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…In Time for Halloween : What Makes Victorian Houses look and feel Haunted?

Heck-Andrews House in Raleigh, North Carolina (Worldwide Public Domain)

The Heck-Andrews House in Raleigh, North Carolina.

As my hectic year draws to a close and I can soon pick up where I left off with my blog, I thought it appropriate to add a lovely guest post by author Stephanie Carroll. It is no secret that the purpose of the post is to add a certain flavour to any up and coming Halloween festivities, but both Stephanie and I agreed something should be said about how a particular era and its architectural styles project peculiar and eerie feelings for the viewer.

The focus of the piece is nineteenth-century US domestic architecture which had its origins in Europe, but came into its own across a fairly widespread area of the country with industrial expansion. Many of these styles exist in the UK, but a viewer (even with limited architectural knowledge) will quickly recognise the cultural differences. Reinforced by film and literature, there are certain architectural qualities which we today associate with certain emotional responses.

These are not country houses, but historic houses and are subject to care and conservation in the same way. For example, Stephanie has pinpointed the incredible Doyle-Mounce house, Hannibal, Missouri as a main influence on her writing. The image below comes from Dave’s Victorian House website which I say illustrates Stephanie’s piece perfectly.

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The Doyle-Mounce house, Hannibal, Missouri (copyright David Taylor)

Stephanie Carroll is the author of Gothic Victorian novel, A White Room, a story inspired by Art Nouveau furniture and a house with a mixture of Gothic Revival and Second Empire characteristics called the Doyle-Mounce House. As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. She holds degrees in history and social science. Her key inspiration comes from authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).

Find Stephanie Carroll on FacebookTwitterGoodreads or on her website at www.stephaniecarroll.net. The blurb for A White Room follows the post. Enjoy!

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How is it that some Victorian houses are the cutest darn things you’ve ever seen and some are right out of a Gothic horror story? It’s not as simple as adding dark colors. There are particular styles, cultural symbols, and historical associations which make some Victorian houses scarier than others.

Architecture

There are several different types of Victorian architecture. Some like Queen Anne houses, Greek-Revivals, and Italianates are really cute, usually painted in pastel colors, and represent refined prominence and achievement. There are probably some houses in these styles that one could say look creepy, but that is usually due to deterioration as opposed to the original appearance. The two types of Victorian houses that seemingly represent the quintessential haunted house are designed in either the Gothic Revival or Second Empire styles.

Gothic Revivals are literally a throwback to the Gothic castles and churches of the medieval period, and include steep or peeked rooftops, arches, pinnacles, and decorative ornamentation especially over and around windows. Arches were also popular for entryways, doorways, porches, windows, etc. Sometimes these types of houses will have a lot of height to them or may include a large tower.

The original Gothic horror stories were all set in or around decaying Gothic churches or castles from medieval times and the architectural style became a worldwide symbol of the horror genre. The look of Gothic architecture is culturally embedded into our minds as a symbol of something dreadful and sinister. Nineteenth-century writers developed this further within literature as the Gothic genre evolved new tactics for creating fear. Gothic Revival houses and mansions not only look reminiscent of the horror story castles, but they became a fundamental setting for Victorian Gothic literature. Recognizable symbols of Gothic literature still commonly populate modern day horror genres.

Second Empire architecture was inspired by the reconstruction of Paris, France under the direction of Napoleon III who had much of the city torn down and rebuilt with wider roads and large elaborate buildings. Victorian Second Empire houses are usually very large and ornate, with lots of floors and windows. They are styled in a box shape with mansard roofs and often include a foreboding tower as a focal point. Some people have said the squared levels and roofs make these houses resemble stacked boxes or a tiered cake. Second Empire houses have been used in twentieth century Halloween and horror movies including Psycho, The Adams Family, and Beetlejuice.

Bates Motel Set from the movie Psycho at Universal Studio Hollywood CA (Worldwide Public Domain)

Interior Design

Victorian floor plans were designed so that each room came off a central hallway and but were closed off from other rooms. The small enclosed space was easier to heat. Unlike modern living rooms, dining rooms, and family rooms that are bright and open, Victorian common rooms were intimate spaces, but often times dark because heat could escape easily through large windows. If a room did have windows, they would be covered with heavy velvet curtains that kept heat in during the winter. Although parlors and ballrooms needed to be larger to serve their purposes, most spaces in nineteenth century middle-class homes were smaller than modern day rooms.

It’s an almost universal fear to be trapped in a dark, cramped space, so Victorian rooms can easily be used to create a sense of unease, especially if the objects filling the space have the ability to send chills down a person’s spine!

Interior decoration during the Victorian Era was very ornamental, busy, and overbearing. It was also known for a mixture of old world, new world, and multi-cultural styles that created rooms designed like frantic and chaotic representations of the world and beasts that coexisted within it.

1850 New York Parlor PD-US Published Prior to 1923

New York Parlour c. 1850 (Public Domain)

The most popular styles at the time included the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Anglo-Japanese Style, and the Aesthetic Movement. Although each of these styles contributed key characteristics to the creepy Victorian interior design, including the busyness, ornamental influences, and dark colors, none of these were as disturbing as the Art Nouveau Style.

The Art Nouveau style incorporated a lot of animal and human faces or body parts into the designs, such as in the ‘claw-footed’ tub or bedsteads with cherub faces carved into the wood. The style was also characterized by ‘whiplash’ curves and twirling designs. The designers incorporated a life form or some kind of movement into nearly every piece. Art Nouveau furniture, jewelry, and decorations like statues, knick-knacks, mirrors, lamps, etc., were inspired by the world of nature.

There are also a lot of monsters and fantasy creatures like fairies, dragons, and gargoyles in Art Nouveau decoration. This is due to the fact that the movement was a type of rejection of the modernization, industrialization, and technological revolution of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some artists wanted to revert to the old world or a world without science where fairy tales and magical creatures ruled the world of fantasy – not scientific discovery.

This type of furniture and decoration was made use of by Shirley Jackson in her 1959 Gothic novel The Haunting of Hill House, which has since been adapted for film twice; in 1963 and 1999, both under the shortened title of The Haunting.

Art Nouveau is also a form of architecture but it wasn’t generally used to create houses. It was used to embellish parts of houses, such as stairwells, doors, archways, etc. Most Art Nouveau architecture came in the form of larger non-domestic buildings.

History

Of course, the history of Victorian homes is what makes them seem quite eerie. It’s common to feel like those who used to live in the house are present when surrounded by the historical objects that remind us how people lived and suffered in the home during this period in history.

Premature death was common during the Victorian Era. A large percentage of babies and children died as well as adults. New discoveries about death spurred even more questions than answers. It wasn’t clear if death occurred due to the heart stopping or the brain dying first or what triggered these things at all. This uncertainty led to societal fear that people could be misdiagnosed as dead and then buried or dissected alive.

Unlike modern times, death most commonly occurred within the home as a result of an illness. Lack of clinical care and instead the use of family members to care for the ill meant that all the messy and difficult parts of an illness were witnessed by the direct relatives. Furthermore, the byproducts of the human body ceasing to function were experienced and cleaned by family members or by servants in an upper class home. Elaborate sets of traditions called Mourning Etiquette were a conspicuous response to the emotional upheaval of losing a family member. For those who could afford it, these traditions involved rather ostentatious funerals and burials as well as keeping memorabilia including post mortem photos, known as Memento Mori, and hair jewelry made with locks of hair from the deceased.

The home was prepared after a death to be a quiet, dark solitude of grief. One Victorian tradition was the covering of mirrors with black sheaths because vanity was considered highly inappropriate; the more sorrowful and pitiful the face, the better. Someone would drape a piece of black velvet over the portrait of the patriarch if he had passed. They would drape the family carriage with black velvet too. They also locked the piano because no one was to play any music, and there would be no dinner parties or festivities in the house for some time.

There were a variety of traditions to signal outsiders that the house was in mourning. Some people hung black wreaths on the door, or the family covered the doorknobs in white crepe for a child’s death or black crepe for an adult’s death. Markers like these signaled to visitors that they should prepare to speak quietly and quickly so they would not overtax or burden the bereaved. The family might also muffle the doorbell to prevent any loud noises, which would startle the already anxious nerves of those inside.

Many Victorian houses are quite cheery, but the ones that often times deliberately stand out in movies or literature are the ones that are less so. It’s not just the age or decay that makes them so disturbing or sinister. Certain architectural styles have been manipulated to become the symbols of our cultural fears, the interior layout and decoration can be quite fantastical, and the history of death in the home makes some Victorian houses just more haunting than others.

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A White Room 600x900 by Jenny Q of Historical EditorialAbout A White Room by Stephanie Carroll.

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

Links:

http://www.stephaniecarroll.net/

Stephanie Carroll at The Unhinged Historian http://unhingedhistorian.blogspot.co.uk/

Some fantastic images of Second Empire style architecture http://www.ontarioarchitecture.com/Second.htm#SecondEmpireEurope

National Park Service – National Register of Historic Places http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/npsbrowse.do?thesaurusID=2&isnatreg=Y

Dave’s Victorian House Site (US) http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~infocom/scndempr/index.html

The Gothic Revival on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_Revival_architecture

Queen Anne Revival (US) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Anne_style_architecture_in_the_United_States

Architectural styles including Second Empire http://nookstowersandturrets.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/name-that-style-second-empire.html

The Psycho House/Bates Motel http://www.thepsychomovies.com/psychohouse/about.html

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Filed under Architecture and Design, Book reviews, Non-British country houses

Making Connections through Collections

I like writing (given the time), and sticking pictures in the text makes it all seem aesthetically pleasing. Yet, I wondered very briefly what it would be like to have some other media to ‘decorate’ the page. So I made some attempt at poking around the old internet to see what I might come across.

This piece from The Art Institute Chicago, was intriguing. This is a secretary cabinet by Giles Grendey (1693-1780) a cabinetmaker originally from Gloucestershire, England who on moving to London became a sought after craftsman through exceptional networking and involvement with the export trade. The secretary cabinet is in a style which sees a sort of marriage of Rococo and Chinoiserie in its scroll motifs and scarlet and gold lacquered decoration. The video offers a stunning view of how the piece functioned as well as allowing that all important view of the inside!

This piece is significant because it formed part of a now celebrated commission made during the 1730s by Grendey for the Duke of Infantado’s castle at Lazcano. The commission consisted of around 77 pieces of furniture, the majority of which remained in situ until the 1930s before being purchased directly by Adolph Loewi an art and antiques collector and dealer based in Venice. Loewi acquired 72 pieces – 50 single chairs and 12 armchairs; 2 day-beds; 2 pairs of mirrors; a pair of candlestands; a card table and a tripod tea table.

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A late 19th century photograph of the salon at Lazcano (reproduced in Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall)

Eventually these pieces were widely dispersed, however it is possible to track a great deal of them to public collections such as The Art Institute Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, Rosen’s Collection at Caramoor, and Temple Newsam House in Leeds.

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Scarlet japanned armchair, part of the Infantado commission by Grendey. Temple Newsam House, Leeds (reproduced in Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall)

Parts of the original commission and other pieces by Grendey appear in auction catalogues all over the world. Some of which have sprung from private collections. In April and December 1971, Antiques magazine listed the whereabouts of pieces from the Infantado commission. On failing miserably at finding affordable copies of these, my only consolation is that much of the provenance has changed anyway since then.

