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I’ve called on Peter Hone in his Notting Hill studio flat a few times recently

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It’s always a huge pleasure.

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He offers coffee and some breakfast.

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The pink and white striped tablecloth is always scrupulously clean, but on my last visit ‘tho the cups were out and the French windows were open, there was nobody about.

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After hanging around for a bit, at last I went outside onto the balcony. A few hundred yards off Peter was ‘exercising’ his terrier Basil in the communal gardens.

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Peter is a Master-Plaster-Caster, the only one of his kind. Now he does bespoke commissions and sells some more via Pentreath and Hall’s Rugby Street shop. He used to make exquisitely coloured resin plaques as well that Marianna Kennedy sold in Spitalfields, my favourite the violet coloured Hercules tondo propped against his window. People make appointments to call on him here all the time, to buy and commission pieces or just to marvel at it all and take his photograph, like me.

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During my visits he described his past life as a a custodian of historic buildings, antique dealer and then a fabricator in plaster and occasionally, coloured resin,  in his own very vivid words. ‘I came here in 1961. I’ve been here over 50 years.A friend of mine said, ‘Oh my friend Mary, she’s moving from her flat, why don’t you come and look at it? It was 7 shillings and 6d a week. I took it.

I was working in the zoo serving the fellows, Sir Solly Zuckerman and the man who was the Naked Ape man, what’s his name? [Desmond Morris] Luncheon, and functions in the evening when they would bring animals up for people to look at, it was very nice!’

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Peter with Basil his irrepressible terrier. ‘How do you like my beard? It’s five days old, I thought when I’m brown, the white, it looks good on the brown, and it goes with the interior. It’s marvelous really, I’m a very lucky person, the fact is that I’ve got this aptitude for learning and remembering things and I’ve got a natural calmness and unflappability.

Unlike Basil.’

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‘I worked for the department of the environment, didn’t I? In the Banqueting House in Whitehall, in the Jewel Tower, in Westminster Abbey, Chiswick House. As a custodian. I had a hat with a silver crown on it and a suit like a policeman’s suit with silver buttons with crowns on it and epaulettes and things like that. Nobody ever went to the Banqueting House, to Chiswick House. That was in between when I had my own shops in Camden Passage.’

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‘I was working at Clifton Nurseries, Lord Rothschild’s place. I was running the garden antiques department for him, I designed it.

We used to sit there at the big table. The fireplace we sat in front of was designed by Lutyens. We got all the things at country house sales. I’d been doing it for 20, 30 years before that, I’d had three shops in Camden Passage, we did all beds, Christopher [Gibbs} was there, he had a little stall in the carpet shop, he was in his jelaba and sandals. Then the shop closed, the lease came to an end, I closed the business and went to work for English Heritage at the Banqueting House, Chapter House, Jewel Tower, Chiswick House.

I drove on my bicycle round them all, because it was only part time. It was MARVELOUS, £75 a week in the hand!’

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Young Peter, raving beauty soaking up antiquity.

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‘It’s not crammed with stuff any more, it’s as I want it, grisaille. It’s my Brexit moment. I’d been building up a collection for 45 years you see. As long as we’d been in the EU, the moment we were leaving they all had to go. Ive got British Worthies in the hall, did you see?’

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‘The leaves – of Acanthus and Gunnera – are wonderful, and of course each is a one off.’

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‘When they had my sale, they had a sale that was following and I bought the Turkish turban. [an Ottoman grave marker] It never sold, I bought it after the sale, it’s about 1800 I suppose. It’s on a Roman base, I got it from a skip in Clifton nurseries, they stripped a garden out and they chucked it all out. It’s rose violette marble.’

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‘I was making plaster casts for Clifton Nurseries and I was making them for myself. When I left there, retired, I made plaster casts for Jeanette Winterson’s girlfriend. I used to see them when they had the house together in Oxfordshire and she was doing her book on Sappho, I said, I’ve got a plaque with Sappho’s head on it, so I made one for her and she was so thrilled and everybody ordered it, so I started making plaster casts of my own, 87, or something like that.’

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‘Miranda Rothschild moved in next door, and she said, You know my brother Jacob (before he was elevated to the peerage) is looking for someone to open the shop? I said, I’m quite happy on my bike, I don’t want to go into antiques any more, it was LOVELY. I’m not ambitious you know!’

He asked again, he said, What’s the matter with him, is he alcoholic? Third time round I said, Come and see me in my flat.We had a fire in those days, and the great bed from Mereworth Castle and the great Wright of Derby. We had tea. It was to take over from my friend Janet Shand Kydd. We sat over there, he said that’s a nice picture is a copy?’

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‘When I came to this house in 1961 I was 21.No one knows where I was born! There was a piece in the Telegraph or the Times commenting on the sale in 2016 that said I’d been found in basket in an orphanage. It was vaguely true. In Rochdale. I was born wonderful.’ 

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‘Everyone thinks my hands should be arthritic by now,but they’re not. They’re wonderful hands!’

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‘My philosophy is to put big things in small spaces and small things in big places. I think it’s MARVELOUS! Otherwise you’ve got to bank it like this.’ He got the lovely shell pink on these white linen slip covers by washing them with an old crimson velvet cushion.

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‘This stuff, it’s from the Countess of Portarlington, it was huge flags, banners, I got it at a sale. I had it hanging right across this room, I made it into this blind that’s been up there 40 years.’

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‘Good job I’m here to guide you Ruth!’

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The World of Interiors ‘did’ Peter in September 1994, James Mortimer took the photographs and Alistair McAlpine supplied the text. This is his set of rooms crammed with treasures, before the recent Christie’s sale.

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‘I made that chair, I had the paws and just put it together. The arms and the side frame bit, the paws, were there, they were in a garage off the Marylebone Road, the store place where this man used to do props for films. The rosettes, lion heads, I cast of course

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The bedroom used to be a sort of garden room and then a kitchen.

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The bedroom ceiling is a work in progress, more panels going up and more leaves coming

The bedroom ceiling is a work in progress, more panels going up and more leaves coming

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That’s Lord Leighton and that’s Augustus John, a more recent acquisition. It’s a study for a lost painting, unfinished, you can see there’s just a cat sitting there in the folds of her thing, pencil, crayon, white chalk. On the back where it was folded back to fit into a frame there was a tiny stamp the size of a petit pointe, the initials ‘FAS’. When Leighton died the Fine Art Society sold all his collection of drawings. It’s after Ariadne. There are oleographs of it, I had it under this bed a long, long time. It was bought by Angus and David Bourne from the sale of Ivor Novello in ‘53, sold in a lot of picture frames.Then David gave it to me about 35 years ago.’

I took it to Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams, they all said, ‘Oh nonono nothing…!’ I was so infuriated I took it round to Leighton House. And they just went bananas. It was on view in Christie’s sale with all of my stuff, they said, ‘We must have it, it’ll be 35,000!’ I said, ‘No you won’t!’

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‘The table in my bedroom, it’s early C18th, probably by – I always forget his name. It’s absolutely marvelous! We’re all on a learning curve here.’

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Acanthus.

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The bedroom in its earlier incarnation, as seen in World of Interiors.

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Bathroom.

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More Bathroom

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Linen cupboard

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Towels and Bromo

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The Hone Collection – Peter’s sale of plaster casts and works of art, held at Christie’s in October 2016. ‘Getting rid of all these things, it’s not going to be the end of the world: it’s the beginning of a new world… A grisaille world.  It’s not going to be minimal here:in fact it will be more than what’s here now, it will be the essence of me, the essence of my love for things,’ he said at the time, anticipating the rooms as they  look now.

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The Trafalgar Urn, a Regency alabaster Warwick Vase commemorating Admiral Nelson, and two sets of plaster reliefs of the C18th and C19th, some in the manner of Robert Adam.

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Peter photographed with Basil, possibly for Hole and Corner magazine.

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The serpentine C18th Hall chair originally designed by William Kent for Lord Burlington’s Chiswick House that Peter found and sold on to English Heritage. The rest of this set were taken by the dukes of Devonshire to Chatsworth House.

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‘They asked me, What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever bought? I said, It’s Camilla Parker Bowles’s bikini. I said, Don’t you print that! And they did. It’s in the cupboard there, its ‘60s. Well, Camilla’s sister is an interior decorator and she was at my sale view.And she said, You did mention my sister, about her bikini? I said, I’m terribly sorry, I’ll be in the Tower! And she said, What’s it like?’

My friends the Edens lived next door to the Parker Bowles’s. They used to sell all their cast-off things for charity on their lawns, Miranda Eden kept it because it was so smart!’

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Grateful thanks to Peter Hone. He says he is going to ‘modernise’ this kitchen one day soon, but he may be teasing.

All photographs copyright bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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As some of you will know, architect and designer Ben Pentreath and plantsman, florist and collector Charlie McCormick live for most of the time in a small hamlet in West Dorset, although they have a London life as well. The dogs and their cat Henry live here too, and there has been talk of chickens. The two previous photos show Charlie’s flower room, in what was once Ben’s sort of drawing office, when it was hung with framed architectural designs and cast plaster plaques by Peter Hone. He’d been doing the party flowers for our friend Bridie’s Hall’s birthday in there, before shipping them up to London, mostly dahlias, but with a twist. The house has been photographed quite a few times before, but soon it will be in metamorphosis. Charlie and Ben will be sending stuff up to their new place on the western seaboard of Scotland, so this was a last chance to make a record of its full-up, glorious profusion, ‘as found’ and not tidied.

When I arrived at the Old Parsonage there was a sort of harvest festival cornucopia going on at the front door.

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The whopper  – or possibly its older brother – had been the toast of Dorset, having won Charlie more than one first prize at the local agricultural and flower shows in which he competes vigorously and joyfully each summer.

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Sibyl and Mavis dashed round to join in, Sibyl always getting there first.

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There was one fox glove hanging on. Behind is the little Victorian church where their marriage was blessed.

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The garden was going into its green September plumage (except for the dahlia beds)

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So we had a cup of tea and I began to take pictures ( this one is from my last visit in June or August)

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Charlie was stewing and bottling the apple crop, Ben was absent, working, in London, alas

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I like this gloss yellow that went up in the kitchen at least a year ago. The walls used to be off white, then Farrow and Ball’s Wet Sand. This is better.

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‘Three Classicists,‘ the architectural exhibition put on at the RIBA by Ben, George Saumarez Smith and Francis Terry ( HRH the Prince of Wales wrote the foreword to the exhibition catalogue, I wrote the introduction, it was fun). And the letterpress poster cum invitation for their wedding celebrations, a harvest-home summer feast held in a marquee on the cricket ground a few years back in 2015, followed by the glorious disco. Table flowers were brought by Charlie’s friends Bridget Elworthy and Henrietta Courtauld, aka the Land Gardeners , Live Camels! laid on by Ben

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The china cupboard is groaning

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with a growing hoard

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This lovely horsehair sofa was in Ben’s mum and dad’s house on the Isle of Wight. It transforms the kitchen. But its needed up in their new smallholding in Scotland one day soon.

