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Friday, September 30, 2011

Regency Reflections: Pitshanger Manor and Dulwich Picture Gallery

Sir John Soane (1784-1837) was a distinguished architect in Georgian England whose works have received at great deal of attention from 20th and 21st century architects. His work was unique for his time and appealing to the contemporary sensibility, both then and now. For information on his London home and museum, see the blog post of 9/24/11. This post will discuss two more of his buildings, Pitshanger Manor and the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Pitshanger Manor, Ealing, Greater London
Soane had a well established practice and had completed most work on his own London home in Lincoln's Inn Fields by 1800. He wanted a villa west of the city where he, his wife and two sons could enjoy country life. He purchased 28 acres for £ 4,500 including an existing house and outbuildings, known as Pitshanger Manor.  Eventually, he demolished most of the existing structures, saving only a wing designed by his mentor, architect George Dance, in the 1770's for previous owners. Over the next few years, Soane and his students worked on the house. Almost all of the drawings  and receipts for the construction, decoration and furnishing of the house have been preserved in Sir John Soane's Museum.

Library, Pitshanger Manor
London has spread out quite a bit and Pitshanger Manor is now in a park in the suburb of Ealing, reachable by the Underground, amidst an affluent bedroom community. In the early 20th century, the building had become the local library, with an addition for additional space. Since the mid-80's, it has been opened to the public and carefully restored to the look of Soane's day, except for the addition which is used for small art exhibitions.

Breakfast Room., Pitshanger Manor
The interiors are clearly neo-classic, but have a distinctly contemporary feel. One can easily see why post-modernists are attracted to Soane's work. The breakfast room has walls with marbled effects, a popular technique used by today's designers.  

Dulwich Picture Gallery
In another section of suburban London, the Dulwich Picture Gallery attracts many visitors to its collection of Old Masters.  It is Britain's first purpose-built public picture gallery, and Soane's design set the standard for every art museum since.  The Picture Gallery is located on the campus of Dulwich College, established in the early 17th century in the village of Dulwich, where it today serves about 1600 boys, ages 7 to 18. 

The Picture Gallery came about as a result of several coincidences  A London art dealer Noel Desenfans (1745-1807)  was asked by the King of Poland to assemble paintings for a national collection in 1790. However, within a few years, Poland had been divided up among Austria, Prussia and Russia. Desenfans tried to sell the collection but met with no success. Therefore he decided, with the help of his friend, Francis
Bourgeois, to set up a public gallery. After his death, Bourgeois willed the collection to Dulwich College. His friend Sir John Soane designed the building, which also includes a mausoleum for Mr. and Mrs. Desenfans and Bourgeois.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Musing About Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House, home to the Cavendish family since 1549, has been labelled the 'Palace of the Peak' and features more than 30 rooms, a large library and magnificent collections of paintings and sculpture. Additionally, the grounds include a 105-acre garden and a park on the banks of the river Derwent. Recently, and apropos of absolutely nothing, I was musing about Chatsworth and concluded that it remains my personal favourite when it comes to Stately Homes. There are many reasons for this:

1. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, once lived there.

2. So did the Duke and Bess Foster.

3. When you arrive at Chatsworth House on a visit, you're likely to be cautioned to mind the present  Duchess's chickens, who are allowed to wander, willy nilly, in the grounds.

4.  During a visit to Chatsworth House in 1843 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Orangery in the grounds (above), designed by Joseph Paxton, served as the inspiration for Prince Albert's idea for the design of the Crystal Palace.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Speaking of Bridget Jones . . .

And really, these days who isn't speaking of her? Not only is Bridget Jones 3 in the works, there's soon to be a musical based on the story. Tapped to play the lead role in Bridget Jones: The Musical, actress Sheridan Smith is currently enjoying pigging out in order to gain weight for the role, unlike Renee Zellweger, who emphatically said that she wasn't willing to gain a pound when Bridget Jones 3 goes into production.

