Standen

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


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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?

 


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Object of the month: St Agnes

With the weather finally starting to look like spring has arrived and Easter just around the corner, this month I thought I’d choose an object featuring a traditional symbol of new life.

St Agnes, a tapestry by Morris & Co after a painting by Burne-Jones, at Standen, East Grinstead, West Sussex

Morris & Co. Tapestry of St Agnes

This is the tapestry of St Agnes at the top of the stairs. She is often depicted holding a lamb to represent her purity as a virgin saint, and in fact her name comes from the Greek ‘hagnē,’ meaning chaste. Agnes is also very similar to ‘agnus,’ the Latin word for lamb. She was martyred in Rome in AD304 for her Christian beliefs and is the patron saint of engaged couples, gardeners and girls. Every year on her feast day, 21 January, two lambs are blessed at her church in Rome.

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Stained glass window from the Church of St Helen, Welton

This particular design was adapted from one of a pair of stained glass window by Edward Burne-Jones which can be seen at the Church of St Helen in Welton, Yorkshire, along with a version featuring St Cecelia. William Morris added the foliage to the design and the tapestry was produced by Morris & Co., highlighting the collaboration between the two men. Both were involved in the founding of the company that bears Morris’ name, even though nowadays Burne-Jones is better known as one of the leading Pre-Raphaelite artists.

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Label on the back of the tapestry frame

The tapestry was originally made for Sir Thomas Wardle, a fabric printer from Staffordshire who produced many early Morris textiles. There is a label on the back that tells us that it was exhibited at the Manchester Jubilee exhibition in 1887. Another label from the Stockport Centenary Exhibition in 1892 wrongly labels it as an image of St Cecelia, so it must have originally been one of a pair.

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Chalk drawing by Henry Stacy Marks

The tapestry of St Agnes is not the only object in the house to feature a lamb, you can also see one in Henry Stacy Marks’ chalk drawing representing spring from ‘The Seasons’ in the Billiard Room.

 


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Object of the month: A Dream of Patience

Since the house has been so beautifully decorated for Christmas I’ve chosen one of our Christmas themed objects for a closer look this month. It normally hangs in the Larkspur Dressing Room, but at the moment A Dream of Patience isn’t covered up for the conservation exhibition like the other objects in the room – it’s part of the Christmas exhibition in the Croxley.

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A Dream of Patience – print by Alice Havers at Standen

At first glance it might not seem like a very festive scene, but it’s actually a Christmas card design. Lots of Victorian cards looked like this and they were very popular, with over 1.5 million produced in 1880 alone. Henry Cole only came up with the idea of Christmas cards in 1843, but as printing got cheaper the images became more elaborate and artistic to try to stop the holiday becoming too commercial.

People liked aesthetic Christmas cards as they could not only send messages of goodwill to their friends, but also have them as art in their houses. However, Punch magazine commented at the time that they were “about as appropriate to Christmas as strawberries and iced-cream.”

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Detail of left hand side of Dream of Patience

This particular design by Alice Havers won the first prize of £200 in a Christmas card competition judged by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais. The cards were first printed in 1882 by the publisher Hildesheimer & Faulkner, who also published Christmas cards by Beatrix Potter. The publishers sent some Christmas cards to Oscar Wilde who commented that they were “really charming” with the ones by Alice Havers being “especially good.” This design was later used in the programme of a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera Patience, which parodied the aesthetic movement of the time.

The artist, Alice Havers, had an exotic upbringing, living in the Falklands and Uruguay as a child, before settling in England in 1870. She was unusual for the time for continuing to use her maiden name after she married and was a member of the Society of Lady Artists. She was a friend of Lewis Carroll and a well-known illustrator who exhibited at the Royal Academy. Some art critics thought that she was overly sentimental, but she was clearly talented – Queen Victoria even bought one of her early works.


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Object of the Month: Kitchen Clock

This clock has one of the plainer dials and cases in the house, and is sometimes overlooked in favour of some of the more exotic clocks. It does have some interesting hidden features though and after getting some more information from the clock conservator at the recent conservation weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to share them.

