Archive for the ‘Cheshire’ Category

Lyme Park carvings re-attributed

December 19, 2014
Detail with vessels from the carved limewood festoons in the Saloon at Lyme Park. Inv. no. 499408.10. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Detail with vessels from the carved limewood festoons in the Saloon at Lyme Park. Inv. no. 499408.10. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) Panel recently announced that a set of nine limewood carvings has been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Lyme Park. These carvings were traditionally thought to have been made by Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721), but the AIL Panel and their advisers felt that they are more likely to be by another master carver.

The Saloon at Lyme Park with the limewood carvings on the walls. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzieire

The Saloon at Lyme Park with the limewood carvings on the walls. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzieire

Carvings displaying a similar, distinctive style of composition survive at nearby Chatsworth. Both of these groups may be the work of a local carver who learned from or was aware of Grinling Gibbons but went on to develop his own style.

Section with musical instruments of the limewood carvings in the Saloon at Lyme Park. Inv. no. 499408.9. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Section with musical instruments of the limewood carvings in the Saloon at Lyme Park. Inv. no. 499408.9. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Lyme Park was donated to the National Trust by the 3rd Lord Newton in 1946, but much of its contents, including the carvings, remained in private hands. The AIL scheme is of huge benefit to the National Trust in allowing important collections to be preserved in their historical settings. But the scheme also helps to throw a spotlight on individual groups of items, occasionally leading to interesting re-attributions such as this one.

Stamford Hospital revisited

May 23, 2014
The Saloon at Dunham Massey taken back to its appearance as a hospital ward during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Saloon at Dunham Massey taken back to its appearance as a hospital ward during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

During the First World War Dunham Massey was used as an auxiliary hospital for wounded soldiers, known as the Stamford Hospital. Some of the hospital wards have now been recreated for a period of two years to mark the centenary of World War I.

The Saloon before it was temporarily changed back into a hospital ward. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Saloon before it was temporarily changed back into a hospital ward. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Staff and volunteers at Dunham researched the stories of those involved, including the Countess of Stamford, who offered the house for use as a hospital, Sister Catherine Bennett, who was in charge of day-to-day treatment, and Lady Jane Grey, Lady Stamford’s daughter who worked there as a nurse.

The Great Gallery at Dunham displayed as a store room, as it was during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

The Great Gallery at Dunham displayed as a store room, as it was during World War I. ©National Trust Images/James Dobson

Exhibition designers Outside Studios and Scenetec have recreated the appearance of some of the rooms as they were during the First World War, based on surviving photographs and other archive material.

The Great Gallery before its recent redisplay. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Great Gallery before its recent redisplay. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Treatment reports at the foot of the beds record the injuries and progress of individual patients. Inevitably, some died, others recovered, went back to the front and were killed, while others survived the war.

The Robinia pseudoacacia trees on the mount at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

The Robinia pseudoacacia trees on the mount at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

Some of the smells and sounds of the ward have been recreated and costumed interpreters reenact scenes between patients, nursing staff and family visitors. I found the combination of sensory impressions and factual information very powerful and affecting.

The garden at Dunham was looking very beautiful when I visited – one hopes it had the same soothing effect a hundred years ago.

Dunham Massey through the eyes of Vermeer

May 16, 2014
The stables and clockhouse at Dunham Massey. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The stables and clockhouse at Dunham Massey. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

As I visited Dunham Massey a few days ago I experienced a kind of déjà vu.

The north front of the main house at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The north front of the main house at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The mellow red brickwork of the stables and the house, seen from across the moat, suddenly reminded me of Vermeer’s View of Delft

The clock tower on the stables, with the doors painted in the shade of blue used across the Dunham estate. ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp

The clock tower on the stables, with the doors painted in the shade of blue used across the Dunham estate. ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp

Perhaps it was the changeable weather we were having, with rainclouds alternating with sunshine, just like in the painting. But what Dunham and Vermeer’s townscape also have in common is an intriguing mixture of grand stillness and layered detail.

