Digital museum launched to showcase Trent Park’s ‘house of secrets’

Trent Park Museum Trust celebrates the launch of its new website ahead of the physical museum’s completion next year

 Trent Park House trustees, Bambos Charalambous MP, Cllr Maria Alexandrou, Deputy Mayor Mohammad Islam
Trent Park House trustees including Helen Lederer (centre) were joined by councillors and MP Bambos Charalambous (credit Shaun Holder)

A digital museum has been launched to showcase stories of the ‘secret listeners’ who were based at Trent Park House during the Second World War.

Trent Park Museum Trust held a launch event for its new website last night (Wednesday 10th), under its rebranded name ‘Trent Park House of Secrets’.

The website includes images, recordings and video interviews telling the incredible stories of the secret listeners, who eavesdropped on conversations among German prisoners held at Trent Park during the later stages of the war, helping to reveal crucial information in the effort to defeat the Nazis.

The launch of the digital museum marks the culmination of a year-long oral history project funded with a £225,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project has also included a series of educational workshops with children at schools across Enfield.

Trent Park House itself is currently being renovated, with the physical museum there now due to open in 2025. The visitor attraction will also celebrate the era when the building was owned by Sir Philip Sassoon and hosted many famous celebrities of the inter-war period.

At the launch event for the website on Wednesday, held at Dugdale Arts Centre, actor and comedian Helen Lederer of Absolutely Fabulous fame – and granddaughter of secret listener Ernst Lederer – said: “My grandfather had been asked by British intelligence to travel to Cockfosters and put on headphones and listen to captured prisoners.

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“Trent Park House had to be kitted out in record time with bugging devices so it would be ready for the first prisoners. Among all the tasteful furnishings there were microphones hidden in plants, in light fittings […] and their conversations were recorded.”

Ernst Lederer
Ernst Lederer

Helen didn’t even know that Ernst – who died when she was a small child – had been a secret listener until she starred in a Channel 5 documentary in 2012 which examined her family history.

She added: “My grandfather wasn’t allowed to speak about it, even to his wife. This digital museum has put these stories together to bring them to life.”

Jason Charalambous, co-chair of Trent Park Museum Trust, also addressed the event at Dugdale Arts Centre and said: “This all began a decade ago, in 2014, as an idea and a pipe-dream, but haven’t we come a long way? We are on the cusp of something incredible.

“We are building momentum to opening the physical museum in a year’s time. At first we had to battle to get the principle of the museum accepted but despite the hurdles it is thanks to our funders, volunteers and supporters that we have got to where we are now.

“We hope the Trent Park House of Secrets website will encourage people to explore and discover the fascinating stories of the secret listeners.

“Continued local support is absolutely critical to our success.”

The event also heard from Catherine Holden, the project’s schools manager, who reflected on the “engaging education sessions” that have been delivered across Enfield over the last year. There was also live music courtesy of professional cellist Marianne Tyler Brown and her cello students

View the new Trent Park House of Secrets website:

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