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Charlie had put his winning certificates up edge to edge and they almost covered the dresser that Ben bought on ebay

P1200854

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Aga plus washing

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Ben’s baby photo hangs by the door, unmistakable

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next door, the dining room. As Ben describes, when he moved in, the builders stripped buckets of glue from the floorboards. Later the room had a brief moment of being painted an intense 60s purple, Victoria Plum, which divided opinion strongly. Charlie hated it ‘quite rightly,’ so they repainted in this eye-popping Cornflower blue.

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Once a sober temple to the pleasures of the knife and fork, now a marvelous smorgasbord of ceramics bought at auction and from the stalls at Bridport market

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seed harvested from the garden

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Wedgwood and generic candlesticks, a contemporary Ionic column creamware version was reproduced for sale with Pentreath and Hall

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In the stone flagged hall, Mavis was patiently waiting…

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at the bottom of the stairs. Charlie was up there somewhere. The wallpaper is Malahide by David Skinner, based on a C19th original.

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Sibyl was hanging about too

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coyly posing for the camera with her smoochy, kohl-rimmed, young Princess Margaret look

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Together we withdrew to the drawing room where she chewed a stick to matchwood and I carried on

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Yellow sofa from Max Rollitt

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Charlie’s botanical prints, huge vintage kelim cushions. The walls are Parsonage Pink, mixed by that brilliant ex-guardsman Patrick Baty.

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The ottoman loaded with books, Jasper Conran’s iconic Country, Haute Bohemians, Pleasure Garden magazine (Charlie writes for it), The Private Gardens of England and Ben’s excellent second book, English Houses.

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In the window bay the C19th Howard armchair that Ben bought at auction and reupholstered in a blue antique linen by Polly Lyster, with its deep bullion fringe

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Looking towards the hall and kitchen

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Staffordshire china spaniels sit on almost every chimney piece, friendly appealing household gods. The Regency marble chimneypiece is from Jamb.

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More books on the grand piano including Charlie’s albums of pressed seaweed specimens

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More books

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I counted sixteen – sixteen! – units of seating in the drawing room, which seems nicely convivial. Only this one chair was broken, waiting for the menders

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Charlie’s photo album of corgi pin-ups

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My well-thumbed copies of Ben’s books, Three Classicists, English Decoration and English Houses, the latter two have become classics in the canon of ‘ English taste, and ‘how to get the look.’ The Old Parsonage features in both, but in English Houses Ben writes, ‘One of the things that has made me happiest of all is the way in which Charlie has made the Parsonage his own; both in the garden, where he is in the midst of creating an extraordinary work of art that is scented, multi-textured, richly coloured, and in the house, which has never felt so friendly and alive. The Parsonage has  been transformed by becoming a shared space… Charlie has turned the house into our home.’

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Out of the drawing room door and straight into the garden

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Sibyl hurried round and composed for her next shot

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Back inside and upstairs where the oeil de boeuf window that Ben cleverly put in when he moved to the Parsonage looks out over trees, valley and the church. Charlie’s pelagoniums

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and the second best spare bedroom

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which has the beautiful atmosphere of one of the convalescent attic bedrooms painted by Eric Ravilious. This truly lovely  patchwork quilt bedspread was made by Ben’s mother.

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and three little Ravilious china mugs to match

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Master bedroom

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Lots of books, seed catalogues tucked behind the bedhead on Charlie’s side

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Cosmos, Wedgwood King George Coronation mug by Ravilious

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This bull’s eye window on the bedroom passage looks up to the hillside in front of the house

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Bathroom harvest mugs and a Roberts radio

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holiday portrait in the lav

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And then the corridor leading to Charlie’s flower room at the back of the house, hung by Ben with Peter Hone’s plaster casts

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The Queen reigns here

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Her Beswick china corgis glassily adore her

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Ostrich eggs and huntsmen

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The blue painted dresser holding a collection of unglazed Fulham pottery vases designed in homage to that great artist of flower design, Constance Spry

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Bunting and stripes

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Apothecary jars

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DAHLIAS!

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tools of the trade

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And lining the corridor leading to the best guest bedroom (mine), Ben’s hundreds of copies of the World of Interiors. In Engish Decoration, Ben writes, ‘I love seagrass square which last really saw the light of day in the 1970s. Of all the things we have sourced in the shop, I am probably proudest of seagrass squares.’

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Sweet peas, dahlias and moss green walls, a colour from Patrick Baty’s 1950s range

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Above the chimney in my bedroom, the landscape by Ben’s Cornish ancestor Richard Thomas Pentreath (1806-1809), the son of a Mousehole schoolteacher

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books at the foot of the bed

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My bedroom dahlias, I badly wanted to take then home

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Charlie’s glorious pelagonium growing in my bathroom

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Seen from my bedroom window, Charlie working on the borders, Mavis waiting

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low clouds were turning the verdure khaki colour

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back down to the garden

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Braces no belt

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we went to see his shy marrow camouflaged in the vegetable garden

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back in for another cup of tea and a walk up the valley with the dogs

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Charlie took his boots off and I took this portrait a la Gertrude Jekyll

 

Grateful thanks to Charlie McCormick and Ben Pentreath. Charlie writes for Luxe magazine, and sometimes for Pleasure Garden. Ben writes everywhere, fluently and cogently, there is his regular blog, Inspiration,  but his next publication will be with Bridie, to celebrate a decade of their glorious trading company and shop, Pentreath and Hall, coming out in a few weeks time with an introduction written by me…

All photographs copyright bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

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They rebuilt the ‘new’ house at Trereife in 1710, on and around the older one, as has so often been the case. There’s a back drive with high stone gate posts and rhododendrons and this front one, running up beside the old park palings. The Le Grice’s have owned Trereife since the early nineteenth century, after Charles Valentine Le Grice  arrived here to tutor the son of the widowed Mary Nicholls in 1796. Charles had been a pupil at Christ’s Hospital with the Romantic poet Samuel Coleridge and counted Charles Lamb and Leigh Hunt among his friends. Within a few years he had married his employer and taken holy orders; and after his wife and stepson both predeceased him, Charles inherited Trereife, leaving it to his son, Day Perry Le Grice.

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Tim Le Grice has lived here since the 80s with his wife Elizabeth, their family and their black Labrador, Milly; their old Labrador Duke, a noble dog, died earlier this year and is buried in the garden here. This is the mare, Grace, one of Tim’s much cherished horses.

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Just inside the front door

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Beyond it, this lovely drawing room, re-paneled in 1920 ( the original paneling had been replaced with more fashionable wallpaper). ‘This room’s had several re-paintings,’ says Elizabeth Le Grice. ‘Below the dado, that turquoise colour was done quite a few years ago, I painted it with my nanny in the 80s. But then a painter tried to match that colour and got it wrong, so it’s a sort of mixture but it works. It was a sort of Salmon pink that Tim’s mother had had for years, and when I painted the doors Lyn [Lyn Le Grice, the interior designer] said, ‘Make sure that the pink comes through the paint,’ which I like. The curtains were a gift from Tim’s sister, Tasmin Sowerby, when her son got married here, to thank us; Lyn Le Grice found the fabric for us.’

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‘Over the chimney is Harold Harvey ‘s Newlyn Gala Day at Whitsun, set in front of the house. It’s a copy, we no longer own the original.’

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‘What do you keep in these cabinets?’  ‘Nothing. That looking glass, we don’t know what it is.’ This is also the sitting room for guests who stay here for bed and breakfast.

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‘The NADFAS specialist told us this china isn’t all that valuable. The plates are hand painted. My grandfather collected those.’

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This is the Le Grice family crest on one of a set of hall chairs.

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‘The two small paintings on the left of the door, they’re by Sickert’s most promising pupil, through the connection with Alethea Garstin.’ Garstin was a central figure among the Newlyn Painters. Patrick Heron called her ‘England’s leading Impressionist.’

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‘I was Alethea Garstin’s family lawyer,’ says Tim Le Grice. ‘I found them in our safe, two pictures by the same person in two parcels. She had told me about the love of her life who was killed in the war, and I couldn’t help wondering if it was the same person who had painted these, the painter Edward Morland Lewis. He was killed. and he was only 26. He comes from Newport in Wales and his paintings are in Newport Museum, they are of the same era as Cedric Morris.’

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‘All the cutlery boxes and quite a lot of the furniture came from my mother’s side. She was a Ward,’ says Tim Le Grice. ‘My father loved the sea and sailing and all those things, I was more interested in books and history.’ Peter’s mother Wilmay was a wartime bride, marrying to Charles Le Grice who had joined up with the Devon Yeomanry in 1940. After following his regiment, she went to live with her mother and father in law at Trereife and much of its present appearance is owed to her. For a while the house was let as as an old people’s home and the young couple and their family could only move back in when its proprietors, Mrs Cherry and Miss Chapman, did a flit. “I was bicycling up the drive with a friend of mine,’ says Tim, ‘and a lorry came down with all their furniture, they were doing a runner. They were difficult tenants, they had refused to pay rent for a long time, but it was worth it to get this extraordinary house back! They had run out of money and lived the last few months in the boiler room, leaving Trereife dirty, rat-infested and painted in strange colours, ‘including a really shocking pink in the drawing room.’ Wilmay and her husband ripped up the linoleum which had been on the bedroom floors and began to make it a ‘little bit more human.’ 

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This little portrait of Mary Nicholls, who came from a local gentry family in Botallack, hangs in the hall.

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Tim and Elizabeth’s daughter Georgina is here too, as photographed by Country Life magazine.

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Trereife was rebuilt by John Nicholls, a successful Middle Temple barrister whose family had farmed in Cornwall since before the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In the early C18th he remodeled the old house, adding a new front in the Queen Anne style in 1711.  He died almost bankrupted by what he had undertaken. This is one of three views made in 1766 hanging in the small hall leading to the dining room that show the house and landscape as planned by John Nicholls, in all its Queen Anne symmetry.

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The Dining Room, laid for the ‘Full English’ breakfast offered to every guest staying in the bed and breakfast rooms here. ‘That’s another ancestor of yours, with a long face, Colonel Perry, master of the King of Spain’s Horse. There’s one dummy door for symmetry. And the Le Grice family crest on a plate. The little achievements of arms, one is for the Nicholls family. Nicholls was sent up to London at only 17, and established himself so well as a barrister that he was able to do this incredible thing, turn a Cornish farmhouse round! The fireplace dated 1603, he would have remembered that from the old house.’

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‘This court cupboard was given to us about 2 years ago. A man from St. Erth village said he’d inherited it from his granny in Wales, he’d offered it to the National Trust and they didn’t want it, so he said, Would you like it? We keep a lot of stuff in it. That painted cupboard was French, that was your mother, Wilmay’s. Her father was ambassador in Paris. It came from Rolleboise, their converted farmhouse outside Paris. A lot of furniture came back before the war from there, it was thought the Germans were likely to take everything.’

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‘All those photos are Tim’s family, the Wards, and his mother Wilmay’s godfather there, Sir William Nicholson.’

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The beautifully carved knee of a C18th chair in the dining room.

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‘That fanlight there was originally above the front door. My grandfather decided it didn’t suit the Queen Anne part of the house.’

