Archive for the ‘Wimpole Hall’ Category

A Roman quartet returns to Wimpole

June 3, 2014
Detail of the bust of the emperor Caracallarecently returned to Wimpole Hall (inv. no. 2900080). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Detail of the bust of the emperor Caracalla recently returned to Wimpole Hall (inv. no. 2900080). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Four seventeenth-century Roman marble busts have recently returned to Wimpole Hall after a 60-year absence.

The four Roman busts back in the entrance hall at Wimpole. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The four Roman busts back in the entrance hall at Wimpole. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Two of the busts, of the emperor Caracalla and of a man described as ‘a philosopher’, were accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and allocated to Wimpole.

The bust of the 'philosopher', whose identity is yet to be further researched (inv. no. 2900081). ©National Trust/Phil MynottPhilosopher Phil Mynott

The bust of the ‘philosopher’, whose identity is yet to be further researched (inv. no. 2900081). ©National Trust/Phil MynottPhilosopher Phil Mynott

The other two, of the emperor Trajan and of another as yet unidentified emperor, were purchased by private treaty with the help of grants from the Art Fund, from a fund set up by the late the Hon. Simon Sainsbury, the Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Levy bequest and other gifts and bequests.

The busts of an as yet unidentified emperor (left) and Trajan (right) in the inner hall,  flanking curator Wendy Monkhouse, who originally made the case for their acquisition. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts of an as yet unidentified emperor (left) and Trajan (right) in the inner hall, flanking curator Wendy Monkhouse, who originally made the case for their acquisition. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts are back on display in the entrance hall, where they were previously, and they join a fifth bust of the emperor Marcus Aurelius which had remained at Wimpole.

Unidentified emperor (inv. no. 2900083). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Unidentified emperor (inv. no. 2900083). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The Wimpole provenance of this group of busts can be traced back to at least the 1770s, but they may have been part of of the collection of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741) who, apart from being a voracious bibliophile, also collected coins and antiquities.

The emperor Trajan (inv. no. 2900082). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott Phil Mynott

The emperor Trajan (inv. no. 2900082). ©National Trust/Phil Mynott Phil Mynott

The busts were made in Rome in the seventeenth century in response to the strong demand across Europe for objects evoking Roman history. Bust such as these referenced the lives and achievements of the different Roman emperors.

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (inv. no. 208037) on the great staircase. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The emperor Marcus Aurelius (inv. no. 208037) on the great staircase. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Trajan and Marcus Aurelius were among the good guys overseeing Rome’s golden age. The fratricidal Caracalla was definitely a bad boy, but his brooding countenance – and the fact that he came to power while in York – made his bust popular in eighteenth-century England.

Julia Glynn of Cliveden Conservation preparing the bust of Caracalla for display. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

Julia Glynn of Cliveden Conservation preparing the bust of Caracalla for display. ©National Trust/Phil Mynott

The busts have been prepared for display by Clivenden Conservation and placed on the carved wooden plinths made for them by the Cambridge firm of Rattee and Kett in about 1860.

Wimpole in the round

November 7, 2012

The Breakfast Room at Wimpole Hall, the table set with tea for one to suggest the period during the 20th century when the house was owned by Elsie Bambridge. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Our libraries curator Mark Purcell recently alerted me to a virtual tour of  Wimpole Hall. The site allows you to explore  360-degree images of the main rooms.

An angling party, by Edward Smith, mid 18th century, acquired by Elsie Bambridge for Wimpole. ©National Trust Images/Roy Fox

The experience is not quite as vivid as actually visiting Wimpole, of course – there is no need to mothball our historic houses just yet – but it does provide a good impression of the layout of the house and the proportions of the rooms and the objects in them.

Portrait by Alan Ramsay of Jemima, Marchioness Grey, in the Long Gallery at Wimpole. The sitter lived at Wimpole in the late 18th century. ©National Trust Images/Roy Fox

Having only seen the portraits of the 2nd Earl of Hardwicke and his wife Jemima, Marchioness Grey, in reproduction, I was pleasantly surprised by the image of the Long Gallery which shows the pictures in their splendid gilded Kentian frames.

Portrait of the 1st Earl of Hardwicke by Thomas Hudson, in the Long Gallery at Wimpole. © National Trust Collections

And by panning round to the opposite side of the Gallery you can see the portrait of the 1st Earl, with his sumptuous Lord Chancellor’s ‘handbag’, which I featured here earlier. I was also surprised to see how small the charming 18th-century picture of a collector, in Mrs Bambridge’s Study, actually is.

