Standen

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


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Focus on – the staircase hall

I asked one of my Wednesday room guides if she had a favourite object I could talk about and she suggested that I talk about our beautiful Webb staircase.

I thought it would be interesting to expand this and start a new series where we have a look at different rooms in the house starting with, of course, the staircase hall.

The staircase hall is set back from the the main entrance of the house, away from the rooms that guests, unless they were staying overnight, would be invited into.

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Webb’s plan showing the staircase hall

Its main feature is the staircase with the impressive fumed oak balustrade. Fumed oak is oak that has been smoked, a bit like a kipper, which brings out the grain of the wood.

The flat banisters up the stairs are a typical Webb detail, which look like a splat – one of my favourite words –  the back of a Windsor chair.

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A view of the staircase hall from the half landing

The wallpaper, ‘Batchelor’s Button’, which was designed by William Morris in 1892, was put up when Mrs Beale first decorated in the 1890s. It was repaired in 1906 and varnished to protect it from grandchildren’s wayward elbows and sticky fingers and has been there ever since.

The stair carpet is a copy we had specially made in 2001 of the Axminster carpet supplied to the Beales by Morris & Co. in 1906 when the original was too worn out to be safe any more.

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The light in the hall

The central light fitting is one of our original W.A.S. Benson light fittings, similar to but larger than the ones in the hall. It’s wrought iron with an opaque glass shade made by Powell & Co. Glass Manufacturers, London.

My favourite thing in the staircase hall is the Webb designed table at the bottom. It has got seven legs and is a lovely oval shape, not circular as it might at first appear.

Standen © National Trust / Jane Mucklow

The Webb seven legged table

The most striking picture in the staircase hall is the massive replica of a cartoon by Ford Maddox Brown of the Manchester city hall murals. It shows the introduction of Christianity to the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria (c.586 – 632/33), which included Manchester, through the baptism of King Edwin.

Standen © National Trust / Jane Mucklow

The Baptism of King Edwin

There are also the two portraits of Mr and Mrs Beale at the bottom of the stairs – make sure you stop to say hello next time you visit!

Are there any rooms you’d like to know a bit more about? Please let us know in the comments or on our Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

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Dressing up the House

Jan and Sue decorating the Stairs this morning

Jan and Sue decorating the Stairs this morning

Every year the house is decorated for Christmas in either a Victorian or 1920s style and you all get to come in and see the finished product. But not this year; if you come to visit in the next two weeks we will still be dressing the house up for the festive season.

Two ladies, Jan and Sue, from our volunteering team are in charge of organizing who does what when as well as being the first ones in to decorate. We do take pictures of what was done the previous Christmas, especially regarding the placement – and decorations – of the Christmas tree but mostly Jan and Sue rely on their memories of what worked – and did not work – from the previous year.P1040305

Christmas in the 1920s was similar to today – although not as commercialized. The children eagerly await the arrival of Father Christmas and their presents. Christmas trees were put up and lit with real candles – tinsel was even used though it looked more like long strands of silver and gold. Whole families would gather together, attend Church and have a big Christmas meal – though you were more likely to find beef on the table instead of turkey. Branches and leaves were used to decorate the house inside and out as well as Christmas Wreaths on the doors.

The Wreaths

The Wreaths

For the Beales, Christmas was a time to gather together. Mr Beale (and later one of his sons) would dress up as Father Christmas whilst the children would hide in the Hall. Father Christmas would then sneak into the Drawing Room, clatter the fire tongs and the children would come running in to see him, most especially to see what presents they were getting.

Later in the life of the Beale family, Christmas became one of the few occasions for the family to gather at Standen.