Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Upton House - Posting 1 (Entrance, The Long Gallery, and some china)

Upton House in Warwickshire is set out as a millionaire's 1930's mansion. Walter Samual, 2nd Viscount Bearsted, bought it in 1927 to house his collection of paintings. The fortune was made through the creation of Shell Transport and Trading Company.

The house has a longer history than that however, and here's what the National Trust have to say about it's heritage.

History of the house
During the 12th century the house belonged to the Arden family (reign of Richard 1)

"In 1452 it became a manor house for the first time. During the next 20 years, they built a new house, part of which can been seen in the basement of the present building.

The Cullens
Sir Rushout Cullen, the son of a city merchant, bought the house before 1695 and his initials can be seen on the rainwater heads at the rear. He developed the nine bays and two wings of the south front which can be seen today.

The Bumsteads (yep, that's truly their name)
On his death the house was sold to William Bumstead, who added the broken pediment on the north front and the Clipsham stone around the front door in about 1735.

From the Childs to the Bearsteds
In 1757 Bumstead sold Upton to Sir Francis Child, head of a major banking dynasty. Upton remained largely untouched architecturally for the next few years and was inherited as part of a dowry by the Earls of Jersey.

Upton House remained a minor residence, empty or let to tenants of the Earls of Jersey, until in 1894 Upton was sold to Mr Andrew Motion from whom Lord Bearsted brought it in 1927."

 When you go into the house, the front door leads into a hallway with stairs on the left. Here's the view up the stairs. You can just see the bottom of a lovely painting on the stairway;  the full photo is below.

 Sometimes you have to look hard for treasures. I've been to the house many times and somehow always missed this painting on the left.

Its Diana and Actaeon, in the manner of Joachim Wtewael 1566 -1638

We then head into the Long Gallery (below) which is stuffed with paintings and displays of china. There is a piano with 1930's music on it, and any visitors who can play are encouraged to entertain the rest of us.

 One of the china cupboards.  A collection of dust traps.
 Now this painting has a title on the frame "Miss Mockel"  It is in fact the brother of Miss Mockel.  (Cologne school, 1630)

It was common to dress boys as girls until about the age of 6, when they were breeched (put into breeches and their locks cut off)  Lots of reasons; ease of care when not potty trained, fear of theft of young boys so they were dressed as girls, and right of passage)  I believe there was no separate term for boy and girl either...they were all known as girls.
 The Interior of the Church of St. Catherine, Utrecht 1655-60. Pieter Jansz Saenredam.

Paintings of church interiors at this period were very much a Dutch fashion, but this is apparently unusual in that it's an accurate drawing of a real church. It's a painting produced from drawings done much earlier in his life.

You can just see some figures, and it's possible these were added later by his pupils and were added to give a sense of scale so that we could appreciate the architecture and also the smallness of man in the presence of God.

The two shapes in the foreground are kneeling, inscribing a gravestone.
 Canneletto. Venice.  Bacino di San Marco 1726.

This is it's setting in the's to the left of the window frame.

 Village scene in the style of Brugel the Elder 1568-1625
 That piano that visitors are invited to play.

 Willen-Cornelisz Duyster 1600 -1635

Magnificent hat I thought, though I wouldn't vouch for the brim in heavy rain.
 And this is the sister of the little boy in the first painting of Miss Mockel. This is the lady herself, painted with an adult looking face and hands.


I couldn't find the explanation for this one, although I'm sure it's there somewhere. A beautiful piece of embroidery.

 Sir Henry Raeburn c 1800. The Macdonald Children.

Unfortunately the light was hitting this one from an odd angle and I wasn't able to see or photograph it properly, but it's one of my favourites.  The two boys on the right are charming. Twins I think; beautifully and sympathetically painted with life and energy.
 The sofa is what I wanted to show you here. I would find this quite a useful piece of furniture to have in my own house.  Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, my family has never won the lottery; as a consequence we are more at home with Ikea.
 This is the desk of the Chairman of Shell. When his office was cleared this was left behind and re homed in the house.
 Two pictures that can be seen from the library. There is a wooden balcony in the library which overlooks the billiard room area.  It's an area stuffed with great paintings including Reynolds and school of Van Dyke.

I have a video of this area which I shall upload separately.
 Down the stairs to the same level as the billiard room, and you come to the china collection. Some absolutely wonderful pieces worth the trip to see in the flesh.

I believe this collection on the right is Sevres Tete a Tete.

This whole collection was stolen about 40 years ago but was found in 2002. It was about to be sold at auction in Newcastle upon Tyne, but was returned as soon as it was recognised.
My favourite Sevres teapot. Just right for one teabag.

More on the picture room, and dining room in the next postings.

