Standen

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


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Object of the month – Washing Day at St. Ives

A game I play when I visit museums and other National Trust properties is one that was introduced to me by a friend. At the main entrance of an exhibition she turned to me and said:

You are such an amazing person that the museum has decided that you get to take one thing away with you – this is your chance to decide. What do you pick?

At Standen I am lucky enough to have had a long time to get to know the collection and decide what I’d have, if I ever got to be this amazing – although it would take an act of Parliament for me to be able to take my thing away!

So what would I choose? The first thing I would go for (there are a few) would be this painting by Arthur Hayward.

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Washing Day at St Ives.

I chose it because I love the sea and the small villages clustered on the edge of the land with one foot in the sea. The painting is so evocative: you can almost feel the sting of the wind on your cheeks and taste the tang of the sea. But as well as that I love his use of light and the sketchiness of how he handles the paint here. He trained with Stanhope Forbes was known for painting en plein air, and I can’t see how else Hayward would have captured that airy, light feeling of St Ives. There is a reason painters head for the coast, and especially Cornwall – the quality of the light.

Hayward was a Lancastrian born in 1889 who originally studied architecture at South Kensington, but gave it up for painting. He trained in Warrington before Stanhope Forbes (of whom’s paintings we have 2 of the 3 in the National Trust’s collection – which are another possibility for me to take home) at Newlyn. He went on, after serving in the Royal Artillery in World War 1, to establish a St Ives School of Painting. There is a great self portrait at the National Portrait Gallery here.

Here is a link to his other paintings in public collections if you would like to find out more. If you would like to see our painting in the flesh it’s in the Westbourne artist’s studio on the first floor of the house. If I haven’t got to it before then…


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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: Taxidermy birds

This month I’ve chosen an object that I would love to take home and have in my house. These taxidermy birds are in the Billiard Room alcove and belonged to the Beale family.

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Taxidermy birds in the Billiard Room alcove

They are brightly coloured, tropical quetzals from South America and their name means ‘large, brilliant tail feather’ in the Aztec language Nahuatl. They’re admired so much in Guatemala that the currency is even named after them.

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Rowland Ward from his 1903 book ‘Records of Big Game’

The Beales’ glass dome of quetzals has a label so we know it was made by Henry Ward, when he had a shop on Oxford Street at 2 Vere Street. He only used this address between 1857 and 1878, so it must have been made long before the Beales moved to Standen. Henry Ward trained one of the most famous taxidermists in the world, his son, Roland Ward. He specialised in big game and had a shop called ‘The Jungle’ in London with many famous clients, including Winston Churchill, Walter Rothschild and Edward VII. You can see some of his most famous work at the Powell Cotton Museum at Quex Park in Kent.

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Winston the mouse on my mantelpiece

Taxidermy was very fashionable in the Victorian era for remembering beloved pets and displaying hunting trophies as well as showing off. Rich travellers and explorers also brought back exotic species that they had stuffed to teach people about other parts of the world in the days before photography and holidays abroad were common. It was very difficult to preserve specimens though as fur and feathers are a favourite meal of insect pests, so the art lost its popularity. People also began to consider the ethics of killing wild animals for decoration. Nowadays artists like Polly Morgan are using taxidermy for modern art installations and there is a trend not to use animals that have been killed for the purpose of stuffing. I even have a few small pieces myself. Let me introduce you to one of them, above is Winston the mouse, who was originally destined to be snake food!

 


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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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Hello and Object of the Month: View of the Whirlpool at Awa by Hiroshige

I’m Amy, the new Conservation and Interpretation Assistant intern here at Standen and I’ll be here for the next six months learning as much about the house and how to look after it as possible! I’ve already been here a few weeks, so I’ve had time to pick a few favourite objects. Having studied Japanese at university, the obvious choice was one of the many objects from Japan in the collection.

The whirlpools in the Naruto strait in Japan

The whirlpools in the Naruto strait in Japan – woodblock print at Standen

This Japanese woodblock print on display in the hall was bought by the Beales on their World Tour in 1907. It cost £8 (about £800 in today’s money) and came from Mizoroki & Co in Yokohama, Japan on 11th May – the original receipt is still in the archive listing the purchase of an ‘old coloured print by Hiroshige’ along with a number of other artworks.

Japanese prints, or ukiyo-e (meaning floating world because of their escapist, dream-like nature), were mass produced works of art printed with a series of carved wooden blocks, one for each colour. Hiroshige was known as one of the last great masters and was well known for his landscapes. He even inspired Western artists, in particular the Impressionists, with Van Gogh famously copying some of his other works.

This print depicts a view of the whirlpools in the Naruto strait in Japan and is one of three triptychs in a series designed by Hiroshige in 1857 celebrating the natural beauty of Japan. In this instance there is a subtle mountainous landscape in the background with the swirling patterns in the water said to represent flowers.

Interestingly, on the same day that this print was purchased Margaret Beale wrote a letter whilst in Yokohama about being impressed by floral displays in Japan saying “it is quite the most wonderful thing in the way of flowers I have ever seen.”

The Beales clearly had a good eye for art, there are also copies of this print in the collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston!


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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.