Saturday, 12 August 2017

Hinton Ampner Gardens

The gardens at Hinton Ampner, Hampshire, were the creation of one man, Ralph Dutton, 8th Lord Sherborne. They are widely acknowldged as being a masterpiece of 20th century garden design with mixed formal and informal planting and fine vistas throughout.

In the Walled Garden

The flowers were showing off their August colours

and there was a bountiful display of fruit and vegetables too

'All Saints' - the parish church, shares a common boundary with the garden. It was built from flint with stone corners in the C13th but on the foundations of an earlier Saxon church. 
The pretty timber bell chamber is typical of small churches in this area of the country.
Lily pond
'One man and his dog'
Crinum powellii - giant swamp lily

Ralph Dutton inherited the house in 1935 and rebuilt it in 1960 following a devastating fire. He seamlessly blended the grandeur of this Georgian classical house with the elegant gardens and parkland which frame it.
The Sunken Garden

  Agapanthus africanus

Friday, 4 August 2017

Croome Court and Grounds

via Nation Trust
In 1751, following the unexpected death of his elder brother, George William Coventry, 6th Earl of Coventry, inherited Croome Court and grounds. He was a handsome 28 year old 18th century trend-setter, with a grand vision to transform Croome, and to this end he set about employing the most contemporary architects, designers, and craftspeople of the day.
via wiki
Croome Court and grounds became the very first commission for Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Not only did he redesign the whole landscape but he also remodelled Croome Court during which time he became firm friends with the Earl.
via wiki
Robert Adam, known as 'Bob the Roman', the renown Neo-classical architect, and furniture designer, created his first complete room design at Croome Court, and he too became a close friend of the Earl.
It was one of those bucolic pastoral mid-summer days with fluffy white clouds scudding across an idyllic blue sky.

The natural looking landscape at Croome is completely man-made to 'Capability' Brown's design. This, the first of Brown's landscapes, pioneered the move from formal gardens to more natural looking landscapes. Before Brown worked here, the land was a boggy marsh called 'Seggy Mere'.
With Brown's engineering and drainage skills he created a lake miles long which in parts narrows to resemble a river winding through the parkland. It took hundreds of men over 10 years to dig it out by hand.

Walking around the lake and grounds gives endless views and vistas to enjoy
Interrupted from time to time by the inevitable folly, ha ha, or hermits grotto.
Beyond the trees, distant hills - "The Malverns" - partially flank the grounds, this is where Edward Elgar lived. He composed his music whilst walking in these hills during the day, and writing it down on his return home in the evening - The Enigma Variations, Nimrod, Land of Hope and Glory. 

St Mary Magdalene
The Coventry family church was designed by  'Capability' Brown with an interior by Robert Adam. Unexpectedly, a sudden glorious peel of bells rang out over the landscape. The bells had just been returned to the church following a major restoration and a group of local bellringers were giving them an airing. Peels of church bells have been a part of life here ever since medieval times.

The Chinese bridge, where Brown's lake effectively resembles a river
 Built out of Bath stone in the neo-Palladian style, Croome Court is now bereft of its treasures, but the interior and long gallery by Robert Adam remain intact.

A fine cantilevered stairway
For 130 years a set of beautiful French tapestries lined these walls. Their dominant colour was raspberry pink, they were the pride of Croome, until they had to be sold in difficult circumstances.
Now they can be seen in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Croome Estate Trust still owns a very large collection of the best furniture, paintings, and porcelain that once graced Croome Court - all of which are of great national importance. In time, as the house is fully restored, and under an agreement with the National Trust, these wonderful pieces will be returned to the house for which they were made.
 Using Brown's original plans, the National Trust have so far spent a sum of 8 million pounds restoring his landscape at Croome.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Ballad of Julie Cope - The Second Tapestry

Part one finished with Julie and her two children separating from husband Dave when their marriage finally came to an end - Grayson Perry's second tapestry deals with what happens next.

