National Trust scoops Special Recognition Award at the Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence

Last night (17 May) the National Trust was awarded a one-off Special Recognition Award at the prestigious Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence.

Nominated by a panel of expert judges made up of some of the heritage sector’s most senior leaders, the National Trust was rewarded for its creativity in visitor engagement, remarkable growth in visitor numbers and its fostering of creative partnerships.

Helen Ghosh accepting the award (C) M+H Awards

Dame Helen Ghosh accepting the Special Recognition Award on behalf of the National Trust (C) Simon Callaghan

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director-General of the National Trust, accepted the award on behalf of the Trust and thanked the assembled guests and wider heritage sector for their support: “The fact that we are able to reach out and touch so many people is because of all of you and what you do on a day to day basis.

“We are enormously lucky for that support and to be able to spend more than we have ever been able to on conservation and experiences that move, teach and inspire.”

 

The conservation charity also won the Best Educational Initiative for Potter and Ponder: Sensory Experiences at Croome Court, Worcestershire. The project was described as a “remarkable, creative and innovative story of engaging children with severe learning difficulties” by the judging panel.

The Trust’s Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, was shortlisted in the Project on a Limited Budget category for its Lost Treasures, The Imagined Mansion installation, but was beaten to the award by the Hallaton in the Great War Research Group.

The glittering awards ceremony was attended by hundreds of sector professionals. Now in its fifteenth year, the awards recognise the innovators and leaders in the museums, galleries and cultural heritage visitor attractions sector.

The awards were judged by a panel of sector experts including: Dr Diana Owen, Director, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Maggie Appleton MBE, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Air Force Museum; Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism, Historic Scotland; Bernard Donoghue, Director, ALVA; Diane Lees CBE, Director General, Imperial War Museums; Dr Matthew Tanner MBE, Chief Executive of the SS Great Britain Trust and Sam Mullins, Director, London Transport Museum.

To find out more about the awards, visit: http://awards.museumsandheritage.com/

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Heritage science gives visitors unique insight into roof conservation project at The Vyne

Scientists and archaeologists at National Trust mansion The Vyne in Hampshire are giving visitors a unique insight into their work as part of a £5.4 million project to save the former Tudor ‘power house’.

The Vyne, whose famous visitors included Henry VIII and Jane Austen, is undergoing an ambitious 18 month project to repair its leaking roof and crumbling chimneys, severely damaged in the storms of recent years.

As part of the project, partners including archaeologists, dendrochronologists and heritage science researchers from the University of Oxford are using high and low tech equipment to discover how this complex 500 year old building was constructed, then re-arranged over the centuries.

This is the first time the conservation charity has combined science and technology to this extent alongside centuries-old craft skills, which are being used to produce thousands of hand-made tiles and bricks for the project.

Visitors on rooftop walkway and contractors on roof below, © National Trust Images, Karen Legg

Visitors can watch the conservation work as it progresses from an all-access, 360° rooftop walkway. Protected by a huge weatherproof ‘shell’, the walkway looks down on dramatic views of The Vyne’s rooftops.

Monthly visits from a mobile heritage laboratory will also give visitors an opportunity to work alongside scientists from the University of Oxford, using a range of equipment to find out how they measure deterioration in historic building materials, and protect the nation’s heritage from decay.

National Trust archaeologist Gary Marshall says: “Through extraordinary scientific and technological equipment we’re finding out so much about The Vyne’s construction and we’re sharing our discoveries with our visitors.

“With a variety of different methods and technology we are able not only to pinpoint more accurately the date of The Vyne’s construction, and the materials the original builders used to create tiles and bricks, even insulation, but also show how we have made these discoveries and give visitors a chance to explore the science involved.”

Professor Heather Viles from the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory explains: ‘We’ve developed a range of high and low tech kit that allows us to investigate the very serious problem of water ingress at The Vyne.

“We’ll be able to show visitors that by combining quite simple tools such as hand held moisture meters and Karsten tubes with more complex tech methods like 2D resistivity surveys, we can probe into the walls and locate areas of heavy moisture, but without causing damage.”