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‘I came here 35 years ago when we were married, in ’82 or 3, the children were small, Peter was born here,’ says Elizabeth Le Grice. ‘We had a cottage up the road, Tim’s mother Wilmay lived here and I thought, I don’t want to move in, nobody will visit! And I got used to it over the years.’

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Turning the corner of the house, into the stable yard.

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At the back of the stable yard is the Flower Loft. Post-war, Tim’s father had tried running the estate as a flower farm growing anemones, violets and early daffodils,that were bunched and packed in boxes in the flower loft (overseen by his wife, Wilmay) and sent to London by train. He became very interested  in the science of daffodil production. Violets were picked by the gardener’s wife and her friend and bunched in the Trereife scullery, stored in a galvenised bath, but when Wilmay asked to be shown how to do this, she was told, ‘Mrs Le Grice, you are not Cornish, you will never learn how to make a pasty and you will never learn how to mange violets, and we re not going to tell ‘ee.’ Wilmay found that the Cornish did not really like people ‘from away.’ ‘My children are accepted whole-heartedly but I know that it can’t be quite the same for me.’

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‘The staircase is probably from an older house, probably 17th century.’

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‘That little horse picture by Jeremy [Le Grice], it’s Georgina’s pony.’

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Landing window sill on the attic staircase

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The charming floral wallpaper surviving in one of the attics.

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Detail of the wallpaper which was recently uncovered

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Tim Le Grice receives the King George V Champion Cup from Sir  Watkin Williams-Wynn at Newmarket in 1985, for his winner, Shaab. He has kept and bred thoroughbreds ever since in the stables and paddocks here.

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‘Everything was put up there in the attics. It wasn’t until the late 40s, early 50s, that my parents decided to move back into the house, after the war. For some reason the pictures remained up there all that length of time, I never had the opportunity to ask them about these. We don’t know who they are. Quite recently, a year ago, the whole side of the house was falling down and a friend who was an architect decided that we needed to build a wall inside, a sort of buttress, and it worked!’

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Wilmay’s grandfather Herbert Ward was of Irish ancestry, a sculptor and explorer who had been with Stanley in Africa, and spent much of his adult life living in Normandy in France; this small bronze is one of his . Wilmay’s uncle was the British Ambassador in Paris, so Wilmay did the Paris season, which coincided with the state visit of King George the VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1938 and included a banquet at Versailles and another formal occasion at which Hitler was present.’

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The stable yard at Trereife

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Stables still in use

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Stable

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Chest of drawers in the family corridor.

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 First floor Bedroom, with its very simple, Baroque-meets-Palladian, overmantle.

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‘Over the chimney is a drawing on newspaper, our friend gave it to us as a wedding present.’

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The bedroom wallpaper came from Heals.

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‘This is the beautiful room with all the French furniture from Wilmay’s grandmother’s house at Rolleboise, this was the Withdrawing Room, on the piano nobile overlooking the garden. It’s our only spare room, and we also use it when there are weddings here.’ Tim Le Grice and Daniel Slowik of Colefax and Fowler.
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‘That’s Wilmay’ (painted by Willian Mouat Loudan (1868-1985). She had to hold an apple because she was being naughty. She suffered from a mother who always said she was ugly.’

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Tim’s Study occupies the huge double height old kitchens. Above his desk hang a set of prints showing scenes at the Grand National by Cecil Aldin.

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Filing system in the study

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Reading matter in the study

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Tim’s study.  ‘Once this was the servants quarters, that door goes through to the outside courtyard.’

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Corner at the back of the study

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Over the old kitchen chimney (now Tim’s study) hangs a C18th estate map. Above it is the mechanism for a meat spit.

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‘These are the Back Stairs, these were the main stairs of the house before its was tuned round. This is my pottery collection. I painted that it was just pine.’

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‘My pottery collection.’ Elizabeth trained as a potter at Redruth. She has always bought pictures and ceramics whenever she had a bit of money.

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‘One of the things that fascinates me most is the fact that this house was built as it was, so far down at the Land’s End. Did we mention that the ceiling in the Breakfast Room has been dated earlier than the house itself ? 1690 rather than 1710, purely because we were behind with the fashions this far down,’ says Elizabeth. She was formerly the Art Librarian for Cornwall and purchased and set up the Cornwall Art Library. ‘These are Romi Behrens’s paintings, of Georgina and Peter growing up.The others include a head by Elizabeth Hunter and Romi’s Vase with Flowers. The pot is by Jason Wason, I got given that, because I wrote the foreword to his catalogue.’

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‘We live in a two up two down since doing bed and breakfast. We used to be spread over the whole house.’

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Next to the chimney piece, one of two framed birthday cards sent to Wilmay by William Nicholson.

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Sir William Nicholson was one of Wilmay’s six godfathers, a youthful friend of her father’s. He lived then in a converted stable in Apple Tree Yard just off St James’s in Piccadilly. “I used to take my special friends to tea with him sometimes. It was very exciting, we had tea in the stable loose box, with a round table in the middle and on the table, a big dish of prawns. He used to stand with a large spoon and throw the prawns in the air. We caught what we could, and enjoyed the ‘prawn-chase.’

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Portrait of Tim as a child.

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‘That’s a painting of Cornish Wrestlers by Alethea Garstin. Her executors gave it to me.’

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Window in the wing at the end of the house.

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The walled garden, now laid down to grass

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Walled garden growing

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Elizabeth Le Grice serves up some lunch in the stable courtyard

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Old wrought iron gate on the front drive

 

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Visit or stay at Trereife House. Tours conducted by Tim Le Grice, bed and breakfast and weddings are catered for here. The gardens are often open for charity and special events too. https://trereifepark.co.uk/

 

https://trereifepark.co.uk/weddings/

Grateful thanks to Tim and Elizabeth Le Grice.

All photographs copyright bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

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Min Hogg lives round the corner from the V and A and the Brompton Oratory. She is the creator and founding editor of the World of Interiors magazine, generally considered to be outstanding in the western world. Interiors (as it was originally called) launched in 1981 above a florist’s in the Fulham Road. It focused on startlingly beautiful things, all taken from a list of places she ‘knew from life.’ The magazine was so successful that within six months of its inception, Conde Nast offered to purchase it.

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In 1983 she described her approach as celebrating homes personalised by their residents rather than interiors created by professional decorators.

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‘The one hanging at the top is an Italian funeral citation.’

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How old were you when you met Nicky Haslam. Was he your best friend? ‘Yes, by miles. We met at a deb dance in the country, we discovered he lived round the park in Cumberland Terrace. Then we saw each other all the time, he was still at school, his mother thought it was quite a good idea.’ In his autobiography, Redeeming Features, Nicky remembered, ‘ She had long dark hair, rather naughty eyes, and the tiniest gap in her front teeth. It gave her smile a special attractiveness… she became then and there, and has remained, the closest, most beloved person in my life.’

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‘I had to smuggle Nicky past my father, in case he saw Nicky. He was wearing … vaguely gay … winklepickers? … I can’t remember.’ Her father was a personal physician to the Queen.

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She is good at stripes

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This little needlepoint cushion worked by Min’s mother. ‘It was my mother Polly who awakened my love of all things beautiful.’

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Miniature watercolour bedroom mantle-scape painting by Min, porcelain she has collected on trips to China, Egypt, Persia and Holland.

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The kitchen. ‘My belief about kitchens is that absolutely everything must be on show.’

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Chicken wire cupboard door panels and gingham check

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‘Nicky [Haslam] rang one day and said, Oh you know about colour and patterns, I’m trying to find a wallpaper for a client.’ He gave her a C18th portfolio of  botanical seaweed to source her designs from. ‘And we never did it. But Michael and I [Mike Tighe, the former Art Director of The World of Interiors] just couldn’t stop, we went on and on, so then we found we’d got a collection.’ The Seaweed Collection is at minhoggdesign.com

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‘Designing the collection took quite a long time. And then we had to find a printer. I would scribble because I’m not computer savvy, and then Mike had to reproduce one bit of seaweed over and over and over again to get the curves.’

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What’s the best seller? ‘At the moment it’s the Feathers, it was much, much smaller originally. They re all real, real seaweed engravings, but there may be more than one seaweed in a pattern. We did repeats, we learned how to do it by doing it, me and Michael. The way we did it, we made it solid-er, so they look like block printing.’

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How long did it take you to get the colourways right? ‘Ages! Ages and ages. Every time they change the paper or they change the ink we have to start again. But we don’t change the colours to keep abreast of fashion at all, fuck that. I’ll do what I fancy at the time.’

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‘We didn’t bother to discover what the standard size of wallpapers was, we did all our designs any size we jolly well liked. Which means it’s terribly awkward in some ways.’

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‘That’s what we’re working on now, putting them [the seaweed patterns] behind chicken wire, like the cupboard doors in my bathroom.’ Min’s bathroom.

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Cupboard door panel in the bathroom.

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More of the bathroom

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Box of wallpaper samples in the bedroom.

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Dining and work table in the sitting room. She has collected antique textiles since the age of eight.

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Seaweed fabric samples and antique textiles

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Fabrics: https://minhoggdesign.com/Fabrics/  Linens cost from about  £40 a metre

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In the toy box is the ‘Action Min’ doll made by a friend and his young son that she posted on instagram

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‘Mini Min,’ from @minhoggdesign

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‘It’s a family tree but it sort of takes them back to God.’

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‘What did you have in your bedroom when you were little, did your mother give you lovely things? ‘Yes! Pictures. I had two bedrooms in the same house, because the nursery which was my bedroom became my parents bedroom. Oh no, I had three! We lived in Regents Park, Upper Harley Street. My mother always had very nice houses, but when she died this place was choc-a-bloc already, so I hardly took anything. A chair. Sad.’

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‘This is Kitty Fisher, it’s by the Rev. Matthew William Peters R.A.’

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‘I got it at Sotheby’s, I saw her from miles down the room. She was the absolute toast of London.’

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A nice bit of chinoiserie lacquer.

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Wallpaper samples closeup

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‘You’ve worried me now, about my bedrooms. I only decorated once, a very nice ivy trellis wallpaper. I had blue hangings on the four-poster, that’s when I was at art school, the Central School, I was doing interior and furniture design. My idea was to be a window dresser. I never did it.’ The chintz on the bedhead is from John Stefanidis. Witch balls above the bed.

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‘i once had to judge a window dressing competition in Bond Street with Roy Strong and Jean Muir, and when we’d finished, I said, ‘None of them were remotely interesting, don’t lets award the prize.’ But she said we had to.’ At the Central she had been taught graphic design by Terence Conran, whose wife Caroline proposed her for her first job in journalism, at Harpers. Min Hogg is very beautifully dressed; in the 70s she returned to Harpers and Queen as fashion editor.

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‘That’s Queen Victoria on her blind horse. My mother got it in a sale, she just knew.’

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Min Hogg, accidental portrait.

‘Timner Wollard painted the wallpaper. She used to do rooms sets and backdrops for us, and then she and I concocted it together. That’s the best bit there, [in the right-hand corner next to the bed head], that’s before her boyfriend told her they weren’t going to Paris.’

