This autograph letter with envelope from the composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) to Mrs Bell, wife of the Bishop of Chichester, is addressed to her at the Palace, and tells her that he is ‘not sure which train you told me to take so I shall come by the 6.50 from Waterloo arriving at Havant 8.19 tomorrow evening unless I hear to the contrary.’ It has the autograph address on the verso. It is a St Paul’s School headed card, the school which Holst taught at from 1905-34, and postmarked 6th March 1930. The Museum did not previously not have any letters associated with Bishop Bell, who was a great friend of Gustav Holst. Holst was eventually buried at Chichester Cathedral, which makes this connection even more significant. George Kennedy Allen Bell (1883-1958) was an Anglican theologian, Dean of Canterbury (1925-29), Bishop of Chichester, member of the House of Lords and a pioneer of the Ecumenical Movement. As Dean of Canterbury, he initiated the Canterbury Festival of the Arts, with guest artists such as John Masefield, Gustav Holst, Dorothy L. Sayers and T. S. Eliot.
The Holst Birthplace Museum, in the house where the composer Gustav Holst was born in 1874, is one of only two composer birthplace museums in England. By the time of Holst’s birth the house had been a modest family home since its construction in 1832, having been in Holst’s mother’s family from at least 1845. In 1974 Cheltenham Borough Council purchased the house and established it as a Museum. It was administered by the Council from 1975 until 1999, when it was closed as a result of budget cuts. However, thanks to the generosity of local individuals and organisations, the Museum was re-established under the supervision of a new independent charitable trust in 2000. It houses a growing collection of Holst material relevant to his life and music, as well as a collection of furniture and other artefacts relevant to a 19th century Cheltenham house. Its aims are to celebrate the life and works of the composer, to preserve and to promote the house in which he was born as an independent visitor and educational facility which also illustrates the way of life in a modest 19th century house in Cheltenham, to make the Museum and its website the first port of call for the research and enjoyment of all those with a professional, academic, specific or general interest in Holst’s work and times.
The Museum houses two collections: one on loan from Cheltenham Borough Council which numbers approximately 2,000 items, and the Holst Birthplace Trust’s collection numbers approximately 500 items, including autograph manuscripts, music scores, letters, photographs, portraits and paintings and other personal memorabilia. This letter will complement the Holst Birthplace Trust’s collection of correspondence to and from Gustav Holst. It will be placed on temporary display, since paper and ink are sensitive to light, after which members of the public would be able to view it on request, and it will also be digitised and available on the Museum’s website as part of its long term digitisation project.