Scholars descend on Gunby Hall for university study in music heritage

Pouring over Gunby Hall's musical heritage. Picture: National Trust
Pouring over Gunby Hall's musical heritage. Picture: National Trust

National Trust property Gunby Hall, near Spilsby, attracts visitors for a variety of reasons – from the early 18th century architecture and Victorian gardens to its famous felines, Craig and Committee.

This month, though, it was the property’s historic sheet music that proved to be the draw.

The guests in question were Dr Wiebke Thormählen, from the Royal College of Music, and Prof Jeanice Brooks and Dr Katrina Faulds, both from Southampton University.

The visit saw them examine numerous pieces of sheet music from Gunby Hall’s collection as part of Southampton University’s Sound Heritage project.

This aims to gain a richer understanding of how music functioned in the life of historic houses, and to find innovative ways to make these places ‘sound’ for today’s audiences.

“The Massingberds of Gunby were a very musical family, with many family members, like Emily Massingberd and her daughter Diana, playing the violin or piano to a high level,” saod Astrid Gatenby, Gunby Hall visitor experience manager. “Among the pieces the three scholars looked at were handwritten scores by world-famous British composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams, who was a cousin of Diana Massingberd and visited Gunby Hall on several occasions.”

Prof Brooks said: “We also discovered an original manuscript by South African composer Ivy Priaulx Rainier dedicated to Diana Massingberd, which is very exciting!’”

The research, Astrid continued, will help the team at Gunby to better understand the importance of the historic sheet music they have in their collection and to think about how they can share them with their visitors.

l Gunby Hall will open again to visitors from Saturday, March 9.

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