‘It’s the end of an era. He was one of those remarkable figures of the sixties’

Lord Snowdon at the launch of a book signing by Thomas Messel of new book about his uncle Oliver Messel who was a great theatre designer at Nynams Gardens ENGSNL00120111018155103
Lord Snowdon at the launch of a book signing by Thomas Messel of new book about his uncle Oliver Messel who was a great theatre designer at Nynams Gardens ENGSNL00120111018155103

Heart-felt tributes are being paid this week to society photographer Lord Snowdon, former husband of the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret, who died on Friday.

Lord Snowdon’s childhood home was at Nymans in Handcross and the earl had remained living at the nearby Old House on the estate for many years.

“He absolutely loved Nymans,” said Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames this week. “He loved our part of the world.”

Sir Nicholas had known Lord Snowdon, formerly Anthony Armstrong-Jones, for almost 60 years. “He was a close friend of my parents and I was very fond of him,” he said. “I am very very sorry to hear of his death. It’s the end of an era. He was one of those remarkable figures of the sixties.

“He was a very important figure culturally and an immensely significant man in many ways. When he married Princess Margaret he continued to be a very successful photographer and earned his living from it.”

He recalled the first time he met Lord Snowdon when he was aged just five or six. “My mother and father commissioned him to take photographs of us children with them. I remember him very well coming to take the photographs at Chartwell (the home of Sir Nicholas’s grandfather Winston Churchill).

“There is a lovely one of me with my mother. He was the first of those very ‘big’ photographers and took wonderful informal photographs.”

Lord Snowdon contracted polio when he was 16. “It left him very crippled but he was immensely courageous in later life,” said Sir Nicholas.

In fact Lord Snowdon, whose career also included fashion, design and theatre, devoted much of his life to championing the disabled.

He was “a lovely man. He was great fun with a wicked sense of humour and was also a terrific tease,” said Sir Nicholas, “and he loved gossip.”

He also dearly loved his children: Viscount David Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto. “They were adored from the start,” said Sir Nicholas. “Lord Snowdon was incredibly proud of them. Lady Sarah is a very successful artist and Lord Linley is a tremendously successful craftsman and chairman of Christies.

“They have both made their way in the world, like their father, on the basis of their own talents. These wonderful children will be his living memorial.”

Lord Snowdon’s childhood home - Nymans at Handcross - was given to the National Trust by Lord Snowdon’s grandfather, Leonard Messel, in 1953.

Katherine Mills, National Trust general manager for Nymans said: “Lord Snowdon’s mother, the Countess of Rosse was the last family member resident at Nymans, passing away in 1992. The family home had largely been destroyed by fire in the 1940s but a small element was remodelled for their use.”

She said when Leonard Messel gifted Nymans to the National Trust, his wife and daughter Anne retained the right to live in the house should they wish to in their lifetime.

“Lord Snowdon was given the titles of Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley, of Nymans in the County of Sussex in 1961 after his marriage to Princess Margaret.

“For many years, Lord Snowdon retained a house on the Nymans Estate, Old House, which had previously belonged to his uncle, the noted theatre designer, Oliver Messel.

“We will always have good memories of Lord Snowdon’s visits to Nymans and remain grateful for the help and information that he gave, both when the house opened in 1997 and ever since.”

Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret were divorced in 1978 and Lord Snowdon went on to marry Lucy Lindsay-Hogg.