Archive for the ‘East Sussex’ Category

Time and space at Bateman’s

March 11, 2014
Looking from the Inner Hall to the Hall at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Looking from the Inner Hall to the Hall at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Following my recent post about the leather hangings at Bateman’s I thought I would show a few more images of the interiors of the house.

The Grange, North End Road, Fulham, London, by Thomas Matthews Rooke, at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Grange, North End Road, Fulham, London, by Thomas Matthews Rooke, at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The writer Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) and his wife Caroline (known as Carrie, 1862-1939) bought the Jacobean-period house in 1902 and filled it with antiques. Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911), helped with sourcing furniture and furnishings from the antiques trade.

Indian silver bottles and tray at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Indian silver bottles and tray at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Although the Kiplings clearly tried to make the interiors as authentic as possible, the house also has a distinctly Edwardian feel, reflecting the period’s taste for artful antiquarianism.

Caricature of Rudyard Kipling by 'Spy' (Sir Leslie Ward). ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Caricature of Rudyard Kipling by ‘Spy’ (Sir Leslie Ward). ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

It is no coincidence that two pillars of British conservationism, Country Life magazine and the National Trust, were founded at around this time (in 1897 and 1895 respectively).

Plaque with an Indian subject by John Lockwood Kipling, at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Plaque with an Indian subject by John Lockwood Kipling, at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The house also reflects the Kiplings’ memories of India. Rudyard was born in Bombay and set many of his stories and novels there. Kipling senior worked as an art teacher and museum curator in Lahore and used many Indian subjects and motifs in his own art.

Early eighteenth century japanned cabinet in Elsie Kipling's Sitting Room at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Early eighteenth century japanned cabinet in Elsie Kipling’s Sitting Room at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Mixing and melding these diverse places and times, the interior is a self-conscious work of art in its own right.

Detail of the embroidery (copy of the original) on the bed in the West Bedroom at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Detail of the embroidery (copy of the original) on the bed in the West Bedroom at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

In addition it is now of course a ‘shrine’ to a well-known author.

Globe showing the imperialist world-view in the Study at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Globe showing the imperialist world-view in the Study at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

So Bateman’s does multiple things at once: it contains genuine historic objects and works of art, it provides a snapshot of a certain period and mindset, and it is the unique home of certain individuals, one of whom happened to be a famous writer.

Chickens and eggs

February 13, 2014
Detail of leather wall-hangings in the Dining Room at Bateman's. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Detail of leather wall-hangings in the Dining Room at Bateman’s. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I have recently been looking at the similarities between the flowering trees, birds and rocks on Chinese silk and on Chinese wallpaper. There seems to have been a lot of visual cross-fertilisation going on, not only between these different categories of Chinese products, but also involving the ‘tree of life’ motifs on Indian chintz.

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Another element in this fascinating but confusing mix is the category of European leather wall-hangings, like this set at Bateman’s. Many of these hangings are clearly decorated with the same type of bird and flower imagery.

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The closest parallels to these seem to the the stylised, serpentine ‘tree of life’ motifs on Indian chintzes. But those, in turn, seems to have been partly influenced by European embroideries and by Chinese garden imagery as seen on textiles, lacquer, porcelain and wallpaper.

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

It is a classic ‘chicken and egg’ problem: which came first? It may prove to be impossible to identify the Ur-version of this type of decoration, but we can certainly learn more by making further comparisons.

Don’t do this at home

December 20, 2010

©National Trust

Katherine Sharp, the curator for Monk’s House (which I featured earlier), has just told me of a recent gift to the house of some books once owned by Virginia Woolf.

©National Trust

They are a set of the Arden edition of Shakespeare which Virginia covered with coloured paper in 1936. Her diary entry for 25 February 1936 reads: “… I’ve had headaches. Vanquish them by lying still and binding books …” – by ‘binding’ she meant re-covering the books with glued paper.

Virginia Woolf's bedroom at Monks House. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Although I wouldn’t personally recommend glueing coloured paper all over your books, it does vividly illustrate the earthy modernist taste of the Bloomsbury Group. And of course it is also poignant evidence of Virginia’s need to soothe her sometimes fragile state of mind with repetitive manual work.

Monks House, Rodmell, East Sussex. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

The books come with a bookcase that is recorded as being in the Woolfs’ London home in the late 1930s and later came to Monk’s House. After Leonard’s death in 1969 the bookcase and the books were given to Lady Lintott, a longstanding friend of the Woolfs who lived nearby in Rodmell. Her children have now donated it to Monk’s House.

A writer’s retreat

December 6, 2010

The Sitting Room at Monk's House. The armchair was one of Virginia Woolf's favourite reading chairs. It is upholstered in a fabric designed by her sister, Vanessa Bell. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Courtney Barnes at Style Court has just added a post inspired by the 1992 Sally Potter film based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando (and she even quoted me, which is flattering). So I thought I would show a few images of the house in Rodmell, East Sussex, that Virginia Woolf shared with her husband Leonard.

The walled garden next to Monks House. Leonard Woolf was a particularly keen gardener. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Virginia and Leonard bought Monk’s House in 1919 for £700. It was ‘an unpretending house’ as Virginia called it, and she liked it that way.

Virginia Woolf's bedroom. The pale green was a favourite colour. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Life was fairly spartan at Monk’s House. When the Woolfs’ friend E.M. Forster visited he burnt his trousers trying to get warm beside the little stove in his room.

The Dining Room. The canvas-work mirror frame was designed by Duncan Grant. He also designed the chairs, together with Vanessa Bell. The naive painting over the chimney came with the house. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

As Virginia made more money from her books, however, various improvements and extensions were added. In 1929 the house was ‘luxurious to the point of electric fires in the bedrooms’.

The writing lodge. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

When the Woolfs had no visitors, Virginia would write for three hours every morning in her writing lodge in the garden.

Another view of the sitting room. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Monks House was acquired by the National Trust in 1980 with grants from the University of Sussex, the Department of the Environment and the Royal Oak Foundation.

Humble beginnings

September 20, 2010

Alfriston Clergy House in 1894. ©NTPL

Alfriston Clergy House, in East Sussex, was the first house to be acquired by the National Trust. It was bought for £10 in 1896, a year after the Trust’s founding.

Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley (1851-1920). ©NTPL

This acquisition demonstrates the awakening interest at the end of the nineteenth century in the fate of beautiful old buildings. The vicar of Alfriston had alerted Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust, to the fact that the house was ruinous and about to be demolished.

Octavia Hill (1838-1912), in a copy of a portrait by John Singer Sargent. ©NTPL

Canon Rawnsley and Octavia Hill, another of the founders, recognised the importance of the Clergy House as one of the few fourteenth-century hall houses that survived in a more or less unaltered state.

Although small, Alfriston Clergy House has a central hall that rises to the roof. The floor is made of rammed chalk sealed with sour milk, a practice local to Sussex.

The west front of Alfriston Clergy House. The timbering on the right was rebuilt after a fire in the seventeenth century. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Hill was tireless in her efforts to raise funds for the restoration of the house. Her passionate activism was a driving force behind the National Trust in its early years.

She was particularly keen to preserve areas of natural beauty so that they could serve as, in her words, ‘open-air sitting rooms for the poor’.

The vegetable garden. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Support also came from Sir Robert Witt, the first tenant of the house, who was honorary secretary to the National Art Collections Fund. That organisation is now called the Art Fund and it is still a staunch supporter of the National Trust’s work.

I shall be away for a few days, back on 30 September.


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