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Min’s other house in the Canaries was photographed for Haute Bohemians by Miguel Flores-Vianna last year, Min and Wendy Harrop published this volume of the very best of the World of Interiors in 1988.  According to Nicky Haslam, ‘ Almost overnight the magazine lifted people’s attitudes to interior design by showing that the profession was not merely airy-fairy whim but one employing a vital grid of artisans, specialists and craftsmen. One of the earliest of Interiors featured the Chelsea flat I had recently decorated for Bryan Ferry…  Min put together a book with her choice of its very best articles. The party to celebrate the publication took place at Drayton Gardens, and noticing the alacrity with which the kultur maverns pounced on The World of Interiors: A Decoration Book, I saw the possibility of doing, someday, something along the same lines about my own work.’

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Very many thanks to Min Hogg.

All photographs copyright bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

‘Walled gardens  – and restoring them  – is what we really want to be doing,’ says Bridget Elworthy. Four years ago Bridget and her friend and partner, Henrietta Courtauld, started the Land Gardeners. Cutting gardens and seasonal cut flowers, soil and plant health, vegetables, teaching courses, potting sheds and making microbial aerobic compost are all part of their remit too.

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Bridget, her husband Forbes and their family live at Wardington Manor in North Oxfordshire, formerly a medieval manor of the Bishops of Lincoln. This is not the Cotswolds and so Wardington’s gateposts are built in the rust-coloured ironstone of Northamptonshire, the county lying immediately to the north of here.

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The old house dates from the sixteenth century but it was altered and reconfigured in 1665 and greatly added to and improved again from 1919-29 in the comfortable Arts and Crafts style. The architect responsible was a disciple of Lethaby and E.S. Prior called Randal Wells, his client here was John William Beaumont Pease, later the 1st Baron Wardington, a keen sportsman, huntsman and banker from Northumberland who had bought the manor two years earlier.

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While Wells was transforming the old manor house, inside his new wife Molly was encrusting  the passageways and staircase with this remarkable, idiosyncratic plaster-work. Chevron zig-zags are cut with friezes of Jacobean-style fruiting boughs, ears of corn, briar swags and perching birds, giving way at strategic intervals to strange little icing sugar pictorials such as fantastic 1920s circus figures.

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Molly was an beautiful Irishwoman with bright red hair. Before she met Wells she had been embroiled in a love affair with Lord Wardington, once divorced from her first husband and remarried to Wells she established herself in a London studio with a band of female art workers known as The Guild of Veronica.

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Molly Wells (1875-1942), one of 13 children born to Samuel Waters, an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary. When she arrived in England as a young woman she was taken in by the aristocratic Wyndham family who were part of the cultivated, arty circle known as the Souls. Molly associated with Detmar Blow and Augustus John and made a whirlwind first marriage to a wealthy establishment chap. (There is much more about Molly in the excellent piece on Wardington by Mary Miers, published in Country Life. Mary’s splendid book, Highland Retreats, the Architecture and Interiors of Scotland’s Romantic North, was published last year.)

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Ground floor corridor

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Grand piano and drinks tray (out of shot), Crewel work hanging and rush matting.

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Small winter sitting room, aka the smoke room. The fireplace here is attributed to the maverick architect and conservationist Clough Williams-Ellis, creator of the model village at Portmeirion in North Wales, who worked here after Randall Wells.

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Mid C20th vase by Wedgwood.

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The Land Gardeners have become justly famous for the quality and quantity of the cut flowers – particularly dahlias in high season but also early spring flowering boughs and blossoming shrubs – that they supply and send up to a few London clients and friends including Lulu Lytle at Soane Britain – by the bucketful.

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‘By summer I’ve picked all the shrubs, but there’s peonys and roses.’

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The flower room in intensive morning use, flowers are cut very early and bunched and sorted here.

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‘This house, I didn’t really think about it too much. I literally was just filling rooms. I’m much more interested in the garden and my business.’

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Kitchen. When they came here there were lots of plasterboard walls and a concrete kitchen floor.

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Un-fitted kitchen, Carrera marble counter-tops.

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AGA

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After lunch

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The dresser was painted red by florist and plantsman Charlie McCormick.

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Scullery /pantry /back kitchen, poured rubber floor.

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Sluice room by the back door onto the yard

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In the yard

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A corner of the double height Library cum Drawing Room

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The Library-cum-Drawing Room, created for ‘Monti’ Pease, later Ist Baron Wardington, in the 1920s. When they came here, Bridget Elworthy’s solution was to bring in the kind of brown furniture, chintzes and ‘old granny sofas’ that she had grown up with. ‘I hate buying anything that’s really expensive; my decorating style comes from a very low base. Everything here has pretty much got a leg missing or a crack, something that didn’t sell or nobody wanted.’

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The paneling here is lime waxed a biscuity silver-gray.

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Curtains are vintage fabrics or old linen sheets, hand-dyed using natural colours by Polly Lister at her Dyeworks near Stroud.

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Aerial view from the gallery. Early in the C20th this room was transformed into a double-height space with an arch-braced pseudo-medieval timber roof and much older paneling brought in from Theydon Bois in Essex

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Library fittings and display shelves for rare books created for the bibliophile 2nd Baron Wardington, passionate antiquarian book collector

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Botanical prints in the dining room. Paneling probably by Clough Williams-Ellis

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Now the palette throughout the house is mostly white with the original dark or limed paneling left as found, some red and many very beautiful vintage textiles.

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Dressing room

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The C17th staircase survived a fire in 2004 although the plasterwork in this area has since been restored.

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Plaster relief panel on the upstairs landing

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‘When I was a child I painted my whole bedroom gloss yellow.Then my mother got Laura Ashley and wallpapered the whole thing.’

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Guest bedroom

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 These testers were made in-house using vintage hangings found in French junk shops and a staple gun.

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White paneled guest bathroom. Curtains in Pineapple Frond by Soane.

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View from the bathroom

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Probably a Witney blanket?

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Bedroom books and pictures

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Angus Wilson, The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot. Highly recommended.

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Master Bedroom, with Jazz Age oak panels, created by Wells in 1923 as part of a new south-west wing  for Lord Wardington  shortly before his marriage. The original colour scheme was of dark blue or black and silver.

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‘That bedroom of ours is so like something that Syrie Maughan or Constance Spry would have done – completely! Constance Spry was the kind of book my grandmother would have had in New Zealand.’

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Wardington Manor and the Land Gardeners

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Early spring

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Early summer

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Looking across the road towards the cutting field

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‘Forbes said, Let’s grass it all over and get some sheep.’

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Border

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Planting out

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Audrey, Lady Wardington, who died in 2014, was a model turned journalist and author. She married and came to live in the manor in the 1960s. To generate some income she carried on the practice started by her mother-in-law, supplying spectacular lengths of rose bough or early flowering shrubs from Wardington’s mature gardens to certain elite London florists, ferrying them up to London by van. This is a tradition that Bridget continues.

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Kitchen gardens

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The Land Gardeners are evangelical about soil health and the development of microbe-rich compost with potential health benefits, a project currently being trialed in more than half a dozen countries.

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But they are not worthy. ‘We wanted fun,’ says Bridget, so they designed themselves uniforms like those worn in the 40s and 50s by Miss Beatrix Haversgill, Principal of the Waterperry Horticultural School for Women and her gels, navy linen smocks ‘with big pockets that say the Land Gardeners on them,’ worn with  leggings and Jekyll-esque rubber boots.

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Potting shed

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‘We are moving from floristry and garden design to the whole business of soil health, looking for ways, a solution, for farmers and growers to look after the soil itself without having to call in other people. The whole essence of soil is its microbial makeup.’
 
The Archers is the best way to get the message out to farmers! We want to get hold of The Archers!’
The Land Gardeners, courses, garden design, organic cut flowers, compost.
With grateful thanks to Bridget Elworthy.

Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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This is the home of George Saumarez Smith in Winchester.

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Howard armchair in the basement drawing room

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I went there to photograph on a sultry day in August, when the sky was heavy with un-shed rain.  ‘I love the house, there’s something very calm and friendly about it,’ George says.

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George was a boarder at Winchester College, and then went up to Edinburgh University, to the Architecture department. ‘I started trying to design classical schemes and was made a laughing stock,’ he says. Modernism was the totalitarian doctrine taught everywhere then. But he made one promising friendship, with Ben Pentreath. ‘Ben was reading History of Architecture, he was walking through the department one day and saw a drawing of a Corinthian temple I’d done as a project. He came and found me, and we realised that we had a lot in common. I started doing measured drawings in my last year. And then I went to work for Quin [Quinlan Terry] who, of course, had been in partnership with my grandpa, and then I came here.’  ‘Here’ is his current billet with Adam Architecture where his drawing skills and fluent classical literacy come into play in every commission he undertakes.

That’s a linocut. When Quin joined my grandfather’s office, he had just designed this house in Essex and Quin turned up saying, I can do linocuts. That’s Kings Walden, my grandfather’s last big house which was done in ’68.The other drawing is by Quin, with my grandfather’s annotations.The plaster cast is a Sandy [Alexander] Stoddart. It’s nice seeing the closed eyelids, finding a good place where the light will fall on it.

That’s a linocut. When Quin joined my grandfather’s office, he had just designed this house in Essex and Quin turned up saying, I can do linocuts. That’s Kings Walden, my grandfather’s last big house which was done in ’68.The other drawing is by Quin, with my grandfather’s annotations.The plaster cast is a Sandy [Alexander] Stoddart. [He is the Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland].It’s nice seeing the closed eyelids, finding a good place where the light will fall on it.’

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‘I moved here in about 2007. The house had belonged to two historians, they had a tiny kitchen in the little room at the end of the hall and a sitting room in here with a grand piano.’ George chose to make the ground floor front and back rooms into one large kitchen and dining room.

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The sink unit is stainless steel, by Bulthaup, no longer in production unfortunately.

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‘This kitchen it really divides people, some come and say, Is this it? I like the fact that it feels like the best of old and new.’

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Kitchen cabinet detailing. Everything useful and necessary is contained inside.

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Washing waiting.

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‘My [ex] wife had very modern taste, when she had gone, there was no furniture left, just the kitchen was here. My piggy bank was completely empty, so it was as if the pendulum swung the other way. I found myself going to auction houses.’.

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‘Then I really got into buying pictures. And I’ve been doing a project in India, in Delhi. So whenever I went out there I was buying things like this tablecloth. And now I’ve got far too many cushions and tablecloths!’ The table doubles as a drawing and work table.

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‘The right hand print is by Sheila Robinson, it’s of Abingdon High Street.’

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Chimney piece.

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Edward Bawden’s view of Kew Palace, printed from the original lino blocks.

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‘That’s one of the first things I bought locally. They started biding at £200, then it went down to 100, and then it went down to 50 quid. They got down to £20. So I put up my hand and brought it home. It’s kind of junky furniture, but I then I thought, there really something in this. So I’ve sort of bought quite a lot of this – not very good – but kind of comforting furniture.’ Above it hang  No’s 1-4 and 5-7, Frog Meadow, Dedham, 1980, linocuts by Quinlan Terry.

