Garden Rescue: Westbury Court

July 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm (estates, history, places) (, , )

This morning I was “waxing nostalgic”: I had pulled out some original Smith & Gosling documents. One *find* was “the last letter” Mrs. Eliza Colchester wrote to Aunt (Judith Smith of The Grove, Stratford, Essex). It is a precious letter, written in 1826, filled with Mrs. Colchester’s delight at hearing the marriage of Charles Joshua Smith and Mary Gosling had taken place. Eliza Colchester died, and both Aunt and one of her nieces wrote on the cover of the letter “why” it had to be saved: it was the last letter received from Aunt’s very dear friend.

How I’d LOVE to unearth more letters between the ladies (even though Aunt has execrable handwriting!)

Mrs. Colchester wrote from The Wilderness, an estate near Mitcheldean. It was while looking (once again) for information on the family and/or the estate that I came across this delightful blog post about the rescue and resuscitation of the garden at another Colchester (also called Colchester-Wemyss) estate, Westbury Court (Gloucestershire).

“Typically rectangular in shape, classical Dutch style gardens relied on a strong use of symmetry and geometrical form…. But the Dutch style had a short life in Britain. The gardens were incredibly expensive and labour intensive to maintain.”

Gardening specialist James Todman‘s post then goes on to describe the “history” of Westbury Court garden – and the several times it was almost lost. The lack of finances for the Colchesters may indeed have been, in the long run, its saving grace.

After a sale to developers in the 1960s, in 1967 the National Trust purchased “the ruined garden”. Thanks to some historical records, a “restoration” was not only possible, it took place! And you can see the results, to this day. (Visit the National Trust webpage for Westbury Court.) The National Trust claims Westbury Court gardens the FIRST “garden renovation project of its kind”. The garden now displays “how it would have appeared … in 1720”. Although well before the time of “my” Eliza Colchester, I think she’d be pleased! They all so loved a good garden.

You must read James’ original blog post to appreciate the yews, canals, topiary, flowers (click on the 2nd photo, below).

Westbury garden canalWestbury Court gardens: canal

Westbury garden parterreWestbury Court gardens: parterre

 

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Where Mamma was: August 1803

August 17, 2015 at 11:33 am (diaries, history, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , )

Yesterday, long after I posted about the *FINDS* now online at the National Trust Collections, the pleasing thought came:

“I now have seen a Flower painting that Mamma worked on and finished at Suttons in August 1803!”

cuphea_1803

Augmenting my jollity came the recollection:  “I have Mamma’s diary for 1803!! she was expecting Fanny (born in October), she was worried about Eliza Gosling (whose illness took her in December)” – then BOOM! came the immediate realization: “The diary pages from end of April onward have been CUT OUT; there are no entries for August…”

How well I remember the day I began transcribing this diary. I never read ahead; the unfolding drama of the written words always encourages my tired little fingers to keep on flying away. Then, suddenly, an image where there was PRINTED material on the right-hand side. I didn’t think about it and went to the next image.

There is always printed material at the beginning and end of the journals they used. Typically, they were the series published yearly, THE DAILY JOURNAL, or, GENTLEMAN’S, MERCHANT’S, AND TRADESMAN’S COMPLETE ANNUAL ACCOMPT-BOOK.

Confused, I flipped back an image: April 1803.

I flipped forward an image.

Only then, flipping back again, did the jagged edges filling the gutter of the diary register: the REST of the year had been cut out; only the yearly summation existed.

There was no information about her pregnancy and the birth of Fanny Smith.

There was no information about the last illness of young Mary’s mother, Eliza Gosling.

It was just GONE!

Why?” is the one word question I constantly ask when coming across “mutilation” of this sort. What was there that needed “destroying”? What was there that needed to be kept separately? Surely, easier to keep – or destroy – the entire diary. And then the question, “WHO did this?” Was it the diarist? was it a child? was it someone even further down the timeline?

I just don’t get it…

So, while I’m ecstatic to see a work Mamma completed in the (presumably) balmy summer days of August 1803 (she often recorded extremes of weather), its execution – if indeed she mentioned it – remains one of the unknowns; like her comments on the imminent arrival of little Fanny, and the hectic days of travelling back and forth to London to see and hear about the health of her beloved friend and Portland Place next-door-neighbor, Eliza Gosling.

Why? – Who did this? – What happened to the missing pages?

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Spending Time at The Vyne

August 16, 2015 at 11:42 am (entertainment, estates, history, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , )

Why is it: the Best FINDS are found around midnight or 2 AM?

Last night I found that the National Trust has been BUSY photographing artwork and posting them on their National Trust Collections site. FINALLY! we can see some flower paintings of Eliza Chute, Augusta Smith (her sister), and their teacher Miss Meen (Margaret Meen).

