Chris McKenzie gave an illustrated talk about a relatively unknown aspect of Britain's involvement in World War Two.
We learned about the evacuation and protection of the 'treasures' in the National Gallery, prior to and during the conflict.
By late August 1939 war was inevitable and wide-spread bombing of London was predicted, so the National Gallery decided to remove all its paintings and store them elsewhere.
As a temporary measure, the paintings were sent to stately homes and castles. However, these places were unsuitable as long-term solutions. It was even suggested that they should be shipped to Canada for safety, but Winston Churchill vetoed that idea.
"Hide them in caves and cellars, but not one picture shall leave this island". (Winston Churchill - 1940)
Eventually an isolated, disused slate mine near Blaenau Ffestiniog was found to be the perfect location and Chris showed us photographs of the small, brick buildings within the caverns, which were built to store the pictures. These buildings were secure and protected the paintings from variations of humidity and temperature that could damage the artwork.
Surprisingly, the Manod story didn't end in 1945, even though by then all the paintings had been removed. Chris explained that the caves were reserved for use during the Cold War years!
FIRST would like to thank Chris for this fascinating insight into our nation's 'hidden' history.