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‘When I was little, I was always drawing. My parents said, do whatever you like but don’t be an architect!’ But George had another, more direct conduit to his grandfather,Raymond Erith, via his aunt Lucy Archer, author of a monograph and curator of an exhibition on her father’s architectural practice at the Soane Museum in 2004. ‘But the Archers – I loved their house – it made a deep impression. The first time Lucy met me when I was a few days old, I smiled at her, and she’s always had a soft spot for me ever since.’

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‘There is a virtuous aesthetic, a bit of ‘Morality and Architecture’ going on here.’

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Wivenhoe Park, 1962. ‘That’s a linocut. When Quin joined my grandfather [Raymond Erith] ’s architectural office, he had just designed this house in Essex and Quin turned up saying, I can do linocuts.’

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Quinlan Terry’s prophetic early linocut, ‘Fantasy of the House of Joy,’done in 1958 when he was a 21 year old student. An abandoned Oxford chapel smothered in brambles and texts from the Old Testament, that reflected his rejection of the doctrines of Modernism taught at the Architectural Association and his feelings of despair. A few years later, in 1962, Terry joined the traditional practice of George’s grandfather Raymond Erith (d.1973).  (I’ve coveted this print ever since I first saw it in 1986.)

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‘This is my drawing desk, I’ve been drawing a lot for my RIBA exhibition. I’m not very religious myself but I love religious imagery, and I love church buildings.’

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The business plate from his grandfather’s architectural office. ‘I love text, it’s beautifully cut.’

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The invitation to his 2010 exhibition at the RIBA, with old friends Ben Pentreath and Francis Terry.

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Catalogues for the Raymond Erith exhibition at the Soane Museum, Three Classicists, the 2010 RIBA show (for which I wrote the introduction) and George’s new exhibition there, Measure, Draw, Build.

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2 Plates from Measure, Draw, Build, Wudston House, a new Palladian villa in Wiltshire, the Drawing Room and the Dining Hall.

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Measured drawing of the detritus thrown into the deep end of an empty swimming pool, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1997, by George Saumarez Smith, a student project, reproduced from Measure, Draw, Build.

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Ben Pentreath, George, Francis Terry and the Parthenon frieze, photographed for Three Classicists. The three have been friends and close associates since the 1990s, when Ben was working for the Norfolk-based designer Charles Morris, George was in Quinlan Terry’s Dedham office and Francis had just joined him there.

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The basement floor has become George’s spare bedroom and sitting room. ‘It’s perfect for me and perfect when my children are here, but it wouldn’t really suit anyone else.’

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On the table, a monumental printed book of linocuts from the 1960s by architectural draftsman Andrew Anderson, A Vision of Order, 2011, published by the Whittington Press.

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‘The sofa’s upholstered in suiting, I bought it at auction.’

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NB Wedgwood mid C20th mug to mark the investiture of the Prince of Wales.

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 The framed 9 sheet linocut print of the Rock of Cashel in Ireland is by Andrew Anderson too. ‘He and a guy called Malcolm Hicks and Quinlan Terry were at the Architectural Association. They were all quite religious and serious-minded. There was a link back to Eric Gill, because the person who taught the art at Bryanston had been a contemporary of Gill’s or something. Andrew and Quin started making linocuts, his are a mixture of theology, architecture and the sea, he really loved boats.’

Staffordshire chimney-garniture and garden posy

Staffordshire chimney-garniture and garden posy

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The basement spare bedroom. ‘I recently thought it feels a bit grey, so I got wallpaper. The garden at the back is very green, so blues and greens tend to work at the back of the house. Georgian blues, everything was Farrow and Ball. We’re probably the last generation that will know and be able to recite all the original paint names.’ Now George chooses paints by Edward Bulmer.

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This paper is designed by Sheila Robinson, produced by the gallery called St. Judes.

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The basement bathroom tiles are from Emery and Cie in Brussels. The bath? I just drew it and a joiner made it. It’s teak.’

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Front of house.

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Back of house, green, green grass between a corridor of loaded apple trees.

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George’s first floor bedroom.

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George’s bedroom. ‘These are all by Sheila Robinson, she was in the artist’s colony at Great Bardfield with Edward Bawden and all the rest of them. She was taught by him and helped him do the murals at the Festival of Britain. I collect her work, she was incredibly versatile and learned painting and drawing and printmaking at the RCA. She designed for the BBC and produced stamps for Royal Mail. On a good day she is every bit as good as Bawden. Her daughter Chloe Cheese is a printmaker too.’

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The bedspread is from Country and Eastern in Norwich

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This [top left] is Istanbul in the early 70s, by Sheila Robinson, I bought 3 prints from her daughter.’

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‘These cats, all by Sheila Robinson.Every year at the RA she would have a cat painting and they all sold out straight away. That cat is collaged with a fragment of her wallpaper.’

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This is by Allan Drummond, an illustration for the weekend Telegraph, the names people give their houses. It was given to me, a present from my godfather Julian Agnew.’

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‘It’s Bolsover, by Shelia Robinson, in its original frame, it really should be hung a bit higher.’

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Son’s bedroom. ‘My children Wilfie and Barnaby, they’re getting quite grown up they are 13 and 11.’

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‘I just bought them made up as cushions in Delhi.’

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‘The posters in Wylfie and Barnaby’s room are mine, all of Belle and Sebastian, I was obsessed with them!’

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The Master bathroom. Above the bath, ‘its all the rivers in Scotland arranged in a row. It always makes me smile, it’s slightly ridiculous.’

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Cunning hanging shelf in the bathroom, a railway carriage luggage rack. ‘This is from a British Rail train.’ When did you start wearing 3 piece suits?’ “Probably straight after university.I’ve probably got enough suits now.’

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‘When he was at the AA, Andrew Anderson and Malcolm Hicks and Quin would travel together and they would try to find the plainest and most virtuous building. They found this cottage somewhere in Greece, stone-built with 3 windows and a door, and drew it. But Quin has ended up being more Baroque in his tastes.’ The print above illustrates the Song of Solomon.

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A linocut by George. ‘For me they’re just a rainy day activity.’ Its translation reads, A drop hollows away the stone, Not by force but by falling often.’‘It’s really nice, it’s all about things happening gradually.’

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This linocut is by George’s young son Wilfy, it’s of one of the flatback Staffordshire figures on the drawing room chimneypiece.

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‘My mother  produce these interesting things that my [Erith] grandfather or grandmother might have made. This fabric was probably bought by my grandmother [Pamela Jackson], she lived in Chelsea and picked up various things. It might have come from Dunbar Hay, it might have been designed by Bawden. There’s not quite enough for a tablecloth. This knitted blanket was designed by my grandfather and made by my grandmother, Pamela Jackson. This is an old clay pipe found on site at No 10 Downing Street, plus a letter of identification; my grandfather was rebuilding no. 10 after it had been bombed during the war.’

George’s exhibition about drawing, the essential tool of the design process, Measure, Draw, Build, is at the RIBA until November 25th. George is a Director of Adam Architecture.

Watch this speeded-up video of George, Ben and Francis making a huge measured drawing – public art – at the RIBA. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find it. Highly recommended.

Thanks to George. All photographs copyright George Saumarez Smith and bibleofbritishtaste.

Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

The old sweet dove of Wiveton.

Wiveton is a hamlet on the north Norfolk coast, with a pub and a church and pretty brick houses set behind their walls and fences.

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Wiveton Hall stands on the edge of the salt marshes with its back to the sea, muddy-creeked Blakeney to one side of it and Cley to the other. There has been a house on this site since 1280 but the present house dates from 1652. ‘The outside is the unusual bit, the Dutch gables, the flint, the H-plan, built by a merchant, the Giffords from Gloucester, close to their ports on the marshes which were then all tidal. And then you can see them losing their money with the fall in the price of grain, then the Edwardian heyday when it was a bang-up place,’ says Desmond MacCarthy.

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Almost everything here was inherited from Desmond’s grandparents Primrose and Dick Buxton, who bought Wiveton in 1944. The Buxton’s  beautified the house and improved its gardens and model farm. Chloe Buxton, their only child, met her future husband Michael MacCarthy when, ‘a Buxton relation of my mother’s married a Warre-Cornish cousin of my father’s.’ Now their son Desmond MacCarthy  keeps everything going here. He is a gentleman farmer, managing Wiveton’s café, shop, holiday cottages and environmental farming. and an occasional TV star.

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The paneled Hall is the axis of this house and doubles as a dining room. The kitchen is through the door on the left. ” The buff curtains in the, hall they’re from Chappel and Russell, put in by my mother Chloe. She’s a great one for not making a decision, more often, when she was younger she’d go and buy some new material and then the piece was just left draped over the back of something. What they really need is some bright lively material appliqued … on a fringe –  that would be nice! Something to give it a jollier… lighter…’     Chloe, aged 101, now lives across the farmyard at Dairy Cottage.

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Annabel Grey painted this mural of species of wild and water fowl found in Wiveton’s fields and woods and the marshes beyond.

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The main staircase

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Some left-over toys. Desmond and Tina’s children Edmund  and Isabel are grown up.

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In the Morning Room next door.

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One of my favourite wallpapers, ‘Alken Wildfowlers,’  by Lewis and Wood in the Gun Room

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The kitchen chimney piece, circa. 1907, part of the new building carried out by the Arts and Crafts architect Sir Guy Dawber, when a new wing was added to the house to cater for Edwardian shooting parties. Portraits of Desmond and Tina’s children.

The old sweet dove of Wiveton.

Desmond’s father Michael was born a ‘Bloomsberry,’ to highbrow, literary parents who were the intimates of the Bells and the Wolfs. The photo shows Bloomsbury Group painter Roger Fry, Michael’s father ( and Desmond’s grandfather) the writer Desmond MacCarthy and the art historian Clive Bell, husband of the painter Vanessa Bell.

‘My Bloomsbury grandparents never came here, it was after their time. My parents weren’t aspirational, they were  quite down to earth.’

The old sweet dove of Wiveton.

Ted on the ebonised Regency sofa bought in a local farm sale by Desmond’s father for £8. ‘He wasn’t really an aesthete, he would just notice things.’

The old sweet dove of Wiveton.

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Desmond is extra proud of the handsome Soaneian Morning Room chimneypiece. ‘I made that fireplace. There was no mantelpiece there, it’s nice to have a mantelpiece. I found the uprights in a shed taken out from a bit of early panelling, and got a man to make the top. So that was clever!’

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Ancestors, taxidermy and comfy sofas. Here one freezing night last November, Louise Guinness and Mary Killen ( now of Gogglebox fame) were kitted out by Desmond in heavy tweed overcoats, enabling them to endure the cold and watch the 10 o’clock news.

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‘Are you the stylist?’ ‘Sometimes,’ he says, evasively.

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Desmond generally wears some form of tweed. ‘ The Victorians, as we know, ruined things.’

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Morning Room

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Chickens on the bench outside Desmond’s mother’s house just across the yard, Dairy Cottage.

