I have something quite terrible to admit: I only visited Chatsworth for the first time two days ago. Yes, me, a student of the country house, did not see one of the most grand and famous houses in the country until Thursday. I don’t really know why it has taken me so long to visit but I’m really glad that I finally have.
Dalquharran Castle was designed by Robert Adam, but not many people have heard of it. Situated in the village of Dailly in Ayrshire, it is now a dramatic ruin, towering over the village and landscape.
I’ve recently started volunteering at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire. I help out every Sunday and it is such a positive experience. I’m getting to do a whole variety of things – helping out with Conservation in Action week and writing interpretation, and last week I learned how to move a grandfather clock (girl power only)!
Joseph Mallord William Turner, The South Wall of the Square Dining-Room, 1827, Gouache on paper, 13.8 x 18.8 cm, Tate, London
I was lucky to attend yesterday a conference at The Paul Mellon Centre entitled ‘Art in the British Country House: Collecting and Display’. I have to admit, it is quite intimidating being surrounded by so many renowned academics and curators, but I left feeling so inspired.
I visited Blenheim Palace for the first time recently and was of course immediately overwhelmed with the immense scale of the building. However, what I love about country houses are the details. When visiting a country house you should always look up; it is definitely worth a sore neck! This beautiful ceiling in the Long Library was designed by Christopher Wren.
So often the history of the country house is told from the male perspective for obvious reasons. However I’ve long thought that is unfair and diminishes the contributions made by women on architectural projects and art collections, and their vital role as wife. I was delighted to discover this work by Rosemary Baird in my local Oxfam shop, entitled Mistress of the House. Baird reveals the challenges faced by these women and the achievements that they accomplished. It is a lovely book to read; very accessible and well-researched, but it is Baird’s passion for the subject which really makes the words flow. So if you are looking for something new to read I definitely recommend it!
Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire makes for some very striking photographs. Unlike many houses which fell into ruin, Lyveden looks like an empty shell because it was never finished. It was constructed for Sir Thomas Tresham of nearby Rushton Hall. He was a staunch Roman Catholic and the building is rampant with Catholic symbolism.
A striking feature of a country house is often its vast portrait collection. What are the reasons for this?
A portrait is an image where the artist is engaged with the personality of the sitter and aims to characterise them as an individual. People of consequence have commissioned portraits of themselves in order to commemorate their achievements and to showcase their status. Portraits serve to distinguish individuals from the masses and as such are products of a conscious intent to portray. Consequently, they embody the beliefs and notions of both the sitter and the artist, and can tell us much about society at the period in which they were painted.
From the 1720s, Palladianism thrived in Britain. Palladian architecture was based on the work of Andrea Palladio, a Venetian architect from the sixteenth century. Palladio himself was inspired by Roman Classicism, encompassing rigid rules for scale and form, in the belief of creating elegance. There were various reasons for why this new form of architecture flourished when it did. The eighteenth century was a more peaceful period than the seventeenth century and the economy prospered. Yarwood suggests that the eighteenth century upper classes were superb patrons, as unlike their nineteenth century successors, they were ‘not haunted by the passion to make more money.’