New dendrochronology analysis – the science of tree-ring dating – has revealed that some of The Vyne’s 16th-century timbers were recycled from an earlier building, most probably the ‘lost’ north forecourt. This was part of a larger estate that now lies beneath the north lawn.

Gary Marshall adds: “We have made some rather delightful discoveries too, such as a number of clay tiles sporting animal paw prints. Around 15 prints have been found to-date, made by Georgian and Victorian dogs of various sizes who must have walked in the wet clay while the tiles were being made all those years ago and been preserved for posterity!”

Close up of dog paw print on tile, ©National Trust Images, Karen Legg

The story of The Vyne’s roof continues inside the house where the spotlight is shone on 19th century owner William Wiggett Chute who inherited a building in great disrepair. However his extraordinary determination to save the neglected mansion secured its future.

 

Two of the Arts & Crafts movement’s finest artists are celebrated in new De Morgan exhibition and gallery at Wightwick Manor

From Saturday 6 May, visitors to the National Trust’s Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton will be able to discover ceramics and paintings by William and Evelyn De Morgan in a new exhibition, launching the conservation charity’s 10-year partnership with the De Morgan Foundation.

Hosted in The Malthouse, a new purpose-built gallery space, the exhibition will show over 100 ceramics by William and 18 paintings by Evelyn, loaned from the De Morgan Collection.

Night and Sleep by Evelyn De Morgan, De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation

Specially commissioned new works that can be handled by visitors will also be on display showing how William De Morgan rediscovered the lustreware technique for which his ceramics are most famous.

William and Evelyn De Morgan were one of the most energetic and creative couples of the late 19th and early 20th century. He worked with William Morris, supplying Morris & Co with iconic red lustre tiles and decorative ceramics. She studied art at the Slade School and developed a vivid technique in the later Pre-Raphaelite style.

When building Wightwick Manor in 1887, Theodore Mander and his wife Flora were heavily influenced by the Aesthetic Movement and took inspiration from a lecture on ‘the House Beautiful’ by Oscar Wilde, decorating the Manor’s interiors with the designs of William Morris and his Arts & Crafts contemporaries, including the De Morgans.

Wightwick Manor was given to the National Trust in 1937 by Sir Geoffrey Mander, Theodore’s son and close friend of Mrs Wilhelmina Stirling, the younger sister of Evelyn De Morgan. Mrs Stirling would later go on to start the De Morgan Collection to safeguard, maintain and provide access to the work of the De Morgans.  Following her death in 1965, the De Morgan Foundation was established to continue to care for the collection.

Exterior view of Wightwick Manor and Gardens, West Midlands. National Trust Images-Robert Morris

Called A Better, More Beautiful World? the new exhibition will demonstrate the breadth of the De Morgans’ artistic achievements. Exploring the relationship between the artists, their social and creative inspirations, and their vision for a world without conflict, the exhibition will also highlight the links between the works of the De Morgans, Morris & Co and the Pre-Raphaelites that are displayed in the Manor.

A key part of the De Morgan Foundation’s aim is to continue to provide access to the collection by developing a network of strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations across the country. To continue the close ties between the Foundation and Wightwick Manor, a partnership has been launched that will see Wightwick as the Midlands centre for the De Morgan Collection for the next 10 years.

John Wood, Wightwick’s Conservation & Engagement Manager said: “The Mander family offered space for Mrs Stirling to store the De Morgan collection at Wightwick during the Second World War, so we are thrilled to welcome such a significant collection of De Morgan works back to Wightwick. The new display will also brilliantly complement the works by William and Evelyn already on display in the house.

“This is the first of a number of exhibitions celebrating the work of the De Morgans at Wightwick. We hope that through this exciting 10-year partnership with the De Morgan Foundation our visitors will be inspired by the artistry and output of this remarkable couple, the wider Arts & Crafts movement and the society in which they worked.”

