Jake Jackson is a British national treasure. He’s a curator at the Lawrence House Museum in Launceston. In her Slow Travel Cornwall book, Kirsty Fergusson called Lawrence House “delightful”. It is. So is Jake Jackson. As I toured the National Trust house he knows so well, I kept running into him. After a time, I waited for him to show up in each room because he always showed me something very interesting that I would otherwise have overlooked.
We had our best conversation in The Mayor’s Parlour, to my knowledge the only furnished room in this free, very eclectic museum. Jake told me that this beautifully realized living room is still used for civic and cultural purposes. Then he pointed to some 18th century miniatures and told me about an unfortunate family who once lived in Lawrence House. He told me that the Town Council made a fine agreement that turned Lawrence House into a museum. He made it sound like a lucky accident and that his museum is secure until 2075. You have plenty of time to see it.
I wasn’t especially enjoying The War Room until Jake showed up and told me about an ordinary looking uniform on display. Next to it was the letter below, which explains that it was worn by a German general with a staff of 40 whom Captain Harries delivered to local authorities near the end of World War II. The note was pinned to the general’s uniform, and the person who donated it said that it was found in a pocket. The note came with the uniform’s donation.
Lawrence House, only one of the historic properties on Castle Street, is a Georgian mansion that was built in 1753 by a man named Humphrey who served his city 4 times as mayor starting in 1756. Launceston was my favorite Cornwall town.
This multi-room museum presents the entire history of Launceston from the Bronze Age until the present with a never-put-anything-away spirit. Here, it works. I saw a vacuum cleaner collection, a herbarium full of plants, more than 1,000 local ones collected by an obsessive-compulsive mayor named William, a 19th century Polyphon, a forerunner of the player piano, which still works perfectly, a silver penny minted during the reign of William the Conquerer, etc.
If you’re getting the impression that Lawrence House is unlike any other museum in the world, you’d be right. Five Compasses!