Archive for the ‘Hanbury Hall’ Category

Rooms present and rooms past

June 13, 2013
The Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The colleagues at Hanbury Hall are gearing up for the final phase of the restoration of the mural paintings created by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734). I have previously mentioned the complex work on the murals in the Painted Staircase.

Portrait of Thomas Vernon, MP, (1654-1721), the builder of Hanbury, by John Vanderbank. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Portrait of Thomas Vernon, MP, (1654-1721), the builder of Hanbury, by John Vanderbank. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Dining Room has two ceiling paintings by Thornhill. When Thomas Vernon (1654-721) built the house in the early 18th century there were two rooms here, a Lobby and a Withdrawing Room. These rooms were amalgamated into the present Dining Room after 1830.

Ceiling painting by Sir James Thornhill depicting Boreas abducting Oreithyia, in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Ceiling painting by Sir James Thornhill depicting Boreas abducting Oreithyia, in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The smaller painting, with Boreas, the north wind, abducting the nymph Oreithyia, was originally the ceiling of the Lobby, hinting at the draughts coming in through the door into the north-east courtyard.

Ceiling painting by Sir James Thornhill depicting Apollo abducting a nymph, possibly Cyrene, in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Ceiling painting by Sir James Thornhill depicting Apollo abducting a nymph, possibly Cyrene, in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The larger painting, depicting Apollo abducting a nymph, possibly Cyrene (although from some angles it appears as if she is abducting him), was originally the ceiling of the Withdrawing Room.

Composite image taken with ultra-violet light identifying the structural problems in one of the ceiling paintings in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust

Composite image taken with ultra-violet light to identify the structural problems in one of the ceiling paintings in the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. ©National Trust

Over time the ceiling has bowed and cracked, which in turn has affected the paintings. The planned work will include strengthening the ceiling and the floors above, restoring the plasterwork and cleaning, repairing and retouching the paintings.

The south-east end of the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. The carved wood chimneypiece and overmantel date from about 1760. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The south-east end of the Dining Room at Hanbury Hall. The carved wood chimneypiece and overmantel date from about 1760. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The total project will cost £74,500, and we have already found funds amounting to £44,500. Donations towards raising the remaining £30,000 can be made through the Hanbury Hall JustGiving site.

Past imperfect

April 4, 2011

The Hall at Hanbury Hall before 1900. ©National Trust

The agronomist Louise Fresco recently posted  about the implications of adding traditional cuisine to UNESCO’s world heritage listings (she writes in Dutch, so apologies to English-only readers). She rightly warns against the assumption that traditional recipes are fixed, and that there is one particular dish that can be designated as the ‘official’ one. Cuisine, like any other form of heritage, is always subject to change, and that change doesn’t necessarily make it less authentic.

The Hall more recently. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

That post reminds me of historic interiors, which are also often read as definitive and fixed. Of course this impression is partly caused by the sincere efforts of the owners or curators, who have done their best to make all the elements fit together into a convincing whole, just as a chef tries to harmonise all the flavours on the plate.

The Hall at Hanbury Hall is a salutary example of how radically the look of an interior can change over a hundred year period. The top image shows the fabric of the Hall unchanged since the house was rebuilt in 1701, but resplendent with Victorian clutter. The bottom image shows an attempt to recreate an eighteenth-century look by the National Trust. Both images can justifiably be called either ‘true’ or ‘untrue’. Taken together they also tell us something about our constantly changing perception of the past.

And the winner is: Hanbury Hall

December 3, 2010

©Perry Lithgow Partnership

Two days ago the mural conservation project at Hanbury Hall, which I featured earlier, was given the Pilgrim Trust Award for Conservation at the 2010 ICON Conservation Awards.

©NTPL/John Hammond

The judges praised the project for re-establishing the unity of this historic painted space, enabling the trompe l’oeil effects to be appreciated as its creator, Sir James Thornhill, intended.

Graphic recording the condition of the paint on the north wall. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

The judges also said that this conservation project has added considerably to our understanding of English Baroque wall painting techniques.

©Perry Lithgow Partnership

It was a good example of the importance of rigorous planning in order to integrate research, specialist advice and conservation skills. The project benefitted from good communication between the conservators, the Perry Lithgow Partnership, and the National Trust staff who acted as informed and collaborative clients.

Michelle Hill with the award. ©National Trust

Finally, the decision to allow the public to view the project up close was another factor in the project’s favour. Michelle Hill, the house steward at Hanbury, and her teams of volunteers organised ‘meet the gods’ tours and other activities to give visitors a better understanding of the murals and of the treatment they were receiving.

Mr Vernon’s murals

July 6, 2010

Hanbury Hall. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Hanbury Hall, in Worcestershire, was left to the National Trust in 1940. An endowment was provided for the house by an anonymous donor in 1953.

Bust of Thomas Vernon attributed to Edward Stanton. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The house was rebuilt in its present form around 1700 by Thomas Vernon (1654-1721), a wealthy lawyer and Whig Member of Parliament.

The Painted Staircase at Hanbury. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Hanbury contains a staircase with an amazing set of murals showing Greek deities and mythological figures. These were created for Thomas Vernon by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734) from about 1710. At about the same time Thornhill was also working on his masterpiece, the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital

A figure of Mercury hovering at the juncture of the wall and the ceiling. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

Mercury under UV light, showing up earlier retouchings as darker areas. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

These murals were recently conserved by the Perry Lithgow Partnership. They had last been treated in the 1950s. Since then the retouchings had discoloured and coatings had become opaque.

Infilled losses, prior to retouching. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

Cracks had opened up, especially where the murals had been painted over the dado panelling.

Retouching in progress. ©Perry Lithgow Partnership

The paint was cleaned and stabilised, and cracks and losses were filled and retouched.

The Hall looking towards the Painted Staircase. Thomas Vernon's bust lurks in the niche above the chimneypiece. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

The murals should now be all right for another half century or so.


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