Pram collection outgrows its parental home

CLARE GARNER

The owner of the largest collection of prams in the world has one dying wish - that his nursery treasure should outlive him.

Over the past 25 years Jack Hampshire, 81, has accumulated 460 baby carriages that are crammed into every corner of his home. Recently he turned his collection into a charitable trust but unfortunately his children, the trustees, do not share his passion. They admit they are "not mad keen" on prams.

Step inside Bettenham Manor, near Sissinghurst, Kent, and it is crammed with prams. At the foot of Mr Hampshire's bed stands his favourite, an 1899 Victoria pram which he describes as "very pleasing to the eye".

At the Bettenham Baby Carriage Museum hundreds of prams stand in rows. In some, startled porcelain dolls are propped up, waving or clapping.

Although Mr Hampshire, a retired radio engineer, lost his voice following a stroke last year he still manages to convey his enthusiasm. In 1980 he prefaced his book, Prams, Mailcarts and Bassinets, with the words: "We are destroying too much, too fast, without realising how much we are losing ... if not now, then later, we shall all have cause to regret this loss."

Sadly, the trustees of the prams, Mr Hampshire's daughter, Mary, 48, and two sons, John, 43, and Nick, 37, are finding it very difficult to find a home for the collection. They respect their father's wish that it should not be split up but finding a single owner in this country is proving very difficult, and they do not want it to go abroad.

"We've found that most people say 'yes' if they like prams but when we say it's 450 plus all the odds and sods they say: 'You must be joking'," John said. "None of us is that interested in prams but we don't want to see them destroyed or sold ... We'd love to get [the collection] displayed in one place where the public can go and see it."

The collection includes examples of the four main types from the 1750s to 1965: the Victoria pram, the carriage pram, the bassinet and the mailcart. Now there is only one maker - Wilson Silver Cross - turning out handbuilt carriages; 100 years ago, there were more than 300. Mr Hampshire has all the famous makers' names, such as Millsons, Osnath, London Baby Coach and Royale.

He has even managed to acquire the pram Prince Charles graced in his early years, and carriages belonging to Paul McCartney, Diana Dors and Jeremy Thorpe.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn