Three Cs – ‘Capability’, Coventry, Croome

‘Expect the Unexpected’, Croome Court, near High Green, Worcester, Worcestershire, WR8 9DW

The south front of the house seen across the lake at Croome Court Credit: Andrew Butler

The south front of the house seen across the lake at Croome Court
Credit: Andrew Butler

What a lovely co-incidence that in this ‘Capability’ Brown’s 300th Anniversary year I am fortunate enough to be able to write about Croome Court which as well as being Brown’s first major commission was a complete project due to the fact that he was asked in 1751 by the 6th Earl of Coventry to create a house and estate that would be the dernier cri.  The photographs show the resulting building and landscape. Although the outside design and some of the interiors are Brown’s work the Earl later commissioned Robert Adam to design some of the rooms – the Long Gallery, the Library and Tapestry Room.

The Original tapestry Room Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Original tapestry Room
Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Tapestry Room, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, featured a specially commissioned set of Gobelins tapestries and seat covers. Coventry was one of the great 18th century English collectors of Vincennes and Sèvres porcelains and he asked Adam to design a tripod stand to hold a Sevres jug and basin whose colours reflected those of the room.

Artist Will Datson with ‘Chair Play’ and two of the original chairs Credit: Jack Nelson

Artist Will Datson with ‘Chair Play’ and two of the original chairs
Credit: Jack Nelson

In1948 the family disposed of the house and many of its contents were sold by auction and thus nowadays only about twenty percent of the collection remains.  There are plans to bring these pieces back to the house later this year. The National Trust bought the park in 1996 and started on its restoration and in 2007 the house was purchased by the Croome Heritage Trust and they have granted a long lease to the National Trust.

‘Chair Play’ in the Entrance Hall Credit: Jack Nelson

‘Chair Play’ in the Entrance Hall
Credit: Jack Nelson

Contemporary art installations have been placed in the house to evoke the idea of ‘expect the unexpected’ but are inspired by and use pieces that were originally in the house. Upon entering the building one sees the artist Will Datson’s original take on the idea of hall chairs through his 2.5 metre high installation. He says of it “It was my task to display the original hall chairs in a new way. We all see chairs every day, and usually ignore them, so I’ve attempted to create something out-of-the-ordinary, dramatic and playful, that’s hard to ignore.”

The ‘Golden Box’ in the Dining Room at Croome Credit: Jack Nelson

The ‘Golden Box’ in the Dining Room at Croome
Credit: Jack Nelson

In the dining room, whose plasterwork was painted by members of the Hare Krishna Movement who used the house as their headquarters (1979-84), visitors are confronted by a 2 metre high golden box which contains beautiful examples of Meissen, Worcester and Sèvres porcelains from Croome’s remarkable collection which have been installed by the noted artist Bouke de Vries to form a dazzling ceramics treasury. He simply sums it up saying “It’s been extraordinary to work on this project with the amazing team at Croome”.

Artist Bouke de Vries making the final finishing touches to the ‘Golden Box’ Credit: Jack Nelson

Artist Bouke de Vries making the final finishing touches to the ‘Golden Box’
Credit: Jack Nelson

In the Lord’s Dressing Room you will discover two 18th century Adam-style commodes made for the house by the celebrated firm of Mayhew & Ince who also supplied the seat furniture for the Tapestry Room.  It is worth remembering that the 6th Earl also bought French furniture for Croome in Paris from A la Couronne d’Or, the shop of the renowned marchand-mercier Simon-Philippe Poirier. There is also a portrait of Barbara St John, the Earl’s second wife.

Beautifully crafted 18th century Adamesque commodes with the portrait of Barbara St John in the background. Credit: Jack Nelson

Beautifully crafted 18th century Adamesque commodes with the portrait of Barbara St John in the background.
Credit: Jack Nelson

While Croome’s Tapestry Room is now bare of its glorious contents it inspired the idea of bringing Grayson Perry’s tapestries ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ to Croome (until 11th September 2016). The six large-scale works, inspired by Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, tell the story of Tim Rakewell and many of the people and things depicted reflect events that Perry encountered in his life. A 1994 earthenware vase by Perry, entitled Spirit Jar is also on show.

Visitors looking at the Grayson Perry Tapestries Credit: Peter Young

Visitors looking at the Grayson Perry Tapestries
Credit: Peter Young

‘Capability’ Brown and the Earl had become friends and thirty years after he started his transformation at Croome he still visited there and indeed Croome was described as his ‘first and most favourite child’.

Visitors looking at the Grayson Perry Tapestries Credit: Peter Young

Visitors looking at the Grayson Perry Tapestries
Credit: Peter Young

In 1783 Brown died while on his way home from dining with the Earl at his London residence. The Earl had a monument erected in Brown’s memory and it bears the inscription:

To the Memory of Lancelot Brown

Who by the powers of his inimitable and creative genius formed this garden scene out of a morass.

