Questions at Quebec House

Quebec House, by Roy Willard. ©Estate of Roy Willard

Quebec House, in Westerham, Kent, is the childhood home of James Wolfe, who was born there in 1727 and spent the first 11 years of his life there.

Bow figurine of General Wolfe in a heroic pose, at Quebec House. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Wolfe later became famous for leading the victorious attack on the French at Quebec in 1759, which was one of the key battles in the Seven Years War.

Wolfe being told of the victory at Quebec while he lies mortally wounded, in a print dated 1779 after a 1764 painting by Edward Penny. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Wolfe was mortally wounded in that battle, and posthumously became a national hero. His slight figure and beaky profile became a patriotic brand, featuring in numerous paintings, prints, statuettes and so on.

The drawing room at Quebec House. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Quebec House was given to the National Trust by Mrs J.B. Learmont in 1918. It is displayed with eighteenth-century furniture and furnishings.

The 1630s decorative scheme. ©National Trust/William Webb

Most of the internal fabric of the building was lost or altered over time. However, when the staff flat was recently rearranged to allow visitors to see the main bedroom, it was found that the walls there still have layers of paint going back to the 1630s.

A slightly later, mid-seventeenth-century scheme. ©National Trust/William Webb

The question now arises which particular decorative scheme should be shown. The 1630s scheme is very rare and seems to be worth showing in its own right.

The eighteenth-century scheme. ©NTational Trust/William Webb

However, the rest of the house is shown in a mid-eighteenth-century way, in accordance with the wishes of the donor.

Analysis of the various paint layers.

Should we reveal the earlier scheme, or just record it and show the eighteenth-century scheme instead? The question is currently being discussed with various experts, and the visitors are being asked their opinion as well – so do let me know what you think.

10 Responses to “Questions at Quebec House”

  1. littleaugury Says:

    So interesting to see the General depicted in porcelain- another lengthy post should come from this alone-are there many pairings of house and owner in porcelain? As to the paint question- It seems to me to be a charming And important thing to feature.Though not having seen the house in full I would not be 100%, it looks as if the scheme of 18th could use a blast from the past. Gaye

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    What a good idea: an article about porcelain figurines of the famous. There should be lots of ceramic representations of Churchill around, and they may have some of those at Chartwell, I should check.

  3. style court Says:

    I would be curious to see more of the 1630s scheme, although I can see the importance of considering the donor’s wishes too.

    That leather wing chair in the dining room is to die for!

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    We should add a notice to the chair saying: ‘This item has been approved by Courtney Barnes’ :) Ditto the Calke bed, of course, and a few other choice items.

  5. style court Says:

    Emile, ha :)

    And I meant to type ‘drawing room’

  6. Laurel Ann Says:

    Absolutely stunningly beautiful blog. I am mesmerized. Count in as a groupie.

  7. Down East Dilettante Says:

    Although, because such things interest me passionately, I would love to see the 16th century scheme, one of course also thinks that the house should be presented to the time of its most famous occupant…..

    such a quandary

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Laurel Ann, thanks, and welcome.

    Down East, you seem to be more of a conservator than a decorator :)

  9. Magnaverde Says:

    Perhaps a peephole-type device could be set up at a certain point elsewhere in the room, wherein one would look from a fixed point toward the fireplace, and a to-scale maquette of the area–showing whichever alternative scheme isn’t used–would be interposed between them, the same way they use matte paintings in films. That way the donor’s wishes are honored but the original scheme can be seen too.

    When we were repainting the lobby of the landmark theatre where I’m the historian, the painter discovered one bulging area where 100 years of badly-patched plaster had delaminated & was being held in place by nothing but gravity & numerous recent coats of latex paint. When he knocked it all loose, there was a perfect multicolor bullseye the size of a softball glove, a miniature Grand Canyon of paint schemes going clear back to 1889, some colors right, some close, several way off & all of them dirty. My boss wanted to scrape it all loose, patch it and make it look brand new & I wanted to keep it as it was, as a little window into the various attempts at recreating “The Past.” But since it was a very prominent spot in the lobby, we couldn’t get by with leaving it as it was. While we were arguing about the matter, the bartender walked past, and a few minutes later came back with a printed sign–“No Drinks allowed in the Theatre” that was a few inches larger in all directions than the hole. Now, any time I need to do a color history lesson, I just take down the sign.

    Judging by the photo, the proportions of the Drawing Room are wonderful. Are measured drawings available anywhere?

  10. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much for that suggestion, that could indeed be a solution – or alternatively something like you describe in that theatre, where you have a revealed area hidden behind something that can be taken off to show it.

    What a great find – a naturally occuring paint-scrape.

    I will check if there are any measured drawings of that room.

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