Standen

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


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SPAB Webb Award – the end of our Webb season

Tuesday the 17th of November marked the end of our year of Philip Webb celebrations with the presentation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)’s Webb award. Our Webb exhibition had also ended the previous Sunday so it felt like a suitable rounding off.

Philip Webb was the architect of Standen as well as being a founder of the SPAB and close friend of Morris and many others in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Our Philip Webb exhibition looked at Webb and his work, focussing on Standen as his most complete remaining project. We had some brilliant loans from the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow and from the Emery Walker house at 7 Hammersmith Terrace. Emery Walker was Webb’s executor so had many of his possessions. It has just closed for some major conservation works, so it was a great opportunity to see some Webb pieces before they had to go into store.

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One of the more unusual objects in the collection at Emery Walker’s house – a model of Webb’s ears!

It also featured the Birmingham University ceremonial mace designed by Philip Webb and made for our Mr. Beale’s brother who was the first vice chancellor of Birmingham University. It was the first time it had been out of Birmingham and we were delighted to have it. It’s now returned to Birmingham in time to be used for the degree ceremonies. Apparently it is the current vice chancellor’s “favourite mace”. See it here.

The SPAB have been running their Philip Webb award for many years, but gave it a break a couple of years ago. They relaunched it this year on the centenary of Webb’s death to celebrate his life and work. We collaborated with them so they were able to offer Standen’s barn cafe and stable yard as a case study and “live brief”.

Hand drawn proposed ariel site map of Standen2_Holly Spilsbury

Holly’s detailed aerial drawing of Standen and her proposed additions

The winner, Holly Spilsbury, created an excellent scheme that fitted SPAB’s conservation architect principles and our search for innovative ideas, which took a holistic view of Standen. Head judge, Kevin McCloud, praised Holly’s work, but also said that conservation architecture as espoused by the SPAB was not being taught in architecture schools. Holly’s design is currently on show in the V&A, alongside their Webb display.

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Holly Spilsbury and Kevin McCloud – photo by Ralph Hodgson

Find out more about the SPAB, the Webb Award and the winner Holly and her design here.

The SPAB also have had a blog on all things Webb this year so have a look here to find out more about the man and his works.

The V&A Museum has a Philip Webb exhibition on from now until 24th May.

In addition, the Morris & Co. The Forest tapestry is also on display in the V&A’s Tapestry Gallery alongside Webb’s drawings for it, on loan from Wightwick Manor.

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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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Bats and Towers …

One of the things that I got up over the weekend was assisting one of our volunteers in carrying out the Tower tours. These run Thursday and Sundays over September and October as well as February to May.

The Water Tower from the Courtyard

The Water Tower from the Courtyard

You may be wondering why there is a three month gap in the summer – from June to August – this is because we have brown long-eared bats that use the attics in the tower to roost and raise their young. Only the females and their teenage babies will roost here, whilst the 1 male in the colony will roost elsewhere. With around 20 females in the colony, each one has a single baby. So you can imagine it is quite busy up there!

The Slate Tanks

The Slate Tanks

Today was the first chance that I got to up the water tower since I started here, nearly 3 months ago (time just flies by!)  and I would definitely recommend a visit. As you can tell by its name, the water tower, it was used to filter all of the water that the Beales’, and their servants, used, from washing to drinking. It is a rather complex system using vast tanks hidden underneath the ground to collect rain water, which is then pumped up to the water tower using slate tanks and lead lined pipes (surprisingly all of the Beales lived to ripe old ages!) .

The Kitchen Garden from the top of the Tower

The Kitchen Garden from the top of the Tower

At the top is a viewing platform, that has beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and the Weir Wood reservoir. It also shows how much land that the Beales owned and most of the 12 acres of gardens. As well as being used as a viewing platform, Maggie and Helen (the 2 unwed daughters) used to sleep up there on hot nights under the stars.

Weir Wood Reservoir and surrounding countryside

Weir Wood Reservoir and surrounding countryside