Standen

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


Leave a comment

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.

Timeline058

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.

P1010558_small

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

hmb as a nurse

Helen as a nurse after the war (centre back)

 


Leave a comment

Discovering more about the Beale family

Eileen has been a room guide with us for 12 years. She volunteered a few years ago to help transcribe a large set of photocopied letters dating from the First World War. Not only did she transcribe many of the letters, she also checked them for consistency and made sure that the formatting was the same throughout – which was no small task! Because of her experience with this she plays a key role in our archive group.

 

A couple of years ago I joined Standen’s archive group.  I have thoroughly enjoyed gaining an insight into the life of the Beale family.

I have faced the challenge of deciphering and transcribing a large number of hand‑written letters from about 100 years ago, recently donated by a descendant of the family.  I have learned a lot about the social history of the era, as well as about everyday life at Standen.

1402_001.jpg

A historic photo of Standen, similar to those in the recent archive donation.

Other tasks that have given me great satisfaction have been examining, discussing, and cataloguing all sorts of objects, documents, and some beautiful family photos, some from as early as the 1880s, many of which were taken by family members who did their own developing and printing.  It is satisfying to accurately record details of each item, to provide a resource for the future.

To give just a few examples, the documents include things such as:

  • Mrs Beale’s detailed list of catering preparations for a ball held at their London home in the 1890s (“8 dozen lemons – not enough” she wrote)
  • a note of how much Mrs Beale spent on presents – e.g. 24s/6d on underwear as a gift for a granddaughter
  • a letter describing how Dorothy Brown (née Beale) and her family cycled from their home in Caterham to Standen, in the middle of winter, carrying a violin on a bike.

Qualities that shine through are the Beales’ caring attitude and public-spiritedness, their resilience, and their sense of humour.

Working on the archives has given me a greater understanding of the family, and given a glimpse into the spirit of Standen.

Time Passing

2 Comments

This week, I thought that I would bring you the blog in a slightly different format then normal – via a video. Earlier this year, the Larkspur bedroom and dressing room went through a little bit of a makeover and was repainted in Standen White (do not worry the wallpaper is still there!) In order for the rooms to be painted, all of the furniture, paintings, ceramics and fixtures had to be removed  in order to protect them. The video below is a time lapse video that was taken over the 4 days it took the house team to empty both rooms. To add a bit of humor it is set to Tchaikovsky’s Trepak Russian Dance so make sure that you have the volume turned up:


1 Comment

Deceptive dust…

One of the monthly jobs that we carry out is to dust the Billiards table. The dust is quite deceptive (hence the title) in that the table often looks okay after a month until we move the balls and cues!

A very dusty table

A very dusty table

Usually, all of the flat surfaces in the house will be dusted with a chamois every day so that the dust does not stick and cause problems. Dust mostly consists of lightweight organic materials like skin and clothing fibers along with carbon based products like soot and silica.

The Big Brush

The Big Brush

If dust is left too long, the dust starts to bind itself to the surface  causing a greenish grayish hue to appear on objects. This dust takes a lot of effort to remove and as such could damage the object. One example of this would be if there was a layer of dust embedded on a gilded picture frame – removing the dust could potential take any gilding off with it and just leave a bare wooden frame. So by dusting everyday and by deep cleaning every object once a year we hope to prevent this happening.

The first step with dusting the billiards table is to use a big brush to brush the dust from the edges of the table in the center – the bristle are longer on the two ends so that the bristles reach underneath the lip of the sides. This is when we start to see exactly how dusty the table is

IMG_0420

Dirt Devil and Square Mesh

We then place a square piece of mesh onto the edge and run a dirt devil vacuum lightly over the mesh. We use the mesh so that any loose baize or threads are not sucked in, avoiding any potential for damaging the baize. The mesh square is about 30cm by 30cm so this task can take some time. Once the whole table has been vacuumed, we check the table manually, picking up any larger bits of fluff or dirt that was not picked up by the dirt devil.

