We were honoured to receive a visit from our Patron, The Duchess of Cornwall today (Thursday 16 May) who officially opened our restored barns and new galleries following the completion of the Charleston Centenary Project and iewed Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s Famous Women Dinner Service which has returned to Charleston following our ‘adopt a plate’ campaign. The visit took place on the eve of the 30th Charleston Festival – an annual celebration of books, ideas and creativity.  The Duchess met Diana Reich, the Festival’s founder and Artistic Director with 2019 marking Diana’s last Festival.

The Duchess of Cornwall has been Patron of the Charleston Trust since 2013 and hosted a tea for the supporters of the Charleston Centenary Project in March 2017. The Charleston Centenary Project was launched to safeguard Charleston’s heritage, and marked the centenary of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s arrival at Charleston. On 8 September 2018, Charleston opened its doors to a new exhibition, events space and café/restaurant. This 570m2 development has enabled Charleston to present exhibitions for the first time and to open all-year-round. The exhibition space is housed in a new building, while the events space and café/restaurant is situated in two 18th-century farm buildings which have been restored.

Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s Famous Women Dinner Service is a unique set of 50 plates depicting famous women throughout history, from Cleopatra to Mary Queen of Scots, Jane Austen, Greta Garbo and Elizabeth I. There are 50 plates in the set, with the final two depicting Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, the only man in the series. The Dinner Service was commissioned by Kenneth Clark in 1932 and was made by Bell and Grant during their time at Charleston. After this the plates disappeared from public view and their whereabouts were unknown until recently.

One of the plates has been adopted in The Duchess’s honour.  The plate depicts Jane Austen.  The plates were purchased by The Charleston Trust with generous grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Art Fund; as well as donations from a circle of remarkable women.

The Famous Women Dinner Service will be on public display in Charleston’s Outer Studio from June 2019.


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