Published: Thursday 13th Feb 2014
Written by: Carol Attwell
George Clooney thought this story was worth telling about a group of art historians and antiquarians who formed an elite corps to try to save looted art before the Nazis destroyed it. Then, after the war, there began a long process in attempting to find the rightful owners. Of course this story is still not over as wrangles continue and George Clooney has backed Greece in their demands for the return of the Elgin Marbles. Oops. But we forgive George Clooney anything, don't we girls? I have a personal interest in the film as my brother was working on it and he alerted me to the fact that parts of Rye and Winchelsea were to feature as villages in Northern France and Camber was a stand in for the Normandy beaches. Cue urgent need to go to Rye. The cast includes George himself, Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. They stayed at The Mermaid Inn in Rye and caused quite a lot of local excitement. All utterly charming apparently (sadly I never made it). Now, the film is out and we are all looking forward to identifying the locations. In real life though they were known as The Monuments Men, there was in fact a Monuments Woman (not the Cate Blanchett character, she plays a lady from the Louvre). The real life Monuments Woman was from Sussex, married to Quentin Bell, the nephew of Virginia Woolf. This fascinating woman, who has helped in the restoration of Charleston Farmhouse, is now 97 and one of the last remaining links with the Bloomsbury Group. This area is rich in artistic and literary associations linked to the Bloomsbury Group including our own Sissinghurst where Vita Sackville West lived and designed her fabulous gardens. Vita was born at wonderful Knole, near Sevenoaks, and, of course was not allowed to inherit because she was a girl. Mmmmm.