Archive for the ‘Wiltshire’ Category

Alfred, the emblematic king

June 20, 2014
Historic building conservator Philip Scorer inspects the fabric of King Alfred's Tower. ©National Trust

Historic building conservator Philip Scorer inspects the fabric of King Alfred’s Tower. ©National Trust

The National Trust’s South West Blog keeps coming up with great images at the moment. A suitable caption for this one might be ‘Just another day working for the National Trust.’ I love Philip Scorer’s studious pose, pen and paper at the ready, while dangling off the side of an eighteenth-century folly.

King Alfred's Tower, Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

King Alfred’s Tower, Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

In fact it shows Philip inspecting King Alfred’s Tower, on the Stourhead estate, which is in need of repair. Significant funds have already been raised, including grants from the Viridor Environmental Credits Company and from the Mackintosh Foundation, but we are now trying to find the final £24,000.

King Alfred the Great, attributed to Samuel Woodforde (1763-1817), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732296. ©National Trust, image  supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

King Alfred the Great, attributed to Samuel Woodforde (1763-1817), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732296. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The tower demonstrates how the figure of King Alfred (849-99) was used as a cultural emblem in the eighteenth century. This Anglo-Saxon king was known for repelling vikings, rebuilding towns and cities, reforming the legal system and encouraging scholarship and religion.

Bust of King Alfred in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/Jerry Harpur

Bust of King Alfred in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/Jerry Harpur

From the sixteenth century onwards Alfred ‘the Great’ came to be revered as the epitome of a virtuous monarch. He was seen as a symbol of British virtues such as patriotism, love of liberty and respect for the rule of law.

Portrait of Anne Hoare, later Lady Mathew (d.1872), with King Alfred's Tower in the distance, by William Owen, RA (1769-1825), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732267. Image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Portrait of Anne Hoare, later Lady Mathew (d.1872), with King Alfred’s Tower in the distance, by William Owen, RA (1769-1825), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732267. Image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

King Alfred’s Tower at Stourhead was designed by Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) for Henry Hoare II (1705-85). It commemorates the peace with France in 1762 and the recent accession of King George III (1738-1820), like Alfred seen as ‘a truly British King’.

Painted plaster relief of King Alfred, probably 1760s, in the Caesar's hall, Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 109000.2. ©National Trust/Andrew Patterson

Painted plaster relief of King Alfred, probably 1760s, in the Caesar’s hall, Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 109000.2. ©National Trust/Andrew Patterson

American readers of this blog might well question George III’s credentials as a champion of liberty, but I suppose that is one of the ironies of history.

Black and grey

April 11, 2013
Attarine Medersa, Fez, by Katie Cooke, taken with a pinhole camera. ©Katie Cooke

Attarine Medersa, Fez, by Katie Cooke, taken with a pinhole camera. ©Katie Cooke

An exhibition at the Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock, which runs from 12 April until 22 September 2013, examines the relevance of black and white photography today.

Musée Gallo-Romain, Lyon, by Nettie Edwards, taken with an iPhone. ©Nettie Edwards

Musée Gallo-Romain, Lyon, by Nettie Edwards, taken with an iPhone. ©Nettie Edwards

The exhibition features the work of six artists working with black and white photography: Anthony Jones, Deborah Parkin, Trevor Ashby, Nettie Edwards, Mark Voce and Katie Cooke.

Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech, by Katie Cooke, taken with a pinhole camera. ©Katie Cooke

Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech, by Katie Cooke, taken with a pinhole camera. ©Katie Cooke

Roger Watson, the curator at the Fox Talbot Museum, comments that the absence of colour forces us to notice the texture, line and shape in the images.

Versailles Grand Canal: February 2013, by Nettie Edwards, taken with an iPhone. ©Nettie Edwards

Versailles Grand Canal: February 2013, by Nettie Edwards, taken with an iPhone. ©Nettie Edwards

The cameras and techniques used vary from the most recent – the iPhone – to the most traditional – the pinhole camera – demonstrating the almost infinite possibilities of black and white photography. However, all the artists seem to share an interest in contemplative observation and an appreciation of the passing of time.

A new old design for Avebury

December 13, 2011

A mock-up of the design for the Antechamber at Avebury (bottom), the stencil (left) and the chalked-up wall (right). ©NTPL/James Dobson

As part of the ‘Manor Reborn’ project at Avebury Manor on of the rooms was recently redecorated with a facsimile of an early English chinoiserie wallpaper.

The look of the design during the process of painting. ©NTPL/James Dobson

The original, dating to around 1700, came from Ord House in Northumberland and is now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The outlines of the design were printed, with the colours added with the use of stencils and the black background painted in by hand. The paper was then varnished, probably to make it look more like East Asian silk or lacquer.

©NTPL/James Dobson

 For the Antechamber at Avebury painter Mark Sands created a version of this design, but here applied directly onto the wall. Mark used stencils to lay out the pattern, which he then painted in by hand, taking care to recreate the slightly naive look of the original.