The Coade stone monument to Lancalot "Capability" Brown by the lake at Croome Court.The memorial was erected in 1797 following the death of Brown in 1783.

The Coade stone monument to Lancalot “Capability” Brown by the lake at Croome Court.The memorial was erected in 1797 following the death of Brown in 1783.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

Inside the Golden Box is an amazing collection of porcelain Credit: Jack Nelson

Inside the Golden Box is an amazing collection of porcelain
Credit: Jack Nelson

For those of you interested in learning more about the 6th Earls collection Sèvres I recommend:

THE SIXTH EARL OF COVENTRY’S PURCHASES OF SÈVRES PORCELAIN IN PARIS AND LONDON IN THE 1760s by Rosalind Savill in the French Porcelain Society Journal, Volume V 2015

A further display of porcelain in the Dining Room Credit: Peter Young

A further display of porcelain in the Dining Room
Credit: Peter Young

 

Grayson Perry (b. 1960), The Upper Class at Bay, 2012 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London and British Council. Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from Alix Partners.

Grayson Perry (b. 1960), The Upper Class at Bay, 2012 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London and British Council. Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from Alix Partners.

 

Croome Court Credit: David Norton

Croome Court
Credit: David Norton

Gilles-Marie Oppenord & Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier

BOUNTIFUL INVENTION: Drawings by Gilles-Marie Oppenord (1672-1742) and Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier (1695-1750), Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, until 23rd October 2016

 

Gilles-Marie Oppenord, Design for a salon chimney-piece, presumed to be for the Palais-Royal, Paris, c 1717; Photo Mike Fear (c) The National Trust, Waddesdon

Gilles-Marie Oppenord,
Design for a salon chimney-piece, presumed to be for the Palais-Royal, Paris, c 1717;
Photo Mike Fear (c) The National Trust, Waddesdon

Oppenord and Meissonnier are celebrated exponents of the Rococo Style that reached its apogee in France in the reign of Louis XV.  In this exhibition, chiefly drawn from Waddesdon’s own collection – there is a loan each from the Courtauld Gallery and the V&A – we get a chance to understand why they are held in such high esteem and why their designs were so eagerly sought after even in their own time.

Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier, Design for the lid of a gold box; c 1732-c 1733; The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) . Photo Mike Fear © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier,
Design for the lid of a gold box; c 1732-c 1733;
The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) .
Photo Mike Fear © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

On view there are sketches and highly finished drawings as well as working drawings and copies for use in printmaking. Their subject matters range from architectural and ecclesiastical subjects to designs for box lids, interiors and so forth.  Some were pure whimsy but many others were created by all types of craftsmen into real and usable entities.

Gilles-Marie Oppenord, Design for a garden pavilion, for the Elector of Cologne, c 1720. The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust). Photo Mike Fear © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Gilles-Marie Oppenord,
Design for a garden pavilion, for the Elector of Cologne, c 1720.
The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust).
Photo Mike Fear © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Oppenord’s and Meissonnier’s designs spread throughout Europe thanks to the prints made of their drawings and they remained a source of inspiration for successive generations.

Juste-Aurèle-Meissonnier Design-for-a-Monstrance, 1727 Waddesdon, The-Rothschild Collection

Juste-Aurèle-Meissonnier
Design-for-a-Monstrance, 1727
Waddesdon, The-Rothschild Collection

http://www.waddesdon.org.uk

Stepping Back in Time

Step this Way: the Red Drawing Room opened up, Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire,  until 23rd October 2016

View from the Oval Hall, Waddesdon, Photo John Bigelow Taylor ©The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

View from the Oval Hall, Waddesdon,
Photo John Bigelow Taylor ©The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

This year visitors to Waddesdon retrace the footsteps of the 19th century guests of Baron Ferdinand. Entering through the main door they cross the Vestibule and enter directly into the Red Drawing Room which is the central room on the south side of the house.  Here guests would congregate before going into dinner in the Dining Room on the left-hand side.

The Red Drawing Room, Waddesdon Manor (C) The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor photo Dereck Pelling (4)

The Red Drawing Room, Waddesdon Manor
(C) The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor photo Dereck Pelling (4)

The Red Drawing Room has been brought back very much as it was in Baron Ferdinand’s time, including the tapestry covered chairs – a necessity since as many as forty guests may have been invited – and a screen decorated with monkeys.

View of the Red Drawing Room from Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s Red Book, 1897; ©The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor (2)

View of the Red Drawing Room from Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s Red Book, 1897;
©The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor (2)

In order to facilitate this year’s “change” the 17th century Savonnerie carpet which is one of the one’s ordered by Louis XIV for the Grande Galerie of the Louvre has been removed and replaced with an eyemat conservation floor that is an exact copy of the original carpet and this allows visitors to get closer to the paintings and furniture.

