Archive for the ‘Anglesey Abbey’ Category

A Gilded Age cottage in Cambridgeshire

August 13, 2013
Regency-period wheelbarrow in the Library Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Regency-period wheelbarrow in the Library Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I have just seen a copy of the newly published Treasures from Lord Fairhaven’s Library at Anglesey Abbey, written by Mark Purcell, William Hale and David Pearson. The authors describe the extraordinary collection of books assembled at Anglesey Abbey by Huttleston Broughton, 1st Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966) between the 1920s and the 1960s.

The south front of Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The south front of Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

Lord Fairhaven was the eldest son of Urban Hanlon Broughton (1857-1929), an Anglo-American sanitation and mining entrepreneur, and Cara Rogers (1867-1939) the daughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840-1909), an American oil, gas, copper and railway tycoon. Rogers was an exponent of the rise of the monopolistic businessman in late nineteenth-century America, which saw him and other ruthless titans like John D. Rockefeller, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan amass stupendous fortunes.

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, with its infinity mirrors and William Kent-designed silver chandeliers. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, with its infinity mirrors and William Kent-designed silver chandeliers. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Although this book is strictly speaking about Fairhaven’s library, it also clearly shows how his tastes more generally were shaped by his American plutocratic background. The appearance of Anglesey Abbey and its gardens reflects the ideas of Gilded Age arbiters of taste such as Edith Wharton (1862-1937). Anglesey Abbey is, in effect, a Gilded Age ‘cottage’ preserved in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

Regency rococo revival mantle clock by James McCabe in the Library. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Regency rococo revival mantle clock by James McCabe in the Library. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Fairhaven loved British art and architecture, and he had the ancient Anglesey Abbey – latterly used as a farmhouse – carefully restored and – in phases – extended. But the interiors were done up lavishly, complete with fitted carpets and central heating, relatively rare at the time. And he gradually filled the house with a very fine, if also very personal, collection of paintings, bronzes, tapestries, furniture, clocks and books.

The library desk, said to have come from Houghton Hall and possibly used by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The library desk, said to have come from Houghton Hall and possibly used by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Library, as described in this book, ‘is a slightly modernised 1930s take on the historicist style in vogue in Britain and America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – with just a hint of Gotham City and the Bat Cave.’ This book once again triumphantly proves the point (previously made by Mark Purcell here and here, for instance) that books are not just information carriers but also biographical, social and cultural signifiers.

Lord Fairhaven’s wardrobe

March 7, 2013
A pair of the 1st Lord Fairhaven's co-respondent shoes. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

A pair of the 1st Lord Fairhaven’s co-respondent shoes. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Anglesey Abbey, its garden and its sumptuous collections are largely the creation of Huttleston Broughton, 1st Baron Fairhaven (1896-1966). The co-heir to several American-made fortunes, he made Anglesey Abbey into a microcosm of luxury, craftsmanship and art.

Lord Fairhaven and his mother, Cara Rogers, on board her yacht Sapphire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Lord Fairhaven and his mother, Cara Rogers, on board her yacht Sapphire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Lord Fairhaven left Anglesey Abbey to the National Trust, and in his will he expressed the wish that the house and the garden ‘should be preserved and kept representative of an age and a way of life that is quickly passing.’ Part of Lord Fairhaven’s extensive wardrobe has been preserved in the house and it, too, is redolent of mid-20th-century upper-class life.

Part of Lord Fairhaven's wardrobe. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Part of Lord Fairhaven’s wardrobe. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Lord Fairhaven owned about 50 suits. He regularly wore a carnation in his buttonhole – coloured during the day and white during the evening.

Lord Fairhaven's umbrellas and walking sticks in the Long Gallery at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Lord Fairhaven’s umbrellas and walking sticks in the Long Gallery at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Although – or perhaps because – he lived alone, Lord Fairhaven liked to invite friends over for dinner, for which formal dress would be worn. The after-dinner conversation would stop promptly at 9, when the butler brought in a radio on a silver tray so that the assembled company could listen to the BBC news.

Of books and their owners

February 5, 2013
18th-century pamphlets in the Library at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©National Trust Images

18th-century pamphlets in the Library at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©National Trust Images

The colleagues at Dunham Massey have just created an online classroom called the À Ma Puissance Channel. It will feature interviews and lectures given by various experts and produced by Unity House Films, originally for the benefit of Dunham’s volunteers but now universally accessible.

First up is Mark Purcell, our libraries curator, with a brisk gallop through the different types of libraries the National Trust looks after, and the insights they provide about social and intellectual history.

Lady Mary Booth, Countess Stamford (1704-1772), who bought and read some of the books now in the Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

Lady Mary Booth, Countess Stamford (1704-1772), who bought and read some of the books now in the Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

As Mark says, the libraries in the historic houses of the National Trust contain relatively large numbers of books which would have been ordinary or even ephemeral at the time of their publication, and which for that very reason have not survived in large numbers. The collection of pamphlets at Dunham Massey is one example of such a group of rare ‘ordinary’ publications.

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The library of the 1st Lord Fairhaven, a 20th-century millionaire bibliophile, at Anglesey Abbey is at the other end of the scale in being full of beatifully produced books. But even there the perceived value of certain books was subject to change: the first edition of Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, originally bought purely for amusement, is now a valuable rarity.