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Kitchen Clock

The clock is on the wall in the kitchen and was in the house when the National Trust took over following the death of Helen Beale in 1972. It was made in about 1920 and has a plain, white dial and blued steel hands, which makes it very easy to tell the time accurately. Inside the mahogany case there is an eight day movement, which means that the clock only needs to be wound once a week. Caroline, one of the conservation assistants, still winds it every Tuesday and it still keeps good time – it hasn’t been more than one minute out this year.

The clock might not always have been in this room, but it would probably always have been in the servants’ quarters. It could have been used by the servants to set the other clocks at Standen as it’s likely it would have been the most accurate in the house. It has a very clever mechanism that means it could be corrected by telegraph from Greenwich at regular intervals – hourly, daily or weekly – if it was connected to the telegraph system and the subscription was paid. Inside the movement there is a horseshoe shaped section which allows an arm controlled by an electromagnet to drop in and centre the minute hand on the hour when it receives a signal.

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Inside of Kitchen Clock

Standardisation and synchronisation of time were very important issues in the Victorian era. A reliable, common time was needed to help the growing railway network run efficiently – which would help Mr Beale to get to his London office on time. In 1884 the common reference point for global time became the meridian in Greenwich and so the signal would have come to the clock here at Standen from the Observatory there by way of the local Post Office or the commercial business The Standard Time Company. The ‘Greenwich Time Lady’ is probably more famous for selling time in London in the early 20th Century though. A lady called Ruth Belville would travel around with her old pocket watch nicknamed ‘Arnold,’ showing customers the accurate time she had set in Greenwich for a modest fee.


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Object of the Month – June: Voysey Linen Press

Linen Press designed by C.F.A Vosey

Linen Press designed by C.F.A Vosey

This linen press in the North Spare Dressing Room was designed by C.F.A Voysey, a renowned architect and furniture designer during the Arts and Crafts period.

A linen press is similar to what we know as a linen or laundry cupboard. They were built to hold sheets, napkins, clothing and other textiles.

Voysey was not only a furniture designer but also an architect and wallpaper designer. He started his own architect practise in 1881 and used furniture and wallpaper design to supplement his income.

One of the common features used to identify Voysey’s work is a simplistic design with clean horizontal and vertical lines. He strongly believe in letting the high quality materials speak for themselves and preferred using unfinished and unpolished materials, especially wood.

Simplicity, sincerity, repose, directness and frankness are moral qualities as essential to good architecture as to good men”. (C.F.A Voysey)

 

 

 

 

 


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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

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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!).


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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.

 


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Object of the Month: April – Chinese Ewer

Chinese Ewer from the Dining Room

Chinese Ewer from the Dining Room

This blue and white china ewer found in the Dining Room was made in the mid to second half of the 16th century during the Ming  Dynasty in China. The Ming dynasty was a period of advancement in technology and techniques used in ceramic making.

Ceramicists explored  different colours and showed a preference for painted designs as well as  taking inspiration from foreign styles.

However, blue and white ceramics are some of the most well-known pieces from the Ming Dynasty. The blue colour and shades became clearer and more defined.

There was also a shift in the  economy with emphasis put on producing ceramics and goods to sell overseas across the world. Plates and vases were particularly sought after.

This Chinese ewer is decorated with the ‘magic fountain’ design, a fairly common theme in blue and white Chinese ceramics. It was a theme that evoked the idea of extending life, of living forever. By drinking the liquid from this jug, you could potentially extend your life.

This theme is carried on it’s makers mark, which means ‘Forever preserve late spring’. A wish for longevity, not a date sign.

 


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Object of the Month March: Webb Table

This oval mahogany table is one of our House Steward’s favorite pieces in the house. Designed by Phillip Webb, the table is supported by 7 legs —a central thick leg and 6 thinner legs with  rounded bulb like decoration. The thinner outer legs have thin bamboo like side stretchers or connections halfway down  whilst similar stretchers connect the central leg to the 6 outer legs. All in all, it is an incredibly well-balanced table with all the legs touching the floor.