Alas! isn’t there ALWAYS confusion when more than one person has similar or exactly the SAME NAME?!?

The Vyne is uncertain, for instance, who painted one “scene” picture – Eliza Chute, or the wife of William Wiggett (who later took the name Wiggett Chute in order to inherit); their daughter was also an Eliza Chute (1843-1913). Her pictures of The Vyne are simply charming.

There IS one “scene” picture that they DO attribute to Eliza Chute (Mrs. William Chute), called A Roadside Halt. Emma’s “Aunt Chute” WAS known as an adept painter, and did practice by copying “old masters”, for example in the art collection of neighbor the Duke of Wellington.

But it is the Floral Paintings that I am most excited to see, for instance this undated work inscribed (pencil) “Eliz. Smith Chute” = which, without seeing it up close, could be in Eliza’s hand, or could be a later hand (not that I doubt it was painted by her, just that she may not have signed it herself).

Eliza Chute_red flowersWatercolor on Vellum

I suspect, between the fact that the Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (Maria, Eliza, Augusta, and Emma [later: Lady Northampton, Aunt Chute, Mamma, and Aunt Emma]), were busy in the 1790s, around the time of Eliza’s marriage, producing various Flower Paintings while in the company of Miss Meen, and the fact that it’s ID’ed as “Smith Chute”, that it probably dates from early in this period. It’s unusual for Eliza to use both her maiden and married names.

  • compare Eliza’s flower paintings at The Vyne with those at The Royal Horticultural Society (afraid you have to work for this one: use the SEARCH function and type in Elizabeth Chute or Elizabeth Smith).
  • See other “artwork done by” (more links), on this blog.

Some Flowers are very in the style of Miss Meen – for instance the Asclepia Giganticus Pentandria Digynia, signed “El. S. 1785”. But others seem their own sweet style – like the Amaryllis, which has to date before September 1793 [when she married William Chute] if it is signed “El. S.”

Born in 1768, Eliza was still in her teens in 1785!

There is even one, called Log and Red Berries, worked by BOTH Eliza Chute AND Margaret Meen.

Problems arise with the works of Augusta Smith — is it the daughter Augusta (whom they ID by her married name, Augusta Wilder), or is the artist Mamma?

augusta smith_pink flowersWatercolor on Vellum

This is – judged from afar (though I am NO expert on artist identifications) – said to date from 1820-1836. The cut-off is obvious: Augusta Wilder, Emma’s eldest sister, died in the summer of 1836. The back merely says “Augusta Smith” (which of course she would NOT have been after 1829, when she married! so the dating is still erroneous.)

Other Botanicals are a much easier call, and are clearly misattributed – little Augusta was not painting florals at the age of 4 or 5, and there are works identified (for instance) as “Suttons, 1803”. Even worse: “Turnera Ulmifolio Pentandria Trigynia by Augusta Smith, Mrs Henry Wilder (1799-1836). (in ink). AS 1787.” So prodigious a child was little Augusta, that she painted TWELVE YEARS before she was even born!?! Don’t think so…

Emma, by the way, began lessons with Miss Meen in February 1815, aged 13.

The images at the Royal Horticultural Society must be searched for, but all the Four Sisters of Erle Stoke Park (and their instructress, Margaret Meen) are represented. Emma Smith (“Aunt Emma”) is actually represented by an online “gallery” of work. Twenty nine images (currently) come up if you search for the term Joshua Smith — because the girls are ID’ed as his daughters! You can toggle the image display so the instructive text comes up beside each image, which is highly useful.

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Greg Family Album @ Quarry Bank (NT)

August 31, 2014 at 12:22 pm (entertainment, estates, history) (, , , , )

Rachel in Lincolnshire, who’s just finished up a degree (BIG Congrats, Rachel!!) and done some interesting work at Belton House (once associated with Lady Marian Alford, daughter of the 2nd Marquess of Northampton), sent me a link to the National Trust’s “ABC Bulletin” -> which stands for Arts, Buildings, Collections Bulletin.

  • The Summer 2014 issue tells a fabulous Tale of Two Portraits: the ‘reunion’ of Emma Vernon with her former home, Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire.
  • The Spring 2014 issue has an article about THE VYNE which you won’t want to miss, all about a Veronese Altarpiece.

**NOTE: images contained in the online issues
seem far inferior to those issues received ‘in your inbox‘.

The ABC Bulletin, issued four times a year, has online links back to the 2010 editions. I myself must spend some time looking, reading, finding, enthralling. Maybe I should have contacted this periodical, rather than the editor of the larger National Trust Magazine -> they didn’t care at all to hear about my dear Eliza Chute! Their loss… Still an idea; although, after the rigmarole of trying to access their handful of Eliza letters, I’m not sure I care any more to share. Must think about that one.

