Collection Description

Collection name Gunby Hall
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Description Built by the Massingberd family, the collections at Gunby Hall include one of England’s best-preserved squire’s libraries, a fine collection of family portraits, and a large number of items relating to the Massingberds’ many cultured friends, including Lord Tennyson and Rudyard Kipling. A family of music-lovers, both as patrons and performers, the musical items at Gunby Hall reflect the Massingberds’ fondness of music and their efforts to promote musical excellence locally.

The earliest printed music in the collection dates from the mid- to late-eighteenth century, and consists of two bound volumes of contemporary trio sonatas, inscribed “W Hart. Dancing Master Swansea”. These items are outliers, the rest of the collection being nineteenth- and early twentieth-century. The earliest piece of music known to belong to a Massingberd is Joseph Michele’s “His Majesty’s review … a sonata for the piano forte” (1799), which was owned by Charles Langton Massingberd (1815-1887). Charles was known as a fine singer, and his daughter Emily Caroline (1847-1897) a violinist - a portrait in the collection by Theodore Blake Wirgman depicts Emily with her violin. Emily’s son Stephen (1869-1925) learned the cello, and is pictured as a boy in a studio photograph with this instrument. This is the earliest of many photographs in the collection, both professional and amateur, which show family members over several generations with or playing musical instruments.

Stephen married Margaret Lushington (1869-1906), a fellow cellist, who had received musical tuition from Sir Hubert Parry. Pencil and chalk drawings of Margaret and her two sisters (both violinists), with their instruments, exist in the collection. These served as sketches for Arthur Hughes’ oil painting “The home quartet”.

Stephen and Margaret instituted musical competitions in Lincolnshire, from which two medals survive in the collection: a 1906 medal from East Lincolnshire Musical Competition, and a 1908 medal from Spilsby Festival. Both have a profile relief portrait of Margaret Massingberd, for which the original plaster sculpture by Pierre Victor Dautel also remains at Gunby Hall.

The remainder, and definite majority, of the music collection appears to owe its existence to Stephen’s sister, and eventual inheritor of the estate, Diana Montgomery-Massingberd (1872-1963). A violinist, violist, conductor and singer, Diana not only enjoyed performing with her family, but also coached string ensembles and choirs in Gunby’s Music Room. Diana’s large collection of material to support these activities remains well preserved at Gunby Hall. Approximately 250 items of sheet music (roughly half of which have Diana’s ownership inscriptions), dating from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, consist of violin and viola solos with piano; songs; string chamber music parts; and vocal ensemble music (often with multiple copies of the same work, for use with choirs). Photographs in the collection show family members playing string quartets, and the presence of at least seven collapsible metal music stands is owing to the fact that occasionally even larger chamber ensembles were present. (Another photograph, from 1952, depicts the “Gunby String Players”, formed of at least twelve musicians.) A large quantity of music manuscripts in Diana’s hand include many of her own arrangements of popular pieces for varying chamber ensembles. Some items even point to the presence of a small orchestra, with some manuscript sets containing up to seventeen parts (including brass parts), and at least one of the parts inscribed “Gunby Orchestra”. There are also orchestral library catalogues from various publishers and libraries including Goodwin & Tabb, Henry Watson Music Library (Manchester) and Peters Edition, the latter accompanied by letters to Diana Montgomery-Massingberd from the manager. Diana owned at least three conductor’s batons, one of which has a silver panel inscribed, “Presented to Lady Montgomery by the Acton Burnell W. I. Singing Class.”

Diana’s husband, Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd (1871-1947), was posted to India on several occasions, and a small number of the printed music items bear bookseller’s stamps from Bombay or Delhi. The Blüthner piano (1893), which now sits in the Music Room, also travelled to India and back, and was modified with reinforcements for this purpose.

Other musical items relating to Diana Montgomery-Massingberd include a Richard Ziegler portrait of her seated with a violin; a watercolour painting of a Guadanini violin, by Diana herself; a framed photograph of her playing the violin; and a scrapbook containing newspaper cuttings and programmes relating to concerts at which the Massingberds performed. No complete bowed string instruments remain at Gunby Hall, although there are two violin cases, and some strings and accessories from a violin and a double bass.