Early 20th-century editions of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with bindings by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, in the Library at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Early 20th-century editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with bindings by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, in the Library at Anglesey Abbey. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Mark gives many more fascinating examples, illustrating that subtle but immensely valuable feature of historic houses: the eloquence of objects in their original settings. I am looking forward to many more such talks.

Mixing and matching

December 14, 2012
A Chinese empress with attendants, by Robert Jones, c 1817, at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. ©Brighton & Hove Museums and Art Galleries, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

A Chinese empress with attendants, by Robert Jones, c 1817, at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. ©Brighton & Hove Museums and Art Galleries, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

It seemed madly ambitious: to make all of the UK’s publicly owned oil paintings available online via one website. But now the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC have completed their epic project, and as of yesterday 211,861 paintings are accessible via the Your Paintings site.

Chinese landscape with pagoda and boats, by William Alexander, at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Chinese landscape with pagoda and boats, by William Alexander, at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The National Trust is the largest single collection on the site, with 12,567 paintings. But the National Trust hasn’t just contributed to this project, we have also greatly benefited by having had all of our paintings photographed in colour for the first time.

The Your Paintings site provides unprecedented opportunities for locating works by particular artists and discovering links between collections on a national scale.

A Chinese emperor with attendants, by Robert Jones, c 1817, at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. ©Brighton & Hove Museums and Art Galleries, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

A Chinese emperor with attendants, by Robert Jones, c 1817, at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. ©Brighton & Hove Museums and Art Galleries, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

I just spotted these wonderful images of hyper-elegant Chinese figures by Robert Jones. They were made to decorate the Banqueting Room at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and they seem to depict the Prince Regent’s daydreams about the Chinese imperial court as a place of unquestioned power, vast wealth and refined luxury.

Chinese landscape with pagoda and boats, by William Alexander, at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The work of William Alexander was among the sources for Jones’s fantasy vision. Alexander accompanied Earl Macartney on a diplomatic mission to Beijing from 1792 to 1794. On his return he provided the illustrations for a number of books about China, including Sir George Staunton’s official account of the Macartney embassy (1797) and his own book The Costume of China (1805).

Although his work is generally realistic, it has a picturesque sense of composition and detail – as in the pictures shown here, also accessible through Your Paintings – that appealed to other artists and consumers of chinoiserie.

Royal weddings

April 29, 2011

The 1863 royal wedding. Illustration in a book in the library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As a modest tribute to today’s event I thought I would show a couple of historical royal weddings, to see if we can spot parallels and differences. This is the wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to Alexandra, Princess of Denmark, at Windsor Castle in 1864 (Princess Alexandra can also be seen, depicted twenty years later, in this post).

Admission ticket to the 1863 royal wedding, from the library at Anglesey Abbey. ©NTPL/John Hammond

And this is an admittance ticket to that event. The fact that it directs the bearer to the roof of the New Guard Room seems to indicate that they were expecting significant crowds.

Detail from a commemorative bioscope showing the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1840. ©NTPL/David Garner

And this was Queen Victoria’s outfit for her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840 – with a slightly longer train than we saw today.

As simple as ABC

April 26, 2010

The Library at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. Note the use of large sheets of mirrored glass. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Four times a year the National Trust publishes the ABC Bulletin. This is a free e-newsletter discussing the latest projects in the areas of curatorship and conservation. The Spring 2010 issue has just come out, featuring:

  • The loan and restoration of the Londonderry state chariot
  • The stories behind a Reynolds group portrait
  • The restoration of a Dutch genre scene at Grantham House
  • Anglesey Abbey’s bling books
  • National Trust libraries online
  • The wooden water mains of London
  • King Charles I celebrated at Lyme Park
  • Torcheres at Saltram restored
  • Enhancing the visiting experience for blind and partially sighted people
  • Speke Hall’s sensory trail
  • Recent acquisitions

The article about the books at Anglesey Abbey, written by our libraries curator Mark Purcell, describes some of the treasures to be found there.

Lord Fairhaven with his mother, Cara Rogers, on board her yacht Sapphire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Huttleston Broughton, 1st Baron Fairhaven (1896-1966), who was to inherit American-made fortunes from both his father and his mother, bought Anglesey Abbey in 1926. He created an important garden there and furnished the house in plutocratic style. He generously left the estate to the National Trust, together with an endowment for its upkeep.

Fairhaven’s collections are shown in settings of Holywood-style glamour. When James Lees-Milne stayed at the house in 1946 he was perturbed by the central heating in his bedroom, a rare and almost decadent luxury at the time.

One of the splendid bindings in the library at Anglesey Abbey. This is a copy of Thomas Gray's 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard'. ©NTPL/John Hammond

One of Lord Fairhaven’s hobbies was collecting rare books. Not only are there many books with beautiful bindings in the library, but there is also a very large collection of colour plate books from the Regency period, the heyday of such publications.

The opulent setting: some of the East Asian objets d'art collected by Lord Fairhaven's mother, in the Lower Gallery at Anglesey Abbey. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Mark is planning to publish an illustrated catalogue of the Anglesey Abbey library, written together with William Hale and David Pearson.


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