Original drawings from the popular children’s classic The Wind in the Willows will be on show at National Trust place Nymans in Handcross.
The exhibition opens in the gallery on Saturday, July 13, and runs until Friday, November 1, from 10am – 4.30pm.
The illustrator of the book (and creator of the much loved characters of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad) was E H Shepard, a friend of the Messel family who lived at Nymans.
Shepard stayed with the Messels during the summer of 1929, making several sketches of the house and garden.
Drawings by the well known illustrator are rarely on show.
Nymans will be showing more than 30 hand coloured illustrations, pen and ink drawings and an original sketch together with a selection of letters from Shepard to the Messel family at Nymans.
Shepard was a friend of the creative Messel family having got to know Linley Sambourne, the Punch illustrator, at the Royal Academy Schools.
Linley, chief cartoonist for Punch magazine, was Maud Messel’s father and it was Maud and her husband Leonard who invited Shepard to stay in the summer of 1929.
Nikki Caxton, House Steward at Nymans said: “Nymans is proud of its connection to Shepard.
“Maud and Leonard invited him to stay that summer and asked him to draw their granddaughter, Susan.
“He clearly enjoyed his time here, making several drawings of the house and grounds, as well as sketching Susan.
“A sketch of the house and garden, evidence of his visit that summer, hangs in the library to this day.
“It is possible there were other drawings too but these were probably lost in the fire of 1947.”
Not only was there a personal connection between Shepard and the Messel family but the house at Nymans seems to have inspired some elements of the drawings for The Wind in the Willows.
His illustrations of Toad Hall are eerily reminiscent of Nymans house and a large monkey puzzle tree beside the Hall is similar to a tree that was once a feature of the garden.
Toads Banqueting Hall is remarkably similar to the Great Hall at Nymans, which was destroyed by the 1947 fire.
The Messel family were great hosts and loved to entertain guests in their dream house in the country. Visitors picnicked and played in the woods and garden and went boating on the lake. Today’s visitors can enjoy much the same experience and, this summer, younger visitors can follow a trail around the garden and woodland.
Visit Nymans website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk for more information on The Wind in the Willows exhibition and activities on offer this summer.
To find out about Nymans opening times visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nymans or call 01444 405250.
The gallery is open from 10am to 4.30pm. Admission is free. Normal garden admission applies. Family trails £1 per trail.