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hirley Nicholson trained for five years as an architect at the AA, then worked for three years for an architectural practise. Having abandoned architecture to care for her children, she then became interested in local history and joined the Victorian Society. She was working for the Society when she was asked to join a committee to administer 18 Stafford Terrace, Kensington, which the society was planning to open as a museum in the autumn of 1980. This house had been the property of the society’s founder, Anne Countess of Rosse who was the granddaughter of Linley Sambourne, cartoonist at Punch magazine from 1867 to 1910. His five storey terrace house, fully furnished in the artistic style of the 1870s, remains the best preserved of its type in Britain.

Since then Shirley has been closely involved with the house and has written books on three generations of the Sambourne family: A Victorian Household, based on the diaries of Marion Sambourne (Barrie and Jenkins, 1988), Roy Sambourne, an Edwardian Bachelor (Victorian Society, 1999) and Nymans: The Story of a Sussex Garden — connected with the Sambournes through Sambourne's daughter, Maud, the moving spirit behind the rebuilding of the house there (Alan Sutton, 1992). On 10 March 2022 she was honoured with an award from the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for her decades of dedication to transforming the knowledge and appreciation of Sambourne House and Leighton House (photograph on that occasion taken and kindly provided by Daniel Robbins, Senior Curator of Leighton House).

Created 10 November 2021