‘Gardening was my mother’s thing, she liked books, she read a lot, she was a very good cook. She brought back cuttings in her sponge bag from abroad as mementos of her holidays, a small white Cistus from the Sand dunes at Arcachon in France, Box from a damp picnic in Spain. An unusual oval leafed Box from a monastery in China and a prickly Cunninghamia tree a bit like a Monkey Puzzle, also from China.’

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Beautiful Wiveton is a natural venue for shoots, and for ‘shoots.’ Emma Bridgewater, Toast, Brora…

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The walled garden

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Pumpkins getting ready for Halloween. Also a key supper ingredient, roasted.

‘With the help of Reggie Holman from Glandford, my mother kept the kitchen garden productive, pruning and taking cuttings have always been her greatest skills. At 93 she was still keeping roses, buddleia, and camellias all flowering well, pruning as she picked flowers for the house or the café, secateurs, clippers, and loppers were never far away. She has kept the more tender plants such as Myrtle Carpentaria and Jasmine (taken as a cutting from the Ritiro Park in Madrid) healthy for over 60 years.’

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Fruit cordons.

‘The white peaches were sweet, and gloriously juicy. If it was cold when the blossom was out my grandfather  would go round with a horse’s tail on the end of a stick to aid the pollination.

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Understated dahlias.

The high walls which surround the kitchen garden, and which provide the shelter essential for successful vegetable cultivation, date from the 18th century.

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Mulberry and vegetables. Someone was repairing the wall.        

‘Every year the mulberry tree produced masses of fruit and then there were the figs, maybe it was the rambling fig trees that thrive in the hard stony ground sheltered by the walls that made my Greek grandmother love the place. We ate figs with my father in the early morning chilled by the dew and the best and sweetest were so ripe they were bursting.’

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End of the summer season. Outside the Wiveton cafe.

‘My father thought farming was only something you did when you had retired, but it is a business here,’ Desmond says.

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Inside the Wiveton cafe, business as usual throughout the autumn. Everything made here, and most of it grown or produced on the estate or locally.

More recently the gently filmed BBC2 documentary series, Normal for Norfolk (in which Desmond and Wiveton star) has bestowed its Midas touch, boosting annual turnover to more comfortable levels.

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Wiveton’s rare breed outdoor-reared porkers, possibly Large Whites

Wiveton Song, composed by Giles Wood, and kindly supplied by Mary Killen, old friends of Desmond’s and the couple who bring the TV watching public joy each Friday on Gogglebox.

[To be sung to the tune of Sing a Song of Sixpence, ideally by a
man in a falsetto voice.]

Sing a song of Wiveton
The pigs have left the sty
Did you post those letters
On your way to Cley?

Reggie’s sorting rotten fruit
Desmond’s on the lawn
Do be careful of those curtains
They’re already torn.

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Looking across the marshes and dykes to the windmill at Cley. The sea is to the left.

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The yard.

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This shepherd’s hut might come in useful one day

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Around the back of the house

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‘Beachwatch,’ a carefully curated and colour-coded exhibition of jetsam and litter picked from local beaches. Twice a year the National Trust organises a litter pick along the coast here from Blakeney to Cley for ‘jetsam’, items thrown into the sea. In 2014 and 2015 over one hundred bin bags full were collected, sorted and the plastics, glass etc recycled. This exhibition was put on in one of Wiveton’s outbuildings.

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In Wiveton’s Edwardian heyday, much change took place. The planting to the east of the house, and the sunken garden, date from this period, there was a tip-top dairy farm and a fruit farm. The estate employed no less than 7 gardeners then. Sir Guy Dawber was the architect responsible for the west wing, built in 1907-9,

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The Sunk Garden.

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Topiary

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And the principal front, the grey-faced Jacobean house with its flint façade that gleams silver under moonlight. “The great point is the beautiful knapped flint façade with its galleting, that is unusual and in the moonlight its very spectacular.’

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This  little nineteenth century painting found by Giles Wood in a junk shop, now hanging in the entrance hall, shows the principal front in the nineteenth century.

‘A painting in my possession from circa 1880, shows a hedge planted above a low haha at the edge of the lawn on the east front with the aim of combating the bitter north east wind. The painting was given to me by a friend who chanced upon it in the window of a junk shop in Aldeburgh in Suffolk.’

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Potato sacks in the seventeenth century porch

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And now, upstairs

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Bedroom corridor, curtain fabric from Borderline.

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A lesser guest bedroom with ancient paintwork, where the Highland Spring water is always chilled.

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other end of the lesser guest bedroom

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Greater guest bedroom,Chinoiserie lacquered tip-top table.

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Chimney piece in greater guest bedroom

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2 Oriental teapots and a tulip vase

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Attic floor bedroom with Morris ‘Sussex’ rush sofa

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Boy’s bedroom

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Nature Valley Crunchy Canadian Maple Syrup bar.

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Attic stair

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All of these will come in useful one day

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Nursery beds with matching Welsh blankets bedspreads

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Nursery stuff

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Junction of the bedroom corridor

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Bedroom corridor. The trompe l’oeil Gothick wallpaper on this door to the attic was discovered under green baize.

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‘Tina hung up the uniform and the children’s coats. Some of them we got out of boxes and cupboards and havent yet found a place for them or got around to putting them back. They hang there for old times sake.’

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‘There are some rather good diplomatic corps trousers.’

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The new wing bedroom corridor…

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…gives a bird’s eye view down over the pantiled roofs, high flint garden walls and the ridge tiles of red brick outbuildings, the flat marshlands beyond and bird-rustling reed beds stretching over to the sea.

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darling deep green Arts and Crafts tiles on the window sills

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‘Upstairs there are lovely views of the roofs… But views are not particularly the thing.’

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best bedroom in the ‘new’ wing

The old sweet dove of Wiveton.

The bed that photographer and author Christopher Simon Sykes did not sleep in, and Roger Fry’s Bloomsbury oil painting.

The old sweet dove of Wiveton.

The new wing corridor

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Children’s dormitory bedroom with Cowboy wallpaper by Cath Kidson.

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My favourite twin bedroom in the wing, Indian quilts.

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Window seat in the ‘ballroom’ in the new wing

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The new wing looking towards the old Billiard Room, now a Kitchen and Dining Room. ‘And its now come into its own because I rent out that wing of the house!’

‘Annabel Gray did the curtains and fabrics through there in the wing.’

The old sweet dove of Wiveton.

Vanessa Bell’s Venice painting in the new wing Dining Room

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Very pretty chandeliers that enhance the Turkey carpet-laid upstairs corridors were added by Desmond’s Buxton grandmother, Primrose, who was Greek by blood but English born.

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The ensuite Master Bathroom eschews modern sanitary fittings. Accents of bright paint box blue and green throughout the house were chosen by Tina Loder Desmond’s ex-wife, a fashion designer turned Men’s tailor with work rooms in Savile Row and Norfolk. ‘Tina and I, we did quite a bit together, gradually getting round. You can’t do a big house in a hurry.’

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Note the 2 Eric Ravilious Coronation mugs as tooth mugs. Famille Roae plates.

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The old sweet dove of Wiveton.

And next door the Master Bedroom, with door furniture by Guy Dawber.

‘Sir Guy Dawber was the architect for all the renovations. That’s of interest because he did all the Arts and Crafts door latches and  joinery. My bedroom was an upstairs sitting room.’

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In his thirties Desmond began dealing in Ottoman tents, sleeping inside this spectacular example that canopied his four-poster bed then, but he remained a farmer au fond.

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The same bed in its latest, more sober, reincarnation in the new wing.

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My grandparents loved the garden, but sensibly they had made no attempt to keep it as it had been before the war, partly on account of the cost, but partly as a reaction against the highly ordered Victorian-Edwardian world of their youth. My grandfather was a great naturalist; he saw nothing wrong with seeing large parts of the garden overgrown with nettles, brambles, and self-sown saplings. Gradually the saplings grew into trees and elm suckers formed thickets on the old bowling green, perfect cover for the numerous woodcock that loved the abandoned woods and garden.’

Here at Wiveton in the early 1950s that curiously English poet Stevie Smith composed The Old Sweet Dove of Wiveton, conjuring the numinous spirit of the place: 

The gray of this heavy day
Makes the green of the tree’s leaves and the grass brighter
And the flowers of the chestnut tree whiter
And whiter the flowers of the high cow-parsley.

So still is the air
So heavy the sky
You can hear the splash
Of the water falling from the green grass
As Red and Honey push by,
The old dogs,
Gone away, gone hunting by the marsh bogs.

‘Red and Honey were my Buxton grandfather’s dogs. I can only remember Red, and  Stevie who made an instant impression . She used to come and stay with our friends the Brownes every summer, so we  got to see her. I remember her sitting outside here where those chairs are.’

 

To visit Wiveton’s gardens, farm shop and renowned cafe, buy a ticket for one of Desmond MacCarthy’s conducted tours or rent the west wing or one of the holiday cottages at Wiveton Hall, go to www.wivetonhall.co.uk

Normal for Norfolk is on the BBC iplayer for a few weeks more.

Thanks to Desmond and Emma.

All photographs copyright Desmond MacCarthy and bibleofbritishtaste.

Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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David Bridgwater wrote to me a few weeks ago. He had read the art book that I published with Yale, Owning the Past, about the English collectors who scoured Italy, Greece and Turkey for antique sculptures in the eighteenth century and brought them back to furnish their country houses. He said that he had quite a nice house in Bath, and a special interest in eighteenth century English portrait sculpture. He suggested that I might like to visit. Three weeks ago I did.

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David is a historian cum dealer, who buys beautiful things whenever he finds them, to keep or to sell. But like me, he has a prodigious interest in the provenance of every object that he finds. A lot of his  time is spent reading, researching and traveling in order to build up a backstory or identify the artist-creator connected with what he finds, and what he knows is published on his two blogs, one about eighteenth century portrait sculpture: https://english18thcenturyportraitsculpture.blogspot.co.uk   and the other about the architects who built the houses and streets where he lives  – https://bathartandarchitecture.blogspot.co.uk/   This is the entrance hall of his townhouse in Bath.

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David and his wife Sarah came to live here 8 years ago, moving from a slightly older house a few streets away ( their two children are both grown up). This house, dated 1792 and designed by Thomas Baldwin as part of the Pulteney Estate, ranks among the finest of Bath’s very elegant Georgian housing stock. According to a bronze plaque on the facade it was home to William Pitt the Younger in 1806 – the longest-nosed of all the English Prime ministers by far. Here is their fabulous high-ceilinged kitchen.

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The house’s previous use had been as offices.  ‘When we came here all this was smothered with two centuries of paint, it was three years on and off putting it back together. Nothing could have been done without my wife Sarah. There were strip lights like these everywhere. We left these ones. You can see what you’re looking for!’  (You can see one reflected in the looking glass)

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Industrial double sink unit with the dog bed belonging to their small hairy Griffon Bruxelloise Lulu, who is keeping well out of shot

Lulu, at bay

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This kitchen is gloriously big.

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Each piece of furniture stands about 10 feet apart from the others.

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‘When we lived in a 1760s house in Walcot Street the kitchen was in the basement, so I stripped off all the old wallpaper and there was the silhouette of the original kitchen dresser marked on the wall. So I had this dresser made to measure, specifically for that wall.’ Now it does service in the Dining Room.