A collector in his study, Wenzel Wehrlin, mid 18th century, acquired by Elsie Bambridge for Wimpole. ©National Trust Images/Roy Fox

The virtual tour as a whole also gives a flavour of life in an English country house in the twentieth century, when it was bought, furnished and lived in by Elsie Bambridge, the only surviving child of Rudyard Kipling. Her taste interacts with the layers left by earlier owners, resulting in one of those interesting country house palimpsests.

One portrait, two stories

April 5, 2012

Portrait of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, as Lord Chancellor, by Thomas Hudson, at Hammond-Harwood House. ©Hammond-Harwood House

The recent post about Lord Chancellor Hardwicke’s purse at Wimpole Hall prompted a comment from Allison Titman, curator of Hammond-Harwood House, a historic mansion in Annapolis, Maryland, saying that they, too, have a portrait of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke.

Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis, Maryland. ©Hammond-Harwood House

It turns out that the Hammond-Harwood portrait, by Thomas Hudson (1701-1779), is more or less identical to a Hudson portrait of the same sitter at Wimpole.

Portrait of Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke, as Lord Chancellor, by Thomas Hudson, at Wimpole Hall, inv. no. 207887. Acquired with the help of the Art Fund, 1989. ©National Trust Collections

The Wimpole version was introduced to the house relatively recently when it was bought by the National Trust at auction in 1998 with the help of the Art Fund.

There hadn’t been a portrait of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke at the house for some time, and the National Trust curators were keen to show visitors a picture of a man who had been so important to the history of the place.

Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. ©National Trust Images/Megan Taylor

The Wimpole portrait had originally been given by Hardwicke to his secretary, Hutton Perkins, who bequeathed it to his second daughter, Elizabeth. She married Richard Wood of Hollin Hall, North Yorkshire, and the portrait descended in the Wood family at Hollin Hall until offered for sale at auction by Christie’s in 1998 and purchased by the National Trust.

A grey Arabian in a landscape with the south front of Hollin Hall beyond, by John Ferneley, 1844 (?). ©Christie's

The Hammond-Harwood version, so Allison tells me, descended in the Yorke family to Susan Amelia Yorke (d. 1887), a niece of the 4th Earl of Hardwicke (the photographs of her shown here can be found at the Grand Ladies site).

In 1857 Susan married Charles Joseph Theophilus Hambro (1834-1891) , a scion of the Dano-British Hambro trading and banking family. Charles Joseph’s father, Charles Joachim Hambro, Baron Hambro (1807-1877), had recently moved to Britain, set up Hambro’s Bank, and purchased Milton Abbey in Dorset as his country seat.

Portrait photographs of Susan Amelia Hambro, née Yorke, by Camille Silvy, 1860. ©Grand Ladies

The Hudson portrait stayed at Milton Abbey until the Hambro family sold the house in 1932 and auctioned off part of its contents. The Hudson was bought by Mrs Clifford Hendrix and she donated it to Hammond-Harwood House in 1950.

Milton Abbey as illustrated in Morris's Country Seats (1880)

The histories – almost biographies – of these two identical portraits has been very different, but I think they illustrate rather well how the same work of art can mean different things to different people, at different times and in different places.

Clever waiters

April 3, 2012

Black basaltes ware bust of the actor David Garrick, on a dumb waiter in the Book Room at Wimpole Hall. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Courtney Barnes recently mentioned the tiered tables known as ‘dumb waiters’ on her blog Style Court. These tables were originally developed in the eighteenth century as convenient pieces of furniture to keep food and drink available in the evening after the servants had been dismissed. The traditional name presumably refers to the tables’ role as mute servants, rather than mentally challenged ones.

The Book Room at Wimpole. The plasterwork in the forground dates from the James Gibbs phase of the room, while the elliptical arches were designed by John Soane. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I have found another example of such a tiered table in the Book Room at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. I am not sure whether this particular one was originally used to hold food and was later moved to the library, or whether tiered tables were sometimes specifically made to hold books.

The chimneypiece and overmantel mirror in the Book Room designed by Soane. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The two main library rooms at Wimpole have a fascinating history. The original Library was created by James Gibbs in the late 1720s to house part of the the huge collection of books and pamphlets of the manic accumulator Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford.

View from the Book Room into the Library. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Gibbs also created part of what is now the Book Room by annexing half of the orangery and turning it into an anteroom to the Library. This room was extended in 1806 by Sir John Soane for Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke. Soane designed the characteristic elliptical arches decorated with paterae, executed by the plasterer John Papworth.