A svelte Zellweger at LAX on July 9

Sheridan said: "I can just eat what I want. At the minute I've been eating burgers and it's great. I'm not really one for eating salads anyway, but the fact that I have to put on weight is even better.

"There will be a lot of dancing, that's the thing - it's just wondering whether you can keep it on doing eight shows a week. But I'll eat loads don't worry!

"Chocolate, cakes burgers, pizza, the lot. All my favourite foods. Jamie Oliver would kill me for saying things like that wouldn't he?!"

British pop star Lily Allen was chosen to write the music for the show and recently confirmed to Britain’s Elle magazine that she is almost finished writing the songs, and that we can expect the musical to hit in London’s West End in 2012. The play will be scripted by Bridget Jones author Fielding and produced by Working Title.

No concrete word yet on who will playing Mark Darcy or Daniel Cleaver. Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Regency Reflections: Sir John Soane's Museum

Victoria here.  People often ask me what I recommend for their visits to London.  I always answer, if they are in search of the English Regency, Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields. It is free (contribution requested) and of a perfect size for a half-day visit. The museum website is here. The portrait above is Sir John is by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a brilliant architect and teacher. The museum is in his house and classrooms, so you will get a taste of a wealthy (but not aristocratic) residence plus all Sir John's collections, used for the instruction of his architecture students.

The bust of Sir John Soane in the center of the picture above was sculpted by Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841).  Watch for my upcoming blog post on Chantrey, soon. 

Above, many rooms of the museum are devoted to the material he collected for his students to study.  Sir John began his career working for architects George Dance and, later, Henry Holland.  He traveled to Italy to study and came back to London to begin his own practice, in which he prospered, often doing projects to expand, remodel and modernize the country houses of the wealthy. An example, below, is Moggerhanger House in Bedfordshire, finished in 1812 and updated as a conference center in recent years. More information is here.

Sir John Soane's Museum shows several rooms in which his family lived, and I have always found the Drawing Room amusing.  It's very brilliant shade of yellow furnishings was a very popular color during the Regency, as evidenced in a number of country houses (such as Goodwood House).

Whether you visit on a sunny or a rainy, gray day, this room will be cheerfully bright. The dining room is an equally vivid crimson, also a popular color for walls in the Regency.

Sir John Soane's Museum also has gallery space for small, very selective exhibitions related to Soane's era and interests. I recommend browsing the shop on the website for museum publications. One of my favorites is The Soanes At Home: Domestic Life at Lincoln's Inn Fields, from 1997.  It's full of pictures, copies of receipts and invoices and all sorts of fascinating information about life and household management in the early 19th century.

 Above, Soane's drawing of the Bank of England as he rebuilt it in 1814;  since then, it has been remodeled and enlarged so that little of his work is evident today, except in portions of the interior.  The museum houses a collection of more than 30,000 architectural drawings by England's finest architects, as well as Soane's sketchbooks, business records and other valuable research and archival material.  

Above is a drawing by J. M. Gandy of Tivoli Corner, part of Soane's Bank of England, now remodeled.

Above, a statue of Sir John Soane in the Bank of England, where he is honored even though they changed his designs beyond recognition. Soane left the buildings of his museum and his home to the nation as a resource for training future architects. It thrives today, based on contributions and resources from its special programs, events, and publications. They operate a creative and energetic educational program too.  In an upcoming blog, we will visit Pitshanger Manor and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, two outstanding buildings designed by Soane and open to the public. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

All The Queen's Horses

From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

In the horse-world of London,  the highest circle, the most exclusive set, so to speak, is that housed at Buckingham Palace. To many loyal subjects the Queen's horses are as much an object of interest as the regalia; and as cards of admission are freely granted by the Master of the Horse, the Royal Mews are probably the best known stables within the bills of mortality.

