Standen

What goes on behind the scenes at Standen House, an Arts & Crafts family home


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Focus on – the drawing room

My favourite room (along with all my other favourite rooms…)!

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The drawing room (before the Vine Hanging was moved!) (NT)

The drawing room is one of the biggest rooms of the house and one you would only see as a guest of the Beales’ if you were a friend rather than a social acquaintance.

Many servants wouldn’t see any of the principle rooms of the house, only the housemaid who was responsible for clearing the grate and laying the fire and making sure the room was clean and dusted. If you were the kitchen maid, for instance, you wouldn’t have seen any of the family rooms.

As with all our rooms the drawing room is a combination of Beale family items and later additions, mostly from Arthur and Helen Grogan, the first custodians who brought their Arts and Crafts collection to Standen to furnish it.

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An old photo of the drawing room (NT)

The current layout of the drawing room was inspired by this historic photo. You can see it shows a curtain at the end of the sofa to create a cosy nook. We also know that Mrs Beale’s chair and light were always in this spot, with her workbag (which is a modern creation!) hanging from it.

My favourite things in this room include the Vine Hanging, which was embroidered by Mrs Beale – unsurprisingly taking her around 6 years; the De Morgan bowl which was a 25th wedding anniversary present to the Beales from their children – which also inspired the Grogans to collect more De Morgan pieces for the house; and the magnificent Morris & Co. Merton Abbey Mills carpet. The latter you can appreciate even more now thanks to our Eyemat.

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Happy New Year! To-morrow is another day…

Happy New Year! We hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. It’s probably been our best Christmas ever, with over 7000 visitors coming over the two weeks either side of the big day.

We’re now in 2017 and I thought that an embroidered fire screen that we have upstairs in the house would be appropriate for the first blog post of the year.

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May Morris fire screen c. National Trust/Jane Mucklow

It was embroidered by May Morris who was the second daughter of William and Jane Morris. She was born in 1862 at Red House in Bexleyheath and learnt to embroider from her mother Jane and aunt Bessie Burden.

She studied embroidery at the precursor of the Royal College of Art, the National Art Training School. Unusually for the time she took part in her father’s business with his encouragement and ran the Morris & Co. embroidery department, starting when she was only 23.

If you wanted, you could buy embroidery kits from Morris & Co.,  with the pattern printed on a linen ground and silks provided to embroider it yourself. The V&A even have a half finished kit in their collection.

She combined Jane and Bessie’s skill for embroidery with her father’s design abilities, producing beautiful embroideries and designs. Later May was involved with the Royal School of Art Needlework – now the Royal School of Needlework.

Best wishes for 2017 and hope to see you here soon!


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Twilight Christmas

For the first time this year we are opening the downstairs of the house into the evening just before Christmas.

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The staircase hall

It’s an opportunity to see the house in the dark, with the electric lights just as the Beale family would have known it, along with all our cheerful seasonal decorations.

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We try to get the hall fire lit!

We’re open into the twilight tonight and tomorrow if you’ve not yet been! Our very own Standen Choir will also be singing.

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Mrs Beale getting into the festive spirit


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Christmas 2016

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The cottage

We’re well into Christmas at Standen, so if you haven’t already been to visit us here are a few photos to whet your appetite!

Don’t forget we have some wonderful tapestries and knitting by Kaffe Fassett around the house, and he also designed our Winter Tree in the courtyard.

You can also see we’ve been yarnbombing round the place – all crocheted by our volunteers.

And finally, just because it is Christmas doesn’t mean we are letting our standards drop…

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Sarah dusting the turkey

 


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From the search terms – William Morris Wallpaper

It seemed like a fun idea to have a look at the search terms through which people come to our house blog. Today’s was what William Morris is famous for – his wallpaper.

And, as you probably know, we at Standen are also known for having lots of examples of Morris & Co wallpapers. Interestingly, some of the most famous Morris & Co. papers weren’t designed by Morris at all, even though they tend to get called William Morris designs.

Here is an idiosyncratic and completely biased round up of some of my favourites.

Fruit (sometimes known as Pomegranate)

This is in the Billiard Room alcove, which was created from a corridor which originally led from the Hall to the Gentlemen’s Lavatories. It has lemons, olive branches and pomegranates in it. Produced in 1864, it is one of Morris’s earliest and most popular designs.

The wallpaper designs were carved onto pearwood blocks to print by hand – each colour needing a different block. Sanderson now own many of the Morris printing blocks.