Giles Grendey

Giles Grendey practiced as an apprentice in London between 1709 and 1716, and by the 1730s was working independently from St John’s Square, Clerkenwell. While he did not publish a furniture pattern book, he is better known than many of his contemporaries because he frequently labelled his furniture. Craftsmen working for Grendey also left their initials on pieces.  Grendey’s tendency to label furniture is certainly a reflection of his active participation in the export market and the suite of furniture made for the Duke of Infantado is specially styled to appeal to someone with opulent taste. Pieces like the secretary cabinet for example have flat surfaces to allow for decorative treatment, but they also carry an awkward and perhaps archaic mixture of styles which were typical of native Spanish furniture of the time as seen in the heavy curved pediment and ‘bun’ feet.

They are stunning pieces of furniture and are worth looking at ‘in the flesh’ even if the now faded exterior colour still clashes with our understanding of fashionable modern (and often muted) interiors and appears rather brash to our modern eyes.

References.

Christopher Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall (1978) Also, Gilbert lists the following as relevant literature:

Connoisseur, June 1964, p.120

Collector’s Guide, January 1971, p.68

‘Furniture by Giles Grendey for the Spanish Trade’, Antiques April 1971, pp.544-550

G. Wills, English Furniture 1550-1760, 1971, p. 130

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Filed under Architecture and Design, Collections

Country House Amenities; Part IV, Cleaning.

Finally, and after several weeks of attending to the ‘day job’, here is the fourth and last installment of my peep into country house amenities.

This post is to do with the upkeep of interiors and the supplies and resources required for ordinary cleanliness. My concern here is the maintenance and cleanliness of the interiors rather than the hygiene of the occupants since connotations of civility and taste came with keeping the house clean, neat and orderly.

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The early nineteenth-century maid. By William Brocas (1762-1837), pencil drawing c.1800 (National Library of Ireland)

Cleanliness was part of household maintenance at any level of society, but in the country house it was detached and formed a part of mundane routine. The elite owner was the proprietor of the house, its collections and everyday objects, but it was the servants who touched, washed, dusted and repaired these things. Outside tradesmen and journeymen were often involved in the general upkeep of furniture, textiles and hardware too, and so the cleaning of the country house was a constant feature.

Those doing the cleaning varied due to the type of work involved. All types of general cleaning – dusting, sweeping, carpet beating, bed changing, scrubbing, and polishing were the domain of the housemaids. Under the watchful eye of the housekeeper, these chores were set to daily, monthly, biannual and annual routines. Linens went down to the laundry which was normally situated away from the main building due to the smelly and steamy processes and also offered access to easy open air drying. Here garments and bedding would be washed, bleached and boiled, mangled, dried, ironed and folded before being sent back to the house.

Silverware was the province of the butler, whilst the footmen took charge of miscellaneous chattels like candlesticks, lamps, some items of furniture and the occasional picture frame. Valets and personal servants like the groom of the chambers were responsible for the more intimate or expensive items of their master or mistress like clothing, ornaments and paintings. Whilst at the bottom of the servant hierarchy, the porter/hall boy and scullery maid had the delightful share of menial tasks which could involve anything from clearing out roof voids to scrubbing drains.

In getting the house clean, many relied upon bought goods and hardware; this is particularly true throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some tradesmen offered specific products and services for ridding the place of bugs, rat-catching and reducing general problem vermin. Patented goods might be used for cleaning fire grates, for polishing woods, and for sprucing up clothing accessories like hats and footwear. In other instances, the master or mistress depended on tried and tested recipes or old favourites. The most common practices in the country house were;

  • Floors to be scrubbed with water, soap and soda. Sand was also used to lift heavy soiling from wooden boards and show the grain. Mixed with soap and water, sand also removed scuffing from white painted wood.
  • Gum water (solution of gum arabic in water) for fire grates, and to be buffed with a dry leather, or emery paper for the bars.
  • Wainscoting (skirting boards) to be washed with soap and water, whilst white paintwork to be gently rubbed with fuller’s earth.
  • Hartshorn (the grated/powdered horn and hooves of the male red deer, used as a detergent because of its high ammonia content) for the plate (metal ware including silverware) and for stain removal in clothes and other textiles.
  • Used tea-leaves to be sprinkled on the carpet before sweeping. These gave a pleasant aroma, but also collected the dry dust particles.
  • Old silk cloths, flannels and old rags (Mrs Beeton recommended the tops of old cotton stockings) for polishing and dusting. A goose feather duster was the answer for those hard to reach places.
  • Turpentine, vinegar, linseed oil and beeswax were best for treating and removing stains from woods.
  • And freshly boiled water and pearl ash (potassium carbonate) were essential for clearing out sticky oil lamps.

Soaps.  At Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire there were five types of soap kept in the Housekeeper’s Store; Ball soap (lyes/ashes and fat rolled by hand into a ball, sometimes scented), Crown Kegs, Rosin, Blue Stone and Blue Powder. The Blues were crucial in ridding white clothes of yellow hues and sweaty stains. The blue ingredient came from indigo or smalt (ground glass originally coloured with cobalt). Crown Kegs could very well be Crown Soap which was used to clean leathers, and Rosin is a pine tree resin still used today and in the country house would have been a brown coloured soap used in washing clothes and maybe for more general cleaning due to its weaker affect as a detergent compared with hartshorn. Other soaps like yellow or purple took their names from the scented ingredients like lavender or thyme or simple dyes.