There are in them from ninety to a hundred horses —state horses; harness horses, coach and light; riding horses, and what not—whose forage bill runs into 30 quarters of corn, 3£ loads of hay, and 3£ loads of straw a week. Immediately to the right of the entrance gate is a stable for ten horses, mostly light and used in ordinary work; to the left is a similar stable similarly occupied. On the east side of the quadrangle are the coaches, state and semi-state, and, among others, the Jubilee landau. On the west side are more horses— sixteen or twenty of them. The state stables for the creams and blacks are on the north side, and to the left of them are housed the thirty-two splendid bays, many of them bred at the Queen's stud farm at Hampton Court; the rest bought from the dealers at prices ranging from 180L to 200L Stables there are in London of more aggressive architectural features, and some in which there is a far greater show of the very latest improvements; but there are none more well-todo looking, none in which the occupants seem more at home. Comfort and order are everywhere apparent; the grooming is, of course, perfection; and there does not even appear to be a straw out of place in the litter.

The Queen has her favourites, and in matters of horseflesh is content to leave well alone as long as possible. If a pair fetches her Majesty from Paddington, it is always the same pair; if she drives in the Park with four horses, it is always the same team; so that practically out of the hundred horses the Queen uses but six. The horses ridden by the equerries and outriders are also kept at their special work as long as they are found fit, and the visitor going the round of the stables after an interval of years, will find Blackman, and Phalanx, and Sewell, and their companions still flourishing, and seemingly more conscious than ever of the distinguished success with which they do their duty in the royal equipage of everyday life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Speaking of Bridget Jones . . . .

Happy, happy, joy, joy! Just days ago, Colin Firth confirmed that plans for Bridget Jones 3 are well under way. Details remain sketchy, but the Christmas season will once again figure into the plot, as well as trouble with a capital T in the form of Daniel Cleaver. With luck, another hilarious fight scene between Mark Darcy and Daniel will also be in the cards. All of the main cast members are slated to return. You can read the article and Colin's quotes here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

400th Anniversary of the King James Bible and Hatfield House

The year 2011 marks 400 years since the Bible was translated into the English language in the Authorized Version, aka the King James Bible. After a labor of more than seven years by 47 or more scholars, this third version in English was printed and has, ever since, been one of the most influential books in the English speaking world.

So, friends, eat drink and be merry, for in the fullness of time, you may have to become my brother's keeper, for he fell flat on his face, though he is clearly the salt of the earth and only occasionally acts holier than thou. He is as old as the hills, but has had his fall from grace due to his feet of clay and his taste for forbidden fruit. In the twinkling of an eye, the powers that be could reach the root of the matter. As we sometimes say, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. So will you cast the first stone? Be a fly in the ointment? Or will you gird your loins, put your house in order and find your heart's desire? Remember, we reap what we sow.

Okay, so that paragraph is a bit lame, but it illustrates how many familiar phrases -- cliches really -- come from the KJV.

Numerous celebrations, conferences, services, choral events and exhibitions have been going on all year. For upcoming events and more information, click here for the King James Bible Trust website with further information.  Of special interest is the website's video on life in 1611.

King James

Images courtesy of King James Bible Online; for more, click here.

Many of the stories about the anniversary mention the coincidence of this Bible being written at roughly the same time Shakespeare's works were performed and published.  William Shakespeare (1564-1616), the  English language's most famous poet and playwright, must have known and seen the new bible. I wish I could find out what his reaction was, but so far I haven't found any comments from Will.

The Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare, National Portrait Gallery

The period of the English Renaissance which brought us both the King James Bible and Shakespeare  was part of great changes in all aspects of life.  But even today, we recognize the timelessness of these great works. And celebrate them!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moats, Five of 6,000

Victoria here. The Summer 2011 issue of the National Trust Magazine has a page of facts and figures with several fun items:
43 is the number of pubs owned by the NT; 200 bicycles are available to hire in Cumber Park Nottinghamshire; and 6,000 is the number of MOATS in the UK, “making them one of our nation’s most common medieval monuments.”

