Friday 27 September 2013

❉ William Morris's home ❉ Kelmscott Manor ❉ Gloucestershire ❉

The frontispiece of the Kelmscott Press Edition of 'News from Nowhere' was based on a drawing by Charles Gere. William Morris designed the type and ornamental borders.
When we sat beside the River Thames recently, enjoying our picnic lunch and contemplating William Morris's home in the meadows beyond the trees, we never envisaged that we would be back here quite so soon. A good friend and her husband, who are volunteers at the Manor, kindly gave us a pair of complimentary tickets - thank you very much M & C.
Unlike Wightwick Manor which is packed full of Arts and Crafts treasurers, Kelmscott, in comparison, is verging on being 'minimalist'. The walls are white or cream, the flooring is stone flagged or wooden with just an occasional rug scattered over them. Some of the rooms have WM wallpaper but most do not.
To keep the village of Kelmscott free of traffic, visitors park their cars in a nearby field, and then take a pleasant 10 minute walk to the house. 
Passing walls made from old stone slabs.
It was a misty September morning when we arrived, but soon turned into a warm sunny day.
In front of the 17th century Plough Inn stands the remains of a medieval cross stump. Probably a meeting place before the 12th century church was built.
William Morris Memorial Hall
The William Morris Memorial Hall was built with funds raised by his daughter May. She asked Ernest Gimson - a Cotswolds Arts & Crafts designer/architect, and influenced by WM,  to design the building, but Ernest died before building work commenced. The building was taken on by another Cotswold Arts & Crafts architect, Norman Jewson, who had been a pupil of Gimson's at Sapperton. Sapperton is just across the valley from our home.
Many of the establishment flocked to Kelmscott for the opening of the hall in 1934, including the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. The hall was officially opened by George Bernard Shaw, reflecting Morris's Socialist connections.
Just before reaching Kelmscott Manor, you pass a pair of Wm Morris memorial cottages commissioned by Jane following his death. The stone carving was done by George Jack from a drawing by Morris's great friend, and architect, Philip Webb, who also designed the cottages.
The Blue Silk Dress - William Morris commissioned Dante Gabriel Rossetti to paint Jane. It is considered his most reknown portrait, and perhaps conveys elements of his own feelings towards her. The Latin couplet at the top of the painting reads - Famed by her poet husband and surpassing fame for her beauty. Now let her win lasting fame by my painting.
We were fortunate to see this painting as it is regularly out on loan.
On one of the Manor walls are several Albrecht Dürer engravings. The German painter, engraver, printmaker, from Nuremberg who was greatly admired by WM.
William Morris writing to Charles Faulkner 1871
"I have been looking about for a house for the wife and children, and whither do you guess my eye is turned to now? Kelmscott, a little village about two miles above Radcot Bridge - a heaven on earth; an old stone Elizabethan house... and such a garden! Close down on the river, a boat house and all things handy. I am going there again on Saturday with Rossetti and my wife: Rossetti because he thinks of sharing it with us if the thing looks likely..."
Morris initially took a 2 year lease on the property, which he extended to 20 years, but following his death, Jane had an opportunity to purchase the manor. When Jane died it became home to their daughter May. She left it to Oxford University with various restrictive stipulations and the house fell into disrepair. In 1962 it finally became the property of the Society of Antiquaries of London, who have painstakingly restored it.
In the house is a large collection of WM's Iznik pottery from Turkey and Syria which he loved. The designs of this pottery greatly influenced his friend and potter, William De Morgan.
There are quite a few of WM's embroidery hangings on the walls including the very first piece he did when he was just 23 years old.
Inspiration for Strawberry Thief design came to WM when he was watching thrushes stealing fruit in this garden. 
I wondered whether the profusion of willow trees growing along the Thames tributary through his garden had played any influence on his design for Willow.
The interior of the Manor remains hidden from my camera, but I hope that I have created a feeling for the outside space and garden, including a portrayal of the surrounding area in which the Manor is located. 
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In a simple tomb, designed by Philip Webb, the design reflecting several medieval tombs within the churchyard at Kelmscott, lies William, his wife Jane, and their two daughters.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

In memory of Dorothea, Monica and Penelope

Monica and Dorothea lived at Sandybrook Hall, an elegant 19th century mansion close to the market town of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. They were the two beautiful daughters of Mr and Mrs Peveril Turnbull. Monica, at the age of 22 was already recognised by the critics as an outstanding poet. On the morning of 4th March 1901 a fire caused by the upsetting of a heavy oil lamp set fire to Dorothea's dress. Monica rushed to save her, and was burned to death. Dorothea also died from her injuries six weeks later.
This beautiful window is by Christopher Whall a Pre-Raphaelite stained glass artist/designer and a leader of the Arts and Crafts Movement. It is a jewel in stained glass, showing Arts and Crafts at its most ethereal. The window depicts the three virgin martyrs: St. Barbara, St Cecilia and St Dorothy, but St. Barbara and St. Dorothy are actual portraits of Monica and Dorothea - the window was given to St. Oswald church in Ashbourne by the parents in memory of their daughters.
St. Cecilia is seen falling asleep to the sounds of celestial music - a symbol of death.
St. Dorothy whose symbol is flowers, represents Dorothea the younger sister whose dress caught fire.
St. Barbara carrying the sword of her martyrdom in her right hand - represents Monica, the poet, who rushed to save her sister.
The whole interior of the church is worthy of a visit, no corner is without interest, carved kings and queens, bell ropes, Green Men, and a lush chancel roof. The reredos, depicting the life of Christ, is set within a background showing two local landscapes, namely Dovedale and the Manifold Valley. My next treasure lies in the Cockayne Chapel within the east aisle of the north transept.
Penelope Boothby,  daughter of Sir Brooke Boothby, aged 4 by Joshua Reynolds
The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby by Henry Fuseli
Penelope was the only child of Sir Brooke Boothby and Dame Susannah Boothby. She was born in 1785 and died when she was almost six years old. It is thought that she had a viral infection in her brain (possibly encephalitis), she was treated by Boothby's great friend, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, Grandfather of Charles Darwin. Boothby's life went into decline after his daughter's death. The sad event permanently affected him and he subsequently published a book of poetry - Sorrows Sacred to the Memory of Penelope. After her funeral, his wife returned to her parent's home in Hampshire. She then settled in Dover and her death was recorded under her maiden name.
Sir Brooke Boothby by Joseph Wright of Derby
The tomb that Boothby commissioned from Thomas Banks, RA is exquisite. It is described as being so life like that the child could be sleeping. Sculptured out of Carrara marble and showing the inscription "She was in form and intellect most exquisite. The unfortunate parents ventured their all on this frail bark. And the wreck was total."