Yet, it is the ‘big clean’ which seems so peculiar to the country house. This cycle of immense cleaning is not a new

C.L. Marlatt’s article for the US Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Bulletin, 1915.

circumstance brought about through public visiting numbers or matters of conservation. The diversity of materials found in large establishments means they have always been invitations for all kinds of indelicate creatures and creeping organic matter.The Spring Clean.

One ugly tale I was told several years ago surrounded the remounting of some early nineteenth-century wallpaper. Upon removal several silverfish (fishmoths) fell to the floor (I’m not sure if some were still alive!) as staff cringed. These little bugs love the old glues and starches present in the substances holding the wallpapers up, and were clearly a recognised problem before the days of more academic conservation methods and theories (see right). Here, entomologist Charles Lester Marlatt noted this problem and quoted from Robert Hooke’s fantastic Micrographia of 1665 which described it as a silver-coloured book-worm ‘much conversant among Books and Papers’.

Bug debris and similar matter is symptomatic of the main problem in any large establishment – dust. Many bugs hide in dark corners or infest undisturbed areas like bookcases, pelmets, floor boards and wooden beams. But dust lingers and eventually rots away at whatever it has sat on for too long because it is not only abrasive but is able to chemically react with certain surfaces, especially woods and textiles. The complete removal of dust is impossible, and when cleaning a house interior it might feel like the dust is being swept from one area to another. To combat this in the country house, the Spring Clean helped to eliminate long-standing muck and grime.

The process would have taken about two weeks and involved everyone on site as well as extra staff hired from nearby villages. Many account books will reveal nameless entries (usually female) who helped at such busy periods in the house and laundry departments. Contemporary literature recommended the cleaning start at the top of the house with the removal of hangings, bedding, blankets, and carpets; all had to be brushed, washed and beaten. The housekeeper may have even ordered in extra pairs of hands from the garden and stable departments, so the heavy work could be undertaken by more burly staff.

The laundry at Castle Ward, County Down. (National Trust)

Other maintenance issues included whitewashing in the cellars and basements, chimney sweeping, drain clearing and window cleaning. Although local traders and journeymen attended to these on a regular basis, it was not uncommon for servants to get involved at some time in the biannual or annual ‘renewal’ of interiors in this way. As the cleaning process moved down the house, more specialist cleaning was required from the valet, the butler, footmen and groom of the chambers (often a gentleman from lower ranks of the social strata who had had training in upholstery and furniture care). Delicate items would be packed away for the summer, or simply cleaned and then covered to prevent fly damage. Some pieces of hardy furniture (most likely that from the servant rooms and utility rooms) were even dismantled and damp dusted.

Clearly, a good clean water supply was essential in getting and keeping the house in shape. Until the installation of plumbed waterworks, water would have been carried up and down staircases (many of which were small cramped spaces), and from interior or nearby wells. Country house ‘plumbing’ had only existed in piecemeal fashion until the nineteenth century by which time, and especially in Britain, it was still slow to catch on in large houses. Notions of plumbing were related to the treatment of waste until the eighteenth century, and so a pumped supply of clean water remained rather elusive. Laundries and kitchens had their own supplies – either from outside pumps and wells or from cisterns which caught rainwater as it fell off the roof. Conserving water was the norm until the arrival of electricity. Such a pattern in behaviour also highlights the seasonal influence of country house living, since with Spring comes the April showers, May blossoms and early Summer scents. All were vital ingredients in putting the house in order and readjusting it for the coming year.

In our modern homes there has been a resurgence of interest in more natural home remedy based cleaning. Fears over chemical cleaners have left many people seeking alternatives. And yet, in the present-day country house both methods are common. There are huge tomes which relate to matters of cleanliness and conservation, and are undoubtedly consulted everyday by staff up and down the employment hierarchy. Chemical cleaners may even be more prevalent than natural substances – though a bit of water and a duster will get you most of the way there! The cycle of cleaning and maintenance still exists today, but it is multi-layered in a way it had never been in the past. The old regimes are still there – washing, wiping, dusting, polishing, and buffing – but there are structured conservation teams with specialisms too. There is also more out-sourcing and therefore greater dependancy upon external agents and services who do not always have the same (or adequate) specialisms. Perhaps it is time to compromise and make a return to the profound tick-tock of the seasons? I would still keep the vacuum cleaner though …

Links:

Country House Technology project at the University of Leicester http://tiny.cc/0vrbhw

Dusting the Royal Historic Palaces http://www.hrp.org.uk/aboutus/whatwedo/collectionscare/monitoringdustlevels

Cleaning the house in eighteenth-century dress, Rhode Island Historical Society http://rihs.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/a-day-of-experimental-archaeology/ and http://rihs.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/all-cleaned-up/

Andrew Graham-Dixon and Petworth House, Sussex http://nttreasurehunt.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/andrew-graham-dixon-mucking-in-at-petworth/

Conservation and Nostell Priory, Yorkshire http://nostellprioryconservation.wordpress.com/

17th-century cleaning for a ducal town house http://www.oldandinteresting.com/17th-century-washing.aspx and laundry bluing http://www.oldandinteresting.com/laundry-blue.aspx

The realities of cleaning and housework http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/housework.cfm

References and further reading:

Many contemporary pieces of literature can be found on Google Books in their full form (See especially S. and S. Adams The Complete Servant  and Beeton’s Book of Household Management). Others have been ‘transcribed’ or edited by individuals or through the UK National Trust which hinders their availability through modern-day copyright. British charity shops (as well as Ebay) often have these stashed on shelves, so for the curious these are a good purchase – keep your eyes peeled!

Samuel and Sarah Adams, The Complete Servant (1825)

Isabella Mary Beeton, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861). My copy is an edited first edition facsimile from 1984.

Jessica Gerard, ‘Invisible Servants: The Country House and the Local Community’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, LVII, (1984), 178-188.