The orangery, probably built in the second half of the eighteenth century. ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp

The orangery, probably built in the second half of the eighteenth century. ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp

The house, service quarters, garden and estate were built, added to and remodeled by successive generations of the Booth and Grey families between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries.

The inner courtyard at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The inner courtyard at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Having grown, been pruned and regrown in this organic way, the house seems to have the same quiet poignancy and hidden bustle as Delft did when Vermeer saw it.

Scrubs up nicely

March 14, 2013
Portrait of ‘young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), by circle of Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), at Dunham Massey, photographed following conservation. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

Portrait of ‘young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), by circle of Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), at Dunham Massey, photographed following conservation. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

In June 2012 we managed to buy this portrait of ‘Young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer of Dunham Massey (as I reported at the time). It was sent to London-based conservator Sophie Reddington for treatment and Sophie has just sent me these images of the work.

The portrait before conservation. ©Christie's

The portrait before conservation. ©Christie’s

The picture was quite dusty and dirty and even had some white splash marks which appeared to be emulsion wall paint. At some point it had also been relined using too much heat, causing the paint to melt in places.

The portrait midway during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

The portrait midway during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Sophie cleaned the painting with deionised water and then removed several layers of discoloured varnish with various solvents. Old retouching and overpainting was removed, again with solvents and also mechanically with a scalpel.

Lord Delamer's sleeve during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Lord Delamer’s sleeve during varnish removal. ©Sophie Reddington

Then Sophie refilled the small paint losses with acrylic putty, applied a first coat of new varnish and added new retouchings, followed by a final coat of varnish sprayed on in several thin layers.

The portrait after the filling in of the losses and the application of the first coat of varnish, but before retouching. ©Sophie Reddington

The portrait after the filling in of the losses and the application of the first coat of varnish, but before retouching. ©Sophie Reddington

Where the canvas had become brittle and torn around the sides and the back of the stretcher Sophie mended it with nylon gossamer impregnated with adhesive.

Fragile and brittle tacking edges before treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

Fragile and brittle tacking edges before treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

Sophie also treated the frame, consolidating loose parts, retouching damaged areas with watercolours and bronze paint, lining the rebate with paper tape and felt and reinserting the picture.

The same tacking edges after treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

The same tacking edges after treatment. ©Sophie Reddington

On the back of the frame there is a label of James Bourlet and Sons, London frame makers, as well as the more recent Christie’s label.

Labels old and new on the back of the frame. ©Sophie Reddington

Labels old and new on the back of the frame. ©Sophie Reddington

All this has vastly improved the readability of the image and given it a new lease of life.

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.

Lyme Park’s rococo moment

January 22, 2013
Detail of one of the pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Detail of one of the pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Among the items recently accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Lyme Park are some pieces of wonderfully sculptural rococo furniture.

One of a pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

One of a pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

This allocation includes a pair of carved giltwood side tables with Portoro marble tops and two pairs of carved giltwood wall brackets. One of the pairs supports two Chinese Dehua porcelain female figures.

Pair of carved giltwood brackets, mid 18th century, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Pair of carved giltwood brackets, mid 18th century, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

The rococo furniture at Lyme was originally acquired by Peter Legh XIII, who inherited the house in 1744. He finished the decoration of a number of rooms remodeled by his uncle Peter Legh XII in the 1730s and early 1740s.

Female figure in Chinese Dehua porcelain, Kangxi period (1662-1722), on English carved giltwood bracket, mid 18th century, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Female figure in Chinese Dehua porcelain, Kangxi period (1662-1722), on English carved giltwood bracket, mid 18th century, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park. ©National Trust Collections

Pseudo-Chinese birds, perhaps echoing the decoration of the Chinese porcelain in the house, appear on some of the rococo girandoles introduced by Peter XIII. At the same time he also seems to have added the 17th century oak paneling that came from another family house, Bradley in Lancashire, demonstrating the eclecticism of the middle of the 18th century.