Standen © National Trust / Jane Mucklow

It’s listed as Pomegranate on our collections website

Trellis

The first paper William Morris designed – except he couldn’t manage the birds so Philip Webb, the architect of Standen, stepped in to draw them. Morris was so annoyed by his inability to draw the birds he practiced and practiced until he could.

My own favourite story about this is from May Morris, William’s youngest daughter. She remembered having Trellis on her bedroom walls as a child, and being thoroughly frightened by one of the birds who looked at her with a gimlet eye.

We have Trellis in a number of places in the house, but perhaps the most interesting is in the Morning Room and Dog Leg Corridors – there are three different types of paper here; the original handblock printed, 1970s roller printed and 2015 digital printed.

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He does look pretty sinister if you ask me

Mallow

This paper is unusual because it was designed by a woman, Kate Faulkner. It used to hang in the Croxley bedroom where the green version of Poppy is now.

We  also uncovered a patch of it on the back stairs and, with the generous assistance of Morris & Co., are going to reinstate the paper up to the bottom of the water tower stairs. Find out more about the work here.

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The remains of Mallow on the back stairs

Kate Faulkner was sister of Charles Faulkner, one of the original members of “The Firm” as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. was referred to by the partners. She was employed as an artist and designer and designed other wallpapers, tiles and pottery. She also decorated other things like a piano in gold and silver gesso for the shipping magnate Mr. A. Ionides, neighbour of the Beales in Holland Park.

Golden Lily

A really famous William Morris pattern, but actually designed by J.H. Dearle, Morris & Co.’s chief designer from the 1890s.

Interestingly Dearle started as a shop assistant and, after Morris recognised his ability as a draftsman, went on to become a design apprentice.He eventually became Art Director after Morris’s death in 1896. You can see it on the Morning Room sofa – lots of visitors remember it from Sanderson’s 1970s reprints!

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Loose covers on the Morning Room settee

Which of our papers is your favourite?

 


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Floors and what we do about them…

As you might have guessed, floors are the hardest working parts of our house. Last year we had over 120,000 visitors which is an awful lot of feet.

We  have carpets and rugs that we can’t let you walk on directly because they are fragile or precious. We protect them using druggets, but these wear out too.

The huge Morris & Co. carpet in the Drawing Room is one of our most important carpets. Designed by J.H. Dearle, Morris & Co.’s chief designer, and made at the Merton Abbey Mills, it is a spectacular carpet and in very good condition for its age.

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The Drawing Room carpet when we cleared the room for decorating

 

Before we put down the old drugget the carpet was rolled up and visitors walked on the wooden floor which felt a bit odd – a bit like looking at the room as if it was a picture, rather than actually being in it.

But the blue drugget was  6 years old and showing definite signs of age.  It had been an improvement but it needed replacing. Could we make the room look even better?

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The old blue drugget

Ben, our house manager, was very keen to get an Eyemat because we thought it would improve how the room looks. An Eyemat is a very detailed set of digital photographs printed on mats and stitched together to recreate the floor underneath.

So what you are walking on is exactly what is underneath the protective flooring – if you don’t look too closely you might think that you are walking on the carpet itself.

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The image used to print the Eyemat

After many samples were printed and compared with the original carpet to get a good colour match, last Wednesday Eyemat came to fit it and soon after we could walk on it!

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Fitting the Eyemat

This was only made possible by the funds from our second hand bookshop, so thank you very much to everyone who donated or bought books here. We hope you like the change!

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Can you spot the join?


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Endearing Freaks? Exhibition set up!

We’ve been getting exciting crates and boxes delivered over the past month and this has been the week to open them all.

Yes, it’s exhibition set up time again.

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Inspecting the objects before they go on display

We’ve been unpacking crates, condition checking objects for display, proof reading interpretation panels, talking to our designer and (my favourite!) arranging objects in the display cases.

 

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A spoon-warmer being cleaned

The exhibition is about The Martin Brothers Pottery, who were four brothers who ran a pottery in London in the late 1800s. They were unusual because they were from a working class background but designed as well as made their objects. They were the embodiment of the Arts & Crafts ideal of the workman being involved in every stage of creating their pieces.

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Ben and Vicky posing for the purposes of social media

The inspiration for this exhibition came from two pieces that we hold in our collection which are examples of their later work. Our House Manager got interested in the brothers and was intrigued and charmed by the most famous of the Martinware – the so called Wally Birds and the wonderfully grotesque spoon-warmers.