Gunby Hall holds a small number of composer’s autograph music manuscripts, most notably Vaughan Williams’ song “To daffodils”. This bears the inscription, “With the composers apologies.” Vaughan Williams was Diana Montgomery-Massingberd’s cousin. Other autograph manuscripts include Priaulx Rainier’s “Reminiscence”, for viola and piano; Eric Coningsby’s setting of Psalm 84; and a setting of Shelley’s “Music, when soft voices die” by an unidentified “H. F. B.” Besides these, some further, printed, items of music contain autograph dedications from the composers, mostly to Diana Montgomery-Massingberd.

A small part of the music collection relates to comic opera and other stage works. A family photograph album contains pictures of Gilbert & Sullivan performances – possibly at Gunby Hall – while another album shows family members in elaborate costume. At least two comic opera libretti, from the 1920s, are fully marked up with manuscript stage directions and performance notes. One 1878 manuscript document testifies to a “comic, musical, Anglo-Italian drama” written specifically for Gunby Hall and the Massingberd family (who took part in its performance), by Vincent Amcotts, a relative. The book collection also contains A. H. Godwin’s book on Gilbert & Sullivan, with Stephen Massingberd’s bookplate - Stephen conducted the Spilsby & District Amateur Operatic Society in performances of their operas.

Other books on music include Parry’s Studies of great composers (1887) and The art of music (1894); Lawrence Haward’s Music in painting (1945); and The organist and the congregation (conference papers, 1952).

Instruments at Gunby Hall consist of the aforementioned Blüthner piano; a Gamages mandolin; a pair of cymbals; and a child’s toy bugle. Evidence has been found to suggest the presence of an Edward Light harp-lute, although the continuing presence of this instrument has not been verified. The church of St. Peter, Gunby, which sits within the Estate grounds, does not belong to the National Trust, and is an active parish church. This church contains an organ. A harmonium is housed in nearby Monksthorpe Chapel, which, although maintained by Gunby Hall in some respects, is considered a separate National Trust property.

Other musical items include four wooden music stands, including duet stands; a metronome; photographs of Vaughan Williams and Parry, the latter signed; two nineteenth-century concert programmes; Church Music Society Lincoln Diocesan Branch festival books 1934 and 1955; a framed print (1706) of Nicola Cosimo; and a silver trinket box in the shape of a cello.

Most items are listed on, although a much fuller listing of the sheet music may be found on Jisc Library Hub Discover. Select instruments appear on, while the artworks may be viewed on

John Montgomery-Massingberd, ‘Happy days at Gunby : a musical memorial’ (Clumber Park : The National Trust, 1996)

Jonathan Frank, July 2020

Printed music
Manuscript music
Date range -
Associated People and Organisations Joseph Michele - Charles Langton Massingberd 1815 - 1887 Emily Caroline Massingberd 1847 - 1897 Theodore Blake Wirgman - Stephen Massingberd 1869 - 1925 Margaret Lushington 1869 - 1906 Parry, C Hubert Hastings - Arthur Hughes - Pierre Victor Dautel - Diana Montgomery-Massingberd 1872 - 1963 Blüthner - Richard Ziegler - Guadanini - Vaughan Williams, Ralph - Rainier, Priaulx - Eric Coningsby - Percy Bysshe Shelley - Gilbert, William Schwenck - Sullivan, Arthur - Vincent Amcotts - A. H. Godwin - Lawrence Haward - Light, Edward - Nicola Cosimo -
Associated Places Monksthorpe Chapel
Associated Times 18th Century 19th Century 20th Century
Associated Content Chamber music Piano music Songs Vocal music Piano Religious music Operetta Biography Music history and theory Mandolin Organ Violin music Viola music Harp-lute
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National Trust, Gunby Hall

Gunby Spilsby PE23 5SS Open Map
Building Information A homely country house dated 1700 set in Victorian walled gardens at the foot of the Lincolnshire Wolds.
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