the perfect day out.

3. Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Our childhood was filled with picnics in this precious house. Roaming through the incredible grounds alongside the deer, and then losing ourselves amongst the silverware. Let's not forget the wonderful WW1 hospital to mark the centenary.

4. Nostell Priory, Wakefield
A recently discovered treasure, the volunteers here are so friendly and helpful, and made our trip all the better.

5. Charlcote Park, Stratford-Upon-Avon
This beauty gave Catherine both her Shakespeare AND her National Trust fix. Walk alongside the river or bask amongst priceless books.

6. Coleton Fishacre, Devon
A gem tucked away on the Dartmouth coast. The home of the D'Oyly Carte family. Sumptuously art-deco, you can imagine an Agatha Christie novel being set here. The Gilbert and Sullivan ties are fascinating too.

7. Knightsbridge, Devon
Fascinating ties to the industrial revolution, look at exquisite lace samples, and look out for the Pre-Raphaelite furniture!

8. Quarry Bank Mill, Manchester
Another childhood gem. A world away from country homes and elegant furniture, lose yourself in the industrial revolution or even better in the wild and wonderful Styal Woods.

9. Speke Hall, Liverpool
Grand, impressive,filled with creaky corridors and excitement at every corner.

10.Rufford Old Hall, Cheshire
This place brings back memories of lying amongst the bluebells on a sunny day and marvelling at the beauty of this Tudor house.

If you want more info on the wonderful Ferguson's Gang, have a look at their website: 
Or even read Anna Hutton-North's wonderful book!

Sorry for the quietness recently, master's dissertations don't write themselves so we've not had time to put together many posts, but there will be some exciting ones to look forward to in the next few weeks!
Lots of Vintage Love! x

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