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A sneaky peek of one of the cases

We’ve also put out our exhibition themed merchandise in the shop – bags, mugs, magnets and notebooks. The House Manager is already planning to use them all for Christmas presents this year…

Come along on Monday and see the finished exhibition!


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100 years since the Battle of the Somme

Today is the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. A devastatingly bloody battle with over a million men killed over its course. The first day alone – 100 years ago today – resulted in around 57,470 casualties. It continued until the 18th of November 1916 – the BBC have some excellent pictures here if you would like to know more.

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Helen’s Red Cross service record card

The Beale family were, unavoidably, involved in the First World War. Helen and Maggie, the two unmarried Beale daughters, joined the local East Grinstead VAD unit in 1911, which led to certificates in first aid and home nursing.

 

Helen, after serving as a VAD in local Red Cross hospitals and in London, volunteered to work overseas and was posted to France in August 1915 for 13 months. We are lucky enough to have the large collection of letters sent to and from her when she was away in France.

She was sent to at No.26 General Hospital, Etaples from August 1915, arriving only a few months after it was established. She was there until almost the end of the Battle of the Somme, leaving in September 1916.

It is a town of huts, both wooden and tin and canvas – almost miles of them

No. 26 General Hospital consisted of 35 wards, two operating theatres and assorted ancillary services in huts and a large corrugated iron building. In 1917 another VAD, Elsie Tranter, records being able to hear the guns at the front quite clearly. Vera Brittain famously recorded her experiences as a VAD at Etaples, after Helen had left, in Testament of Youth.

The Beales were a close family and sent many letters dealing mostly with domestic and practical matters – they were trusted to “self-censor”, so the war and Helen’s work were mentioned only superficially.

It’s a great time to be out here & a thing to remember for always, and I wouldn’t be missing it for anything…

Life was tough, tending war casualties. Working days were long and life could be hectic. VAD nurses were kept busy, keeping wards clean and meticulously tidy, as well as doing actual nursing.

We really have been busy for this past eight days – convoys in, evacuations out, dressings, Medical Officers popping in and out, the C.O. coming in with fresh orders about extra beds, the Quartermaster coming in and countermanding them, the Matron and the Wardmaster doing the same, patients arriving on stretchers from the theatre or going there or to the X-rays, everybody wanting drinks and writing paper, and their positions shifted or something or other until one really didn’t know which way to turn or what to be at next.

Discipline was strict and conditions were somewhat spartan. Helen rose to the challenge and coped well, describing her demanding work at the hospital:

Eleven & a half hours bang off on end, probably not sitting down at all, or only on the end of a bed whilst one is cutting up dressings etc, is a pretty long spell, and especially that most of the time one is working against time to the most dreadful extent!

I find it is almost impossible to settle down to anything in the night – my lurid imagination always runs riot and I think somebody must be haemorrhaging and I’d really better pop out from behind the screen and go and look.

We are lucky enough to have Helen’s medals in our collection which she was awarded for her war work.

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Helen’s First World War medals

I’ll leave you with a letter Helen wrote to her mother on the 3rd of July 1916, just after the start of the Battle of the Somme. Not quite how we see it based on what we now know.

 

No. 26 General Hospital

B.E.F.

July 3rd 1916

Dearest Mumsy,

Isn’t it just lovely to have such real exciting news!  I do hope it goes on being good.  We eagerly read the London newspapers here to get the official reports and so sort our minds a bit as to what is real news and what only rumour.  Of course we are busy – off times go by the board at times like these – we are rather thrilled at a notice put up in the Mess to say that folks in surgical wards are to stay within call if they do get off duty – it makes one seem quite important if only in one’s own eyes!  This is the kind of time when we bless our luck in being out here.  I’m afraid I sounded grumpy rather in my last letter – you can’t think how trying slack times are after a very few days of them.  Directly folks get busy all goes much better.

Everybody at home must be simply simmering with excitement over the news – if only we are able to keep it up and really and truly “push” this time.  We have had some nice boys from our part in – the good broad burr sounded very home like.

On Saturday being as how it was Dominion Day the Canadians had a bean fest and a Base Ball Match between themselves and the Americans.  We strolled along about 5.30 and sat on a bank and watched the fun and were provided with the very sweetest of sweet tea – flavoured with maple sugar I should guess – which we had to lose as we couldn’t drink it.  Baseball is a kind of complicated rounders – the real excitement comes when the batter runs from one base to the other – invariably he and the matcher and the ball all arrive at a base at the same moment in a flurry of dust and either he is out or he isn’t according to somebody’s fancy.  Last time, or rather the only time, I have seen it played was in New York on the day of our arrival when Mr. Philpotts took Doppy and me to a popular Saturday afternoon’s game.