Mark Girouard, A Country House Companion. (1987)

Christina Hardyment, Home Comfort: A History of Domestic Arrangements (National Trust, 1992)

Joanna Martin, Wives and Daughters: Women and Children in the Georgian Country House (2004)

Pamela A. Sambrook, The Country House Servant. (National Trust, 2004 reprint)

Alison Sim, The Tudor Housewife (1996)

Amanda Vickery, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (2009)

Susanna Whatman, The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman (1776-1800). Introduced by Christina Hardyment (National Trust, 1997)

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Filed under Men and the Country House, Servants, The running of the country house, Women and the Country House

Thomas Chippendale Country House Commissions 1757-1779

'Violin' bookcase made for the Earl of Pembroke 1763, Wilton House.

          Having written very recently on the late eighteenth-century inventory of Harewood House, Yorkshire, I thought this might be a useful adage to the Thomas Chippendale pool of knowledge! Although Chippendale, and his son Thomas Chippendale the Younger are well-known names – often overwhelmingly so, their craftsmanship still receives great interest. The following list is not exhaustive and there may be houses which have been wrongly linked with Chippendale, but I am dependant on a mixture of old and relatively up-to-date sources – besides I am no Chippendale expert!

         As F. Gordon Roe points out in Old English Furniture, ‘…the tendency to label almost everything of certain types ‘Chippendale’ has robbed other leading craftsmen or designers of their due share of credit … On the other hand, some writers have perhaps tended unduly to minimize Chippendale’s importance, for though it is obvious that his firm could not have produced more than a fraction of the work so freely assigned to it, he was evidently a craftsman of outstanding merit.’ (p. 9) Not every commission was extensive, and some patrons may have desired only one or two pieces for their remodelled library or state rooms, others demanded entire suites of furniture. In either case, we should remember that Chippendale was not a lone craftsman and may rarely have even touched the pieces which left his London workshop.

THE HOUSES.

  • Alscot Park, Warwickshire, for James West, 1760-67.
  • Appuldurcombe House, Isle of Wight, for Sir Richard Worsley 1776-78. (Only the shell remains and is now owned by English Heritage).
  • Arniston, Midlothian, for Lord and Lady Arniston, 1757.
  • Aske Hall, Yorkshire, for Sir Laurence Dundas 1763-66.
  • Audley End, Essex, for Sir John Griffin, 1774.
  • Badminton House, Gloucestershire for the Duchess of Beaufort, 1764.
  • Blair Castle, Perthshire, for the Duke of Athol, 1758.
  • ? Boynton Hall, Yorkshire, for Sir George Strickland, 1768?
  • Brockenhurst Park, Hampshire, for Edward Morant, 1769.
  • Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, for Lord Melbourne, 1771-76.
  • Burton Constable, Yorkshire, for William Constable, 1768-79 (also for his London home in Mansfield Square).
  • Cannon Hall, Yorkshire, for John Spencer, 1768.
  • Corsham Court, Wiltshire, for Paul Methuen, 1779.
  • Croome Court, Worcestershire, for the Earl of Coventry, 1764-70 (also his London home 29 Piccadilly).
  • Dalmahoy, Midlothian, for the 14th Earl of Morton, 1762.
  • Dalton Hall, Yorkshire, for Charles Hotham-Thompson, 1777.
  • Denton Park, Otley, Yorkshire, for James Ibbetson (Chippendale’s only commission within his own parish).
  • Dumfries House, Ayrshire, for the 5th Earl of Dumfries, 1759-66.
  • ? Firle Place, Sussex, for Sir Thomas Gage, 1770s?
  • Foremark Hall, Derbyshire, for Sir Robert Burdett, 1766-74.
  • Goldsborough Hall, Yorkshire, for Daniel Lascelles 1771-76.
  • Goodneston, Kent, for Sir Brook Bridges, 1765.
  • Harewood House, Yorkshire, for Edwin Lascelles, 1769-76.
  • Hestercombe House, Somerset, for Coplestone Ware Bamfylde, no date.
  • Langton Hall, Yorkshire, for Thomas Norcliffe, 1767.
  • Kenwood House, Middlesex, for the 1st Ealr of Mansfield, 1769.
  • Mersham le Hatch, Kent, for Sir Edward Knatchbull, 1767-79.
  • Newby Hall, Yorkshire, for William Weddell, c.1772-76.
  • Normanton Park, Rutland, for Sir Gilbert Heathcote 1768-79.
  • Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, for Sir Rowland Winn 1766-79 (also his London home 11 St James’s Square).
  • Paxton House, Berwickshire, for Ninian Home ,1774.
  • Petworth House, Sussex, for the Earl of Egremont, 1777-78.
  • Saltram House, Devon, for Lord Boringdon, 1771.
  • Sandon Hall, Staffordshire, for the Earl of Harrowby, 1763-77.
  • Sherbourne Castle, Dorset, for Earl Digby, 1774.
  • Stourhead House, Wiltshire, for Sir Richard Colt Hoare (Thomas Chippendale the Younger, 1790s).
  • Stowe House, Buckinghamshire, for Earl Temple, 1757.
  • Temple Newsam House, Yorkshire, for Viscount Irwin 1774 (and Chippendale the Younger, 1790s).
  • Thoresby Park, Nottinghamshire, for the Duke of Kingston, 1770.
  • Wilton House, Wiltshire, for the Earl of Pembroke 1762-73 (also his London home Pembroke House).
  • Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, for the Earl of Hardwicke, 1777.
  • Wolverley House, Worcestershire, for Edward Knight Jnr., 1763-69.

Japanned wardrobe, Nostell Priory.

Half round or sidetables made for Denton Hall, now on display at Temple Newsam.

