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Guest Post: Professor Terence Dooley and the Irish Historic House.

After attending the Attingham Trust 60th Anniversary Conference in October, I thought it only appropriate that I share some of the thoughts that were featured. In my last post I hinted at my own desire to obtain a greater understanding of the interpretation and presentation of the country house outside Britain. Several papers at the Conference opened my eyes to the architectural heritage of historic houses around the world. These also offered up a fascinating insight into how vastly different socio-economic and political backgrounds have provided contrasting approaches to modern-day heritage management.

One such paper was given by Professor Terence Dooley from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM). Dooley’s own specialisms are in Irish social and political history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with particular focus upon the Irish country house and the landed class. A quick read of his staff profile will tell you he is well-versed in ‘policy matters relating to heritage and restoration’. Moreover, he has placed a great deal of energy into creating fantastic links with fellow academics, researchers and those working directly in country house management at an international level. This has been a significant accomplishment, and one which stems from the establishment of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates (CSHIHE), of which Dooley is currently the Director.

The main aims of the CSHIHE are to secure and enhance public appreciation of historic properties by supporting education, research and scholarly publication. Its foundation was in large part due to Dooley’s report, A future for Irish historic houses? A study of fifty houses (2003) which was jointly commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Irish Georgian Society. This was crucial in informing government policy as well as leading to the establishment of the Irish Heritage Trust. Dooley’s conclusion to the report stated that,

An appreciation of historical and cultural heritage values should be promoted through exhibitions of historic house art, contents and archive collections and conferences to raise public awareness. Houses should be regarded as an educational asset, offering a unique insight into the country’s social, economic, cultural and political history as well as the architectural heritage which they represent.

It is with many thanks to Prof. Terence Dooley that I can now include the following overview of the activities and developments of the CSHIHE since the delivery of the report.

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CSHIHE logo

Prof. Terence Dooley

National University of Ireland

In 2004, the proposal for the establishment of a Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth was enthusiastically supported by the Office of Public Works (OPW). Its main strength was perceived to be that the central thrust of the Centre would be educational in the broadest sense: to support teaching and research on Ireland’s country house heritage at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels at NUI Maynooth; to initiate an outreach programme with local schools; and to collaborate with those involved in the heritage industry in Ireland. The CSHIHE is now a unique public-private venture with no equivalent elsewhere in Ireland or Britain.

As part of its educational brief and to provide a forum for debate and the dissemination of new heritage-related research findings, the CSHIHE embarked on a series of annual conferences at Maynooth. These conferences have attracted audiences from a broad cross section of Irish society and overseas including owners and managers of historic properties; heritage professionals; academics and students; specialists in architecture, landscape and conservation; secondary school teachers; and those with a general interest in the built heritage. The success of these occasions has been determined by the range of topics, the quality of speakers, and the mix of audiences. Moreover, overseas speakers have generously facilitated tours for groups from the Centre to Paris, Moscow and Sicily.

At university level, educational initiatives have included the development of modules at undergraduate level on the social, political, economic and cultural history of Irish country houses, their architectural evolution, their material culture and the creation (and destruction) of their surrounding landscapes. Teaching modules have also included visits to the UK which have enabled a comparative study of country houses in Ireland and Yorkshire in collaboration with the Yorkshire Country House Partnership.

An important recent development has been the introduction in September 2010 of an MA in Historic Houses Studies, offering modules on historical context, architectural design, material culture, heritage and tourism, restoration and conservation.

stairwell at fota

Stairwell at Fota House, County Cork (Irish Heritage Trust)

The work of the Centre is also focused upon linking the fruits of academic study with contemporary heritage issues at historic properties, and collaboration has been at the heart of these activities. The Historic Houses Association of Ireland (founded in 2009) has been a welcome partner, keen to show how many of their properties have educational assets that could be deployed in a number of ways. There is the acknowledgement that countless projects could be fashioned in relation to specific houses that would allow students and owners to work closely to the mutual benefit of both parties; the ‘Music in the Irish Country House Project’ and ‘Famine and the Country House and Estate’ being cases in point.