View of the Drawing Room at Lyme, showing one of the rococo carved giltwood girandoles. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

View of the Drawing Room at Lyme, showing one of the rococo carved giltwood girandoles. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The giltwood chandeliers and the harpsichord by Hitchcock also date from this period.

View of the Saloon at Lyme, with one of the carved giltwood rococo chandeliers and the contemporary harpsichord. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

View of the Saloon at Lyme, with one of the carved giltwood rococo chandeliers and the contemporary harpsichord. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

But it wasn’t all sweetness and light: Peter XIII ended up separated from his wife, led astray by his mistress and his manipulative sister, being wheeled up and down the galleries at Lyme in a bath chair. Following Peter XIII’s death in 1792 the house entered a period of neglect which wouldn’t be reversed until his great-nephew Thomas Legh came of age in 1813.

It girls of the Elizabethan age

November 20, 2012

Portrait of Margaret Gerard, Lady Legh, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Lyme Park, 2011. ©National Trust Collections

This striking full-length portrait is among the objects recently accepted by the Government in lieu of tax and allocated to Lyme Park.

Portrait of Blanche Parry, possibly by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, at Tredegar House, Newport. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

It depicts Margaret Gerard (1569/70-1603), the wife of Sir Peter Legh IX (1563-1636), who completed and extended the Elizabethan house at Lyme.

Portrait of Elizabeth I, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. ©Trinity College, University of Cambridge, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The portrait is attributed to the Tudor court painter Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1561/2-1636) who, together with his father, came to England from the southern Netherlands.

Portrait of Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton, by school of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. ©Glasgow Museums, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Gheeraerts the Younger introduced a more three-dimensional style of portraiture to English art, with more emphasis on capturing the character of the sitter. Moreover, he occasionally portrayed people with a smiling expression, which was rare at this time.

Portrait possibly of Anne Keighley, Mrs William Cavendish, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

I did a search on the excellent Your Paintings database of oil paintings in UK public collections and found a number of other portraits of ladies by or in the style of Gheeraerts the Younger.

Portrait of an unknown pregnant lady, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate, 1999. ©Tate, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Seeing the Lyme portrait in the company of these portraits of other Elizabethan ‘it girls’ by the same artist really brings home the strangeness and splendour of Elizabethan court dress and body language.

Portrait of an unknown lady, aged 31, holding a glove and fan, in the style of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust Collections, supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

It also demonstrates the huge value of both the Acceptance in Lieu scheme and the Public Catalogue Foundation/Your Paintings project to preserving and opening up our heritage.

An unfashionable picture

June 20, 2012

Portrait thought to be of ‘young’ Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), by circle of Sir Godfrey Kneller. ©Christie’s

Yesterday we managed to purchase this portrait, said to be of ‘Young’ Sir George Booth, 2nd Baronet and 1st Baron Delamer (1622-1684), for Dunham Massey. We are not quite sure yet when this picture left Dunham – it was last offered at auction at Sotheby’s in London in 1980.

Bird’s eye view of Dunham Massey from the south, engraved by J. Kip after Leonard Knyff, 1697, showing the house as rebuilt by ‘young’ Sir George Booth, probably in the 1650s. ©National Trust Images

The fact that this picture was now being offered in a mixed ‘Interiors’ auction at Christie’s in New York and that we got it for a very modest price seems to indicate (according to our outgoing pictures curator, Alastair Laing) that this type of portrait is currently rather unfashionable in the American market. In some ways the National Trust very much tries to keep abreast of various trends, of course, but in this case we are rather pleased to be out of tune with current tastes.

Portrait of the Dutch mastiff called Old Virtue, probably by Jan Wyck, c. 1700, with Dunham Massey as rebuilt by ‘young’ Sir George in the background. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

‘Young’ Sir George Booth’s life illustrates the upheavals of the Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration periods. He initially supported Parliament, but did not agree with the execution of the King. In 1659 he actually led an uprising against Cromwell in Lancashire and Cheshire. When that was put down he fled disguised as a woman, but was given away by his large feet and need of a shave. When Charles II returned to the throne ‘young’ Sir George was created Baron Delamer, but in other ways he was marginalised and he retired to spend his last years at Dunham.

