Tag Archives: countryhousereader

The News for the New Year: an Exhibition for Nostell Priory.

Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet and his wife Sabine Louise Winn in the library at Nostell Priory, 1770.

Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Baronet and his wife Sabine Louise Winn in the library at Nostell Priory, 1770 (copyright National Trust Collection).

Over three years ago the archive of the Winn family of Nostell Priory, Yorkshire were put into the ownership of the West Yorkshire Archives Service* under the jurisdiction of Wakefield Metropolitan Council as part of an Acceptance in Lieu grant.

I was still floating about in a post doctoral haze and was in need of something new to get my claws into.

I had written about Nostell Priory, especially Sabine Winn, the wife of the 5th Baronet (both pictured above) and her role as household manager including her relationship with the Nostell servants. So, wherever I went, whoever I spoke with, whatever I wanted to research, Nostell Priory was always there – looming.

Not surprisingly, the thought of being able to make a complete fuss about the importance of keeping the Winn family papers in Yorkshire was going to be very high on my agenda.

Together with the expertise of a senior academic from the University of Leeds, in May 2010 research began for an exhibition (and book) to be held at the house commencing in 2015. The working title for this is ‘From House to Home’, and will focus on two generations of the family – Sir Rowland Winn, 4th Baronet and his son the 5th Baronet and his wife.

Our ambitions are grand, to be sure, and we are hoping to show how rich these papers are. Nostell Priory is associated with famous names in architecture and design including Thomas Chippendale, the Adam Brothers, James Paine, as well as fine art by Kauffman, Zucchi and Brueghel. Yet, the Winn family papers also reveal several interesting layers in social and cultural history. The exhibition will therefore highlight many themes associated with country house living in the eighteenth century and attempt to show the relationships the Winns had with their architects, suppliers, extended family, and staff, as well as demonstrate the eccentricities of particular family members and how they came to be perceived by society.

Ultimately, the exhibition will encourage visitors to think about how an elite family like the Winns made their mark in the cultural landscape of the period at regional and national levels through their consumer tastes, shopping habits, sociability, and of course, their house.

*********

My intention is to provide updates here as the project progresses, and any comments and questions are welcome, so long as they’re constructive!

*The papers are of great importance to the nation, their location at the West Yorkshire Archives Service (WYAS) however is something the region is understandably proud of given the associations with well-known names. The papers were recently voted as one of the Archives’ treasures by the public and archive staff, and in May 2012 the WYAS received a £37,000 grant to complete and improve the Winn family papers.

3 Comments

Filed under Architecture and Design, Building the Country House, Collections, The Nostell Project

Review: The Country House Revealed at Easton Neston

          

Model of Easton Neston

Victoria and Albert Museum image of Nicholas Hawksmoor's architectural model for Easton Neston

After this episode of The Country House Revealed (May 24th, 2011) finished, I felt that this was quite an exhilarating (if not exhausting) journey into the English Baroque and the Fermor family of Easton Neston, Northamptonshire. Ending with Noel Coward’s gentle swipe at the English ruling classes of the inter-war period, ‘The Stately Homes of England’, Dan Cruickshank’s latest offering perfectly summarised the nature of elite living, inheritance, marriage and the complications arising from the two factors when a country seat was at stake.

          The main focus was the Fermor, and then later the Hesketh families, and how the house had provided a backdrop to the often comical dramas played out by successive male heirs (particularly George Fermor, 3rd Earl of Pomfret) and their financial gains made by the usual providential marriages. The architectural presence of Easton Neston however, was confined more to the search for its true designer which saw Cruickshank meet up with the floppy-haired Ptolemy Dean (of Restoration fame) who had commissioned a tree-ring dating exercise on the remaining wing of the house as well as in the roof void of the main building. Despite Dean’s jumpy expressiveness whilst demonstrating the altered vaulting in the basement of the house, this exploration proved quite fascinating. For anyone working in the field of architectural preservation, the drilling, chiseling and hammering of beams and walls can seem strangely invigorating if the aim is to reveal another layer of history or, as in this instance to prove a theory.

