The Stationers' Company
The City of London Livery Company for the Communications and Content Industries


5 APRIL 2022

LivCom Literary Lunch - National Treasures: Saving The Nation's Art in World War II by Caroline Shenton

On Tuesday 29th March members were treated to another delicious lunch at the Olde Watling Pub in the City of London in the company of Caroline Shenton and her fascinating book National Treasures - Saving The Nation's Art in World War II 

The Olde Watling Pub was rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1668 by Sir Christopher Wren in order to house his workers and provide them with somewhere to to drink. The dining room where the lunch was served is named after Wren and is where the plans for St Paul’s Cathedral were drawn up.

The event was introduced by Court Assistant Mike James and following the first course Liveryman Peter Day discussed the book, National Treasures: Saving The Nation's Art in World War II, with the author so that people could get an idea of its content.

The  tale of how our heritage was moved out of London to safety around the country during the 1930’s by an unlikely grouping of dedicated  compatriots (compared by Caroline  to the cast of an Ealing Comedy) provided much to amuse, fascinate and educate! Just three examples are:

  • When the owners of stately homes and mansions were asked to accommodate some of the treasures several of them expressed their desire to take them - in preference to noisy young child evacuees.
  • Mines had to be blasted open in order to accommodate large paintings by Van Dyke, No-Nail Boxes were employed to pack items in - Caroline said that we would know them now as flat pack units !

In the main image you can see on the left Peter Day and on the right Caroline Shenton.


  • Churchill was going to offer one of the four surviving Magna Cartas from 1215 to the USA until it was pointed out that it didn’t belong to the government but to Lincoln Cathedral and it wasn’t his to give away!

After the war many of the treasures could be returned to their homes quite quickly but a lot of the buildings were badly damaged and some did not return until the 1960’s. A member of the audience asked if anything went missing and Caroline’s response was to say that all the evacuated collections survived intact but to a changed world.

The book is thoroughly recommended as the stories are too many to mention here - it is quite uplifting - one of the good news stories to emerge from the Second World War.