Webb Table

Webb Table

Phillip Webb was both a designer of furniture and an architect. It was him who  designed Standen right down to the littlest of details, like the picture hooks.

Phillip Webb

Phillip Webb

Webb trained as an architect in Reading and Oxford. Whilst he was training under G.E. Street in Oxford, he was put in charge of a new apprentice, William Morris, and thus began a life long friendship. Morris soon changed his direction and became a designer. Webb was one of the original founders of Morris’s company, Morris & Co, and soon started producing furniture designs for the firm. Even after Webb resigned, he continued to recommend Morris & Co to his clients, as he did with the Beales at Standen.


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Scrubbing Churchill …

Chartwell

Chartwell

Recently I went to Chartwell for a day to shadow Flick and Sophie, the 2 assistant house stewards there.

Chartwell has a diverse history. it was originally a farmhouse that was builtin the 16th century, under the name of Well Street. Apparently, Henry VII stayed there during his courtship of Anne Boleyn, who was raised at nearby Hever Castle. During the 19th century, the farmhouse was significantly, enlarged and modified into the red brick Victorian building you see today complete with tile hung gables and oriel windows – bay windows on higher levels so they do not reach the ground.

Churchill comes into play around about 1922, when him and his wife, Clementine, bought it as their

The Garden Studio

The Garden Studio

principal home. Chuchill hired an architect by the name of Phillip Tilden to modernize the house, especially with regards to bringing more light as oriel windows were notoriously poky and small. Tilden followed the thoughts of Edward Lutyens, who disregarded the fashionable Tudor revival style and instead made each house part of its landscape. The gardens were also refurbished at the same time and a series of lakes created to house Churchill’s precious fish. The gardens provided much inspiration for Churchill’s paintings, many of which he painted in his garden studio.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

However, financial struggle struck in 1938 and Churchill put Chartwell up for sale. With the advent of World War 2 and with Churchill’s rising position in government, Chartwell was deemed unsafe for Churchill and his wife to live in due to its proximity to the English Channel and to the main road. Instead Churchill and his wife spent their weekdays in London and weekends in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

After World War 2, with strained finances, Churchill put Chartwell back on the market. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. To thank Churchill for his efforts during the war, a group of business men got together and bought Chartwell. They charged him minimal rent on the condition that once both him and Clementine had passed on, Chartwell would be given to the National Trust. Upon Churchill’s death in 1965, Clementine decided to pass the house to the National Trust straight away. Clementine did, however, specify the route that the visitors would follow and still do today.

Churchill's Study

Churchill’s Study

One of the things that Churchill loved and this was untreated pine. to this end, as part of the modifications that Churchill made, large parts of the wood used was pine. As it is untreated it has to be treated quite differently then polished or varnished wood. This was one of the things that I helped Sophie and Flick with. The oldest part of Chartwell is the study and Churchill’s bedroom, both of which date back to medieval times. To this end it is decorated with darkened pine. The stair case that leads down from the study to the dining room is a great example of natural pine. So that it doesn’t splinter or  wear to quickly, twice a year a mixture of vinegar, sensitive soap and warm water are used to scrub the tread of the stairs as well as the top of the pine banister. After a short period of time clean warm water is scrubbed onto to reduce any stickiness. This mixture solidifies so that the stairs are non slippery as well as protected from the thousands of feet that climb up and down them over the year.

The banister, once the mixture of vinegar, sensitive soap and warm water is applied is then waxed with Harrell’s wax, giving a little more grip for the visitors, staff and volunteers.

I also got to help them with the deep clean of Churchill’s bedroom, which is not normally on display. It is a small room, simply furnished  as well as with photographs of his family and his favorite books. It also has an en suite bathroom with a sunken bath so that he could better enjoy the view.

All in all, it was a really interesting day and I learnt quite a bit about Churchill and his lifestyle, as well as more about deep cleaning. I also got to meet a couple of Chartwell’s cats including Jock – Churchill left quite specific instructions about there always being a Jock the Cat at Chartwell, including what he should look like!

Jock

Jock