In 2008 the establishment of the Archive and Research Centre at Castletown, under the joint auspices of the OPW and NUIM, has presented further opportunities for those working in architecture, the decorative and fine arts, landscape, and conservation. Launched by President Mary McAleese, the Centreaims to facilitate the care and study of archives that deal with the history of Irish estates, their houses and inhabitants. The transfer of the Strokestown Park archive signalled a pioneering collaboration between a house in public ownership, a privately owned house that incorporates the National Famine Museum, and a third level institute. Dr Ciaran Reilly was appointed Post-doctoral Research Fellow to investigate the archive and organise a series of public outcomes relating to his research.

The CSHIHE, in association with the OPW, has also organised a very successful series of seminars at Castletown, addressing key issues relating to the management and understanding of the historic house in Ireland. These gatherings are aimed at those working across the historic house sector – managers, curators, academics, administrators, guides, education officers, marketing personnel, house staff and other heritage professionals.

Morpeth2_400x447

The 1841 Irish Testimonial to Lord Morpeth (collaborative research between YCHP and CSHIHE and others)

Since 2004 the Yorkshire Country House Partnership (YCHP) based at the University of York, England, and the CSHIHE have held a highly successful series of seminars, conferences and exhibitions in Yorkshire and in Ireland. Like the CSHIHE, the YCHP is committed to re-evaluating the role and meaning of the historic house in its broadest understanding, encompassing architecture, families, collections, landscapes and archives. It has been widely acknowledged within the heritage sector that these events have been instrumental in refashioning the interpretation of the historic house in the UK, Ireland, and Europe.

In 2007, the YCHP and CSHIHE launched a joint scoping exercise aimed at exploring and recording the connections which existed between landed estates in Yorkshire and Ireland, and the respective families connected to these estates. This exercise was carried through by Desmond Konopka, a PhD student of Dr Dooley’s, and David Ghent, a PhD student of the History Department at the University of York. Their findings have yielded a great deal of material that is already supporting new post-graduate research at the University of York, and post-doctoral research at Maynooth on the Lord Morpeth Testimonial of 1841 under Dr Patrick Cosgrove. These projects have opened up an additional dimension to the collaboration between Maynooth and Yorkshire.

Borris House County Carlow (Irish Historic Houses Association)

Borris House County Carlow (Irish Historic Houses Association)

Such is the extent of its activities in the eight years since its inception that the Centre can fairly be said to be leading and determining the debate with regard to historic houses in Ireland, and, indeed, much further afield, both in academic terms (through research, teaching and publication), and in a more general political sense. In September 2005 the internationally renowned Arts journal, Apollo, described the CSHIHE as ‘an academic endeavour that has no parallel in England’ and generously praised its educational efforts particularly the outstanding success of its annual Historic Houses of Ireland Conferences.

The range of organisations, departments and individuals linked with the Centre through these diverse activities is testimony to the central tenet that those working across the entire spectrum of the built heritage sector cannot do things in isolation. Academic research needs to demonstrate a public outcome in addition to its own intrinsic requirements; equally for those who work in the heritage sector their knowledge and understanding is best enhanced by taking advantage of such research. Moreover as the historic house grows in significance so too does its appeal as a visitor attraction. Consequently the collaborative efforts of scholars, owners, managers and other professionals can also translate into economic activity with a defined public value.

Links:

Staff profile for Dr. Terence Dooley http://historicirishhouses.ie/people/professor-terence-dooley and the homepage for the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates http://historicirishhouses.ie/

Full links for Irish Historic Houses Association http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm and the Irish Heritage Trust http://www.irishheritagetrust.ie/

Archive and Research Centre Castletown http://www.nuim.ie/opwnuim/

Yorkshire Country House Partnership http://www.ychp.org.uk/main/home.php

The 1841 Irish Testimonial  to Lord Morpeth (George Howard, later 7th Earl of Carlisle) http://historicirishhouses.ie/research/postdoctoral-research-projects/1841-irish-testimonial-lord-morpeth

Strokestown Park: Irish National Famine Museum http://www.strokestownpark.ie/

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Filed under Architecture and Design, Collections, Non-British country houses, The Destruction of the Country House

The Eighteenth-Century Common.

I’m not all that fond of doing massive copy and paste exercises for my blog, but I felt that this was a great opportunity for advertising this admirable project.

