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Basking AlligatorLucy, my wife, and I have just returned from Charleston, South Carolina, where I was asked to give the keynote address at the Charleston Art & Antiques Forum an event sponsored also by the Royal Oak Foundation, the organisation in North America which supports the work of the National Trust in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It was a well-attended event and a great opportunity for me to share our experiences at Eastnor with an interested audience, some of whom had already visited us with tours led by the Forum Moderator, Tom Savage, Director of Museum Affairs, Winterthur Museum and Country Estate.

Charleston is a magical place, which has been sensitively and extensively restored in recent years. The built heritage is rich with architecture from the 18th and early to mid 19th centuries, and several historic houses are open to visitors. There is an active and effective preservation organisation, the Historic Charleston Foundation, which works hard to protect the city’s heritage.

Many English and continental European craftsmen worked in Charleston, but many families also travelled to the old world on the Grand Tour where they were also able to buy works of art, silver and furniture for their collections. We saw beautiful examples from these collections and were also able to visit former plantation estates at Drayton Hall and Middleton Place, which were interesting to compare with our historic properties in the UK. The gardens and trees at Middleton were particularly beautiful, although an alligator basking on one of the lawns would have been a serious Health & Safety issue in the UK!

My audience seemed to be interested in the story I told of the restoration of the house and the things we do now to keep it going, and it was nice to have one or two questions at the end. We were made very welcome indeed and hope to have the chance to repay that hospitality at some future date at Eastnor.  J H-B