Upton House, Warwickshire - The gardens

This is a video of part of the gardens at Upton House. It's taken from the top of the ha ha (or hee hee as it's known in my family) looking towards the lake. The sound track makes it sound like a windy day but if you hang on until the end you'll hear how peaceful it was - apart from the birds, and the bees, oh, and the coughing....!

Here are some photos of the outside of the house - the insides to come in the next posting. The house is presented as it would have been in the 1930's when the heir to the Shell fortune, Walter Samuel, owned it. It's magnificently art deco inside.

 This is obviously the swimming pool, which is undergoing repairs.  It has a view over the gardens above.

Below are some stills of the garden for those who don't want to watch a video.

Major Art Quilt Exhibtion for 2012 - early details here

This is just to announce that there will be an Art Quilt Exhibition in the Museum and Art Gallery at Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK,  from Thursday 18th October 2012 to January 2013.

Details are still to be finalised, but new work will be on show from:

Laura Kemshall
Linda Kemshall
Sandra Meech
Elizabeth Barton
Elizabeth Brimelow
Eszter Bornemisza
Alicia Merrett
Bethan Ash
Dijanne Cevaal

You heard it here first!!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Whatever flower this is, don't grow it!

 I love flowers and this year have had quite a few bees around to visit. More than usual, which is good news.

However, I bought a shrub from the local greengrocers without a name.(the plant not the greengrocer) It was going cheap and I thought I'd give it a go.

It's thriving.  I thought I'd found it's name when I planted it (something beginning with D!!) but now I can't find it again to tell you and warn you off of it.
It's this pink thing on the right. Very pretty, but it kills bees.

I don't think it's intentional as it would be in a carnivorous plant, but bees keep getting stuck in it.  They stick their probuscus' down into the depths of the flower and can't get out again.

I've had to rescue lots by pulling the flower head gently apart and moistening the bee slightly. It's very difficult to do and it almost seems like the sap is acting like PVA glue.

 I've half a mind to put it on the compost!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Some more Altered Book pages

 I forgot to put these photos in the last posting of the altered book which went with the last piece called Stones and Lizards.

 This one owes itself almost entirely to the Kemshalls.  Any poppy seed head does I think....I can do no better but wish I could!  Anyway this is about my friend's love of the stones and caves on the island of Menorca and the poppies that grow there.

The wording says "To sleep with Morpheus on an ebony bed and dream of ancient caves with poppies blooming at their entrances"
 Mahon town. This one has printed words about the history of Mahon and the different ways people say the name.
 Lizards in green with a bit of poetry.
This one you've seen before but I've added a bit with some words my friend said about the town. (They're the ones folded up and tied in thread) and a folded map.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Chastleton House - and is it any wonder that the gunpowder plot failed?

Before I tell you about the house, please read the first posting below as it contains important information about the difficulties of visiting the house.

The images on this posting have been taken from the guide book supplied by the National Trust.

The Current House at Chastleton

Chastleton House is an oddity. The National Trust have undertaken minimal repair and no modification. They have replaced gutters, the slate roof and done electrical repairs. They have done the necessary for fire precaution and to prevent damp, but the whole building is presented showing the marks of age. Great care has been taken researching family history, and examining the building, talking to all who knew Chastleton,  to ensure that the true history of the building remains.

The building was first opened to the public in 1940 by the then owner, Mrs Irene Whitmore-Jones, who explained the bad state of the buildings by saying the family had lost all their money "in the war".  Not any recent world war you understand, but the Civil War, 300 years earlier!

It was built between 1607 and 1612 by Walter Jones who remained faithful to the King during the Civil War, and consequently suffered fines under the Commonwealth. (Commonwealth = "Roundheads"....who won!)  About every 100 years or so since, emergency repairs were done to the house, but in between it was left to decay and is as you see it today.

The furniture in the house is sparse.  This photo shows a court cupboard or buffet and, according to an inventory in 1633, there were 13 similar ones in the house. However this is an early 1800's made-up piece incorporating older oak wood.  It was used for storing food, candles, jewels and other valuables. They were always dressed with a cloth either of tapestry or embroidery.

The Great Parlour. This was the dining room. It was furnished in 1633 with five chairs and a dozen stools. It's was used for 150 years until the early 1700's when money was short, and it was used for storage.

The chairs you can see in the photo are unmatched and have twist-turned legs and carvings incorporating crowns - typical of the Restoration period (c1660) and originally had caned seats.

However, not that poor, as the National Trust say that the tapestry is from about 1730, from the workshop of Guilem Werners in Lille, and it shows a musical party in a garden. It would have been expensive in it's day, and was probably acquired by John Henry Whitmore-Jones who records buying tapestries in his diary.