         Primary sources suggest that Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736) had had a role to play in its design, perhaps with some contribution by his ‘revered’ mentor and later collaborator Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) who had been approached by Sir William Fermor by 1680 seeking advice for a new house on this site. Cruickshank could be seen at once on the outside of the building viewing the great order of architecture in the massive columns adorning each elevation. Then, he was back inside admiring the great staircase again and an old photograph of the hall with its double height ceiling (diminished in the late nineteenth century). We were then shown a model made by Hawksmoor of Easton Neston at the Royal Institute of British Architects, one of the few architectural models of its type to survive in tact.

          Eventually, the tree-ring dating exercise had its results delivered to us by dendrochronologist Robert Howard who offered a clear felling date between the spring of 1700 and the summer of 1701. This somehow eliminated Wren’s involvement in the final design, leaving Hawksmoor as Easton Neston’s prime architect. For Ptolemy Dean this was fantastic news. For enthusiasts of the country house, this was eagerly anticipated; even the Wikipedia entry on Easton Neston was updated the same evening!

          For Cruickshank, we had come full circle in terms of the architectural and social history of Easton Neston. The house had seen both subtle and exaggerated changes; summarised well by a former employee of the Heskeths, Trish York who had been a ladies maid in the 1970s, ‘the clientele were different’ she exclaimed when referencing the Heskeths foray into Formula One racing. The house had played host to aristocrats, elite beings and those with political connections. By the 1970s, it was full of young model types, and fast-living young men who did not understand the genteel etiquette required of them as guests in an English country house. Yet, for all its desire for necessary rules and formality, the house proved too expensive for habitation and the Hesketh family sold the house and part of the estate for a supposedly compromising figure of £15 million in 2005 to LA based, Russian born Leon Max, founder of the Max Studio fashion chain. This meant we got to see a handful of more young models draped about furniture and statues throughout the interiors. Dan Cruickshank’s final point was a suggestion that in fact, Easton Neston had been designed for this purpose all along; the models were not the Arundel Marbles once owned by the Earls of Pomfret, but instead represented the ‘fashion’ for being fashionable and cultured. Easton Neston therefore was the requisite type of building for display and ostentation.

Links:

The Wikipedia entry on Easton Weston, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easton_Neston

Great Buildings entry for Easton Neston with plans, http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Easton_Neston.html

On the sale of house and parkland in 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/northamptonshire/4551509.stm

The 2005 sale of the contents at Easton Neston managed by James Miller at Sotherby’s, http://www.sothebys.com/liveauctions/sneak/archive/la_easton_0505.html

1 Comment

Filed under Building the Country House

Buscot Park, Oxfordshire

       Deciding on an afternoon out and the difference between an £18 entrance fee or that of £5.50, I stumbled across Buscot Park in my copy of Hudson’s Historic Houses. So on a fine sunny day last month I travelled through some of the more quaint areas of English countryside to make my first ever visit to this intriguing house and its pleasure gardens.

       My first impressions were that this National Trust property was well-organised, yet amiable and undemanding. A feeling the National Trust are seeking to achieve ever more with their properties these days. From the ticket office, it was a steady walk to the house (which can only be caught as glimpses through the banks of trees) through the walled garden and up the stepped path to the open lawns of the south front.

Buscot Park

Buscot Park south front (author's own image, 2011)

 
       The house in its original form was built for Edward Loveden Loveden between 1780 and 1783. Small additions were made to the house after these dates but after Loveden’s death in 1822, his successors cared more for cultivating lands elsewhere particularly those already belonging to the family in Wales. By 1866, Buscot was eventually put on the market and was bought by the Australian Tycoon Robert Tertius Campbell whose own wealth had been made in the gold trade. Over-ambitious, Campbell died in 1889 leaving the Buscot estate in great debt, and it was then sold to Alexander Henderson, later 1st Lord Faringdon (1850-1934) a financier and politician. His son, Gavin Henderson, 2nd Lord Faringdon was member of the ‘Bright Young Things’ with staunch socialist ideals. During his ownership of Buscot Park the house was regularly used as a venue for fellow politicians and formidable art collectors.
 