Bookcase at Dumfries House

References:

Oliver Brackett, Thomas Chippendale: A Study of His Life, Work, and Influence(1924). The Burlington Magazine. Vol. 122, No. 927, (June, 1980). 
 
Anthony Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture: The Work of Thomas Chippendale and His Contemporaries in the Rococo Taste (1968).
 
Christopher Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale,(1978).Peter Ward-Jackson, English Furniture Designs of the Eighteenth Century (1958).
 
Clifford Musgrave, Adam and Hepplewhite and Other NeoClassical Furniture (1966).
 
 
Links:
 
Thomas Chippendale on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Chippendale
 
Thomas Chippendale. The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director: being a large collection of the most elegant and useful designs of household furniture in the Gothic, Chinese and modern taste. (1754). Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture. University of Wisconsin.  http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/DLDecArts/DLDecArts-idx?id=DLDecArts.ChippGentCab

The Chippendale Society http://www.thechippendalesociety.co.uk/index.htm

Useful biography of Thomas Chippendale (in need of modernising!) http://216.92.23.157/chippendale/chronology.htm

Ronald Phillips Antiques – fantastic images of Chippendale furniture  http://www.ronaldphillipsantiques.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=5&categoryID=7777

Learn the Chippendale way! http://www.chippendale.co.uk/

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‘Old English Furniture’. A Connoisseur Booklet.

          Occasionally you come across those odd finds in charity shops or the crevices of secondhand bookshops which you end up buying because it’s something to read on the bus home. This is my logic anyway, since 50p for a book rather than £3.99 for a magazine seems quite reasonable really. This is one of those finds.

          Old English Furniture from Tudor to Regency by F. Gordon Roe came into my hands at a community book fair for about 20p or thereabouts a few months ago. I thought it would make for a good bit of reference material, and yet it is a little more interesting than that because it seems so dated. F. Gordon Roe (1864-1947) was a distinguished painter in his own right, gaining recognition and fellowships with his large historical compositions. He later went on to become a leading expert in antiques with specialisms in oak furniture. The Connoisseur Booklets were published around the middle of the twentieth century and covered a range of topics suitable for the ‘collector’ of antiques: pottery and ceramics, pewter and silverware, furniture, watercolours and clocks. The tagline for these little pamphlets read, ‘A preliminary guide for the collector’.

          The booklets are illustrated towards the end in black and white mainly and include advertisements for reputable antique dealers; presumably according to antique type and relevant to the particular topic of the booklet.

         In Old English Furniture, Roe describes the evolution through materials used in common furniture types from about 1530 to about 1810. He starts with the oak age and discusses examples of this type from church and private collections with acknowledgment of earlier medieval pieces. From the start the pamphlet reveals its age (apart from its pre-decimal era price in shillings and pence on the cover!), as Roe’s use of language asserts, ‘On the other hand, such extreme abnormalities as Elizabethan cabinets in mahogany (!) – one has heard highly dubious rumours of such – may well impose too heavy a strain on our credulity.’ The Connoisseur Booklets clearly had a highly regarded place in the world of antique collecting, afterall they were the product of The Connoisseur – a magazine produced from the turn of the twentieth century under title variations, the main one being The Connoisseur. An Illustrated Magazine For Collectors. Many a country house will have some editions stashed away somewhere, whether it is privately owned or otherwise. Perhaps this is quite ironic for later generations of country house owners since they had to sell vast quantities of household contents to meet growing debts. However, these pamphlets do prove useful and it is interesting to observe the purpose of them within the world of twentieth-century collecting.

Table-desk of 'Nonsuch' type, late sixteenth century (V&A Collection)

      I first thought that this was a good example of the kinds of things you would find at any country house in terms of furniture. On closer inspection Roe uses images from several sources which highlights the importance of antique furniture throughout several layers of society. For example, there are pieces photographed from the private collections of Roe himself and that of a Mr. William Randolph Hearst, newspaper magnate and amongst other things, builder of Hearst Castle, California. Then there are images of pieces from prominent antique dealers including Phillips of Hitchin Ltd, M. Harris and Sons, and Leonard Knight Ltd. Finally there are pieces which could be found at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (see above image, also p.23 in Roe). The exclusivity of certain pieces as collector’s items, and the subsequent arenas of purchase highlight the top end of the market. The museum pieces on the other hand mark out the accessibility of pieces for a slightly wider audience, albeit as exhibits.

          What I like so much about this little booklet though, is its place in time. The collectors, the dealers, the specialists, and curators are all part of a fading world which was a predominantly male one. It’s antiquarian and authoritarian – and therefore distinctly ‘connoisseurial’. And there is nothing wrong with this, indeed this type of specialism has delivered many scholarly tomes on various aspects of the decorative and fine arts. Moreover, this connoisseurship helps drive the itineraries of all historical societies today who frequent country houses and galleries in search of craftmanship and examples of specific designers and artists. We can’t all have decorative art degrees, and so where better to start than from the sources themselves? As Roe says, ‘Often one may learn something from such inspections that might be vainly sought in public collections, though these, and especially the great array of furniture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, can be of the utmost value to collectors and students.’ (p.17)

          Again, the language of the Connoisseur Booklets is tremendously dated, but their content is very useful. Once Roe completes his travels through the ages of English furniture, he carefully points out the value of knowledge in recognising fakes, a piece’s pedigree (provenance), and pests. I was once told that even the smallest of wooden objects infested with wood worm should never be brought into the home because it spreads! The ever anecdotal Roe adds, ‘…one has heard of a primitive method of treatment involving the placing of the infected item in a stone-floored cellar or outhouse with a piece of fresh sap-wood, to which the pest would (presumably) transfer its attentions … a device sometimes more remarkable for quaintness then for efficacy.’ (p.20) At the time of writing, Roe was well aware of proper chemical preparations in ridding wood worm.