The Library at Wimpole, originally created by Gibbs for the 2nd Earl of Oxford. The windows at the far end and on the left were added later. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The history of the books at Hardwicke is even more convoluted: almost all of the 2nd Earl of Oxford’s books left Wimpole after his death, but the 1st Earl of Hardwicke brought in his own collection, as well as one inherited from Lord Chancellor Somers. His sons Philip Yorke, the 2nd Earl, and Charles Yorke also added to the books at Wimpole, including a collection inherited by the latter’s wife from Tittenhanger in Hertfordshire.

View of the Library looking towards the Book Room. The set of library steps began its life as a pulpit. The pair of globes dates from the early nineteenth century. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Philip Yorke, the 3rd Earl, sold some books in 1792 (while simultaneously commissioning Soane to enlarge the Book Room) and Charles ‘Champagne Charlie’ Yorke, the 5th Earl, sold a large part of the library in 1888. In the 20th century Captain and Mrs Bambridge once again added collections of books. These included some rare editions of Rudyard Kipling’s works, Elsie Bambridge being his only surviving child.

The private side of the public purse

March 30, 2012

Detail of the Lord Chancellor's purse of office at Wimpole Hall. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I was wrong when I said earlier that we didn’t have good photographs of purses of office in National Trust collections. There are some excellent images of the Lord Chancellor’s purse, worn and tarnished but still an extraordinary example of the embroiderer’s art, that belonged the Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.

The Lord Chancellor's purse on display at Wimpole. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The 1st Earl started out as an able and ambitious lawyer and politician and he went on to contribute to successive Whig governments. He was influential in shaping of the law of equity and the legal definition of marriage in England and Wales.

Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwick, as Lord Chancellor, by the Reverend James Wills (fl. 1746– d. 1777), c. 1740, at Erddig, inv. no. 1151294. His purse of office is propped up behind him. © National Trust Collections

He ended up being one of the longest-serving Lord Chancellors. It is said King George II did not recognise him after he left office since he had never before seen him without his robes of state and full wig.

Detail of the tarnished gold and silver thread on an angel's face on the Lord Chancellor's purse at Wimpole. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Hardwicke purchased Wimpole in 1740 as a country house suited to his personal and dynastic ambitions. He employed the architect Henry Flitcroft to rebuild the house, which retains its external appearance from that time.

The south front of Wimpole Hall and St Andrew's parish church, both rebuilt by Henry Flitcroft for the 1st Earl of Hardwicke. ©National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

Wimpole was also the setting for Hardwicke’s growing family, especially during convivial late summer gatherings.  But then ‘family’ was often the equivalent of ‘business’ in the eighteenth century.

Portrait by Alan Ramsay of Jemima, Marchioness Grey and Countess of Hardwicke, the 1st Earl's daughter-in-law and a social networker in her own right. Inv. no. 207812.1 ©National Trust Images/Roy Fox

Hardwicke’s eldest son Philip married Jemima, Marchioness Grey, and they lived at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire. His eldest daughter Elizabeth married Admiral Anson who, when he wasn’t sailing the globe, lived at Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire. Their distant Yorke cousins were based at Erddig, in Wrexham. The extended family was a power network as well as a social network (as I also touched on in this earlier post).

Wimpole inside out

April 20, 2011

View of Wimpole by Richard Bankes Harraden, 1821. ©Miles Wynn Cato

The spring 2011 issue of ABC Bulletin (which can be downloaded here) features an article by David Adshead and Amanda Bradley about a small painting of Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, that we have recently purchased from Miles Wynn Cato.

Wimpole Hall. ©NTPL/Megan Taylor

The little picture by Richard Bankes Haraden (1776-1862) is unusual in showing the Wimpole landscape ‘inside out': not the view outward from the house towards the Gothic Tower, but instead looking from near the Tower back to the house, which appears almost hidden.

Design by Robert Greening design for the garden at Wimpole, c. 1752, showing the "eyetrap" he created by framing the view north from the house with trees. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

The views from the house into the park were originally designed by Robert Greening, who began to undo the formality of Wimpole’s park in the mid-1750s. The process was continued by ‘Capability’ Brown in the 1760s and 1770s. By the time Harraden painted his picture in 1822 the planting had clearly matured.

Longhorn cattle at the Wimpole Home Farm. ©NTPL/Jonathan Cass

The cattle shown in the painting are evidence of the agricultural improvements of Philip Yorke, the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke (1757-1834). Apart from commissioning the splendid stables at Wimpole from the architect John Soane (shown here earlier) he also introduced Leicester Longhorn cattle, a cross-breed developed for meat production.