Saturday 21 September 2013

Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton

If you are a lover of all things 'William Morris', the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and the Arts and Crafts Movement then Wightwick Manor is a house that you would enjoy visiting. 
The house was built during the end of the 19th century by Theodore Mander - the Mander family were very successful industrialists specialising in the manufacture of paint. Theodore and his wife Flora, taking inspiration from a lecture on 'the house beautiful' by Oscar Wilde, decorated the interior with the designs of William Morris and his Arts and Crafts contemporaries. 
Sadly there are no photos allowed in the house, so I will use one or two examples from the internet. The walls are covered in original WM wall paper, the wooden floors show off rare carpets by him, most of the curtains are also original Morris fabrics. The walls are lined with paintings by Rossetti, Ford Madox-Brown, Evelyn de Morgan, Ruskin, Millais, Burne-Jones and Charles Kempe. Kempe also did the stained glass windows along with the fine plaster work ceilings and friezes in the house, and the metal work was done by Benson.  There are amazing examples of William de Morgan's lustre pottery - big charges, jugs and wonderful tiles for the fire places.
Jane Burden - Mrs. Willam Morris by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown
A group of schoolboys visited the house last week, and when one of them saw this painting he said "cor, she's ugly!!!". It would appear that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's idea of beauty does not appeal to the youth of today.
A selection of wallpaper, fabric, carpet and tapestry designs by William Morris - many of which are featured in Wightwick.
Lustre ware vases by William de Morgan
I did capture one quick photo of the house which give an impression of how the interior looks.
The house also owns its own original Kelmscott Chaucer, the picture above is not the Chaucer, but is of a similar appearance - this is News from Nowhere.
Other places you might be interested in visiting are Standen, East Grinstead (NT) The Red House, Bexleyheath (NT) the only house William Morris commissioned, created and lived in. Kelmscott, Gloucestershire, (Society of Antiquaries) William Morris's country residence, and The William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow which is housed in the Georgian home that William Morris grew up in.

Thursday 19 September 2013


When Pondside knew that H and I were travelling to Derbyshire she wondered whether we would be visiting Haddon Hall, Bakewell or Taddington, places she had enjoyed on her trip over from Canada last year.
On our way to Eyam we did pass along the perimeter wall of Haddon Hall, and went through Bakewell. Bakewell is always a stopping point for us, it is where we buy the famous Bakewell Pudding to take home and put in our freezer.
The origins of the pudding are not clear; three bakers in Bakewell claim to have the original recipe.  The accepted story is that in 1820 Mrs. Greaves, who was the landlady of the Rutland Arms, left instructions for her cook to make a jam tart. The cook instead of stirring the eggs and almond paste mixture into the pastry, spread it on top of the jam. By whatever means the pudding came about, I can guarantee that it is delicious. A Bakewell PUDDING is nothing like a Bakewell TART.
There are several treasures for the visitor to Eyam to see and visit.
On the exterior of St. Lawrence church is this wonderful sundial dated 1775 which is thought to have been designed and made by John Whitehurst, member of the Lunar Society and clockmaker extraordinaire.
Inside the church is a rare Saxon font dating from 800AD. The arcading would have been painted and decorated. The font is not original to the church, but was given about 100 years ago.
There is a stained glass window by the distinguished Victoria stained glass artist Geoffrey Webb. How do I know that it is by Webb? 
His cobweb signature is clearly visible in the bottom righthand corner.
In the churchyard sits a rare and special item which I shall do a post about in the future.
I have stood on these portal entrance steps to Eyam Hall so many times, and wondered what it was like inside the house and garden. Joy of joys we discovered that it has just been leased for 10 years to the National Trust with effect from March of this year, so armed with our membership cards, free entrance was permitted. This is the very first time that any property has been leased to the NT rather than being given.
Eyam Hall began life as a generous wedding present in 1671, just five years after the plague. It has been in continuous use by the Wright family and is now owned by the ninth generation.
It is a remarkably unspoilt example of a Jacobean manor house. The entrance hall has a beautiful stone-flagged floor and the walls are covered with portraits showing the watchful gaze of many Wrights from down the generations. The house has a surprisingly bright, comfortable, and very pleasant feel to it. 
The original kitchen was discovered hidden beneath layers of plaster, linoleum, and built in cupboards. It has now been painstakingly restored to how it would have looked in the 17th century.
When Eyam Hall was built, it ushered in a new era of life, hope and prosperity for the villagers, following on from the communities previous grief.