        Perhaps these booklets could be put back into print? There are many books and magazines for the modern collector of antiques, some may even contain well-researched essays on decorative art topics. Antiques are extremely popular, and we only need see a rundown of daytime television programmes where about 80% are concerned with period furniture, paintings, textiles, and tableware. There is still a sphere for the collector and antiquarian in modern times since their techniques for learning are still practiced at universities and colleges. The writers of these booklets are almost as significant as the pieces they enjoyed writing about, so maybe their texts could be left unaltered and we could visit this faded world whilst learning a thing or two about objects we never really noticed before.

Links:

Search the Collections at The Victoria and Albert Museum  http://collections.vam.ac.uk/

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A Harewood House Inventory, 1795.

          The following details are from a copy of an inventory taken upon the death of Edwin Lascelles, Lord Harewood in 1795. [1] The inventory itself is vast and covers the entire house from bottom to top and back again. Inventories of country houses are fascinating because of the depth of information you can retrieve from them simply by discovering the types of items belonging to specific rooms. Not only do you get a sense of how the house was used overall, and by whom, but also their tastes, interests and personal routines. And within the country house specifically, it is possible to view the social microcosm established through owner and staff members. The richness of textures, ornament, the variety of goods, and the storage of chattels reveals the very ordinary day-to-day routines, but highlights the contemporary trends of the time at which the inventory was taken. 

          The very obvious value of this document lies with the fame of those involved in creating the house. Shortly after the death of his father Henry Lascelles in 1753, Edwin commissioned John Carr (1723-1807) to design a new house on the Harewood estate; by 1759 the foundation stone was laid. Robert Adam (1728-1792) was working on designs for the interiors by the mid 1760s and Yorkshire-born Thomas Chippendale  (1718-1779) was made responsible for the furniture and furnishings. For the latter it would be his most grand of commissions, and it no doubt helped in elevating his name as cabinet-maker amongst the elite and aristocracy. However, getting the commissioner to pay for work could be along drawn-out affair. Questions over a substantial payment from Lascelles arose in 1771 (a sum of £3,024 -19 – 0d was still outstanding), but were not settled until 1777. Chippendale’s work is evident throughout the entire 1795 inventory of Harewood House and some of these pieces are highlighted below, indeed many are still in situ within the house. Yet, it would be repetitive to include too much discussion on Chippendale’s large contribution to Harewood. Much research into attribution continues today and The Chippendale Society provides many talks and tours of key collections. The motive here is to examine the diversity of goods at a universally renowned British country house at a significant moment in its history. As the guidebook states, ‘… Edwin Lascelles inherited a manor, spent carefully and left a mansion.’

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There are over 90 rooms at Harewood, including closet spaces and passageways. To give an idea of the layout of the inventory, this is a sample of the goods and chattels for the Dining Room.

1   Grate, Fender, Tongs,  Poker & Hearth Brush      

Harewood dining room guidebook

Harewood House Dining Room (Harewood House Trust)

1   Turkey Carpet and green serge cover

3   Crimson Damask Window Curtains

3   White Canvas Window Blinds

2   Mahogany Sophas covered with Red Leather

20  Mahogany Chairs ditto

2   Sideboard Tables with inlaid Tops and brass ornaments

2   Pedestals & Vauses to suit ditto

1   Oval Winekeeper with brass ornament

1   Face Fire Screen

3   Urns upon Pedestals

 

          The dining room at Harewood received a massive overhaul during the nineteenth century when Sir Charles Barry was called in to make alterations to the house in the 1840s under the watchful eye of Louisa, Lady Harewood wife of Henry, 3rd Earl of Harewood. For this reason, the dining room as viewed today against the 1795 inventory offers an insight into how the room has changed depending on the needs of a household. Barry raised the ceiling and by deepening the room abolished an arched recess making the space more symmetrical and clearly larger in order to accommodate the 3rd Earl, his wife, their thirteen children and any guests. Adam’s original plans for the room – including the arched recess (originally where the fireplace wall is pictured above) had niches for the urns on pedestals, space for a sideboard and wine-cooler. Before the room was completed, the fireplace was given prominence within the recess instead and the sideboards, urns on pedestals and wine-cooler were placed against flanking walls where they remain today. As is also visible in the image , the 20 mahogany chairs covered with red leather still remain too, albeit surrounding a nineteenth-century dining table!

          In later years, some of the contents were sold or broken up. Take for example furniture from the the Couch Room (now part of the Watercolour Rooms or East Bedroom) where the 1795 inventory lists 1 French Couch Bedstead with Dome Top in burnished gold and crimson damask hangings. The dome top was ornamented with a crane about two feet high in gilt

Harewood Library Writing Table now at Temple Newsam House

lime wood, but when the bed was broken up in the nineteenth century, many pieces were lost or discarded. The crane eventually reappeared at a minor sale and was acquired by the Chippendale Society to be put on display at Temple Newsam House in Leeds. As the home of the Chippendale Society, Temple Newsam House holds a good deal of furniture from the original Chippendale commission at Harewood. The most magnificent is surely the library writing table, listed in the 1795 inventory as 1 Large inlaid Library Table with Brass Ornaments. The table was sold in 1965 to help pay for Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood‘s death duties.