A detail from the design: a Chinese lady miraculously perched among flowering and fruiting branches. ©NTPL/James Dobson

In the playful spirit of the project, Mark added local wildlife to the scheme, including wild pansies, red admiral and peacock butterflies, great crested newts (whose appearance in the Avebury garden caused a delay to the project, as they are protected) and even a fox.

The scheme nearing completion. ©NTPL/James Dobson

The Avebury project has generated an interesting debate about how far an organisation like the National Trust should go in recreating history with a degree of freedom rather than rigorously sticking to the available historical evidence.

A 'Chinese' parrot, with a 'Chinese' squirrel lurking nearby. ©NTPL/James Dobson

Avebury was chosen for this project as it doesn’t have much in the way of original contents, and there are certainly no plans to give our other, more fully furnished historic houses such a radical make-over. But if you have an opinion about this kind of approach then do leave a comment.

The Manor Reborn

November 24, 2011

Penelope Keith and Paul Martin in front of Avebury Manor. ©BBC

Avebury Manor, in Wiltshire, is the setting for a BBC series entitled The Manor Reborn which documents the process of bringing this historic house back to life. The first episode airs tonight on BBC One.

View through the doorway between the Great Parlour and the Little Parlour at Avebury, taken as the rooms were being cleared prior to the recent project. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The series is presented by Penelope Keith and Paul Martin. The title is a reference to the former’s appearance in the 1970s sitcom To the Manor Born, in which she memorably played a feisty upper-class lady fallen on lean times and living in the gatehouse of her ancestral mansion.

The Dining Hall at Avebury as the project was about to begin. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Avebury Manor was originally a small medieval Benedictine priory on the site of an ancient stone circle. It was turned into a manor house in the mid-sixteenth century and was further altered in the early eighteenth century and in the 1920s (more about the house’s history can be found in this interesting post by the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre).

However, by the time the National Trust acquired the house very little of the original contents remained in situ. National Trust curators had been considering for some time how best to use the interiors when the BBC approached them with the proposal to make a series of programmes about refurbishing a house.

The Dining Hall after redecoration, reimagined as it may have been in the late eighteenth century. ©National Trust/Allan King

A team of experts was assembled including architectural historian Dan Cruickshank, historian Anna Whitelock, interior designer Russell Sage and gardener David Howard. The interiors of the house were redecorated to reflect various episodes in its history. Because of the lack of original contents, the team had more freedom to reinterpret the spaces than would normally be the case with a National Trust property.

Detail of the Fromental wallpaper, where the Chinese painters have added a vignette of Avebury. ©NTPL/John Hammond

However, the emphasis of the project was also to highlight the wide range of traditional craft skills still available today. In the Dining Hall, for instance, Chinese wallpaper makers Fromental have installed a hand-painted wallpaper reflecting the ownership of Avebury by Lieutenant-General Sir Adam Williamson in the late eighteenth century. 

Chinese wallpapers were very popular in Britain at that time, and Fromental’s Chinese craftsmen have made a new paper inspired by surviving antique examples, but customised with a few witty references to Avebury (I recently did another post about Fromental’s glamorous reinterpretations of traditional Chinese wallpapers). 

Another view of the Dining Hall. The section of wallpaper at left shows the western trading posts in Guangzhou, China, evoking Governor Williamson's international career. ©NTPL/John Hammond

I hope to do further posts about other aspects of this fascinating project soon. There is also a book available accompanying the television series

Claude: from canvas to garden

November 17, 2011

Claude Lorrain, The Father of Psyche Sacrificing at the Temple of Apollo, at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Over the weekend I visited the Claude Lorrain exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The show focuses on bringing together the paintings of the seventeenth-century master with his drawings and prints.

Claude Lorrain, The Landing of Aeneas at Palanteum, at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©NTPL/John Hammond

It is fascinating to see Claude playing with different landscape motifs and trying out all sorts of combinations. In spite – or perhaps because of – this his paintings exude an air of timeless serenity.

Claude Lorrain, Jacob with Laban and his Daughters, at Petworth, West Sussex. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

Claude’s pictures were hugely popular in Britain, so much so that, as the exhibition catalogue states, nearly all of them have been in British collections at some point, or are still there today.

John Constable, The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. ©NTPL/Christopher Hurst

Claude’s work inspired a number of British painters, such as Constable, Cozens and Turner.

Watercolour of Stourhead by by Coplestone Warre Bampflyde, at Stourhead, Wiltshire. ©NTPL

Claude also influenced the development of the English landscape garden, and nowhere is this more obvious than at Stourhead, in Wiltshire.

Stourhead today. ©NTPL/Nick Daly

There are other strands of meaning at Stourhead as well, of course, including an awareness of the various local springs, references to antiquity and subtle political symbolism. But the compositional language that brings it all together is very much that of Claude.