I have been following the Enfilade blog for some time, not because of its obvious acknowledgement towards an architectural feature found in many country houses, but more because its aim is to share activities, publications and exhibitions with all those who hold an interest in eighteenth-century art and architecture. As a serial newsletter in the form of a blog, I get to find out what events are taking place almost all over the world. Most recently, their newsletter informed me of a massive project still under construction; The 18th Century Common. This is the sort of thing I really like, and it deserves a mention.

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(Source: Enfilade)

One aim of Enfilade has been to help bridge the divide between academics and a much larger world also interested in the eighteenth century. While the site is intended to serve scholars, I’ve always hoped to make others welcome here, too. With that spirit of inclusiveness in mind, I’m especially excited to hear about The 18th-Century Common. The following announcement from Jessica Richard appeared on the C18-L listserv. -Craig Hanson at Enfilade

 

The following is a brief statement about the project by Jessica Richard (Wake Forest University) and Andrew Burkett (Union College).

I want to announce and solicit contributions to a new public humanities website called The 18th-Century Common which will debut at American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. The 18th-Century Common is a joint project of scholars and students of the long eighteenth century at Union College and Wake Forest University and is funded by the Wake Forest University Humanities Institute.

The aim of the website is to present the published work of eighteenth-century scholars to a general audience. Our initial focus is Richard Holmes’ popular book The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (2009). This book captured the imagination of the general reader, but it omits the more complex contexts that scholarly accounts offer. We hope to provide general readers an accessible view of those contexts, and to move beyond Holmes’ book to the wide range of eighteenth-century studies. The site will feature short versions of published scholarship written for a general audience, as well as links to related resources, texts, and images around the web for readers who want to explore further.

We think this is the beginning of an exciting opportunity to reach the interested nonacademic, nonstudent readers who made Holmes’ book a bestseller, to “translate” what we do and to reach out beyond the academy as digital platforms in the humanities make particularly possible.

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So if you have an ounce of interest in the eighteenth century, I suggest you register for information when the project goes live and then wait and see what else you can learn.

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Country House Amenities; Part I, Lighting with Candles.

A selection of candle holders 1700-1800.

Creamware candlestick. Leeds or Staffordshire 1770s-1780s.

This is the first of a series of four posts concerned with the particulars of running the country house through lighting, heating and cleaning. Their purpose is to bring together several sources in order to demonstrate how the country house operated at a domestic level, and perhaps in a way we might hope to understand today. As visitors we see the grandeur of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the plush clutter of the nineteenth century and steady modernisation of the twentieth century, and yet we often ask how architectural arrangements affected daily routines. Many houses have opened their servants’ halls, butler’s pantries, or nurseries for the public to view over the past two decades, but many struggle within the laws of health and safety to reconstruct the ‘feel’ of daily living. Of course, as visitors we cannot expect to stay overnight in drafty chambers, clean our hands and feet in wash basins, read by candlelight, or sit by open fires but we can understand the needs of past generations in creating warm, well-lit, clean and secure homes.  For the social microcosm that is the country house, these needs were expensive to achieve and demanded a great deal of manual labour.

Cut glass chandelier from Uppark, Sussex. Possibly made by Christopher Haedy, 1770s.

This post is a glimpse at how developments in artificial lighting changed the way in which the country house operated. There are four components to the history of lighting in the home; candle (naked flame), oil, gas, and electricity. The apparatus of which are usually still visible in some country houses, but in most cases have been swept away. There is a lot to be covered within this topic, so I shall begin with the humble candle!

I am most grateful to Anthony Wells-Cole and James Lomax whose knowledge of the Temple Newsam collections in Leeds have proved invaluable for this subject matter and the lighting of the country house generally.

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The Candle

The types of candle lighting; Spermaceti, the best were made from the fatty white substance found in the head of the sperm whale and produced a clear white smokeless flame; Beeswax produced a clear smokeless flame with an indifferent smell, and initially used only in churches; Tallow, the most common type of candle was made from the hard white fat found around the kidneys and caul of animals (mainly beef cattle and sheep), but they produced an inferior flame as well as a foul smell in comparison to the more expensive spermaceti and beeswax candles; Rushlight or dip candle, was the poor man’s candle and was an ancient method of producing light made from the pithy part of a peeled rush dipped, often repeatedly, into hot liquid animal fat in order to build up layers around the wick.

A selection of rushlight holders with decorative hinged arms. The dipped rush would be held between the pincer-like nib. The holder third from right also has a candle socket.