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The Dining Room, plaster bust of William Pitt the Younger on the left.

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Now for something really special, David’s ground floor study.

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The chimney piece has a garniture of Wedgwood flower vases, the two-handled urn shape favoured by Constance Spry.The big one on the far left is not by Wedgwood tho. I particularly liked it, David didn’t.

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These fabulous garden chairs, now heavily weathered, are actually copies of an antique original. They were sold long ago from the famous Clifton Nurseries in London’s Little Venice, where self-styled ‘Master Plaster Caster’ Peter Hone managed the business dealing in fabulous sculpture and garden antiques. (David Bridgwater ‘got into gardens back in the 80s’ too.) There are a few of Peter’s plaster casts here amongst much older things. Peter says  he’s taken more casts than a ‘Pea podder has podded peas in a pea podding factory’. You can buy his casts from Pentreath and Hall, and see their ‘Hone Museum’ of casts filling the back wall of the Rugby Street shop.

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Old metal plant labels arranged along the dado rail.

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A fabulous piece of  eighteenth century Bidriware from India in the middle of the table, the base of a hookah pipe, inlaid with a silvered design of poppy heads.

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One of those old fashioned push-along machines for marking out white lines on a grass tennis court. I used one of these as a child to mark to paint white lines  onto the lawn in the garden at home but my badminton game remains sub-average.

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écorché figure, top right, modeled for artists, showing the muscles of the body as if revealed under the skin.

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 very high quality frame of uncertain date or origin

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And a small but very fine Renaissance-era portrait tondo

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One of my favourite things, Damascus-style folding chair, one of a very beautiful pair.

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The first floor drawing room.”All the paint is from a company called Johnsons, they will copy any colour you like.’

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Indian dowry coffer

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Household gods. A marble statuette of our first Hanoverian monarch, King George I, small marble bust (sans socle) of Alexander Pope, Ganesha the lucky Elephant god and a bust of Athena. ‘ I bought my first bust of Pope back in 2000. I went to the V and A they said,  Oh its C19th, there’s hundreds of them. I found an engraving of it from 1788, it couldn’t have been any other bust. It was by Roubilliac.’

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More busts, Napoleon in the middle.

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Torchere.

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‘An architect’s stand up desk from around about 1760. My favourite thing, found in a warehouse in Newark, it had been there for quite a long time.’

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‘It’s a very ingenious thing, beautifully made, a two-man desk, the top tilts. Hidden drawers pull out.’

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Around the corner, the very best room of all, a genuine cabinet of curiosities ( that over-used term).

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The walls are unrestored with bare plasterwork in places. The object on the floor is an ancient, lethal. two-man hedge trimmer.

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Back in the 70s I used to go to France and fill a lorry – bring stoves back, and I’ve got one or two souvenirs left from that time.’

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The textile wall hanging is Nigerian, it was £3, I found it in a car boot sale. They look like aliens! I’m going to put it in that frame, it’s French C17th, I like that dynamic, to put a bit of Africa in it’

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This cross-piece from an overmantle is decorated in papier mache with a scene from a hunt, hounds chasing a fox in pursuit of a hare ‘Unfortunately someone had a go at it with paint stripper. I picked the rest of the paint off it but the elegant face of the fox is gone.’

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The fire surround is Scottish.

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‘I took off the paint – it was so thick with paint – but left a bit here, to show what it was like when I got it.’ The figures at the two ends are Bacchus and Ceres. Perhaps it was made for a Dining Room? The china swan was a wedding present from a friend.

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‘The bookcases are made of piled up apple boxes  – you could buy crate loads of them at one time.’

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‘The staircase didn’t look like this when we moved here – it was festooned with wires and covered with industrial carpet.’

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View from the master bedroom to the dressing room

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Bedroom with Bombay Blackwood carved chair

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Bedroom

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Dressing room. The leather upholstered button back chair is French. Wall of mirrors.

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little Venetian looking glass

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Fabulous ‘artist’s palette’ roccoco looking glass

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Bathroom

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‘This shower  – a friend of mine had it for his house and didn’t want it.’

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David told me there was something particularly good about this light fitting but I’ve forgotten what, alas

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‘Ive always like dealing with dealers,’ David told me. ‘I tried to anticipate fashion. That’s why I got into gardens back in the 80s, that last area of the great house that hadn’t been fully exploited.’ He showed me a koftgari ware box – damacened with a fine pattern of gold inlaid into steel – a very beautiful thing, made to hold a maharaja’s cigars, perhaps. Where did all the good stuff that there used to be – in every junk shop and street market  – go? I wondered. ‘I think it all went to America,’ he says.’

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Did you collect things when you were little?  ‘Birds eggs, cigarette cards, chewing gum cards, that sort of stuff  – and of course I swopped them.’

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Just inside the front door, a very handsome hall stand.

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Very many thanks to David and his wife Sarah. David is on instagram too. He is a huge source of interesting knowledge and enthusiasms and so I offer this a as a sort of pictorial encomium to all that he knows.

 

Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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On the borders of Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire, Shulbrede Priory is the surviving corner of the rather obscure religious house of Wlenchmere, founded at the end of the twelfth century and suppressed by Henry VIII in the 1530s.

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The cloister in an old photograph. Since this was taken part of the tree fell on the house and it had to be cut down.

The present entrance front was originally the southwest corner of a much larger monastic building complex. Once the Augustinian canons were turned out demolitions and dilapidation set in, but what remains has been altered and restored very little. In 1902 the priory became home to Arthur and Dorothea Ponsonby; they loved the place so much that they bought it, and their granddaughter Catherine and her husband Ian Russell have lived here since the 1970s.

The uncapped north corner of the present house; a further range of cellerage (demolished for building stone long ago by Shulbrede’s yeoman farmer tenants) once ran from this corner, where the building ends abruptly now.

A garden bench, cushioned with moss. Catherine’s sister Laura Ponsonby, an expert field botanist who worked at Kew Gardens (and died in 2016), lectured on fungi, liverworts and lichens, and once helped the police in a case of murder by poisoning, identifying some deadly nightshade baked in a pie. She used to say that there were ‘enough different species colonising this seat to teach a complete course of mosses and liverworts.’

An ancient stone coffin lid excavated by Arthur Ponsonby and set with a mosaic of other archaeological fragments in the garden wall. Arthur (a radical Liberal MP who later defected to the Labour party) and Dorothea Ponsonby were a rather intellectual and bohemian couple who came upon Shulbrede as a tumbledown agricultural dwelling, moved in and gardened and restored and furnished it on antiquarian principles according to the tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Medieval encaustic tiles excavated at Shulbrede by Arthur Ponsonby and displayed on a table top in the hall.

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The Priory painted for Arthur and Dorothea by their friend Jack Strachey.

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The crypt was in service as a dairy when the Ponsonbys came to Shulbrede. Arthur Ponsonby made this cool dim room into his study and wrote his comprehensive History of Shulbrede here, published in 1920.

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On the deep window sill a small museum of archaeological fragments disinterred at Shulbrede during excavations that took place here between the wars. Their labels originally written by Arthur Ponsonby were recopied by his granddaughter Laura.

The dining room was once part of the canon’s refectory, the Ponsonbys furnished it with an oak refectory table, Morris chintzes and rush seated chairs. Their decorating style could be called ‘intellectual socialist,’ says Ian Russell. The local manorial court – a law court trying cases relating to land holdings etc – was regularly convened here or the Prior’s Chamber upstairs until the 1920s.

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Buffet in the dining room with pieces of blue and white striped ‘Sussex ware’ and so on.

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This dolls house originally belonged to Arthur and Dolly’s daughter Elizabeth Ponsonby who was one of the leaders of the Bright Young Things, said to have been the model for that poignant character Agatha Runcible in Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Vile Bodies. Waugh described the BYT’s pass-times as, Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in Paris – all that succession and repetition of massed humanity…
‘We don’t treat it as an antique, it’s definitely a working doll’s house.’

Shulbrede Priory

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The long range seen from the garden, the single story extension on the far left houses the old kitchen. Ian Russell has used his considerable professional expertise as a structural engineer to bring the house’s roofs and chimneys back into good order, following the SPAB’s principles.

Outside, a confluence of roofs

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and inside, the old kitchen range chimney from c.1902. Now this is a store for second-hand books sold for charity on open days.

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An exuberant hang on the ‘new’ kitchen wall, with Joanna Russell’s schoolgirl staircase painting in the middle and her artist-author sister Harriet Russell’s Partridge and Pear, top right. Peacocks belong to the poultry farm opposite the priory, but spend much of their time and shed their feathers here. This is part of the extension comprising a housekeeper’s room and second kitchen built on by the Ponsonbys in 1914.

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Walter, the – sometimes malevolent – rescue cat who is prone to lash out at mealtimes, Magpie (not seen) is far more adventurous and emollient. ‘We don’t know their early history, they both came from the cat rescue by the A3. We think that he had rather a difficult childhood.’ (Moments after this photo, Walter attacked.) The cupboards and dresser are painted a glorious deep blue gloss.

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The larder is a landscape all of its own

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Catherine Ponsonby painted with her hair tucked behind her ear by fellow Goldsmith’s student Robert Stewart in the 1960s,

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Landscape near Shulbrede, pastel by Catherine Ponsonby, 1960s.

And her lino print of a thieving fox slipping away through the grass at Shulbrede. My favourite thing in the house.

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The Prior’s Chamber, with the grand piano that Hubert Parry – Dorothea Ponsonby’s father – bought as a student, standing near the window. Sir Hubert Parry set the words of William Blake’s great poem Jerusalem to the stirring tune that we still sing today, Parry’s statuette stands on top of the piano. He composed the Shulbrede Tunes here, each one named for a member of his daughter’s family. A rare colony of Long Eared bats – a species protected by law – roosts in the rafters above.

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In the sixteenth century this dividing wall was inserted into the Prior’s Chamber and covered with wall paintings illustrating the folk legend in which the animals receive the power of speech on Christmas Eve to announce their Saviour’s birth. A cockerel announces ‘Christus natus est,‘ a duck squawks, ‘Quando, Quando?’, a Raven answers, ‘In hac nocte,’ a bull bellows ‘Ubi, ubi?’and a lamb bleats, ‘In Bethlehem’ (In Be-e-e-eth-le-he-e-em).

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The arms of King James 1 were superimposed over the middle section of the wall painting at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

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A tureen, part of a dinner service. ‘Now that is a bit of Roger Fry for the Omega Workshop. I have memories of the food congealing on these plates.’

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The Bloomsbury artist and critic Roger Fry was a frequent guest at Shulbrede, encouraging Arthur Ponsonby’s painting and drawing.

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‘When our children were tiny, every time we got some stickers, we put them all over the tiled wall.’

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A rather brilliant bathroom painting by Joanna Russell, done when she was at school.

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Laura Ponsonby’s room.

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 Possibly the satin shoes worn by young Arthur Ponsonby as a page to the elderly Queen Victoria. His father Sir Henry Ponsonby was a courtier and the queen’s Private Secretary.