Life is hard for Julie but she has gained confidence and found her feet as a single women and mother.
This tranquil image, echoed by the peace signs on Julie's jumper, captures the new sense of harmony in her life after her divorce from Dave.
She holds her children Elaine and Daniel close as they wave to their father in the distance. 
Despite his flaws Dave turns out to be a good father to both his children - Daniel and Elaine are growing up quickly and soon they will be leaving home to pursue their own lives.
The children have left home, and now in her mid forties Julie attends the University of Essex, Colchester. There she meets Rob, an IT technician and divorcee, with whom she falls in love - they find profound happiness together. Rob takes Julie travelling to different parts of the world. Here they are happily embracing one another during a bird watching trip, a passion shared by both.
Life has changed dramatically for Julie - Daniel and Elaine are grown up, and she is now a Social Worker living in historic Colchester, the oldest recorded Roman town in Britain. Here she is walking down the street with her colleagues. She holds a file labelled "Casework 2003" which tells us that she is now 50 years old.
Julie is happy, she has a fulfilling job - she and Rob are now married and very much in love

Julie, now aged 61, is crossing a damp street in Colchester whilst going about her duties. Suddenly a motor scooter, driven by a youth delivering curries, comes hurtling around the corner knocking poor Julie down -
and she dies.
Julie, aged 61 years (1953 - 2014) - an everyday women from Essex
This is not the end of Grayson Perry's fictional story;
heartbroken Rob had promised that should Julie die before him, he would build a Taj Mahal – a place of pilgrimage, a shrine, a monument to Julie and to their love
To this end Rob kept his word - 'Julie's House' now sits on the banks of the River Stour in Essex.
To take a video walk around Rob's shrine click here.
There is also a Channel 4 programme here about Perry's Dream House - as far as I am aware this can only be viewed within the UK.

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Ballad of Julie Cope - The First Tapestry

Grayson Perry enjoys an international reputation for his colourful and unusual pots, but is now gaining a name for his fantastical tapestries. His latest two tapestries present his own fictional story about an everyday Essex girl called Julie Cope. The tapestries represent the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life lived. Historically, large-scale tapestries provided insulation for grand domestic interiors; Perry has juxtaposed its associations of status, wealth and heritage with the current concerns of class, social aspirations and taste.
 Baby Julie arrived into the world on the 1st February during a great flood on Canvey Island in 1953 - she was the second born daughter of June and Norman Cope.
 Her father used a broken chair leg to breach the roof of their home so that he could hold newborn Julie aloft and save her from the ever rising flood.
Ho! Ho! Ho! here comes the local policeman to the rescue
All safe - mother, father, eldest daughter, and baby Julie escape the rising waters just in time 
Perry created this rich visual story on a computer. He then worked closely with a digital mediator and tapestry weavers to translate the vivid 1970s colour palette of his original digital drawings into a woven textile. Like an impressionist painter, he maintains the vibrancy of the palette through a combination of woven colours that are blended by the viewer's eye. 
Julie is now a teenager - 16 years of age. She lives in the new town of Basildon in a 1960s concrete tower block where rather strangely the street names are taken from Tolkien's 'Two Towers'. She has met and fallen madly in love with Dave. On her green t-shirt is the logo of Dr. Feelgood, a punk band from Canvey Island where she was born. 
Julie has married her teenage sweetheart Dave, and everyone agrees that they are the perfect match - but are they? This family portrait shows ominous signs as Julie and Dave look away from one another. 
Julie and Dave now have two children - a boy called Daniel, and a girl called Elaine
Julie named her first born child, Daniel, after a 1973 hit single by singer Elton John - her choice, not Daves - Elton John's music was not his taste.   
'I'm so sorry, D x' 
 Julie's bouquet bears an apolgetic note from her unfaithful husband Dave which points to the future breakdown of their marriage forever.
Next time, the second tapestry shows the story of what happened to Julie and her children in their new life without Dave