The best thing when writing about the lighting equipment associated with the country house is that almost all these varieties would have been present at some point. Rushlights or hand-dipped candles were an ancient device and would have still been used by some servants when rising before daylight and completing their evening duties. They would also have been the presence of rushlights throughout dark basement corridors. On average they would burn for about fifteen to twenty minutes, and would need constant attention in order for the rush to be drawn up through the holder. Wax and tallow candles formed the backbone of the lighting industry from the Middle Ages with each having their own guild but with vastly different costs in the retail value of their produce. Influenced by specific laws on production and pricing, wax and tallow candles eventually fell foul of Customs and Excise when in 1709 a tax was introduced on all English and imported candles; the rate at this time on wax was fourpence per pound, and one halfpenny per pound on tallow.

In attempts to keep costs down in the country house, many candles were made from estate produce. In other instances, pure wax could be obtained from the open market, including scented and coloured waxes from the Colonies. At Castle Howard, Isabella Carlisle noted the cost of essentials in her own abstract of the household accounts between 1744 and 1755. ‘Fire and Candle’ as categorised by Isabella, came to £13 02s 00d for one week in May 1745,  £5 17s 2d for one week in October 1748 and £5 2s 3d for one week in July 1753. Clearly the times of year and special occasions had a marked affect upon the costs of heating and lighting this particular country house.

In the country house, like any home, the tallow candle had to be carefully stored as they were apt to rot. The housekeeper would have had this responsibility as she had access to the main dry store. She might have had a large box

Candle box 19th century (part of the Temple Newsam collection, Leeds Museums and Galleries)

as well as free standing cupboards and cabinets to keep a range of candles in. In other instances rooms may have had cylindrical tin boxes which were hung high on the wall – to keep the rats out – for the storage of tallow candles. Moreover, in her book of housekeeping, Susanna Whatman noted that the first thing a housekeeper should teach a new servant was to carry her candle upright, since it was no good wasting taxed consumables when the wax stub could be reused in lighting fires. Such careful action also stopped hot wax dripping to the carpets and floor boards.

From the second half of the eighteenth century, and with the rise of the whaling industry, a new kind of wax candle began to appear on the London market – the spermaceti candle. These were the best candles, and were initially more expensive than beeswax candles. The wax and spermaceti candles would have been used by the family, but probably reserved for special occasions. In the first half of the nineteenth century Elizabeth, Lady Breadalbane instructed her servants that, ‘all pieces of spermaceti candles to be collected by the under Butler and given over to the Housekeeper at least once a fortnight for the lanterns and the lighting of fires.’  The expense of these candles also dictated their recyclable qualities.

The candle tax was abolished in 1831, the beginning of the decade which also marked another key event in the history of lighting – the invention of the friction match. Previously, the method of striking a light involved the ignition of tinder with a sharp flint struck against another metal. Tinder was extremely dry linen or flax and other highly inflammable materials kept in special boxes at the hearthside or in designated stores again accessed by the housekeeper, butler or footmen.

Most rooms would have been lit by portable candlesticks and holders, which is why many rooms in country houses have not been adapted for ceiling lighting. This form of portable light was perpetuated well into the days of gas and electric lighting in many homes. Types of candlestick however were signifiers of wealth, and the materials they were made from covered a vast spectrum including cheap metals, ceramics, silver, a variety of woods, marble and glass.

One of a pair of girandoles supplied by James Pascall to Temple Newsam in 1745.

In the more public spaces and state apartments the permanent fixtures for candle lighting are the chandeliers, sconces, tourchieres and girandoles. The word ‘chandelier’ comes from the French ‘chandelles’ (tallow candles) and was understood from the fifteenth century, but became more common at the end of the seventeenth century. In the country house inventory a chandelier as we understand it may be written as ‘branches’, or ‘hanging candlesticks’. Sconce also has origins in French and has been understood to mean the cover provided by the attachment fixing the candle socket or holder to the wall. Tourchiere is again of French origin and simply means torch and more specifically the apparatus providing upward lighting. The origin of the word girandole seems more charming in comparison and comes from the French (as a derivative of the Italian verb girare ‘to turn’ and ‘girandola’ a rotating firework similar to the UK Catherine Wheel); the setting of candle sockets on a girandole, often backed by a mirror displays a spiralling pattern and thus a turning sparkle of light.