But today I wanted to blog about something found while discussing the Bulletin with Rachel: another NT Property, Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire. They purchased a Visitors’ Album once belonging to the Greg Family from James Cummins Bookseller (a very familiar name in the antiquarian book realm). The “Family Album” dates from 1800 to 1815 – and I just LOVED the comment that once it was seen in the flesh “Within seconds of opening its gilded pages we knew we had to have it.” Nice to have kindly benefactors… for original manuscripts can sometimes be PRICEY!

An aside: When I was in Northampton early this summer I leafed through a FABULOUS album or scrapbook once belonging to Miss Rowell, who has ties to the Comptons of Castle Ashby. As the archivist laid it out on cushions for me, she confessed that she had looked through the book — and was just enchanted. Ditto for myself! But up to a year ago this was rather buried in the stacks – for when I first inquired about it (the notice in an old, old bulletin of acquisitions) I got rather a surprising note and very little information.

So ‘enchanting’ items so readily exist – they just have to see the light of day.

For fans of North and South – whether Elizabeth Gaskell’s book or the BBC series with the scrumptious Richard Armitage – Quarry Bank Mill might be of great interest: there’s a Love Story AND a TV series, which this past spring filmed its second season at Quarry Bank Mill (just finished its run in the UK). IMDB has some useful Message Boards about the series, including this short one about the Greg family.

the mill

I must claim for myself a hometown that once depended on “The Mill” for employment, though it had ceased to be a working mill by the time I was born. Aunts and a grandmother worked in it though. You can read about the Winooski Woollen Mills online.

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Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs (BBC)

October 17, 2012 at 10:45 pm (diaries, entertainment, estates, history) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Calista alerted me to a terrific new three-part documentary, Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs.  Our guide through this world is Dr. Pamela Cox (University of Essex), whose great-grandmothers were servants.

Here is Dr Cox talking about the servant portraits at Knole (in Kent). Calista hasn’t forgotten the photographic portraits — and poems! — found at Erddig Hall (near Wrexham) – so I’ll give you what I emailed her (from my Ladies of Llangollen site):

Merlin WATERSON, The Servants’ Hall: A ‘Downstairs’ History of a British Country House (1980) – pictures and text trace the history of Erddig Hall (National Trust property; near Wrexham), the estate belonging to the Yorke family (a distant relative was the General Yorke who purchased, and expanded, Plas Newydd late in the 19th century). 

A favorite section, perhaps because it went back in time to an era during which my Mary and Emma were young brides and mothers, concerned the diary of William Taylor, servant to a widow living in Great Cumberland Street, London.

The diary was kept during the year of 1837 – so at the very beginning of Victoria’s reign. Like the portraits illustrated above, with the servants seemingly in street clothes and certainly not in the “servant uniforms” we all think of when pictures from Upstairs, Downstairs flash into our brains – William’s diary is a rare example of a pre-Victorian household.

Two items I noted, while listening to the discussion, were entries from May. On the 14th  he has written a very thought-provoking statement defending the servant class: “servants form one of the most respectable classes of person that is in existence: they must be healthy, clean, honest, a sober set of people.”

And I had to chuckle over his comments about young ladies at a party being “nearly naked to the waist“. Oh, for more from William Taylor! Has his diary been published? Will it be published? And include William’s delightful drawings.

Yes, a man who draws about life in service, his family, etc etc. He’s as comic and informative as my favorite “naive” artist, Diana Sperling (by the way, another Essex country inhabitant; if you don’t know her work, do look up the book Mrs Hurst Dancing).

This is a self-portrait: William has come home for a visit – to the astonishment of relations. To see those relations portrayed you’ll have to watch the TV show. William is discussed in part 1 of the series, “Knowing Your Place.” A HIGHLY recommended series. I’m going to catch part 3 before heading to bed.

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Upper East Side: ‘at home’ with Elective Affinities

December 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm (entertainment, news) (, , , , , , )

The second I saw this in The New York Times, I was intrigued; a FASCINATING idea!

Chopin melodies enchant; tea and finger sandwiches sustain; and Alice Hauptmann (actress Zoe Caldwell) entertains a select 30 guests each evening. The play, Elective Affinities, is taking place not in a theater, but in a real Upper East Side residence:

WHY has this so captured my imagination?? Imagine a Smith&Gosling evening … in a place like Roehampton Grove:

Or The Vyne:

The guests arrive, have tea, eat their finger sandwiches, then the Butler escorts them into, say, the Star Parlour, where Emma and Mary await to talk about life in c1819 England. Great fun!