Savonnerie, Carpet, 1683 Photo P J Gates © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Savonnerie, Carpet, 1683
Photo P J Gates © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

Looking through the windows, which now have special blinds which filter out damaging UV radiation to protect light-sensitive materials and textiles but allow light into the room, one sees the Terrace which the Baron’s guests would have been able to access through the central doorway.

The Red Drawing Room, Waddesdon Manor (C) The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor photo Derek Pelling (3)

The Red Drawing Room, Waddesdon Manor
(C) The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor photo Derek Pelling (3)

Looking out across the terrace visitors will see the parterre which this year has specially been planted with an Apollo’s head motif which was inspired by the one on the Red Drawing Room’s carpet.  Closer inspection of this attractive design can be made after you have toured the house.

Waddesdon Layout 2016 - final Carpet bedding

Waddesdon Layout 2016 – final Carpet bedding

http://www.waddesdon.org.uk

A Disappointment at Kedleston Hall

Reflections on a Derby porcelain exhibition at Kedleston Hall

Kedleston Hall  National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra.

Kedleston Hall
National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra.

The idea of having an exhibition of Derby porcelain at Kedleston Hall, just outside Derby, is an appealing one. The original aim was to combine Derby porcelain from Kedleston with fine examples of the factory held by other National Trust properties. Sadly, things have appeared not to go to plan as at least ten National Trust houses with relevant pieces failed to respond adequately or at all.

It was therefore fortunate that this show had the support of Royal Crown Derby, who have generously loaned the Kedleston Vase (c 1790) back to the house it was made for, and the Derby Porcelain International Society, for two members of the latter have loaned pieces from their own collections to make up for the shortfall of National Trust items.

The Kedleston Vase on display in the exhibition National Trust Images/Maggie Tillson

The Kedleston Vase on display in the exhibition
National Trust Images/Maggie Tillson

There is no doubt that what is there on show is of some interest and appeal but it is sad to think that more of the Trust’s own Derby treasures were not forthcoming and I think that serious questions need to be asked within the organisation as to why.

The press release I received said “Kedleston plates up Derby porcelain exhibition”, and some wag may now possibly be tempted to ask “has the National Trust gone to pot?” I must add that having been a keen National Trust visitor over the years and having the pleasure of writing about them that I feel somewhat disappointed and let down.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kedleston

http://www.royalcrownderby.co.uk/visiting

http://www.derbyporcelain.org.uk

NEWSFLASH – BALFRON TOWER

Just heard –

NT London Goldfinger bus tour goes to Balfron Tower, courtesy Sophia Schorr-Kon

NT London Goldfinger tour goes to Balfron Tower, courtesy Sophia Schorr-Kon

“Tickets are being released for 6 more days of tours, Friday to Sunday 17-19 and 24-26 October. Tours are on the hour, 11am to 4pm. Please note places on tours are ONLY available by booking in advance at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/london. To register interest in visiting with a local community or educational group please contact london@nationaltrust.org.uk.”

FLAT 130, BALFRON TOWER and Ernö Goldfinger

National Trust launches ‘pop-up’ opening of Brutalist tower block in Poplar, East London

NT London Goldfinger bus tour goes to Balfron Tower, courtesy Sophia Schorr-Kon

NT London Goldfinger tour goes to Balfron Tower, courtesy Sophia Schorr-Kon

I am bringing this to your attention partly because I blogged about the celebrated modernist architect Ernö Goldfinger’s home 2 Willow Road, Hampstead earlier this year (10th April, 2014)but mostly because the Balfron Tower, like its younger sister the Trellick Tower in West London was designed by him. Examples of Brutalist architecture, they were a part of the architectural landscape of post-war Britain. Indeed Goldfinger wrote in a letter to the Guardian ‘the whole object of building high is to free the ground for children and grown-ups to enjoy Mother Earth and not to cover every inch with bricks and mortar.’

Flat 130 at Balfron Tower with National Trust London, courtesy Edward Haynes

Flat 130 at Balfron Tower with National Trust London, courtesy Edward Haynes

In 1968 to prove his belief in the desirability of high rise living Goldfinger moved into Flat 130 for two months. For this very special limited, sold-out opening the designers Wayne and Tilly Hemingway have furnished it in the manner of a 1968 council flat.

lat 130 at Balfron Tower with National Trust London, courtesy Edward Haynes

Flat 130 at Balfron Tower with National Trust London, courtesy Edward Haynes

The building, which is being prepared for an extensive refurbishment, is owned by Poplar HARCA and National Trust London, who looks after 2 Willow Road, thought this provided a great opportunity to work with Bow Arts in association with Poplar HARCA as part of the Balfron Season and recreate a period flat.