Once the baize has been cleaned, we run a chamois over the polished wooden edging of the table to give it a little bit of a shine. It is always a satisfying job to do seeing the table all nice and dust free (although it never remains that way for long!).


Leave a comment

Object of the Month: May – Burmantofts Vase

Burmantofts Vase in the Billiard Room

Burmantofts Vase in the Billiard Room

These Burmantofts vases found in the Billiard Room and in Maggie’s studio were bought to Standen by Arthur Grogan, the first caretaker of Standen after Helen Beale’s death.

Burmantofts vases as they are known today were only known under this name for a short time during the company’s 99 year stint as a working pottery.

The original company was set up in Burmantoft, Leeds by John Lassey and William Wilcox in 1845. They originally started a coal mine but when they hit clay in 1858, started producing assorted building materials, like bricks. And pipes. By the time that 1879 rolled around neither of the original founders were alive and the company had passed onto James Holroyd. He started producing decorative items like vases and jardinières in the 1880s.

This move into ceramics bought more fortune to the company enabling them to open a London showroom under the name of the Burmantofts Company. However, this was short lived, soon after Burmantofts merged with five other Leeds based  ceramic companies and became the Leeds Fireclay Company. Production finally stopped in 1957.

 


Leave a comment

And the loser is …

When I was talking to the volunteers about their favorite wallpapers, it caused quite a bit of discussion and eventually talk turned to the wallpapers that they did not like quite as much. This was less divisive then picking a favourite. There was one clear loser though in this discussion and it was:

Bachelor's Button

Bachelor’s Button

Bachelor’s Button was designed in 1892, one of the last wallpaper designs by William Morris. This wallpaper consists of a series of cornflowers with acanthus leaves. Bachelor’s button was a common name for cornflowers as they were typically worn by young men in love.

Bachelor’s button could be printed in a variety of colours, however it was most popular as a monotone, with the pattern being printed in a light cream colour on a darker background, such as navy blue or teal. This yellowy/orange tone was quite unusual.

This wallpaper is one of the few original wallpapers left in the house. Most of the wallpapers were replaced in the 1960 due to fading and general deterioration but were as closely matched to the originals as possible. The reason Bachelor’s Button was left untouched was because Margaret Beale had it varnished in 1906. By this point her children were having their own children and Margaret wanted to protect the wallpaper from as much damage as possible from sticky little fingers … This is also why its colour is remarkably unfaded – the colour you see today is very much the colour the Beales’ would have seen.

The reason that a lot of the volunteers disliked this wallpaper was because of its colour and that it was fairly  garish and overwhelming.

Powdered wallpaper

Powdered wallpaper

The second least liked wallpaper was Powdered. This is interesting in that it was also picked as the most liked wallpaper and a couple of weeks ago. Also the opposite reasons were chosen as to why people did not like it as they felt it was too regimented and boring – it does not look natural.

 

 


Leave a comment

Object of the Month: February 2015 – The Grand Piano

When Standen was given to the National Trust, members of the family were invited to take a memento and one descendant took the Grand Piano that was in the Alcove in the Hall. It has recently been returned too us through a generous donation.

The Grand Piano back in the Hall

The Grand Piano back in the Hall

The piano  was made by Broadwood in June 1898 and was delivered to the Beales’ on the 14th November 1898. The porters’ book entry for its delivery reads:

“Mrs. James S. Beale, 32 Holland Park W

A no. 4 Drawing Room cross-strung Gd Pf Rosewood a to c no. 45059

175 guineas for £156 net delivered to ditto.

Tune 6 months free then 4 @ 21/-

& moving a Collard Gd Pf in the house”

32 Holland Park was the Beales’ London address, where they lived until they moved to Standen permanently in 1905.

The Piano in the Hall in the early 1900s

The Piano in the Hall in the early 1900s

Broadwood & Sons was created in 1808 but has a history dating back to the early 1700s. At its peak, they were making 2500 pianos a year. Broadwood & Sons gained further recognition when Chopin used one on his first visit to London and soon other well-known people, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,  were buying them.

Broadwood & Sons still exists today and regularly tune the pianos here.