Bodiam Castle
I went to my picture collection to see how many moats I could account for. A recent one, though now a dry garden, was at Walmer Castle in Kent, which you can read about on this blog of 7/24/11.

Perhaps my favorite is the moat at Scotney Castle, also in Kent.  The website is here.

Be sure to click on the photo gallery for lovely pictures, though none quite so atmospheric as the ones I took on a visit in late October mist.  The gardens have been planted for special beauty in the spring and autumn. 

 In the 19th century, the gardens were designed in the picturesque manner by William Sawrey Gilpin for the Hussey family; Gilpin’s uncle, the Rev. William Gilpin, had criticized the style of his contemporary Capability Brown as too smooth and tame.  
  The old castle, dating from  the 14th century,  was “selectively ruined” to provide a focal point for the garden, leaving only one round tower of the original four. 

In 1970, the garden was left to the National Trust.  The moat acts as a perfect mirror in the above romantic view.
 In one of my several visits to Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, it was January and the moat was frozen.

After a snowstorm, the site was deserted, silent and ghostly in the fog, shared only with the sheep who were bundled up against the wind in their finest fleece. My husband and I made our lonely way around the ruins, reading all the labels and trying to imagine how it would have looked when it was the lively center of a great community. 

Another visit was in October, in bright sunshine. There were many more visitors, although I managed to take my snaps in between them!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Cavalry Horse

From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

There is no more eloquent testimony to the orderliness of London than the mere sprinkling of cavalry within its limits. It may seem ridiculous to the foreigner that with 375 mounted police, and two small regiments of Household troops numbering 275 horses each, five millions of people are content to behave themselves; but it is a state of affairs of which Englishmen have no cause to be ashamed. Even adding in the six battalions of Foot Guards and the line battalion at the Tower, and considering that there is Woolwich, and that there are Hounslow and Windsor not far off, and that there are facilities of communication—not, however, greater than exist in other capitals—we shall find that the police, and military ready to be used as police, in and about London, are a mere handful compared to what are necessary for peace-keeping and ceremonial purposes in the cities across the Channel.

At one time the black horses of the Household cavalry came almost entirely from Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, most of them being expressly bred for the service. But of late we have changed all that. In those days the cavalry colonels had so much money allowed them for remounts, and they had to pick up their horses where they could, with the jobmaster at their elbow—for a consideration—to help them at a pinch; and some of the London jobmasters had a standing order to be on the look-out for likely horses for certain regiments. Nowadays the Dublin dealer has taken the place of the London man, and, instead of the colonel buying horses, the buying is done by the Remount Department, whose happy hunting ground is Ireland.

When a military horse is 'cast,' and all military horses are 'cast' at fourteen years old, whether they be good, bad, or indifferent, a requisition for a substitute goes to the Remount Department at Woolwich, and the substitute arrives a day or two afterwards from the Emerald Isle, generally shipped direct by Daly or some other Dublin dealer. That the new horse is as good to look at as the old Yorkshire one, we have not heard any soldier declare, but he is at least thirty per cent. cheaper, and he seems to be strong enough for his work.

A British army corps, when discoverable, will be found to have 12,000 horses, of which 3,134 will be in the cavalry and 2,987 in the artillery; these 6,121 horses ought to be thoroughly broken and trained, even if the remainder are not. There are said to be only 70,000 horses in the British Isles fit for army work, but this is one of those pleasant fictions of which it is When Napoleon attempted to invade us—an attempt that was defeated at Trafalgar, which to the uninitiated may seem to be a long way off for the defeat of such a scheme, although any future attempt will probably have to be reckoned with still farther at sea—the Government took stock of every horse in the kingdom, with the intention of a general impressment for military service; and nowadays the Government has power in times of national peril to lay hands on every horse within these islands, in preparation for which there are thousands of horses under subsidy with a view to immediate use. And when this seizure does take place, it will certainly not be to the joy of the jobmaster; he above all men shudders at the mere mention of foreign invasion, for invasion to him means the entire loss of his means of livelihood, and this at a sacrifice, for no Government would pay the price at which the jobmaster's stud has been collected.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Things We Covet

