Lady Prudence Cradock-Hartopp interview: The Wimbledon Society

Did you have a particular interest that led you to join the Wimbledon Society?

I was taking a course in archaeology and there had been a request in the Newsletter for someone to catalogue the flints [at the Museum] and identify them. My tutor said that if I brought them along to her one day she would take me up to the British Museum and someone she knew would identify them for me. It proved they were all flakes except for two North American arrowheads.

I volunteered to do that and then I moved into doing three-dimensional objects which was anything that nobody else wanted, pretty well.

Reg Batten, the chairman, was very involved with it at that time. Bill Myson and another man. We were trying to get everything catalogued because it had never been catalogued before. There was all the war material. And any objects that didn’t fit into the natural history or shooting.

Were there any [display] panels at that time?

No, no panels. There was nothing. They were just all in a cupboard. The drawings were in there lying on top of each other. We got two people in to do that and sort out those a bit.

So the Museum was nothing like it is today? 

No. But they were instrumental in getting it on its feet. They formed a Committee when they realised that the one person who had been looking after it couldn’t do the whole lot. They got it going and Reg Batten [took on the Committee Chairmanship. Later] I took over from him. I tried to keep the standard up.

We had a complete refurbishment in my time. When Norman [Plastow] suggested it, it was quite daunting.  We got new cases, new displays. It probably all needs doing again now.

The Museum is getting better all the time. You know about the Gallery?

Yes, I’ve been to the Gallery, I went to the opening night.

We did our best with the old cases which were Victorian, I should think.  A table that somebody had given us. A few old cupboards, a mishmash.

You moved onwards and upwards within the Wimbledon Society.

I was Chairman of the Museum Committee. I was [also] elected President. I did that for three [five] years because I didn’t think it was right to hog it for too long.