If the rushlight and sparing use of tallow represented the servants’ domain then so too were there degrees of opulance above stairs. Brass chandeliers were being used from the fifteenth century. Gilded wood and glass chandeliers were making an appearance by the first half of the eighteenth century, but the most extravagant and awesome of chandeliers were those of silver or crystal. Of course cleaning these would be considered both a tremendous and perilous job by the housemaids and a tense time for the upper servant. At twentieth-century Brodsworth Hall, Sylvia Grant-Dalton would announce when it was time to clean the glass crystals of the drawing room chandeliers ‘when they’d lost their glitter’, a phrase which would send shivers of apprehension throughout the servant hierarchy.

The colour of the room also mattered and may explain why whites and cool colours were preferable (as well as fashionable) before the 1800s and the introduction of gas and electricity. Isaac Ware noted in 1746 that a room ‘which if wainscoted [panelled] will take six candles to light it, will in stucco [plastered] require eight or if hung [papered] ten’ (Complete Body or Architecture). The decorative finishes were crucial in recognising the potential of lighting the space. The dark pannelling we see today is the result of age – or the nineteenth-century romantic disposition, since these woods would have been fairly pale and would have offered a warm glow next to candle light. The depth of colour produced by wallpapers in the large country house merely reinforced the conspicuous consumption of its owner. Its matt finish or dark flocking required extra candles, but the sparkle would have been tremendous and deliberately impressive for any visitor.

A pair of ormolu candelabra, originally part of the collection at Longleat house, Wiltshire, late eighteenth century (Christie's image copyright)

Today, candles are a different kind of necessity becoming our main source of light when the electricity sub-station fails or a mains fuse has blown. Otherwise they help set a specific mood with their scented qualities or romantic glow. But we are no longer governed by sunrise and sunset hours, so our stash of tealights and stubby candles remain tucked away in boxes with torches and spare batteries, or stored lovingly in the bathroom or dining room for intimate or familiar scenarios. Providing light for the home outside the hours of daylight was a cautious process before gas and powerful electric lighting. It recalls the comments of actors in period dramas when they complain about the restriction of dress compared to their modern-day clothing. When the electricity does blow, it’s hard work especially without a proper candleholder (an old wine bottle might have to suffice in most situations), and ensuring wax doesn’t spill on the floor normally means waxy fingertips. Yet, it’s the movement from room to room which proves unappealing without a working light switch. The skills and levels of ingenuity we’ve lost to electric power are numerous, and understanding the gratitude felt towards a single flame is forgotten. In the country house, the necessity of candlelight for the early riser to the opulence of several burning and glistening candles suggests great variety of function, and yet a single flame offered any individual some peace of mind.

References:

Jacqueline Fearn, Domestic Bygones. Shire Publications (2nd edition 1999).

Mark Girouard, Life in the English Country House (1978)

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

Pamela Sambrook, The Country House Servant (1999)

John Vince, The Country House: How it Worked (1991)

Merlin Waterson, The Servants’ Hall: A Domestic History of Erdigg (1980)

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

Temple Newsam Country House Studies, number 4, (text by Anthony Wells-Cole), Country House Lighting (1992)

Links:

Achieving the candle-lit look in the present day http://ntenvironmentalwork.net/2011/11/01/led-candle-bulbs-measure-a-hundred-times-cut-only-once/

The National Trust, The Argory, County Armagh and the history of lighting the country house http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-the__argory_lighting__list.pdf (2010).

Lighting the American home by candlelight http://www.candlecomfort.com/historyofcandles.html

The Geffrye Museum, London. http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/collections/thematics/

Country Life article on the history of domestic lighting http://www.countrylife.co.uk/property/article/528152/From-fish-oil-to-chandeliers-early-domestic-lighting.html

Lighting the Victorian home, with attention on Linley Sambourne House in London http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/lighting/lighting.htm

Fantastic blog on the practicalities of domestic routine. This post relates to rushlights or dip candles  http://www.oldandinteresting.com/rushlights.aspx

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Filed under Architecture and Design, Servants, The running of the country house

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.

*********

 

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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Filed under Architecture and Design, Building the Country House, Men and 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

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Courses and core reading material

There are now centres and specialist courses for the study of country houses. The specific geographical spread of these courses probably exists as a result of the suitability of accessible houses in the locality, and in all cases there is always a house used extensively for study purposes.