 
 
       Indeed, most of  the pictures at Buscot were purchased by the second Lord Faringdon and make up the larger part of The Faringdon Collection – the combined collections of the first and second Lords Faringdon at Buscot and at a separate London property. By far the most popular of pieces in this collection are the Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898) paintings depicting the Legend of the Briar Rose in the Saloon.

Panel from The Legend of the Briar Rose (copyright the Trustees of The Faringdon Collection)

The beauty of these paintings are magnificently displayed as Burne-Jones intended with their extra inserted panels and gilded frames. Moreover, their drama instantly gave Burne-Jones the reputation he sought as a painter of medieval legend. At the time of their purchase and installation for Buscot in 1895, Burne-Jones was staying at Kelmscott Manor a few miles away (the home of his dear friend William Morris) so his involvement at Buscot and the placing of these paintings are a key creative connection.

 
 
       There are a good sample of rooms open to the public, each with information folders on the objects and art on display. Buscot has a great atmosphere throughout, and the staff were fantastic and approachable – even when my mobile phone made its presence clear on the stone staircase and I had to turn it off! The National Trust are eager to eradicate the past stuffiness of previous generations of guardianship at their properties, and at Buscot this was very prominent. But, recognition must be given to the staff and the present Lord Faringdon and his wife for the sense of continued pride in this property. This also extends to the grounds where the modern mixes well with traditional landscapes and concepts, and should be made a part of every visit if time is allowed! There are several tree-lined avenues to the east and the celebrated Harold Peto Water Garden leading to the Big Lake with its picturesque rotunda and bridge. At every turn there is something unusual set to catch the eye; perhaps a deliberate mechanism evoking those garden designs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which sought to surprise the visitor. To the west are the walled gardens which mark the start and end of the visit to Buscot and serve to remind any visitor of the lengthy programme of care the present workers and owners are undertaking.
 
 
References:
Buscot Park & the Faringdon Collection. Guidebook. The Trustees of the Faringdon Collection (2004)
The Pre-Raphaelites. Exhibition Catalogue. Tate Gallery/Penguin Books (1984)
 
 
Links:
National Trust details and opening hours http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-buscotpark
More information at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buscot_Park

1 Comment

Filed under Spotlight On ....

A Short Story from Plompton Hall, North Yorkshire.

       In 1755 Daniel Lascelles (brother of Edwin who commissioned Harewood House) bought the estate from the de Plumpton family when Robert de Plumpton died without a male heir. Lascelles demolished the existed decrepit manor house in order to build a major new house to the design of John Carr. The house appears to have been converted from the south range of the stables when Lascelles moved to Goldsborough Hall, North Yorkshire in 1762 and building work on the much larger house to south-west of the stables ceased. The Hall and stables are mainly ashlar with rusticated stone quoins. The house is a private residence today, but the park and eighteenth-century pleasure grounds are now known as Plumpton Rocks (yes, that is a different spelling) which provided inspiration for J. M. W. Turner.

Plompton Hall

Present day Plompton Hall

 

       The story here exposes the relationships between household members and the outside workforce when a country house was under construction. It centres on the period of building before 1762 when Daniel Lascelles was still eager to establish a large house on this site. It is also possible to see the dynamics of a household without female authority in a managerial role!