* * *

an aside: Ah, reading about Zoe Caldwell transports me back to a NY City trip during which I attended a performance of  Master Class, where she played Maria Callas. My first time seeing Audra McDonald (a great voice), too. Life was good once…

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John Gaspard Le Marchant

December 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm (history, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

For the past few weeks I heard a lot from Dr. Arthur Murchison who is working on a biography of the wartime service of Sir Roderick Impey Murchison; Murchison and Le Marchant crossed paths during the Napoleonic Wars! For my own research, Major General Le Marchant services merely as Denis Le Marchant’s father — father-in-law (if he had lived) to my Eliza Smith.

The Defence Academy of the United Kingdom has a fabulous portrait of Maj. Gen. Le Marchant — you can see it at the BBC “Your Paintings” website.

By Henry James Haley, this is one of the most stirring portraits of Le Marchant that I have come across. See the entire portrait by clicking on the image.

While looking up the portrait once again, I see the site has a “Visit National Trust Paintings” segment with Penelope Keith! Must check it out…

 

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It’s a Small Jane Austen World

July 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm (a day in the life, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In Friday’s post (hurray!) was the 2nd Sarah Markham book — really the one I wanted most because of its subject, which you can glean from its title: A Testimony of Her Times: Based on Penelope Hind’s Diaries and Correspondence, 1787-1838.

A slight aside: Penelope Loveday Benwell Hind was born in 1759 and died in 1846; so the title dates are NOT her lifespan!

When I found mention of this book online – and quickly located a nice (used) copy at a fair price, I awaited its arrival impatiently because of the time period and, also, I’m a sucker for any account based on an English woman’s life. Will say this of the book: EXCELLENT! Locate a copy ASAP, it will NOT disappoint.

There were MANY connections to other diary/correspondence/biography I have collected over the years: there were mentions of the Countess of Ilchester (the Talbot family) mentioned in A Governess in the Age of Jane Austen: The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter; the Byngs — see the Torrington Diaries — were relations of the Lovedays; the Berrys — ie, Mary Berry of the Walpole correspondence — comes in for frequent visits; Felbrigg Hall comes up once or twice (must admit to boredom so I never read more than the first book about the National Trust caretakers of the estate).  Then came this, on page 85; the Hinds are removing Pen’s sister Sarah to their home in Findon, Sussex:

“The first day’s journey was quite short as they spent the night at SPEEN HILL with a FRIEND, MRS CRAVEN, who had formerly lived at Chilton House…” There is then a footnote explaining about Mrs Craven — though with no mention of her Austen connection; that comes from JA’s Letters. Mrs Craven’s elder son was Fulwar Craven. (I’ll let you consult your own Letters to puzzle out the Fulwars-Cravens-Fowles-Austens.)

Of Mrs Craven, Le Faye writes: “1779 [married] Catherine Hughes, daughter of James Hughes of Letcombe, Berks., and had two sons and one daughter; lived at BARTON Court  and also at Chilton Foliat, Wilts” — which is where the Lovedays would have encountered her. Husband John Craven died in 1804; Mrs Craven in 1839.

Then this morning, MORE Austen connections. A great friend to Pen Hind’s first husband (William Benwell) was the Rev. James Ventris. He continued a friend and “since he had stayed with them [the Hinds] he had been presented to the living of Beeding, not far away, and lived at Beeding Priory. In May 1816 he married Jane Hinton, daughter of the former rector of CHAWTON, whom they liked very much.” Miss Hinton herself appears in JA’s Letters; and the family are in Le Faye’s Biographical Index. Mrs Ventris is the “Jane II” who lived 1771-1856. Her brother, John-Knight Hinton, joined the suit of James-Hinton Baverstock against Edward Austen Knight in 1814 “for possession of his Hampshire estates” (Edward settled in 1818, paying 15,000 pounds).

Mrs Ventris’ sister, Mary, had a daughter – Elizabeth Wells — who married the nephew of Pen Hind! Arthur and Elizabeth Loveday had a son, another Arthur (for Pen also had a brother Arthur). This family, who’s little history is coming up in Testimony, became related to the Lefroys when young Arthur married the youngest daughter of Anna Austen and Ben Lefroy! (Anna, of course, was elder sister to James Edward Austen Leigh and Caroline Mary Craven Austen.)

Have to wonder, with all the letters and diaries that could exist in the Loveday-Hind-Wells-Craven-Hinton etc circle, if there aren’t some uncovered mentions of the Austens… Jane included.

BTW: Happy 4th of July!

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