Green light for Sutton Hoo transformation as National Trust is awarded £1.8 million National Lottery grant

Bold plans to take one of the UK’s most significant historical sites into the future are set to go ahead after the National Trust learnt it has been awarded a £1.8million National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help transform the way it tells the story of one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

Home to the burial ground of the Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald, Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge in Suffolk has been fascinating visitors from around the world ever since its hoard of treasure and royal secrets were discovered by a local archaeologist in 1939.

Now, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the National Trust can move ahead with plans to transform the experience of visitors and help them discover more about the people who settled here and those who went on to lead the archaeological digs that uncovered the world famous finds, including the Sutton Hoo helmet.

Sunset over the famous burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. ©National Trust Images_Justin Minns

The news of the successful grant bid follows two years of planning and the funds will go towards the total project cost of £4million.

Plans include building a 17 metre observation tower to give views over the entire burial ground and to the River Deben beyond, revealing the fascinating story of this evocative landscape. It was from the River Deben that an Anglo-Saxon ship was hauled up the valley before it formed the burial chamber found in Mound One, where the famous treasure was discovered by Suffolk archaeologist Basil Brown.

A new route around the site will allow visitors to walk in the steps of the Anglo-Saxons.  Tranmer House, the former home of Edith Pretty who instigated the dig that would lead to the discoveries, will be transformed with a new exhibition exploring a timeline of multiple discoveries and the ongoing research at this and other archaeological sites.

Enhanced guided tours, thought-provoking activities and installations, innovative interpretation and creative programming will all sit alongside a schools education programme.

In addition, partnership working with archaeological bodies, the British Museum and the local community will all help to bring both the landscape and Exhibition Hall to life.

The project, called ‘Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo’, will enable the National Trust to create an experience that helps visitors discover more about this internationally significant site and how its stories have captured the imaginations of people the world over.

The dig at Sutton Hoo in 1939. ©British Museum

Allison Girling, Property Operations Manager at Sutton Hoo said: “We welcome visitors with a wide range of interests and knowledge to Sutton Hoo and these plans are all about sharing more about the history of this special place, helping visitors delve deeper into the lives of the Anglo-Saxons who settled here, the people who discovered them and to learn more about what it is that makes Sutton Hoo so fascinating.

“From why the Anglo-Saxons chose to bury their king here and how their lives and traditions have influenced English culture for generations, to how the determination of one remarkable woman led to the discoveries in the first place, there are so many stories to tell at Sutton Hoo and thanks to National Lottery players who make these grants possible, we’ll be able to move forward with our plans.”

Allison added: “We’ve been working with Sutton Hoo’s teams of staff and volunteers, regular visitors and supporters, the local community and the National Lottery to shape the future for Sutton Hoo and together we want to create an experience that really brings history to life whether you’re visiting for a family day out, to discover what’s on your doorstep or to support academic research.”

Replica of the richly decorated Anglo-Saxon helmet found at Sutton Hoo. ©National Trust Images_Andreas von Einsiedel

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in the East of England said: “Sutton Hoo is an incredibly significant treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon heritage and it’s exciting that thanks to National Lottery players, this fascinating site will be transformed for visitors from near and far. This is a great opportunity to share this amazing place and put people of all ages at the heart of a story which spans 6,000 years.”

The Trust has also been given permission for plans to transform the welcome centre and car park.

The £4million project is being made possible thanks in part to support provided by members and visitors and the National Trust is aiming to raise a further £560,000 in order to complete the project.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2021.

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Kingston Lacy explores the life and exile of William John Bankes as part of National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme

EXILE – 18 September – 12 November, Kingston Lacy, Dorset

A bold new installation at the National Trust’s Kingston Lacy in Dorset marks fifty years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

It examines the exile of former owner William John Bankes and reveals both its significance for understanding the house that is seen today and its relationship to the ongoing challenges faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LBGTQ) community.

William John Bankes, explorer, scholar and art collector, inherited Kingston Lacy in 1834 and set about transforming the house into a Venetian Renaissance palazzo.

William John Bankes, credit NT Images 

In 1841 he was caught with a soldier in ‘an indecent act’ at a time when intimate relationships between men could be punishable by death.

Bankes had narrowly escaped prosecution for a similar incident a few years earlier, so on this second occasion he felt he had no choice but to leave the home he loved for exile in France and later Italy.

From abroad, however, he continued to commission and collect art and other treasures to send back to Kingston Lacy with instructions on how they were to be displayed and with designs for decorative schemes.

EXILE will enable visitors to learn more about Bankes’ exile and his contribution to the house and its decoration from afar, and also consider his extraordinary story within a broader context of intolerance and persecution of LGBTQ lives from Henry VIII to modern times.

EXILE features three distinct installations, linked by a series of new interpretive panels. As visitors enter the house, they will encounter ‘In Memoriam’, a tribute to the 51 men who were hanged under laws that criminalised same-sex acts during Bankes’ lifetime. It is a reminder of the brutality of the times and the context of his actions.

In Memoriam, installation in the entrance hall, credit National Trust/Steve Haywood

Further into the house, the second installation – ‘Displaced’ – uses projection and sound to make connections between Bankes’ story and the ongoing persecution of LGBTQ people, drawing on contemporary experiences of those forced to leave their homes in the UK and abroad.

The final installation – ‘Prejudice, Persecution, Pride’ – sets Bankes’ story within a global history that examines how the law has shaped – and continues to shape – LGBTQ lives. Facsimile copies of legal documents from the Parliamentary Archives will be exhibited alongside a timeline that reveals familiar and surprising stories of persecution and intolerance, liberation and equality.

The installation at Kingston Lacy is part of the National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme which is celebrating the stories of LGBTQ people at a number of its places and acknowledging the contributions they have made to history and society.

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy, credit NT Images/John Hammond

The programme has been researched and developed by the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) in collaboration with the National Trust and with support from Stonewall.

John Orna-Ornstein, National Trust Director of Curation & Experience says: “Kingston Lacy holds a story that deserves to be known more widely – as with all those we have researched and shared through our ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme. These stories show how deeply and widely LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history and how this resonates with our lives today.”

Professor Richard Sandell of the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries says: “Historic sites hold enormous potential to tell stories that not only illuminate our understanding of the past but which also offer us opportunities to look differently at the world today. Our collective aim in researching and developing EXILE has been to offer visitors an enhanced appreciation of the house and its beautiful collections but also the chance to reflect on how that history is entwined with a bigger, ongoing story about the law and LGBTQ equality.”

The rainbow flag will be flown at Kingston Lacy from 18 September, the day that William John Bankes went into exile, until 12 November.

Visitors can see EXILE at Kingston Lacy from 18 September to 12 November. Entry is by timed entry tickets. For opening times, booking information and further details www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy or phone on 0344 249 1895.

 

Clare Balding presents podcasts on LGBTQ heritage for National Trust ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme

A six-part podcast series, ‘Prejudice & Pride’, presented by broadcaster and author Clare Balding, launches today and explores stories from National Trust places across the country, uncovering the LGBTQ heritage that has often been left out of recorded history.

The series brings together studio discussions and recordings at Trust places, with contributions from new and established writers, historians and curators.

Each episode follows a theme, such as women’s intimacies, creative retreats, queer history in the ancient world and connections with the performing arts.

Clare Balding in the studio, (C) Anna Lea

 

Clare Balding says: “I’m delighted to present some of the creative, dramatic and surprising stories that have emerged as part of the National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme. I admire hugely the work the Trust has done in preserving our cultural and architectural history, and these places mean so much more when we understand the people who lived and loved in them.

“I think it’s crucial to realise that LGBTQ heritage and LGBTQ people are not a new phenomenon or a passing phase.  There have always been people of amazing creativity, generosity and importance who do not conform to gender stereotypes.

“I feel we can get better at embracing difference. Realising the impact of the LGBTQ community as a key part of our British heritage is a step in the right direction.”

The podcasts – to be released weekly – are among the latest series of activities and events announced by the Trust in its year-long ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme 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. To celebrate this heritage, the Trust has been exploring the stories of the people who challenged conventional notions of gender and sexuality and who shaped the places in which they lived.

Three short documentary-style films have also been produced to celebrate LGBTQ heritage and the breadth of activity across the ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme. Artists in residence Simona Piantieri and Michele D’Acosta have captured key moments from the programme.

The films include footage of the recent joint project with The National Archives to recreate The Caravan, a queer-friendly members club in 1934 that was shut down by police; the moving stories of Pre-Raphaelite artist Simeon Solomon and his contemporaries connected to Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton; and highlights of Birmingham Pride Festival in May.

National Trust at Birmingham Pride 2017, (C) Arnhel de Serra

 The films encompass stories of love, loss and tragedy, as well as celebration and pride, and will be exhibited at selected properties and online.

The Trust’s research into the many LGBTQ stories at its places and the people who shaped them has been published this month in a new Prejudice & Pride guidebook by Professor Alison Oram and Professor Matt Cook.

From tales of cross-dressing to stories of servants and the retreats used by same-sex couples, the guidebook explores famous names and unknown people, as well as the architecture, design and collections which they may have associated with as a way of expressing their desires and relationships.

 

Front cover of the new Prejudice & Pride guidebook

 

Tom Freshwater, National Programmes Manager at the National Trust says: “There is an extraordinary range of stories and people connected to our places which illustrates how deeply LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history.

“Thousands of visitors have already enjoyed theatre performances, art installations and exhibitions as part of our programme so far this year, as well as taking part in our partnership projects with University of Leicester and The National Archives, and joining us as we participate at Pride festivals.

“This is not just a year-long celebration but one which will give us a lasting legacy and offer a greater understanding, accessibility and higher profile for LGBTQ heritage that will benefit us all.”

Property-based events in the Prejudice & Pride programme are also taking place this summer and autumn.

  • Sutton House, Hackney

Sutton House is hosting a year of exhibitions, activities and events around the theme ‘Sutton House Queered’. Exploring identity in a creative, challenging and playful way, the programme has been developed with the LGBTQ community and a number of partners. A summer School of Anarchy will explore themes of LGBTQ activism and protests, banners and flags, DIY cultures and activist zines. Queer artist Jacob V Joyce will be creating an exciting and interactive in-house exhibit alongside a series of engaging family activities.      24 July to 3 September.

  • Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

A new short film ‘The Unfinished Portrait’ narrated by local resident, actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry, tells the story of the last squire of Felbrigg – Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer. The last squire was a shy, gentle man, known as ‘Bunny’ to his friends, who restored his exquisite ancestral home and bequeathed it to the nation in 1969. Although many have privately acknowledged his homosexuality, this has not been previously discussed with visitors to the Hall. Working with the staff at Felbrigg, the University of Leicester team has uncovered new information about the last squire – his poetry, scholarship and circle of friends – that has been used to create the beautiful short film.

The film uses an unusual and striking blend of live action (featuring National Trust volunteers from Felbrigg), animation and motion graphics, created by a talented team of artists and designers – Julie Howell, Tom Butler and Lea Nagano.

Released online and at Felbrigg from 25 July.

Kingston Lacy, (C) Thomas Faull

 

  • Kingston Lacy, Dorset

A bold new installation and exhibition – Exile! – celebrates the contribution of William John Bankes to Kingston Lacy and the impact he had on the house and estate. Forced to flee England in 1841 to avoid prosecution and a possible death penalty for same-sex acts, Bankes was exiled in Europe, from where he sent back a vast collection of art to further develop the house.

This collaboration between Kingston Lacy and the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, places Bankes’ experiences in the context of a broader history of the persecution of LGBTQ lives, enriching the contemporary relevance of his story.  In memory of his exile, the rainbow flag will be flown at Kingston Lacy throughout the installation.

18 September to 12 November

  •  Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

 At Sissinghurst Castle Garden, LGBTQ heritage plays a particularly important part in the property’s story. Owners Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West, who purchased Sissinghurst in 1930, enjoyed a happy and loving marriage while also engaging in same sex extra marital affairs. Their relationships challenged social norms and influenced them both creatively.

Speak its Name!  – a display in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, London – will present selected portraits from the Gallery’s Collection, including photographs and drawings of Sackville-West’s lovers Violet Trefusis and Virginia Woolf, and portraits of the couple’s artistic and literary contemporaries, including Duncan Grant and Lytton Strachey. Items from the Sissinghurst collection also feature, including a copy of ‘The Well of Loneliness’ by Radclyffe Hall, a book with a lesbian protagonist that was deemed ‘obscene’ by a British judge when it was released in 1928, and pictures of Nicolson and Woolf that once belonged to Sackville-West.

9 September – 29 October

  •  Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland

When Emperor Hadrian ruled ancient Rome from AD 117 – 138, there was nothing unusual about same sex relations. What was extraordinary was his outpouring of grief over the death of his younger male lover, Antinous.  Evidence of it remains in the shape of marble busts of Antinous’ likeness and coins that depict him. In October, an evening of talks, created in partnership with Vindolanda Trust, Newcastle University and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, will round-off the National Trust’s year of events celebrating our shared LGBTQ heritage.

26 October

See the Prejudice and Pride web page for more details of the podcasts, films, activities and LGBTQ events around National Trust places in 2017.

Andrew Logan sculpture comes to Buckland Abbey, former home of Sir Francis Drake

‘The Art of Reflection’ from 1 July 2017

An exhibition of contemporary art by the renowned sculptor Andrew Logan will open on Saturday 1 July at the National Trust’s Buckland Abbey in Devon.

‘The Art of Reflection’ interprets the history and spirit of the abbey in 18 Logan sculptures, placed in 13 selected locations throughout the house and gardens, including the Great Barn, Kitchen Garden and the historic Cart Pond.

The exhibition, one of the largest ever staged by the National Trust in collaboration with one artist, is curated jointly by Buckland Abbey and Andrew Logan, with work selected from five decades of the artist’s career.

A major attraction will be Andrew Logan’s new jewel and painted glass portrait of Sir Francis Drake, Buckland’s most celebrated owner.

Drake’s Portrait 2017, photo Steve Haywood/National Trust

‘The Art of Reflection’ has been organised under the conservation charity’s              Trust New Art contemporary art programme.

Reflecting themes ranging from exploration and discovery, to peace and tranquillity, and nature and the universe, ‘The Art of Reflection’ includes ‘Goldfield’, one of Logan’s earliest public commissions from 1976.

The giant installation will fill Buckland’s Great Barn with 4.5-metre high wheat stalks, field mice and floating butterflies.

Other exhibition highlights include ‘World of Smiles’, a hanging globe in Drake’s Chamber, echoing his circumnavigation of the world, and ‘Life and Oomph’, Logan’s life-size sculpture featuring Royal Ballet principal ballerina Lynn Seymour, reaching out from a sea of pearls. Never previously exhibited, ‘Life and Oomph’ will be installed in the former Long Gallery, a space historically used at Buckland for recreation and dancing.

Goldfield, photo Steve Haywood/National Trust

 

The abbey’s dining room is to be transformed by Logan into an installation titled ‘Dinner with Andrew Logan and Friends’ featuring artworks by his friends Duggie Fields, Jennifer and Christine Binnie, Richard Logan and Dame Zandra Rhodes.

Buckland’s gardens will be home to Logan’s ‘Four Flowers of the Apocalypse’, a floral tribute to the abbey’s spectacular natural setting, and ‘Excalibur’, a 3-metre glass sword rising out of the abbey’s Cart Pond.

‘The Alternative Miss World’ event which Logan conceived and has run for over 40 years will be represented by the ornamental ‘Elements’ and ‘Universe’ thrones on which the competition’s winners have been crowned. During the exhibition, Buckland’s visitors will be able to try out the thrones for themselves in the Great Hall which has welcomed many famous noblemen and dignitaries during its colourful history.

Buckland’s volunteers will be given specially created pieces of ‘apple’ jewellery to wear in celebration of the abbey’s 700 year old history of apple-growing and cider-making. Other pieces from Logan’s Heritage Jewellery collection will be displayed alongside historic artefacts in the abbey’s collection.

Excalibur, photo Steve Haywood/National Trust

James Breslin, Buckland Abbey’s House & Visitor Experience Manager said: “We’re thrilled to be working with an artist of Andrew’s calibre and to bring his work to Buckland. We have designed the exhibition with Andrew to weave its way through our existing collection and historic spaces, offering new and exciting ways to reflect on Buckland’s past through contemporary art.

“We hope our visitors will be surprised, inspired, and perhaps even challenged, by discovering Andrew’s beautiful sculptures in the tranquil and unique setting of Buckland.”

Andrew Logan said: “It is a joy working with Buckland Abbey for this exhibition and drawing inspiration from its great beauty, peace and tranquillity, resting in the Devon hills. It is exciting to mix new and old work, to see ‘Goldfield’ going on show again after 41 years, while creating a portrait of Francis Drake especially for Buckland as a homage to him. I really hope the exhibition is going to enthral visitors and be like Alice in Wonderland…full of surprises.”

Grace Davies, National Trust Contemporary Art Programme Manager said:
“For over five years visitors have been coming to experience Trust New Art, our rich and diverse programme of contemporary arts at properties across the country inspired by National Trust places. Continuing the spirit of Trust New Art, this vibrant exhibition by Andrew Logan shines a new light on Buckland Abbey, giving visitors the opportunity to experience contemporary creativity that is rooted in our unique heritage.”

‘The Art of Reflection’ runs until  February 2018.

SQUARING THE CIRCLE: Archaeological detectives discover ‘secret square’ beneath world-famous Avebury stone circle

 

New archaeological surveys reveal unique square megalithic monument at the heart of the World Heritage Site

Archaeologists have found a striking and apparently unique square monument beneath the world famous Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, cared for by the National Trust, was built over several hundred years in the 3rd millennium BC and contains three stone circles – including the largest stone circle in Europe which is 330m across and originally comprised around 100 huge standing stones.

A research team led by the University of Leicester and University of Southampton used a combination of soil resistance survey and Ground-Penetrating Radar to investigate the stone circle.

Their work was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and supported by the National Trust, as well as archaeologists from the University of Cambridge and Allen Environmental Archaeology.

Dr Mark Gillings, Academic Director and Reader in Archaeology in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester, said: “Our research has revealed previously unknown megaliths inside the world-famous Avebury stone circle. We have detected and mapped a series of prehistoric standing stones that were subsequently hidden and buried, along with the positions of others likely destroyed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Together, these reveal a striking and apparently unique square megalithic monument within the Avebury circles that has the potential to be one of the very earliest structures on this remarkable site.”

 

Radar in action: The Ground-Penetrating Radar survey underway (featuring Dom Barker & Kris Strutt of the University of Southampton).

 

Avebury has been subject of considerable archaeological interest since the 17th century. The discovery of new megaliths inside the monument was therefore a great surprise, pointing to the need for further archaeological investigations of this kind at the site. The survey took place inside the Southern Inner Circle, contained within the bank and ditch and colossal Outer Stone Circle of the Avebury henge. Excavations here by the archaeologist and marmalade magnate Alexander Keiller in 1939 demonstrated the existence of a curious angular setting of small standing stones set close to a single huge upright known since the 18th century as the Obelisk. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war left this feature only partially investigated.

Dr Joshua Pollard from the University of Southampton said: “Our careful programme of geophysical survey has finally completed the work begun by Keiller. It has shown the line of stones he identified was one side of a square of megaliths about 30m across and enclosing the Obelisk. Also visible are short lines of former standing stones radiating from this square and connecting with the Southern Inner Circle. Megalithic circles are well known from the time when Avebury was built during the late Neolithic (3rd millennium BC), but square megalithic settings of this scale and complexity are unheard of.”

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist at Avebury, said: “This discovery has been almost eighty years in the making but it’s been well worth waiting for. The completion of the work first started by Keiller in the 1930s has revealed an entirely new type of monument at the heart of the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle, using techniques he never dreamt of.  And goes to show how much more is still to be revealed at Avebury if we ask the right questions.”

The archaeologists who undertook the work think the construction of the square megalithic setting might have commemorated and monumentalised the location of an early Neolithic house – perhaps part of a founding settlement – subsequently used as the centre point of the Southern Inner Circle. At the time of excavation in 1939 the house was erroneously considered by Keiller to be a medieval cart shed.

If proved correct, it may help understand the beginnings of the remarkable Avebury monument complex, and help explain why it was built where it was.

The research team is currently compiling their research into a paper for academic publishing.

 

 

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