Galleon Vase by William De Morgan, De Morgan Collection, courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation

Jean McMeakin, Chair of De Morgan Foundation said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Trust to share the De Morgan Collection in the superb setting of Wightwick Manor in this the centenary year of William’s death.”

The funding for the purpose-built gallery space at Wightwick cost £170,000 and was funded thanks to gifts from private charitable trusts and generous public donations.

For opening times and further information Wightwick Manor and Gardens

 

1920s Arts and Crafts garden returns to its heyday as five year restoration is completed at Standen

A five year restoration project at one of the country’s most important Arts and Crafts gardens has been completed at the National Trust’s Standen in West Sussex.

The impressive house at Standen, with its breath-taking views over the High Weald and Weir Wood Reservoir, was designed for James Beale and his family in the late 19th century by leading Arts and Crafts architect Philip Webb.

The 12 acre hillside garden, however, was designed by Beale’s wife Margaret and saw its heyday in the 1920s. An accomplished gardener and plants-woman, Margaret was inspired by a world tour in 1906-07 and created a series of outdoor rooms at Standen, including a scented rose garden – the Rosery – and a lime tree walk, along with more exotic areas with bamboo, ponds and lush foliage.

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Espaliered apple tree in the restored Kitchen Garden (C) National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Over ten years ago, a group of volunteers discovered the Beale family swimming pond while clearing out some overgrown bamboo in part of the garden. Following extensive research, the garden revival project began in 2012 and is one of the biggest that the conservation charity has undertaken.

 

James Masters, head gardener at Standen explains: “In the latter part of the 20th century, Standen’s gardens saw alterations and replanting which covered or removed some of the original features. When I was first investigating the undergrowth in areas of the gardens I realised there was much more than met the eye.

“Over the years our discoveries have included lost walls, a rock garden and rare and unusual plants all overgrown by the vigorous modern planting that had masked the original beauty of Margaret Beale’s design. So we were lucky to have a wealth of archive material that has helped us research how it would have looked, ranging from family photographs, maps and receipts, to Margaret’s garden diaries which she kept for over 40 years. These have enabled us to piece it together and bring the garden back to its best.”

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The Courtyard (C) National Trust images/Andrew Butler

Among the garden features that have been restored are:

 

  • The original swimming pond and rose garden growing Margaret Beale’s coveted China pink roses.
  • A fine oak trellis rebuilt to the original design by Philip Webb. Trellis is a feature in one of Arts and Crafts designer William Morris’ wallpaper designs which is used in the house.
  • Lime trees reinstated along Grandfather’s walk.
  • 10,000 tulips including rare varieties
  • The kitchen garden and the original espaliered apple trees.
  • New views opened from the top terrace across to the Ashdown Forest.
  • New Arts & Crafts inspired planting in the house courtyard.
  • The medieval quarry face revealed alongside the drive, which inspired the Beales to build Standen in this location.

The £500,000 funding for the restoration project included generous legacies to the Trust for the purpose of garden projects and properties in Sussex.

James Masters adds: “I look back at photographs from before we started the restoration to remind myself of the remarkable changes the team of staff and volunteers has made since then. We have worked so hard to do justice to this lovely lost garden and make it shine again and I hope our visitors will enjoy discovering something new down every path and around each corner.”

A new exhibition about the garden and its revival will be taking place in the house from 6 May to 3 September and will include many of Margaret Beale’s original documents that were used for the restoration. A tulip festival is also taking place and a midsummer celebration will include talks, teas and tours from 1 June.

For more information and opening times visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/standen

 

Two thousand ticking clocks form art installation at Nostell to celebrate one of England’s greatest inventors

From Saturday 25 March, the last day of Greenwich Meridian Time before the clocks spring forward an hour, visitors to the National Trust’s Nostell in Yorkshire will be able to see – and hear – an extraordinary art installation celebrating one of England’s greatest inventors, John Harrison.

Harrison’s Garden by internationally renowned artist Luke Jerram has been inspired by clockmaker Harrison, who created the marine chronometer and was born at Nostell in 1693, the son of the estate carpenter.