 ******

       The exceptionally well hidden pregnancy of the Plompton cook, Sarah Lister would have continued so if it were not for the delivery of a healthy baby boy almost a month early. Lascelles had the incident described to him by the family doctor, Dr. Richardson who had been present during the labour, and the steward Samuel Popplewell who took some responsibility in defending the woman’s position in the household. Sarah Lister had planned to take leave for her relations when she believed the baby was due, but giving birth a month earlier than expected thwarted all plans of her maintaining such high levels of secrecy. Lascelles now had an otherwise highly regarded female servant to approach on delicate terms. Sarah Lister was fortunate to have secured support from her male colleagues with both a Doctor Richardson and Popplewell writing to Lascelles emphasising her wish to stay on in service whilst also complimenting him on his existing good nature. Popplewell rather optimistically hoped this would be further realised in this instance and reminded Lascelles that she was ‘an excellent cook’. Dr. Richardson was a little more objective:

…she says if you have so much compassion for a miserable wretch [,] forgive this great offence and continue her in your service, she will be bound by duty and gratitude to do everything in her power to serve you right. If you don’t think fit to continue her she beggs [sic] you will not expose her but give her a character that she may get her Bread in some other part of the world…

        Luckily for Sarah Lister, Daniel Lascelles eventually responded compassionately – not because he was entirely sympathetic to her misfortune, rather it was due to ‘the unpardonable thing in this affair was that the scene of this business should be laid in my house’, his forgiveness was therefore bound to keeping the ‘unlucky affair hushed…for the sake of good order in my house.’ More unfortunate for Lister, however was exactly how public the affair had become; a circumstance which led several workmen at Plompton to taunt and sexually harass her. Both Lascelles and Popplewell admitted her ‘freedoms with any of ye men servants’ had damaged her authority in the household, but hoped it could be quickly restored, especially as Lascelles had overlooked the affair and had similarly expected everyone else to do so. Taunts and bullish behaviour were unacceptable, whether her authority had diminished permanently is not known but at least Lascelles and Popplewell remained adamant (and somewhat patronising) in their agreement that Sarah Lister was one of the ‘better female Cooks in ye County and not many Housekeepers who sends up a Dessert in a prettier manner…’

       Retaining a servant who proved good in their department regardless of their irresponsible behaviour outside of it saved time on hiring and firing but anxieties clearly persisted where trust had been broken under the roof of an employer. For Lascelles, authority was paramount to safeguarding the order of the household. For Sarah Lister, her supposed sexual dalliances at Plompton left her mentally and physically vulnerable within a male environment, where men were in charge of all managerial affairs, as well as occupying wider space in the house as the building and interior work progressed.

A servant’s promiscuity had implications for the servant themselves; whilst an employer’s patience and diplomacy were meant as cool warnings for other household members to remain circumspect. Daniel Lascelles offered a second chance, but could easily have made examples of a servant caught up in scurrilous events.

Archives for Plompton Hall are to be found at West Yorkshire Archives, Sheepscar, Leeds. They have been placed with those of the Lascelles family which is mainly concerned with the building and plans for Harewood House in the eighteenth century and then personal papers up to the present day. There is a good index which breaks down the correspondence from the eighteenth century between family members and the steward Samuel Popplewell, from which this story is composed.

Links: National archives link to repository information, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/records.aspx?cat=205-h&cid=0#0

West Yorkshire Archive Service, http://www.archives.wyjs.org.uk/

Plumpton Rocks – part of the park and grounds at Plompton where John Carr helped create the dam for the lake eventually establishing a romantic walk which can still be visited today, http://www.yorkshire.com/turner/trails/plumpton-rocks

An interesting document relating to the conservation of Plompton area.  http://www.harrogate.gov.uk/Documents/DS-P-ConAreaPlompton2.pdf


Leave a comment

Filed under Men and the Country House

Temple Newsam House, Leeds

 

Temple Newsam House (author's own image)

       I want to start with Temple Newsam House, Leeds because without a doubt it is a local authority gem, and mainly as I used to work there! Described in the current guidebook as ‘one of the great historic houses of England, famous as the birthplace of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots in 1545, and sometimes called “The Hampton Court of the North”‘.