The huge yew hedges – more like walls or bastions – in the south garden

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and the same topiary at Shulbrede by Joe Ruddy, family friend and colleague of Laura Ponsonby at Kew Gardens, mixed media,

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‘That’s by Harriet, its a print from a series of pictures for a joint exhibition of blue images, its got the famous Hokusai Great Wave.’ Blue Escapes painting, screenprint by Harriet Russell.

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Harriet is a freelance author and illustrator whose work has been commissioned by Hermes, the New York Times, Penguin and many others. Envelopes published by Random House in 2005, was her challenge to the Royal Mail. As a student at Glasgow Art College she designed, drew, stamped and posted dozens of envelopes to herself, concealing her address in cartoons and diagrams, thickets of typescript, collages, a crossword puzzle, a menu and a musical score. You can buy a copy of this funny and ingenious book when you visit Shulbrede Priory, or, here. Of the 130 envelopes she sent, 120 arrived and her triumphant postmen started writing ‘Solved by Glasgow mail center’ on the backs. ‘The UK postal system has certainly exceeded my expectations.’You can find Harriet’s online shop here.

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and her blog here.

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and contact her here.

Shulbrede’s flock of geese congregating by the outdoor bookstall

goose provoked

The cloister…

The cloister with photographer Antony Crolla, teeing up for his shot (for The World of Interiors).

 

Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

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In the autumn of 2016 I visited the artist and renowned textile designer Pat Albeck in the Oxfordshire gate lodge where she has lived for about four years. She came there with her husband the acclaimed stage and costume designer Peter Rice (who died in 2015), leaving the family home near Aylsham in Norfolk. Before that, the couple  – who met as art students at the RCA –  had lived in London with their son Matthew Rice, now a brilliant artist-designer in his own right and married to Emma Bridgewater, the founder of Bridgewater Pottery in Stoke on Trent.

‘Matthew and I are quite often at loggerheads taste-wise,’ says Pat. ‘When we reached 80 each, Matthew thought it would be a good idea if we were nearer, so we packed our bags and followed him here. It’s very clever, Matthew designed it, it was a poky little cottage but he added another floor for Peter’s studio, and my studio and the living room.’

‘When we reached 80 each, Matthew thought it would be a good idea if we were nearer, so we packed our bags and followed him here,’ she says. ‘Matthew designed it, it was a poky little cottage but he added another floor for Peter’s studio, and my studio and the living room.’ 'I really do like growing vegetables very much.'

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‘I really do like growing vegetables very much.’

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Beneath the large topographical print of a country house in the hall is a more modest painting of a house in the border country  by Charles Oakley(d.2008).

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Looking from the hall into the garden, orange watering can hand bag on table.

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Pat Albeck’s little picture of her young son Matthew Rice, painted on holiday in Nassau, and more two cat paintings: the first an Xmas card from Julian Trevelyan, the second of swimming cats a ‘Collins’ from Mary Fedden thanking for the invitation to the first night of one of Peter Rice’s productions.  Apples just picked from the abundant garden.

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Kitchen work top and kitchen table beyond. Above the table hang two student works, prints by Matthew Rice executed at the Central School of Art.

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One of Pat’s rag dolls, a pyjama case.

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Jug collection, two mackerel on a plate by Richard Bawden, and our morning coffee. ‘These flowers are from what I call the Glyndebourne border.Whenever I’ve moved house I’ve always had a Glyndebourne border. Peter’s first job was at Glyndebourne and I’d never been aware of how wonderful gardens could be.’

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‘In my life I’ve always felt different from everyone else.I was very upset when I was about 10 that everybody in the area had pale green or maroon stair carpets, and we had some most extraordinary ones that my father had had woven at Libertys or something.’ Her father, a Polish emigre, was a furrier and an anarchist. In 1933 he had built his ‘Dream House’ at Anlaby, just outside Hull.’It was Art Deco inside, with a “Stockbroker Tudor” exterior. The house was built in the grounds of Tranby Croft. Our front garden was part of their woods. Tranby Croft was known for the famous Baccarat scandle in 1890 involving the future King Edward VII… I had a stained glass surround to an electric fire in my bedroom. It represented Little Red Riding Hood and was designed and made by students at the Hull Art School.’

At the age of 16 she began four happy years of study at the College of Arts and Crafts in Hull.  ‘ The ambition of all art students at the time was to go on to The Royal College of Art. It was the idea of living in London and working with the best students from all over the country that made the thought so exciting. Well, I made it, and so starts the 50’s.’

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In the large sitting room an architectural print by Edward Bawden, a poster designed by fellow RCA student David Gentleman  a small portrait of Pat aged 21 by Alan Price and over the chimneypiece, Envelope by Joe Tilson R.A.

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Sculpture bought from a student degree show at the RCA, Flower painting by Mary Fedden. ‘I lived opposite Mary Fedden in Hammersmith. Her cousin Robin who was a director of the National Trust had asked her who could design a tea towel for them and she recommended me, they got onto me and I designed for them for over 30 years!’ The little cat sitting on the frame was made by Mary too, ‘they were presents that she gave to children.’

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Above the Empire bureau hangs Fern Garden at East Ruston, a large early paper collage by Pat Albeck of the hellebore wood in Norfolk at her previous house, ‘a wonderful garden, my favourite place in the world.’ On the left, two family portraits painted by her witty friend the artist Harry More Gordon, whose house appears here in an earlier blog highlighting the work of his artist daugher, Domenica More Gordon.

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‘In the bottom portrait Matthew is reading a copy of The Field, but in the 10 years between those two paintings he had left home. The beautiful rug I’ve got my foot on was in my nursery, I’ve still got it.’

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A table lamp by Cressida Bell and behind it a seaside scene by Julian Trevelyan. More Mary Fedden cats.

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Landscapes in pen and  watercolour by Matthew Rice made at the age of c.15, the result of a private commission to paint Venetian scenes hang in the yellow bedroom.

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A tour de force still life by Pat Albeck, ‘when I started painting instead of designing, and had a show at the Chelsea Arts Club.’

‘I had started doing water colours in the 80’s and 90’s just because Peter and Matthew were always painting and I felt left out. I had always drawn and painted in my sketchbook for design reference, but this was the first time I had done actual pictures. I started using a water colour box, which I had never done before. I had used all kinds of media but never a watercolour box. So this prepared me for lots more painting, which I have been doing ever since.’

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‘My life used to be completely full of cats and if I had my life again I would make sure that I got my cat situation better organised.’ Cats by William Chappell, ‘who was a friend.’

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A crop of works in progress from her new style of ‘cut paper paintings’ on Pat’s drawing board.

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All done directly from life, from flowers and onions growing in the garden,

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Part of her archive of textile designs (more of her design archive is held by the Victoria and Albert Museum). ‘My first job in the 50s was working for Jimmy Cleveland Bell. Peter [Rice] was working in the theatre and I was in fashion. My boss was quite unusual, he let me do anything I wanted. He said, ‘You’ve just been to Venice on holiday. So I designed a pattern inspired by the fish market there.”’I had too much work towards the end of the decade. I decided then to have an assistant to work with me. This was the start of a series of amazing girls who worked for me, each staying with me for about a year. My first assistant was Susan Collier who later created the textile company Collier Campbell. Most of my assistants came straight from their degree course at art school. They have nearly all gone on to greater things.’

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‘I have designed two or three hundred tea towels.’

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‘Before, tea towels in England were plain, except occasionally when they were designed for advertising, eg Colman’s mustard, or they had “Glass Cloth” woven in a primary colour stripe down the middle. There were all these new products waiting to be decorated.’ (This picture copyright:Back to the Drawing Board/ Keele University.)

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‘This was a design I did in the 60s. John Lewis suggested I did them a William Morris design, and I said, I don’t copy things but I can do something inspired by him. ‘Daisy Chain’ is not quite what they wanted, but it was their ‘Best Seller’ for 15 years. Each year I produced new colourways. It was used for countless different things, plastic coated for tablecloths, laminated into trays, made up as skirts, oven gloves and eventually, in the brown colourway, into dog cushions. For the National Trust I did something much more Morris-y for William Morris’s house.’

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Dining Room. Large collage by painter–poet  Sophie Herxheimer, bought by Pat Albeck, ‘because I liked it so much.’

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‘A friend of mine discovered an old 50s Horrockses skirt of mine on ebay. I did it in ’55. It cost me £70 to buy on ebay.’ The Venetian fish market-inspired pattern. For more of her wonderful patterns from the 50s click the link here :

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‘When I was at Horrockses there was an exhibition of a stage designed called Sophie Fedorovitch at the V and A, she had just died. I was commissioned to design some fabrics based on her costumes, I rather enjoyed it, they were done on arithmetic [graph] paper in the mid 50s, Madame Butterfly.’

Back to the Drawing Board: Pat Albeck.

A  designer stuck together a lot of my National Trust paper bags and used them as a backdrop for the Stephen Sondheim musical,  Into the Woods.

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‘These belong to Lanhydrock, my range of earthenware ceramics made by Portmeirion for the National Trust in the 1980s. They turned out looking very modern. It’s my very, very favourite design that I’ve ever done and that I still use, based on a border of tiles in the kitchens at Lanhydrock.’

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Wrapping paper and wall paper designs by Pat Albeck. ‘Domenica More Gordon worked for me briefly after art college. I asked her to design wrapping paper, she didn’t know what I meant, ‘We always use newspaper,’ she said!’

Back to the Drawing Board: Pat Albeck.

‘I drew these very, very carefully, they are early sample designs. I was about 23 at the time.I worked differently for the pottery industry in Stoke on Trent. Because it was expensive bone china like Minton and Spode and stuff, I felt it had to be very beautifully carefully drawn. I really enjoyed doing it.’

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‘Two tea towels were designed by Peter [Rice] for the National Trust, they wanted something architectural, that was one, the other is the story of wool. Pansy is one of my furnishing fabrics for  John Lewis. When felt tips came out I fell madly in love with them, ‘tho everyone was very superior about them.’

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National Trust tea towels from the 1970s. ‘I used acorns, oak leaves and oak apples to design this Tea Towel for The National Trust. The acorn is The National Trust’s emblem. I was designing things that people might be tempted to buy at the end of a visit to a National Trust house or garden. This influened my style. I was using line drawing as my work became more representational and my colour became more muted, to go with the historic houses. Also it meant that I really had to learn to draw buildings accurately. Many of my designs were for specific properties, which I always visited, so I got to know a lot about the English countryside.’

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Pat Albeck’s cut paper pictures, a selling show held in 2016.

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Flowers in a Greek key jug. Cut paper picture by Pat Albeck, 2016.

 

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Keele University’s forthcoming exhibition program will feature Peter Rice, Matthew Rice and Emma Bridgewater.Pat Albeck’s next selling show ‘A Cut Above,’ will be held at Colefax and Fowler’s new showrooms, opening on the 22nd of May to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show.

Excerpts from Pat Albeck’s website, www.pat-albeck.co.uk 

Thanks to Pat Albeck and Matthew Rice. All images copyright Pat Albeck and bibleofbritishtaste.