It’s a quarter to nine but still quite warm and light for sitting out on the balcony.  D. Pring was at work in the theatre till 12.30 last night and up at usual at 6 this morning so she has gone to bed and I must go soon so as not to disturb her – also one wants to keep fresh and ready for anything just now and there is nothing like a nice long night’s sleep for that – is there?

I was so glad of Mag’s letter to give me such an account of everything.  I wonder if you will ???? Park (?) for a few days – it will be rather a good little change for you I should think.  My love to folks there if you go – tell me how my particular fancy Johnny Kenwick (?) is if you see him won’t you.

It’s no good I can’t write sense tonight – I want to tell you all the little thrill bits, at least the things that seem so to us but perhaps aren’t really, and so I will stop as I can’t write those!!!

Very much love to you both,

                      Your loving,

Helen

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Helen as a nurse after the war (centre back)

 


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Fresh flowers in the house

Our flower arrangements in the house are really important. Not only do they look lovely, they also serve to connect the house, garden and the family.

Mrs Beale was an avid gardener and plantswoman, entirely self taught. She experimented in the garden, planting new and exciting varieties that at the time were flooding in to the UK from across the world. It was only natural that she brought flowers into the house as well.

We know the room that was the flower room – it’s below the back stairs and is currently used as an office by our general manager. It was also used for another Beale interest – it was set up as a darkroom so they could develop their own photographs. It’s got special sliding shutters which are unique in the house. They allow the light levels to be controlled more easily than traditional shutters.

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My favourite vase in the house in the Larkspur bedroom.

Our displays reflect the period that we display the house as: 1925. At this time the house was occupied by  Mrs Beale and her two unmarried daughters, Maggie and Helen, and the garden had matured at 30 years old. For historically appropriate inspiration and guidance we use a book by Mary Rose Blacker called Flora Domestica: A History of British Flower Arranging 1500-1930. However, we don’t use high fashion arrangements – Standen is a family house in the country, rather than being a house for showing off and impressing your guests. With the youngest resident of the house being 40 at this time, they perhaps weren’t at the forefront of fashion! We try to reflect what is grown in the garden and what is seasonal in our displays, trying to keep them as accurate as possible.

We are really lucky to have some cut flower beds developed and maintained by our kitchen gardener and her volunteers. She also has a small group of cut flower volunteers who pick some of the flowers we use in the house. These are then arranged by a dedicated group of volunteers who come in every Tuesday and Friday. We work closely together to make sure that the flowers are suitable for the house. We look for plants that last well and look good – We also have to take into account  our collection too – some flowers drip nasty sticky stuff or pollen! The arrangements sit on glass discs to protect the furniture, but sometimes it does creep over the edge.

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I particularly love the alliums in this vase – very kindly brought in from one of the flower arranger’s gardens!

This links house and garden as Mrs Beale would have done. It’s a joint effort!


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Picture Rehang in the Drawing Room

The majority of our paintings downstairs (with notable exceptions!) come from our first custodians, Arthur and Helen Grogan. They enabled the Trust to take on Standen in 1972 by providing an endowment and becoming tenants of the house. They were avid collectors of Arts & Crafts objects and also of Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian art.

Certain paintings – like Mr and Mrs Beale at the bottom of the stairs – we know were the Beales had them so we like to keep them there. Our collection of New English Art Club paintings were collected by Helen and Arthur, so are a bit more flexible.

Not all of our paintings are easily visible to our visitors, particularly those on the far side of the Drawing Room (although you can see them on the NT’s collection website here), so we decided to move a couple of our favourites by James Charles nearer to the visitor route.

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Ben the house manager and the handlers checking the position of one of the relocated paintings.

We had the advice of our new curator, Jane Eade, who works across several properties in the region and has previously worked at the National Portrait Gallery, and the help of two trained art handlers who are very experienced in moving and hanging paintings.

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Our art handlers measuring out some new picture chain for rehanging one of the paintings.

After trying two paintings in different locations  we decided where we’d like them to go – and here they are! We took into account the size of the paintings and their frames and the spaces we thought they might go into, but we also experimented to see what looked best.

We really think they brighten up this end of the room – what do you think?