The Watford Observer has teamed up with Watford Museum and its curator Sarah Priestley to take a journey back to the town’s past through items or places of historical significance.

We're now at item 31 in 'a history of Watford 50 objects' and it is a reminder of when Cassiobury was one of the finest estates in the country and the seat of the Earl of Essex.

Sarah said: "This wood carving, thought to have originally been crafted as a clock surround, is one of the oldest relics of Cassiobury House on display at Watford Museum and dates to the late 17th Century.

"It was carved by none other than Grinling Gibbons, the most famous name in woodcarving and one of the most popular artists of the Restoration period. Gibbons was born in Rotterdam and came to work in England with commissions including becoming master woodcarver to Charles II.

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"When Arthur Capel was made Earl of Essex in 1661 he set about remodelling the existing Cassiobury House that had been built by the Morison family in Tudor times. He employed popular Hugh May to rebuild the house in a style and size befitting to his new status, and Moses Cook to create stunning gardens modelled after Versailles. For the interior he chose the most famous names of the day to create art and furniture, and Grinling Gibbons was employed to create much of the wood carvings that adorned the house.

"Cassiobury House was sadly knocked down in 1927. By that stage it had fallen into disrepair and no one could be found to take on such a large project. The house stood where now there are houses and tennis courts around The Gardens and Temple Close, but much of Grinling Gibbons wood carving was saved and sold on. They can be found in the V&A, the Chicago Institute of Art, Luton Hoo, and here at Watford Museum."

Watford Museum is currently closed under lockdown restrictions but you can still pay it a virtual visit at or find the museum on Facebook and Instagram @watfordmuseum