Flat 130 at Balfron Tower with National Trust London, courtesy Edward Haynes

Flat 130 at Balfron Tower with National Trust London, courtesy Edward Haynes

 http://balfronseason.com/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

NT London Goldfinger bus tour goes to Balfron Tower, courtesy Sophia Schorr-Kon

NT London Goldfinger tour goes to Balfron Tower, courtesy Sophia Schorr-Kon

Unravelling Uppark, until 2nd November 2014

Unravelling Uppark, until 2nd November 2014

Unravelled14_by_Jim_Stephenson-1_MidRes


This is a really good way to bring both the story of the house and contemporary works together. The Unravelled artists are specifically commissioned to create works that help weave both architectural and human strands. At Uppark, which is their third and final project with the National Trust, they have much to focus upon, especially the story of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh who inherited Uppark in 1774. A bit of a lad he was a friend of the Prince Regent, and part of his household for a time was Emma Hart, later the celebrated Emma Hamilton more better known as Lord Nelson’s paramour. In his middle years Sir Harry settled down only to upset the apple cart, aged seventy, by marrying his twenty year old dairy maid Mary Anne Bullock.

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The first thing that you see as you approach the house’s portico is Agnes Jones’s two iron ‘line drawing’ sculptures Io (Mary Ann Bullock) the Greek nymph who was seduced by Zeus and Euthenia (Emma Hart) the goddess of Prosperity.

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Visitors are recommended to visit the dairy and stables first. In the dairy you will hear Gen Doy’s A Milkmaid’s Song inspired by Sir Harry’s marriage to Mary Ann Bullock.

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The stables are the site for Caitlin Heffernan’s Remnants which subtly contrasts the difference between the landed classes and their stable hands using various pieces of tack, hay, jewels and also pieces of fabric retrieved after Uppark’s horrific fire in 1989.

Thus we are introduced to another thread of the story for glorious Uppark, which had survived relatively unchanged since the 18th century, was hit by a disastrous fire in August 1989. The roof and ceilings were destroyed but fortunately not the walls and even more so much of the plasterwork and woodwork survived. Many of the ground floor rooms’ contents were saved too. The National Trust’s restoration of the building is a triumph.

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In the Staircase Hall Matt Smith’s Garniture: The Bullock Buckets, recalls the period fire buckets in the house and brings together the ideas of the Fire, Mary Anne Bullock’s being sent to Paris to be taught how to be a lady and the Sèvres porcelain collected by Sir Harry.

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The story of Emma dancing naked for Sir Harry and his guests is cleverly recreated by video artist Jini Rawlings in Amy, Emily, Emma and the Four Times of Day (Vernet) using a series of mirrors on the Dining Room table which may even be the very one on which Emma danced.

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Dish of the day: chicken in a basket, the creation of Robert Cooper and Stella Harding, is a large ceramic dish of woven basket design, whose surface is covered with collaged imagery and interwoven text that echoes the story of Emma and Mary Anne in that it highlights modern day exploitation of young people.

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In the Little Parlour Sir Harry’s father Sir Mathew Fetherstonhaugh provides the inspiration for the artist Steven Follen’s Trade a flotilla of origami toy boats. Made from metal sheets and lined with gold leaf and filled with spices which represent Sir Matthew’s links with the East India Company and shipping.

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The story of the fire and the subsequent restoration was the basis for Zoë Hillyard’s Salvage  a group of signature hand-stitched patchwork ceramics in the Red Drawing Room which sit well with the house’s own ceramic collection.

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In the Tapestry room you come across Simon Ryder’s Quartet four crystal blocks of glass laser-etched with rising and falling notes of birdsong reflecting the birdsong you can hear in the garden.

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Downstairs in the basement you will find Andrew Burton’s Vessels made up from tiny ceramic bricks. They evoke enigmatically the barrels and drinking vessels that were used in the house.

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Last and certainly not least is The House of Eloi the creation of Alice Kettle and Helen Felcey. It adds another strand to Uppark’s story since H G Wells’ books The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man are the source for this imagined world of mutant creatures that people the Doll’s House Room. You may ask why H G Wells? The answer is simply that his mother was housekeeper at Uppark in the late 19th century. The servants’ tunnels are also thought to have been an inspiration for Wells’ books.

I have long wanted to visit Uppark and never had the opportunity to do so but I was intrigued to come and see Unravelling Uppark. I am so delighted that I waited for what was a really beautiful experience and I hope that you will feel the same when you go there. Like me you may think that some of the contemporary works should remain.

Uppark House and Garden
South Harting, Petersfield GU31 5QR
Sunday-Thursday

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/uppark

http://www.unravelled.org.uk

Unravelled at Uppark, 2014. Architecture and Interior Photography by Jim Stephenson