In that 1633 inventory, this bed chamber is called "Mr Fettyplace his Chamber". Once the family was established at Chastleton, the Jones' sought to marry into the leading gentry in the neighbouring counties. Henry married Anne Fettiplace in 1609, when the house was still under construction. Anne's coat of arms is in the overmantel. It was very colourful when new. The bed was hung with striped needlework combined with taffeta curtains and there were chairs and stools covered with needlework, cloths to the tables and the court cupboard and freshly coloured tapestries.
The three panels you can just see above are from a set depicting The Story of Jacob (Genesis, xxxiii) and were woven in Flanders around 1600.

Next to this room is a small closet called The Fettiplace Closet. It has one small window as well as the door into the above chamber.

It is entirely hung with flamestitch hangings from the early seventeenth century. The whole is made up of several different sized panels, and could possibly have been a set of bed hangings. It has 12 colours which are sewn onto a jute backing.

 The Sheldon Room. This room was the most expensively decorated of all the bedchambers.  The field bed was furnished in taffeta  and there were rich coverings for the chairs, stools and court cupboard.

The modern gloss paint disguises the original striking interior. You can just see the chimneypiece which has inset marble and touchstone, with painted marbling. This marbling scheme has been found on panels concealed behind one of the tapestries.

The White Parlour. This was a daytime room where guests were received.

The early history of the house and that chap called Catesby.

The name Chastleton is Saxon in origin, and the last bit is easy as tun means town, or habitation enclosed by a fence. The second bit probably means a heap of stones or cairn from the Saxon word ceastel.  It's really near to the Rollright Stones which we always visit when in the area. (nb when we visited this time, we were unintentionally entertained by a very handsome young man wearing heaps of bangles and a cheesecloth shirt, who was walking round and round the stones invoking the gods to do something. Sorry, I couldn't hear what exactly, but it involved flinging dirt around a fair bit and "omm"-ing with his eyes closed and head cast upwards to the heavens.)

Sorry, I diverted. Although the current house was built in1607, there is evidence of an earlier occupation. In 777, when Offa, the great King of Mercia made a grant of land to the Benedictine abbey of Evesham, the gift included property at Chastleton.

Immediately before the Norman conquest, it was held by Edwin, Earl of Mercia (grandson of Lady Godiva). Its history is long and complicated being owned at various times by Odo Bishop of Bayeux, and Thomas Chaucer (son of the poet). It continued to be handed on by family until we come to the slightly more interesting owners, the Catesbys.

Left: the conspirators of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, which was masterminded by Robert Catesby.

There was a long lineage of Catesbys at Chastleton, and we join them when the newly widowed Catherine married Anthony Throckmorton from Coughton in Warwickshire. (somewhere local to me that I've posted about before; the link is to the website for the house)

Their grandson was Robert Catesby, the charismatic leader of the conspirators who took part in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 against James 1 and the House of Lords. He was devoutly Roman Catholic, despite by law, being baptised as an Anglican. In 1601 he took up residence in Chastleton and whilst there was fined £2,666 13s 4d for his part in the rebellion of the Earl of Essex.. An unbelievable amount, and as a result he was mortgaged to the hilt, and the family never recovered financially.

If you believe in the survival of the fittest, you can see why Darwin might have had a point when it comes to Catesby.  Perhaps not the brightest in the bunch? After the Gunpowder Plot failed, Catesby fled north with the remaining store of gunpowder.

He went to Holbeach in Staffordshire, but unfortunately, on the way, the gunpowder got damp.  So what did he do when he got there? He put it in front of the fire to dry. A "Doh" moment I think. It exploded of course, killing quite a few inhabitants.

Catesby himself was killed resisting arrest, by the sheriff of Worcestershire, thus ending his family's connection with Chastleton.

There is a much longer and involved history of the house of course, but forgive me for picking out some of the more interesting bits! 

Sketchbook pages, and finished Stones and Lizards.

I've decided it's harder to make a present than do a commission, and both are harder than pleasing just yourself!

 All done bar the hanging sleeve and label.

Close up of lizards. Can you see the third one? I've enlarged the photo and altered the contrast so he shows up.

There is a fourth, but I'm not saying where in case the recipient of the gift is tuning in. Hope she likes it!

I quite liked the trees. In the end I didn't go with realistic but felt this was a good compromise.

 Here's the pages in the sketchbook/altered book that relate to the stones.

This page tells you the colours used in the piece. They were titanium white, ivory black, ultramarine blue, quinacridone nickel azo gold, quinacridone burnt orange, burnt umber, hookers green, leaf green.
 The cover and bookmarks.
 The rest are fairly self explanatory I think.

 A photocopied photo of a field glued to the page and extended left and right to fill both sides.
 A lizard made of stitch and suspended in a cut out.
 Back of the above
 A secret place holding a photo of a painting that the recipient holds dear.
 Tags, and lizard words.
 A cutaway hole containing a jewelled lizard.