  
       The land here belonged to the Knights Templar in the early Middle Ages; a connection which gives the ‘Temple’ prefix. The house on the current site was originally built by Thomas Lord Darcy. Begun as a courtyard house with a gateway to the north in about 1480, it was probably completed by c.1520. Darcy’s involvement in The Pilgrimage of Grace led to his execution for treason in 1537, and the house passed to the Crown. It was then presented as a gift by Henry VIII to his niece Lady Lennox and her husband, whose son Lord Darnley was born and brought up here. However, Lady Lennox’s schemes to see her bloodline on the English throne once again saw the house confiscated by the Crown. 
 
       Eventually the original Tudor building fell into decay until it was ‘rescued’ by Sir Arthur Ingram in 1622 when he bought it from a descendant of the Lennox family for £12,000. He extensively remodelled the old Tudor courtyard house by demolishing the east wing and rebuilding the north and south wings; uniting the whole with an external inscription in the stone balustrade. 
 
       Ingram’s descendants lived here for the next 300 years, when in 1922 the house and parkland were sold to the Leeds Corporation. Rather tragic for the time, the then owner the Hon. Edward Wood offered the contents for an extra £10,000 but the Corporation declined and many of the goods were dispersed. A few items were left in the house as a gift to the citizens of Leeds, and several lots were purchased at the sale in order to furnish a caretaker’s flat!
 
        In 1923 the house opened to the public with new visitor routes added internally. The house developed as an art museum over the next few decades until the late 1970s when Leeds City Council and curatorial staff began the slow road to refurbishment in order to establish Temple Newsam as both a fine and decorative arts and country house museum. Some of the original treasures have been rediscovered and bought back; often placed in their original settings throughout the house according to inventories and sale catalogues.
 
       Today Temple Newsam House contains many rich collections on wallpapers, textiles, silver and ceramics. There are fine pieces of Thomas Chippendale (and the Younger) furniture too, as well as what is considered to be the most significant part of the furniture collection – the suite of gallery seats by James Pascall, repatriated in 1939 when it was bought from the Hon Edward Wood to enliven the beautiful yet sparse Picture Gallery space in the north wing.
 
 

The Picture Gallery 2008 (author's own image)

 
       I worked at Temple Newsam House for five years whilst studying for my research degree. Many of the staff are fantastic and there are always educational activities and holiday workshops. A few years ago there was a severe restructuring of Leeds City Council and a few museum and gallery staff found their jobs had been put asunder. Attitudes and opinions have changed throughout local authority owned museums and galleries where restructure and finances have been at the forefront of management. And so, with the speedy cuts being made in the current economic climate to our public services, I fear that the modern faces of Temple Newsam will be changing again. 
Links: The Leeds City Council website for Temple Newsam www.leeds.gov.uk/templenewsam. This is quite comprehensive, and I definitely recommend using this as a source for learning a great deal more about the house, its owners and collections. Contacts for the house are;
 
Temple Newsam House
Leeds
LS15 0AE
House: 0113 2647321
(Please note that 0113 2645535 is the general estate number you may find in publications and websites.)
 
(And for a bit of laugh: www.hauntedleeds.co.uk/templenewsam.htm )

6 Comments

Filed under Spotlight On ....

My First Post by countryhousereader

This is the first post by me – countryhousereader! Phew, it’s also my first blog, so it’ll be a bit creaky to start with. My hope is to express my knowledge of country houses gained through research, or just mooching about them when I get the chance.

This blog is intended to complement the existing country house websites and blogs which have detailed specific houses, their owners and architects. I do not wish to tread on any toes with more of the same; others are doing a grand job when it comes to establishing comprehensive histories of the country house on the internet. Instead, my intention is to deliver some of the themes associated with the country house in England (and Britain) as well as abroad. Amongst other things, this will include book and article reviews both past and present, and the occasional snippet of information from the houses themselves.

Hope you enjoy!

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized