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

 

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

Tackling prejudice and celebrating with pride: National Trust explores LGBTQ heritage to mark anniversary in 2017

 

Themes of gender and sexuality will be explored and celebrated by the National Trust in 2017 as part of the nation’s commemoration to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

LGBTQ heritage has an important place in the history of the conservation charity and the places in its care.

The acquisition last week by the Trust of a copy of the novel Orlando, signed by Virginia Woolf to the cousin of her lover Vita Sackville-West, highlights the commitment to LGBTQ heritage that runs through many Trust places. Orlando, inspired by Sackville-West’s family history at Knole in Kent, tells the story of a gender-changing character whose life spans the 400 year history of the house.

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Copy of novel ‘Orlando’ signed ‘Eddy, with love from Virginia’, Oct 1928

During 2017 as part of its ‘Prejudice and Pride’ programme the Trust will tell the stories of the men and women who challenged conventional notions of gender and sexuality and who shaped the properties in which they lived.

A number of events will be taking place at properties with LGBTQ connections and the Trust will also be involved in community-focussed celebrations including Pride festivals around the country.

Over the course of the year, online and published resources will be available including a podcast series and a new guidebook exploring LGBTQ heritage in Trust places.

Tom Freshwater, National Programmes Manager at the National Trust says: “Our places span large historic mansions to small workers’ cottages across England, Wales and Northern Ireland so we have a unique opportunity to bring together those stories that unite them and show how deeply and widely LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history.

“Some of the stories are well known already, such as the relationship between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, but some have not been explored or fully told until now. This anniversary is giving us the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the contribution of the people and the places that meant so much to them and offer a greater understanding, accessibility and higher profile for LGBTQ heritage.

“We are pleased to be working in partnership with University of Leicester Research Centre for Museums and Galleries who are bringing their expertise to the Trust in researching and sharing LGBTQ histories in a heritage context.”

The exterior of the north front of Sutton House, London. Constructed in 1525, the house was remodelled in 1700, and has additions dating from 1904.

Sutton House will hold a year of exhibitions, activities and events.

Sarah Waters, author of the bestselling Tipping the Velvet and a contributor to the Trust’s forthcoming LGBTQ articles and publications says: “These days we can all be a bit bolder about exploring and enjoying the UK’s rich heritage of sex and gender diversity. And I’d argue that without an awareness of that heritage our experience of certain National Trust properties is incomplete.”

Among the National Trust properties taking part are:

 Sutton House, Hackney

Sutton House will hold a year of exhibitions, activities and events around the theme ‘Sutton House Queered’. Working with a number of community partners, the programme will unpick themes of exploration, anarchy and campaigning and include a range of displays and trails ranging from Alice in Wonderland to 1980s squatters. Events begin in LGBTQ history month in February. 

 Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

Hanbury Hall will be focussing on their collection and, in particular, the dramatic Sir James Thornhill wall paintings that adorn the staircase which include depictions of Achilles and his lover Patroclus. Hidden stories will be shared revealing tales of classical love in Ancient Greece and satirically, Queen Anne’s Court. From March onwards. 

The ceiling painting and top of the Painted Staircase in the Hall at Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire. The Staircase was painted by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734), c.1710. The ceiling painting is a political allusion and depicts an assembly of the classical deities and a portrait of Dr Sacheverell. Mercury is depicted falling between the ceiling and the wall.

The ceiling painting and top of the Painted Staircase at Hanbury Hall

Smallhythe Place, Kent

The former home of actress Ellen Terry will shine a spotlight on her daughter Edy Craig who lived with two female partners in the Priest’s House. Playwrights, Pioneers, Provocateurs will highlight a number of objects in the house, and a production of Wilde Without The Boy, a dramatisation of De Profundis, the letter/s written by Oscar Wilde to Lord Douglas from prison, will take place in the Barn Theatre on 9th and 10th June.

Knole, Kent

Knole will be celebrating Virginia Woolf’s iconic novel ‘Orlando’, inspired by her lover Vita Sackville-West, who was born and brought up at Knole. A copy of the book, signed by Woolf for Vita’s cousin Eddy Sackville-West recently acquired at auction, will form the centre piece of events which include a partnership with Cinelive and the British Film Institute. A week of events begins Tuesday 27th June.  

 

The west front of Knole, Kent. The central gatehouse was built by Henry VIII between 1543 and 1548, with later additions to the west front in the seventeenth-century.

The west front of Knole, Kent. 

Simon Murray, Senior Director of the National Trust says:

“Our spotlight on LGBTQ heritage is an important one and we have chosen it to begin our ‘Challenging Histories’ programme. Over the next few years we will be exploring some of the complex and often more difficult aspects of the history of our places, stories we have perhaps shied away from but which are important to our understanding of their history.

“In 2018, to mark the centenary of the first Act of women’s suffrage, we will be looking at the role women have played in shaping our places but also how they were often excluded; in 2019, 200 years after the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, we will look at places which have been the scene of important national events such as Runnymede, Tolpuddle and Mam Tor.

“The programme will be built on new research and will, we hope, stimulate contemporary debate on issues that have their roots in the past but are of continuing relevance today. We will create a programme of events and exhibitions that will be of interest to new and existing audiences alike and remind us all of the importance of our cultural heritage and how vital it is to care for it for future generations to enjoy.”

Read more about LGBTQ activities around National Trust places in 2017.

 

 

Bettany Hughes’s ‘Ten Places, Europe & Us’

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Bettany Hughes at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

A new podcast series from the National Trust unravels Europe’s influence on our nation through the ages revealing the continental roots that lie buried in locations from Neolithic Avebury ring to modernist Hampstead.

Over ten weeks starting on 24 October, award-winning historian and broadcaster, Bettany Hughes, will explore National Trust sites and uncover their cosmopolitan histories, revealing their links to the wider world in ten 20 minute programmes. Continue reading