Baroque PR at Tredegar

The State Dining Room at Tredegar House. ©NTPL/Chris Lacey

I recently showed some images of the exterior of Tredegar House, Newport, which will now be managed under the aegis of the National Trust.

One of the carved doorways of the State Dining Room. ©NTPL/Chris Lacey

The new wing at Tredegar that Thomas Morgan and his son William were building in the 1660s and early 1670s was a flamboyant symbol of the family’s ambition. William’s marriage to Blanche Morgan, a distant cousin, had provided him with wealth, extensive estates and political influence, and he needed a house to match.

Detail of the carving in the State Dining Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The building is in the fashionable baroque style, strictly symmetrical and with a cupola – since demolished – on its hipped roof. The red bricks for the walls, although probably made locally, would have been a rare sight in this region at this time.

Doorway between the State Dining Room and the Gilt Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Some of the baroque interiors survive as well, and they are as exuberant as anything in the British Isles. The State Dining Room includes some extraordinary carved wood decoration, including deep pediments, busts, foliage and grotesque masks.

The Gilt Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

This connects to the Gilt Room (or ‘Gilted Roome’ as it was described in 1688), where carved wood and marble is complemented by extensive gilding to create an even more overpowering effect.

Detail of the chimneypiece in the Gilt Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

William Morgan’s grandson, another William, sealed the family’s rise by marrying Rachael Cavendish, a daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, in 1724 and by being made a Knight of the Bath in 1725. Ironically by then the baroque splendour of Tredegar would have begun to appear rather old-fashioned – but it had clearly fulfilled its public relations function.

15 Responses to “Baroque PR at Tredegar”

  1. roadtoparnassus Says:

    The Baroque era certainly know what to do with unpainted wood. Often too much polished flat paneling can give one an “en-coffined” feeling, but the lively carvings, gilding and architectural three-dimensionality here banish any such thoughts.
    –Road to Parnassus

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes I love that ‘if in doubt, decorate’ instinct of the baroque era.

  3. Steff Ellis Says:

    Thanks for posting the photos, Emile. I accompanied Andreas around Tredegar House during the shoot and it was fascinating (and a little perplexing) to see him at work. The Spring Clean began at the House today and we have started with the Gilt Room. I am hoping to add some information about the rooms to my blog as the Clean proceeds.

  4. Mark D. Ruffner Says:

    Hello, Emile – I particularly like the second image of this posting — the angle provides information about detail and depth that a head-on photograph could not. The comment fro Steff Ellis makes me wonder, is there an official photographer for the trust, or does each site hire photographers on its own?

  5. thedowneastdilettante Says:

    simply extraordinary (well, perhaps not simply, but definitely extraordinary)

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Stef, thank you, I will check out your blog (http://www.tredegarhouse.blogspot.com/). I love Andreas von Einsiedel’s photographs, he always brings out the elegance and drama in an interior. I am intrigued by your comment about seeing him at work – what did you find perplexing?

    Mark, yes that image is great isn’t it – it shows how a person walking through the room would experience the decoration, looking up (and the baroque is so often about being encouraged to look up).

    Dilettante, I am glad you are sharing my amazement :)

  7. visitinghousesandgardens Says:

    Stef

    I’ve booked all the accommodation for our Wales trip (taking in Tredegar of course, assuming it’ll be open Easter Monday?) and next week I post our very sketchy south wales itinerary. I’ll be interested to see if you have anywhere extra to suggest.

  8. thedowneastdilettante Says:

    Emile, I came back for another look at this joyous exuberance, and while staring at the facade, something occurred to me:

    This link will take you to a couple of views of the J.P. Morgan, Jr. house on Matinecock Point at Glen Cove, Long Island, New York. Although it is a blander Georgian design (one of the favored models for rich American Country houses in the early 20th century. However, its massing and effect so exactly recall Tredegar, the home of Welsh Morgans, that one suspects that it cannot be an accident, no? http://3.bp.blogspot.com/–gezUxYS124/TtYbR_tLmpI/AAAAAAAAJP4/UKh-8Aj7A1o/s1600/Morgan%2B1.jpg

  9. HRH The Duchess of State Says:

    Dahhhling I have savored every image immensely! Such beautiful grand interiors…

  10. Steff Ellis Says:

    Emile, the Gilt Room post is now up on my Tredegar House blog. The photos are taken from a Blackberry phone, so not quite up to the standard here. Indeed, because of my lack of talent in the field of photography I failed to realise immediately some of the things that Andreas was trying to achieve during his shoot at Tredegar. One thing I had to ask him about was why he and his assistant, Oscar, were timing clouds. I often chaperone TV and film crews at Tredegar House and am used to their frustrations at losing light. For Andreas that day, he wanted to lose the sunlight as it was reflecting off the grass in the grounds and giving the rooms a verdant hue. Therefore, he was waiting for clouds to cover the sun before he could start taking the pictures. The things you learn in my job!

  11. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Dilettante, thank you very much for that image of JP Morgan Jr’s house – it does look a lot like Tredegar. I can’t immediately spot online whether JP Morgan Jr and Sr were descended from the Morgans of Tredegar – their ancester Miles Morgan apparently left England for America in 1636. Perhaps Stef can confirm if he was a brother/uncle of Thomas Morgan and his son William who rebuilt Tredegar.

    The two houses most similar to Tredegar in Britain (according to Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd in his book Great Houses of England and Wales, 1994) are Ragley Hall in Warwickshire (in its previous incarnation: http://bit.ly/xw7IJU) and Maiden Bradley in Wiltshire (http://bit.ly/xbdwcV), both built by the master carpenters Roger and William Hurlbutt (or Hulbert).

    HRH, thank you.

    Stef, how interesting to learn about the need for less sunlight when taking interior shots. The book I mention above has photographs by Christopher Simon Sykes, where he often captures interesting lighting conditons, such as cloudy skies, mist, dusk and slanting light.

    Can you enlighten us to whether John Pierpoint Sr and Jr, the American financiers, were descended from the Morgans of Tredegar?

  12. Steff Ellis Says:

    I have to say that I know of no direct or close links between the Morgans of Tredegar and the Pierpoint Morgans. We do get queries about this at the House from time to time. I will check with Emily, our Curator, when she returns from leave.

    The house on Long Island was magnificent, wasn’t it? I do wonder if the architects had seen Tredegar House and were influenced by it. On the other hand, as you say, there are similarities with other houses in the UK. It has been suggested that Clarendon House was an inspiration for Tredegar, as well as other houses by Roger Pratt in the Restoration Period.

  13. Louise Kahler Says:

    fantastic shots, and enlightening discussions… where exactly IS this really beautiful house?

  14. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Steff, thanks. Yes I suppose Clarendon House in London was the grandest example of this type of house, and the most short-lived (http://bit.ly/z51RCP). And then of of course there is Belton House, in Linconshire, with a similar layout and silhouette and still with its cupola (http://bit.ly/wbc4uh).

    Louise, thank you very much. Tredegar is on the outskirts of Newport, South Wales.

  15. Lonna Says:

    Reblogged this on Over By Here and commented:
    Stunning!! The carved doorways are just amazing.

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