The new auction catalogue is available from Dominic Winter Book Auctions, who happen to offer alot more than antiquarian books and maps, as will be seen by the selections below, any and all of which Victoria and I would give our eye teeth to own. From their auction on Wednesday 21 September 2011 commencing at 11.00 a.m., a private collection of antique fans is on offer in Lots 257 to 325. Here are a few examples -

274 *
Card games. Royal Connections Fan, Connections, a New Game at Cards, Invented by their Royal Highnesses the Princess Elizabeth and Dutchess of York, which is played in the first Circles of Fashion, Publish'd as the Act directs Jany 11 1794, by Messrs Stokes, Scott & Croskey, No.19 Friday Strt. London, folding paper fan with leaf engraved in blue with the rules of a card game, and decoration incorporating the four suits, sl. rubbed in places, and a few fox spots, mounted on pierced bone sticks, 24.5cm (9.5ins) Provenance: Lady Schreiber's great grandson. Not in the Schreiber Collection, but the Royal Collection holds an example of this fan.

288 *
Dancing. New Dance Fan for 1795, N.p., folding paper fan, the stipple eng. leaf printed in brown ink, with central wreath motifs containing musical emblems, and musical notation and choreography for sixteen dances, some light toning and rubbing, inscribed in an early hand on the verso "gift of my Br[other] Sollsmans[?] when he left London Mrs. Porters", mounted on wooden sticks, 25.5cm (10ins) Provenance: Lady Charlotte Schreiber's great grandson. Not in the Schreiber Collection. The dances include: "The Guillotine"; "The fall of Robespierre"; "The Prince of Wales's delight"; "Lord Moira's Fancy"; "Linley's Choice"; and "Devonshire Dumplins".

294 *
Fortune-telling. Wheel of Fortune, J. Fleetwood, 48, Fetter Lane, c.1805, folding paper fan, the leaf stipple-eng. with four female heads surrounding the wheel of fortune representing 1.Bath Gypsy, 2.Norwood Gypsy, 3.Corsican Gypsy, 4.York Gypsy, with instructions on how to interpret the wheel, and information regarding reading physiognomy and the forecast of perilous days, including fore-telling Napoleon's death, which 'will be sudden either by suffocation or Drowning', folds beginning to split sl. in places, mounted on wooden sticks, 19.5cm (7.5ins) Schreiber Collection 65, p.14 (coloured).

304 *
King George III. N.p., c.1787, folding paper fan, the leaf with stipple-eng. port. of George III within gilt and sequined oval starburst frame, with banners either side hand-painted in gilt on a blue ground proclaiming 'Long Live the King', and onlaid flowers and birds with metal thread and sequins (sl. damage to one motif), mounted on bone sticks, 24.5cm (9.5ins) Provenance: great grandson of Lady Charlotte Schreiber. Exhibited: Fan Makers Hall, December 1980, catalogue no. 25. Similar to number 10, p.3 in the Schreiber Collection, but that in Schreiber is uncoloured and without the hand-finishing.

You can find, and drool over, all fans on offer here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Crying Duchess