The exhibition is a display of 2,000 working clocks that will take over an entire room on the ground floor of the 18th-century house from 25 March – 9 July. In a fitting celebration of this local boy, Harrison’s Garden includes 500 clocks that have been donated by Nostell’s community, its staff and volunteers to add to those gathered by the artist.

Harrison’s Garden by Luke Jerram, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

With no formal education, Harrison spent his earlier years crafting clocks entirely from wood and Nostell is home to one of his only three surviving early wooden longcase clocks, created 300 years ago in 1717.

This significant piece of horological history is at the heart of a second exhibition, The Clock Stops, which opens alongside Harrison’s Garden at Nostell. Visitors will be able to view the original clock up-close, alongside a specially commissioned film about the clockmaker and a series of displays which celebrate his work.

Chris Blackburn, project curator said: “At Nostell we celebrate the work of ordinary people crafting the extraordinary. We’re very proud to look after one of John Harrison’s early handmade wooden clocks and we’re looking forward to telling his story through this fascinating contemporary installation.”

The clocks in Harrison’s Garden are clustered to form patterns and shapes along the floors and surfaces, with each one set to a different time so that visitors will hear a musical delight of ticking, clicking and chiming throughout the day.

John Harrison, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

Just as Harrison’s creativity started to tick at Nostell and developed over his lifetime, the contemporary installation will grow in size as it tours three other National Trust places across the country from 2017 – 2018.

Following its debut at Nostell between March and July, Harrison’s Garden is set to appear at Castle Drogo in Devon, Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire and Penrhyn Castle in Wales, with each place asking their local communities to donate 500 additional clocks to this growing installation. Jerram, a creator of sculptures, installations and live arts projects across the globe, is excited to see Harrison’s Garden expand in size and sound as it spreads into these historic spaces.

Luke said: “For me, Harrison’s Garden is an imagined landscape; a garden of clocks. It is a glimpse of a surreal fictional world or perhaps an image from one of John Harrison’s dreams. Like a garden, the installation is a living and growing collection of different clock ‘species’.”

The clock at Nostell that was created 300 years ago by John Harrison, credit National Trust/Simon Dewhurst

 

The touring installation is a Trust New Art project, a programme that enriches experiences for regular visitors and attracts new audiences who may not have the opportunity to encounter world-class contemporary art where they live.

Grace Davies, the National Trust’s Contemporary Arts Programme Manager said: “We are very pleased not only to host, but also grow Harrison’s Garden, which will be a remarkable feast for the eyes and the ears, and so fitting to the birthplace of John Harrison, reminding us both literally and metaphorically of the passage of time. It is part of a season of inspirational work by artists that shines a new light on the places we look after, giving fresh perspectives that remain rooted in our rich and varied heritage.”

 

Fit for a King: return of Kedleston’s state bed marks the end of 30 year restoration project at 18th century treasure house

The return of a lavishly carved and decorated 18th century state bed to the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire marks the final stage of an exciting 30 year restoration journey.

Simon McCormack, conservation manager at the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall, puts the finishing touches to the state bed which has returned following restoration. Credit National Trust Images/James Dobson.

The restoration of 11 rooms on the state floor of the historic Hall, designed by Neoclassical architect Robert Adam as a spectacular show house for his client Nathaniel Curzon, has involved countless skilled carvers, gilders, painters and conservators. Continue reading

Future of historic treasures now secure as National Trust opens doors to new conservation studio at Knole

  • The charity’s conservation specialists will work on precious paintings, furniture and decorative objects in front of visitors 
  • State of the art conservation studio is part of largest building and conservation  project in National Trust’s history 
  • Historic rooms at Knole re-open following work to transform the interiors and bring collections to life 
  • Supported by a major National Lottery grant of £7.75m

A new state of the art conservation studio has opened its doors for the first time at one of the country’s largest and most famous stately homes, securing the future of hundreds of historic objects for the nation. Continue reading