Portrait probably of ‘young’ Sir George Booth’s mother, Vere Egerton, attributed to Robert Peake, c. 1619, acquired by the National Trust in 2011. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Hollow

We are not entirely sure yet whether it is indeed a portrait of ‘young’ Sir George, or perhaps of another member or associate of the Booth family of Dunham – further research will need to be done to establish that. The picture will also need some conservation work before it can go on view at Dunham. As is so often the case, the acquisition of an object is just the beginning.

Lady linchpin

May 9, 2012

Portrait of Lady Mary Booth, by an unknown hand. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

I recently came upon this portrait of Lady Mary Booth (1704-1772) and was struck by her lively and open expression.

Bird’s eye view of Dunham from the south-west by John Harris, ca 1750. ©National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak

Lady Mary was the heiress to the Dunham Massey estate. Unusually for the time, her father, the 2nd Earl of Warrington, wanted his only daughter to have full control of her property. He left it in trust for her benefit, rather than leaving it to her outright, so that when she married it wouldn’t automatically be transferred to her husband.


Portrait of Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford, by an unknown hand. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

When she did marry in 1736, at the relatively late age of 32, it was to the much younger Harry, Lord Grey of Groby, later 4th Earl of Stamford. She was the linchpin that brought the Booth and Grey family estates (at Dunham Massey and Enville Hall, respectively), together.

The Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Although it was probably an arranged marriage it seems to have been a succesful one. The Countess of Stamford was highly educated and intellectual, and the books with her bookplate in the Dunham library include natural history, poetry, plays and religious topics.

View of the Brownian planting in the New Park at Dunham, by Anthony Devis, 1767. ©National Trust

She also developed the New Park at Dunham, where she may have employed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to create one of the newly fashionable landscape gardens.

Tudor and Stuart fashion moments

January 10, 2012

Portrait of Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton, attributed to George Gower, 1577, at Montacute House, Somerset (Sir Percy Malcolm Stewart bequest). ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

I vividly remember seeing this portrait years ago at an exhibition about Elizabeth I at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It sang out with its self-confident fashion sense. 

It comes as no surprise that this woman, Elizabeth Knollys (pronounced to rhyme with bowls), Lady Leighton, is thought to have been in charge of the Queen’s wardrobe – in effect a kind of fashion adviser or dresser.

Portrait of Margaret Layton, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts, c. 1620. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Her own appearance is very sophisticated, the orange dress echoing her reddish hair, but toned down by the black slashed bodice (if that this correct technical term), with the pattern of the slashes seeming to mimick the bow fastenings, and set off by various jewels which also return in her sassy tall hat with its elegant pink feather.

The portrait of Margaret Layton together with the linen jacket worn by the sitter, embroidered with coloured silks, silver and silver-gilt thread, made c. 1610-1615, altered c. 1620. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A slightly later fashion moment, from the Jacobean period, has been preserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where a c. 1620 portrait of Margaret Layton is shown next to the actual jacket she can be seen wearing in the picture.

Portrait of a lady, possibly Vere Egerton, Mrs William Booth (m. 1619), attributed to Robert Peake, at Dunham Massey, Cheshire. ©NTPL/Matthew Hollow

At Dunham Massey we hope to create something similar later this year: fashion student Jennifer Craig is working on a recreation of the costume of Vere Egerton, to be displayed near her recently acquired portrait. The current plan is to partly open up the costume, to show how it was constructed and what it would have been like to wear.

One of Jennifer Craig's sketches. ©Jennifer Craig

Jennifer is keeping a blog called Recreating the Costume of Vere Egerton to show the results of her research and the progress with the costume.


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