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Mrs. Creevey to (her daughter) Miss Ord.
12 Sept., 1806.
"... I am going to Somerset House to enquire after poor Sheridan, who went from this house very ill at 12 o'clock last night. . . . He complained of sore throat and shivering, and his pulse was the most frightful one I ever felt; it was so tumultuous and so strong that when one touched it, it seemed not only to shake his arm, but his whole frame. ... I lighted a fire and a great many candles, and Mr. Creevey, who was luckily just come home from Petty's, began to tell him stories. . . . Then we sent for some wine, of which he was so frightened it required persuasion to make him drink six small glasses, of which the effect was immediate in making him not only happier, but composing his pulse. ... In the midst of his dismals he said most clever, funny things, and at last got to describing Mr. Hare, and others of his old associates, with the hand of a real master, and made one lament that such extraordinary talents should have such numerous alloys. He received a note from Lady Elizabeth Forster, with a good account of Mr. Fox. It ended with—'try to drink less and speak the truth.' He was very funny about it and said: 'By G-d! I speak more truth than she does, however.' Then he told us how she had cried to him the night before, 'because she felt it her severe duty to be Duchess of Devonshire!' *

Lady Elizabeth Foster by Angelica Kaufman

* Georgina, the Duchess of Devonshire, had died in March of this year. Lady Elizabeth married the Duke, but not till three years later, in 1809.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Visiting the Geffreye Museum by Guest Blogger Jo Manning


Geffrye Museum frontage, showing extensive lawns…a serene place of an afternoon to wander about or just to sit on a bench and contemplate life…

Blogger  Margarita  Lorenzo (her blog is here) writes:  
“13 years I have been in London, and never have visited the Geffrye Museum before, that is bad!! considering it is a bus ride away from home, free to visit and about a subject I adore, interiors.  [I] decided to venture to East London to discover a bit more about this area and the Museum. The venue is the right size, have gorgeous gardens, entrance, and rooms exploring each period of the English Middle Class houses and their decorations, different styles, ways of living etc. … “ 

Main entrance to Geffrey Museum, with statue of Sir Robert Geffrye, who was a Lord Mayor of London and Master of the Ironmongers Company, over the door

Ms. Lorenzo's remarks are what one hears over and over again when the Geffrye Museum is mentioned in conversation… Yes, people have heard the name, but, no, they’ve never visited, and, gee, it’s so accessible using public transportation! 

And the exhibitions are always worthwhile.  In keeping with the dedicated educational purpose of the Geffrye, there are excellent demonstrations and talks.  Their holiday celebrations are not to be missed! (Though be warned that the herb gardens may not be open to the public at that time.) Click here for upcoming events. 
So, yes, if one has the time, walk…but take a good map.  There are some challenging blocks from the tube station to the Geffrye, many windings and turnings. (And some excellent Vietnamese restaurants, though I’d recommend eating in the brand-new, very nice restaurant at the Geffrye.)  This used to be the seat of the furniture trade and a Jewish area.  It was also home to Huguenot weavers. The little houses where the weavers lived and wove are now selling in the millions of pounds.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Travels with Victoria: The Windsor Museum

I was delighted to spend my last full day in England, June 15, 2011, with Hester Davenport in Windsor.
Here is Hester with members of the Irish guard with their canine mascot at the opening of the museum.

Hester generously planned our day beginning by meeting me at the train station in Slough, pronounced I believe to rhyme with plow (or plough).  Our first stop was a new park, formed from an old one which had fallen into disrepair. 

 The Herschel Park, 2011

The park is named after the famed German-born astronomer and musician-composer Sir William Herschel (1738-1822) who died in Slough after a distinguished career in which he discovered the planet Uranus and its moons, invented a number of telescopes, named the "asteroids", and composed more than twenty symphonies. His sister Caroline was a significant partner in many of his scientific studies.

In the mid-nineteenth century, this area was part of a housing development which included large open spaces, and was known as Upton Park. It borders the M-4 and most of it was badly in need of renewal when a group, with money partially from the Heritage Lottery Fund, redesigned the park with nature trails and a Victorian band shell, a real asset for the neighborhood.Below, an old view of the Victorian park.

Our next stop was the Windsor Farm Shop where one can buy the Queen's own beef, poultry and vegetables, straight from the Royal Estates. The goods were very enticing, I must say.

 Outside, there was a wide array of herbs, vegetables and flowers for one's own gardens.  But I couldn't quite figure out how I would get them home across the pond!