Turn old books and stamps into £1m - National Trust’s David Musson shows how it’s done

David Musson pictured with some of the stamps he will be selling to raise funds for Blickling Hall walled garden.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY David Musson pictured with some of the stamps he will be selling to raise funds for Blickling Hall walled garden. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
8:43 AM

Stamps, book collecting and bird watching have been David Musson’s hobbies since he was seven years old.

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Rare stamp and book finds

It is always a thrill to find a valuable rarity among ice-cream tubs packed with stamps torn off envelopes, or boxes of Mills and Boon books - and it does happen.

David Musson recently spotted a 1900 Siege of Mafeking stamp, featuring British commander Robert Baden-Powell, among a donated batch of modern stamps.

It is valued at £1,380 in the stamp-collectors’ bible, the Stanley Gibbons catalogue, although Mr Musson said he would only expect it to make about £350.

The shop has already sold 10 Penny Blacks, worth £50 to £100 each, and currently has one left. Other sales have included two Zululand stamps which sold for £200 each.

Mr Musson remembers an elderly lady once donating 14 boxes of old books to the bookshop. He unpacked each, noticing nothing remarkable.

“Until, right at the bottom of the last box I saw a tatty yellow-covered book with a red splodge. I though ‘Yuk’ but then I noticed the red splodge had a black moustache. It was a first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” he said.

The book sold in a Keys auction for £700. In perfect condition it could have made £20,000.

Mr Musson urged anyone with stamp albums getting dusty on shelves to donate them to the shop.

As an adult he added a fourth - the National Trust. And those hobbies have helped volunteer Mr Musson raise more than £1m for the trust’s Blickling and Felbrigg estates in north Norfolk.

He has collected the cash by setting up second-hand book shops at both stately homes, and a second-hand stamp shop at Blickling, donating 16 of his own albums which he hopes will alone raise about £150,000.

And every penny will be needed because stamp shop money is going towards the restoration of Blickling’s walled garden, a project which Mr Musson, 78, said would cost at least £500,000.

A former Surrey-based director of the trust’s southern region, Mr Musson originally came to Norfolk in 1969 as number two land agent at Blickling and remembers his first successful fund-raising project was to raise £7,000 for a water supply so that trust staff living on Blakeney Point could revel in the luxuries of a toilet and bath. They had previously relied on barrels of water being brought over by boat.

Blickling Hall’s walled garden

Blickling Hall’s walled garden dates from the early 20th century and once provided the house with fruit, flowers and vegetables.

Today it is empty apart from a few trees, a couple of greenhouses and picnic tables and the National Trust would like to restore it to its original, well-designed glory.

The trust will shortly be advertising for a project manager for the scheme and volunteers to help with it. Details will be posted on www.nationaltrustjobs.org.uk

Within three weeks of Mr Musson’s arrival in the county the squire of Felbrigg Hall died. Wyndham Ketton-Cremer left his estate to the National Trust and it was Mr Musson’s job to oversee the transfer. Felbrigg has held a special place in his heart ever since.

When he retired 25 years ago, he returned to Norfolk, moving to a Sheringham home with fine views for bird watching, and his first voluntary job was as a room steward at Felbrigg.

In 1996 he opened a second-hand bookshop at Felbrigg and when “Blickling got jealous”, he started one at Blickling Hall too, now widely recognised as the best of the National Trust’s 100 or so similar bookshops.

Together they have helped pay for projects including hard-surface paths around the estates suitable for wheelchairs and buggies, the restoration of Felbrigg’s walled garden and its 1750 library ceiling.

A rare 1900 stamp from the Siege of Mafeking, featuring Baden-Powell.
 Picture: ANTONY KELLYA rare 1900 stamp from the Siege of Mafeking, featuring Baden-Powell. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Now the stamp shop, in Blickling’s old harness room, is doing its bit for the cause.

It boasts up to 250,000 donated British and international stamps, including Penny Blacks and other rarities. Prices vary from 2p per stamp, to £3,000.

Ring 01263 738019 11am-4pm, Wednesday to Sunday, for more information.

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