Selected universities/institutions that include modular based study of the country house as part of their History of Art, Museums Studies or History.

Nottingham Trent University

NUI Maynooth

University of Buckingham

University of Derby

University of Exeter

University of Leeds

University of Warwick

University of Wolverhampton

It is also worth checking the following for other forms of study which usually link their modular courses with summer schools and continuing education.

The Rich Man in his Castle: the Victorian Country House – citylit: Centre for Adult Learning, London (April 2014)

Culture of The English Country House – University of Oxford, Department for Continuing Education

Stately Homes and Country Gardens – Oxford Royale Academy

Country House Study Week – University of Buckingham

Summer Study – Durham University Study Week

Certificate

Architecture: the English country house – University of Warwick

Certificate in Country House Studies – University of Hull

Masters Degree

Centre for the Study of the Country House – University of Leicester (part of the Department of the History of Art and Film). There are two MA courses – The Country House in Art, History and Literature (based on campus) and The Country House (by distance learning).

Masters level modules

British Country House – (the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies) University of York. At Close Quarters: The English Country House and its Collections – Sainsbury Institute for Art at the University of East Anglia (in association with The Attingham Trust)

The courses themselves generally focus upon the English country house (with the exception of Maynooth) and its formation to houses in the media and houses as museums or heritage sites. Distinct modules will include the building of the country house, estate and household management, heritage management, houses as depositories of art collections, and some greater historical context such as politics, wealth and land management. At a higher level of study and specifically in research terms, gender, class and material culture/consumption have steadily established themselves as worthy subjects connected with the study of the country house with individual case studies proving that the country house was more than a decorative administrative base for a landed estate.

For anyone wanting to study the (mainly) English country house, these books are crucial reads. Many of these formed part of a key reading list when I was an undergraduate student of art history over ten years ago. When I started my research degree on women and the country house in 2003, those same key books were still being recommended to the student of the country house. I’ve updated the list for 2011 and included books which also cover something more of the social and economic history of the country house since these topics are integral to the subject in current teaching trends. This is by no means comprehensive, and places of study will recommend many more as part of their ‘core/preliminary’ reading lists.

For a full list of different types of courses and their locations in the UK see Matthew Beckett at http://thecountryseat.org.uk/the-study/

J. S. Ackerman. The Villa: Form and Ideology of Country Houses. Princeton University Press (1990).

Dana  Arnold. The Georgian Country House: Architecture Landscape and Society. Stroud (1998).

J. Beckett. The Aristocracy in England, 1660-1914. (1988).

C. Christie. The British Country House in the Eighteenth Century. Manchester (2000).

Olive Cook. The English Country House: an Art and a Way of Life. (1974).

J. Gaze. Figures in a Landscape. A History of the National Trust. London (1988).

Mark Girouard. Life in the English Country House: a Social and Architectural History. New Haven and London (1978).

Mark Girouard. Life in the French Country House. (2001).

C. Hardyment. Behind the Scenes: Domestic Arrangements in Historic Houses. (1997).

J. J. Hecht. The Domestic Servant Class in Eighteenth-Century England. London (1956).

Gervase Jackson-Stops. The English Country House in Perspective. New York (1990)

M. Sayer. The Disintergration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections. Norwich (1993)

Lawrence Stone and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone. An Open Elite?: England 1540-1880. (1995).

R. Strong. The Destruction of the Country House. London (1974).

John Summerson. Architecture in Britain, 1530-1830. Yale University Press (1993).

Amanda Vickery. Behind Closed Doors: at Home in Georgian England. (2010).

Richard Wilson and Alan Mackley. Creating Paradise: the Building of the Country House, 1660-1880. (2006).

Update November 2011: Warwick University have begun a project on the East India Company at Home which is a wide-ranging body of research into elite families, country houses and specific material culture connected with the East India Company in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The main aim of the project is to establish how goods from the east were traded or bought, displayed and cared for in the elite home with special focus on the country houses that were being built or rebuilt and modernised between 1757 and 1857. This is indeed a large time frame, however the website for the project contains some valuable material for the prospective student of the British country house including a comprehensive bibliography and detailed resources.

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Filed under Recommended Literature