Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (made)

  • Date:

    1939 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plywood, woven fabric, laminated paper, brass, ink, paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Lionel Hemsley

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Lionel Hemsley used this suitcase in his early school days during the Second World War. Inside the lid is glued a handwritten list of all the items he would have needed for each term. He replaced it with a long brown trunk for senior school.

Physical description

Suitcase, plywood covered with blue-grey woven fabric, bound and strengthened by bands of laminated paper held fast with brass rivets. The substrate of the paper is blue and is intended to imitate leather. The case stands on four metal disc feet. It locks using a brass mechanism, now much corroded. The brown leather handle is held to the case by brass rings, although it is now broken on one side. Stencilled on the front in white paint is the name of the donor. Inside, the case is fully-lined with paper, printed with a brown 'snakeskin' pattern. On the inside of the lid is glued a list, handwritten in ink, of items needed for a school term. In the upper-right corner of the lid is a smaller piece of paper with the donor's name, handwritten in ink.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (made)


1939 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Plywood, woven fabric, laminated paper, brass, ink, paper

Marks and inscriptions

Stencilled on front of case in white

Navy Gabardine Mackintosh /
Travelling Rug. (Red) /
1 Light Grey Suit /
1 Dark Grey Suit (2 1 prs knickers) /
3 grey shirts /
2 white " /
2 pyjama suits /
7 5 prs Stockings (2 4 grey) /
12 Handkerchiefs + large ones /
3 prs pants. /
2 Vests /
1 prs outdoor Shoes. /
2 prs House Shoes. /
1 pr blue slippers. /
Dressing Gown. /
Hairbrush & Comb. /
Clothes Brush. /
Nail Brush & soap. SPONGE /
Tooth Brush & paste /
Sponge bag & flannel /
3 towels /
2 pairs sheets /
2 pillowcases /
2 serviettes /
1 pr Engineers Overalls /
1 Linen Bag. /
1 Boot Polish Outfit. /
1 pr Garters /
1 pr grey gloves /
3 coat Hangers. /
1 Bathing Costume /
1 Pullover. /
1 Pr Wellingtons. /

Handwritten on label, glued to centre of inside of case lid.


Handwritten in ink on paper, glued to inside of case lid.


Length: 61 cm, Depth: 21 cm, Height: 44 cm

Object history note

This case was used by Lionel Hemsley during his early school days. He gave it to the Museum in 2016 [2016/575].

Historical context note

Lionel Hemsley was born in September 1932, at home in Shirley, near Croydon. He was the second child, with a sister, Coral, who was 15 months older. His father was in the Air Force and his mother (maiden name Potter) did not work. Lionel’s first school was Miss Miles’s small private day school, in a house in a nearby street.

The Hemsley family were on holiday when War was declared in September 1939, and the children were sent to the Cotswolds. Lionel attended Chipping Campden Grammar School. The move away from the family seven was traumatic and Lionel describes hiding pleas for help in pictures sent to his mother. Bullying, hardships of rationing and strict discipline were the ongoing themes of Lionel’s school life. At the age of twelve, Lionel moved to King’s School, Bruton. He was placed with the boys of Eddington House, a Grammar School formerly based in Herne Bay, Kent, which had been evacuated to Bruton for the duration of the War. When Eddington House returned to Herne Bay after the War, Hemsley moved too. At Eddington House, he wrote for the school magazine and set up The Hippodrome, a comedy troupe based on a BBC radio show. The collection includes programmes and scripts for The Hippodrome performances.

In 1946 Lionel started Senior School at King’s School Bruton, in Priory House. During this period he continued to perform, and also wrote his second short novel. Lionel studied Art for the School Certificate, and started cycling to local churches to study the architecture. However, since Lionel’s aspirations were in science and Bruton’s provision was very limited, he moved at short notice over Christmas1948 to Whitgift School in Croydon. He had “the best two terms of [his] school life”, as a day student, joining the Natural History and Bird Watching Societies, before getting a place to study Veterinary Medicine at Bristol University aged 17.

Lionel graduated in 1954, and went on to practice, study and teach Veterinary Medicine in private practice, universities and government departments. Lionel specialised in pathology, and developed global expertise through posts in USA, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. In the 2010s, Lionel divides his time between Britain and Australia.

Descriptive line

Suitcase, fabric-covered plywood, probably British, about 1939


Plywood; Fabric; Paper; Brass


Compression moulding; Riveting; Laminating; Handwriting; Printing


Children & Childhood; Education & Learning; Tourism & Travel; Containers

Production Type

Mass produced


Museum of Childhood

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.