The Gothic Tower. ©NTPL/Megan Taylor

So this small, modest picture contains all sorts of evidence about the development of the Wimpole estate. It also illustrates the Romantic conception of a landscape as a picturesque whole, rather than just a setting for a great house.

Soane lives on

March 2, 2011

Toby Worthington's library. ©Toby Worthington

The idiosyncratic Regency architect Sir John Soane continues to inspire. Toby Worthington, who has occasionally contributed comments to this blog, has allowed me to show these images of his own library. He created it out of an enclosed porch at his mid-nineteenth-century Gothick cottage in upstate New York.

The Book Room at Wimpole Hall. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Toby has combined various Soane motifs in this small space, some from Soane’s own house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, some from Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.

©Toby Worthington

The elliptical arch is an echo of the arches in the Wimpole Book Room.

The chimneypiece, also by Soane, in the Book Room at Wimpole. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Pompeian red and the use of convex mirrors are further Soane touches, much in evidence in the Lincoln’s Inn Fields house.  

©Toby Worthington

Toby achieved the typically Soaneian bead mouldings by using small wooden balls which were individually glued into place.

Plunge bath at Wimpole designed by Soane. ©NTPL

Now as for Toby’s next project, how about a version of Soane’s smart and compact Wimpole plunge bath?

Pendentive affinities

February 23, 2011

Plan and section of the Yellow Drawing Room prepared by Soane's office for the Earl of Hardwicke, 1791. The decoration of the domes was later changed from lozenges to scallops. ©National Trust

David Adshead, the National Trust’s architectural historian, has just told me in response to the previous post that Soane’s pendentive domes were originally inspired by the designs of George Dance the Younger (1741-1825), whose pupil Soane had been.

The Staircase at Mount Stewart with its pendentive dome designed by George Dance the Younger. George Stubbs's painting of the racehorse Hambeltonian can be seen hanging on the landing. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Dance included a pendentive dome in his design for the Chamber of the Court of Common Council in the Guildhall, London, which was built in 1777-9 (and demolished in 1906). A more modest pendentive dome designed by Dance can still be seen at Mount Stewart, Co. Down.

The dome of Soane's Yellow Drawing Room at Wimpole. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

As David outlines in his book Wimpole: Architectural Drawings and Topographical Views (National Trust, 2007), Soane also adopted Dance’s use of concave scallops to cover the inner surface of domes.

The south front of Wimpole. The lantern of Soane's Yellow Drawing Room was inserted between the two roofs of the central block. ©NTPL/Megan Taylor

The classical inspiration for these may have been the semicircular scalloped dome of the Scenic Triclinium of Hadrian’s Villa; or it could have been the Roman practice to use a billowing sail or velarium as a sunshade over their amphitheatres.

Design by Soane for the Castello d'Aqua at Wimpole, plate XLI in Sketches in Architecture (1793). ©National Trust

At Wimpole Soane also designed and built a poetic Castello d’Aqua, or waterworks building, its shape inspired by ancient Roman mausolea. Sadly it was demolished at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Soane's barns at the Wimpole home farm. ©NTPL/Megan Taylor

Soane also demonstrated his versatility at Wimpole by designing a model farm that reflected the third Earl of Hardwicke’s zeal for agricultural improvement.

Addendum 24 February: Barry of The Blue remebered Hills has just kindly shown me this image of the dome of the church of the Madonna di San Biagio in Montepulciano, built in 1518, which illustrates perfectly the original function of pendentives, as the transition between a square and a round volume. This was the type of dome that Dance and Soane would go on to take one step further, extending the pendentives into a complete dome.

Pendentive tendencies

February 21, 2011

The Yellow Drawing Room at Wimpole Hall, with its pendentive dome. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

One of the things I picked up while I was an intern at the Soane Museum years ago was the concept of the pendentive dome, which is a dome set on top of a square volume.

Detail of the dome of the Yellow Drawing Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

This sounds relatively straightforward, but architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837) turned it into a rich and strange architecural form, almost a signature motif.

©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Soane loved to conjure with volumes, deliberately juxtaposing ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, ‘open’ and ‘closed’. At Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, Soane used a pendentive dome when he created the Yellow Drawing Room there in the 1790s.

©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The interlocking volumes of the Yellow Drawing Room were inspired by the side chapels in the basilica of St John Lateran and the loggia of the Villa Madama, both in Rome and both seen and sketched by Soane.

©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

But Soane had clearly made this vocabulary his own, and he used similar bewitching combinations of walls and apses, straight and curved surfaces in his designs for the Bank of England and for his own house in Licoln’s Inn Fields.


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