The Regency library at Stourhead

August 23, 2011

The Library at Stourhead. The chimneypiece and overmantel were added in 1913, but apart from that it very much reflects the Regency taste of Sir Richard Colt Hoare. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

In a comment on the previous post Jolie Beaumont asked about Regency libraries, and Craig Marriott responded that the one at Stourhead in Wiltshire is a prime example.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare and his son Henry, by Samuel Woodforde. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Library at Stourhead was built in 1792 by Moulton & Atkinson for Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Bt. (1758-1838). Colt Hoare was a shy, scholarly man who inherited Stourhead with its classically-inspired landscape garden from his grandfather, Henry Hoare II.

©NTPL/John Hammond

Following the early death of his wife Colt Hoare spent six years on the Continent, mostly in Italy. He developed his interests in topography and history and patronised artists such as Louis Ducros, J.M.W. Turner, John Buckler and Francis Nicholson. Colt Hoare was a prolific if indifferent artist himself.

Fold-out plate showing Stonehenge in a volume in the Library. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Back in England Colt Hoare turned to recording and publishing the antiquities of Wiltshire. He filled the Library at Stourhead with topographical books and records.

Library steps by Chippendale the Younger. ©NTPL/John Hammond

He also commissioned many items of furniture from Thomas Chippendale the Younger, which display the bold features of the Regency style and include various antiquarian references.

©NTPL/Bill Batten

As a reflection of Colt Hoare’s character and interests, the Library is almost as much a ‘work of art’ as his grandfather’s landscape garden outside.

A book from the Stourhead library

June 17, 2011

The Library at Stourhead. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

We have just bought back a book that used to be part of the library assembled at Stourhead, Wiltshire, by Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838). The book, a copy of Thomas Philipott’s Villare Cantianum; or Kent Surveyed and Illustrated (1776), was purchased at Bloomsbury Auctions in London.  

Sir Richard Colt Hoare and his son Henry, by Samuel Woodforde. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Colt Hoare amassed a vast collection of books at Stourhead on the history and topography of Britain, arranged by county. Unfortunately these were sold in 1883 and replaced with books from other Hoare properties. But the room is still very much as Colt Hoare commisioned it from achitects Moulton and Atkinson in 1792. It represents his ideal of the scholarly life.

Painted window by Francis Eginton after Raphael's fresco The School of Athens. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The lunettes contain copies of Raphael’s fresco’s The School of Athens and Parnassus in the Vatican, one as a painted window, the other on canvas. The carpet incorporates motifs derived from a Roman tiled pavement and its lattice pattern is reflected in the barrel ceiling.

We will never be able to reassemble Colt Hoare’s library, but the presence of a few books like this one can help to explain to visitors what was once there.

Third day of Christmas

December 27, 2010

The church of St Peter, Stourton, in the grounds of Stourhead, Wiltshire. ©NTPL/Stephen Robson

The wabi of Great Chalfield

October 25, 2010

©Emile de Bruijn

As I was previously writing a post about Great Chalfield Manor and its canine mistress, it struck me how much this house and its garden embody the Japanese concept of wabi.

©Emile de Bruijn

Wabi stands for a humble beauty, the look of objects showing the signs of wear and patina. 

©Emile de Bruijn

Wabi can express a sense of melancholy, of sobriety and spareness.

©Emile de Bruijn

But by stripping away the more obvious trappings of beauty, wabi also exposes the fundamental vitality hidden in natural materials.

©Emile de Bruijn

Major Robert Fuller and his architect Sir Harold Brakspear seem to have had a very similar ideal in mind when they restored Great Chalfield in the late nineteenth century.

©Emile de Bruijn

And today Patsy Floyd maintains the garden in the same spirit, with flowers emerging from between flagstones and lush greenery contrasting with lichen-covered stonework. 

©Emile de Bruijn

It would be interesting to find out if Japanese visitors experience Great Chalfield in this way, or whether they see it as exotically ‘English’.

Mistress Ming

October 18, 2010

Ming, mistress of Great Chalfield Manor. ©Patsy Floyd

A colleague recently alerted me to a charming blog written by a dog called Ming, who lives at Great Chalfield Manor, in Wiltshire.

The north front of Great Chalfield Manor. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

 Ming keeps a lively account of her charmed life at the manor house with its beautiful garden.

©Emile de Bruijn

Great Chalfield is a medieval manor house which was rescued from decay in the late nineteenth century by Major Robert Fuller, the manager of his family’s rubber business, who employed the architect Sir Harold Brakspear to restore and remodel the house.

©Emile de Bruijn

The restoration was done so sensitively that the new work can now hardly be distinguished from the old.

The gazebo at the end of the top terrace designed by Brakspear. ©Emile de Bruijn

The garden was designed by Alfred Parsons in a romantic style to complement the house. It is still lovingly maintained.

One of the yew houses. ©Emile de Bruijn

Major Fuller gave the house and garden to the National Trust in 1943.

Wrought iron bootscrape next to pleasingly unobtrusive welcome sign. ©Emile de Bruijn

Major Fuller’s grandson Robert Floyd and his wife Patsy still live in the house as tenants and open it to the public on behalf of the National Trust.


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