          The compiler of the inventory entered the house at basement level starting in the kitchen, scullery and larders, he then turned back on himself to get to the still room and housekeeper’s room on the other side of the main basement passageway. Next came the steward’s rooms, butler’s room and pantries, closets and some servant bedrooms including private entertaining space used by Edwin Lascelles – the coffee room and billiard room. The coffee room contained a wild mixture of delicate and sturdy objects which suggest the taste and interests of Lascelles before his death. There were 45

19th century versions of Wedgwood black basalt sphinxes

Copperplate & Metzotinto Pictures with Frames and Glasses, 2 China Flower Pots over the Fireplace, 2 Small Jars over the door, 4 Small Beasts, 4 Shells, 2 Mahogany Pedistals, 2 Lions on pedistals, 2 Mahogany Dining Tables, 2 Breakfast Tables, 1 Two headed Couch with 2 Bolsters, & 1 Cushion Covered with Needle Work, 10 Oval backed Satton Wood Chairs covered with Needle Work, and 1 Old Easy Chair with leather bottom & covered. Similarly, the billiard room contained amongst other things, 1 Turnup Bed with Moreen Hangings, 2 Pillows, 3 Blankets, 1 Counterpane, 6 Mahogany Armed Chairs with Red leather Bottoms, 1 Mahogany Library Table, 2 Bookstands painted green, 3 China Jars, 4 China Figures, and 2 Black Wedgwood Sphinxes.

          From these rooms, the compiler entered into the passageway and on towards the maids area of the basement including stores, cleaning rooms and dairy. He lists several more bedrooms and storage spaces until reaching the

Harewood State Bed

servants’ hall before ascending the staircase (probably the main staircase) to get to the Great Hall on the principal floor. Most of the rooms on this floor are open to the public today, and as with the example of the dining room above, much of the furniture still survives from the time of the 1795 inventory. Some pieces have been moved to other rooms, some have stayed in the room for which they were intended like the State Bedroom with 1 Bedstead with Dome Top in burnished Gold & green Damask Hangings, 1 Green Damask Counterpane, and 2 Green Damask Window Curtains. Travelling in the opposite direction to the modern-day visitor route, the compiler came back to the main stairs where he noted 2 Vauses, 6 Green & gold Pedestals & Lamps, 1 Clock & Mahogany Case, and 1 Model of a Ship and a Stand. From here he ascended the main stairs to the attic storey or lodging rooms. A total of 14 lodgings with corresponding dressing rooms are recorded and all named according to the design of the wallpaper and furnishings; for example the Purple Cotton Room, the Blue Stripe Room, the Feather Cotton Room, the Bamboo Room, the Red Lodging Room, the Yellow Chintz Room, the Pea Green Room, and the Crimson Room. These form part of the private quarters of the Lascelles family today.

          But what of the more ordinary or extraordinary objects? Throughout the house there are assorted everyday items like clothes horses and racks, night tables (bedside tables sometimes including room for a chamber pot), shaving stands and flower pots. There are those which would also be very familiar to the country house visitor like boot jacks and mahogany ‘toilet’ tables (dressing table). Mixed in with these are those more unusual items which are the gadgets of their day, or form earlier versions of what we take for granted in our own homes today like weighing scales or a bidet.

Possibly a late 18th century bidet

For Edwin’s brother Daniel Lascelles, a bidet was kept in his own apartments at Harewood. In each of the lodging rooms there was a boot jack, a night table or pot table, a washing stand, clothes horse, a pier glass and perhaps a sofa amongst other things.

A Gouty Chair c. 1800 (V&A Collection)

On the principal floor, and placed in a closet next to the dining room, there was a weighing machine. The presence of which conjures up all kinds of images of hypochondria and paranoia about weight. Yet the Merlin’s Gouty Chair in the coffee room below may serve to remind us of how rich eighteenth-century diets played havoc with the body. 

 

The significance of this document in discovering more about a newly built eighteenth-century country house should be examined further. What is discussed above only scratches the surface of social and decorative art histories associated with a country house. I have not even got close to the ‘below stairs’ section of the inventory with its 36 small stew pots, 65 small moulds, or 174 pewter plates! Within the constraints of copyright, I hope it may be possible to return to other aspects of this in later posts.

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Assorted 18th century household paraphernalia. A boot jack is in the centre and a weighing 'machine' is on the right (copyright Christies)

 [1] I acquired a printed copy of the Harewood inventory 1795 at a previous employment whilst helping to shift piles of old educational papers and tatty exhibition related stuff years ago. Apparently the inventory used to be a part of the Harewood House website learning and access pages but these seem to have disappeared. More curious is the actual location of the original document. The Harewood and Lascelles family papers were for many years held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) in Leeds. I made several fruitless searches on the National Archives and WYAS websites, and a Google search brought a footnote up from S. D. Smith’s Slavery, family and gentry capitalism in the British Atlantic (2006) which listed the document as ‘Inventory of Edwin, Lord Harewood, 27 October 1795 IB 11/3/85’ with no clue to its location. However, the National Archives lists the Harewood Papers as belonging to the Harewood House Trust which indicates the return of the papers to the house itself. With no real intention of appearing churlish, I find this a disappointing move for those interested in exploring more of Harewood House, and the Trust seems reluctant to reveal the contents of its archives without an appointment, phone call or email.

 

 

References:

Clive Edwards et al., British Furniture 1600-2000, Intelligent Layman. (2005)

Harewood, Yorkshire: A Guide (2000)

Mary Mauchline, Harewood House: One of the Treasure Houses of Britain (Revised 2nd edition, 1992)

Simon David Smith, Slavery, family, and gentry capitalism in the British Atlantic: the world of the Lascelles,1648-1834. (2006)

 

Links:

Harewood House website http://www.harewood.org/home (see also the Treasure Houses of Britain) and the restoration of the Harewood State Bed http://www.harewood.org/conservation-estate/conservation-projects/state-bed

Biographies of People and Place: The Harewood Estate 1698-1813, by Timur Guran Tatlioglu http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/1405/1/Microsoft_Word_-_Thesis_TGT_2010_v2_Vol_1.pdf

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