30.03.2015
14:44

Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum

Address:

The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, SE18 6ST

Phone:

020-8312-7103

Website:

www.firepower.org.uk

Opening times:

Tue-Sat 10:00-17:00

How to get there:

Station: Woolwich Arsenal (from Charing Cross)

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Café and shop

The museum of artillery was founded in 1776 by Lt Gen. Sir William Congreve as a teaching collection, known as the Royal Military Repository. His son, Col. Sir William Congreve, succeeded his father as Superintendent of the Military Machines at Woolwich, and managed to have the collection installed in the Rotunda (viewable by appointment), a strikingly original building by John Nash (1820). Modelled around the huge tent designed for the meeting of the allied sovereigns at Carlton House Gardens in 1814, and built to celebrate Wellington’s victory at Waterloo the next year, the Rotunda remained the museum’s home until early 2001, when the museum moved into the buildings of the Royal Ordnance Factory at the Royal Arsenal. The Royal Artillery Regiment was founded here in 1741.

The approach to the museum passes an impressive variety of 18th-century buildings, including the Royal Brass Foundry (1717) and Verbruggen’s House (1772). The latter was purpose-built by The Ordnance Board for Jan Verbruggen, Master Founder, his two daughters and son Peter. During the Second World War it housed the Ordnance Committee and also the Ordnance Board. Dial Square, with its imposing archway designed by Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor c. 1717–20, one of the earliest of their collaborations to survive, was also the birthplace of Arsenal Football Club, which started life in 1886 as the Dial Square Football Club, a team composed of workers in the gun machining factory. The modern Firepower! museum is housed further down No. 1 Street, the Royal Arsenal’s processional avenue down to the river, in the former Paper Cartridge Factory: early 19th-century buildings where the majority of workers would have been women.

The Museum

The displays are introduced by a 15-minute presentation called Field of Fire, an audio-visual display in a large, darkened auditorium that gives visitors a loud and vivid impression of gunners and gunnery in action. The History Gallery, on the balcony level overlooking the main hall, describes the development of artillery pieces from the trebuchet through cannons and mortars to the Maxim machine gun. In 1240 gunpowder was rediscovered by the English monk Roger Bacon, possibly while working with texts captured from the Arab world. He concealed his dangerous secret in code—nevertheless, an explosive combination of saltpetre, nitrate, sulphur and charcoal was in use by the end of the same century. Bacon’s exact formula remained undeciphered until the 20th century, when Lt Col. Hime broke the code.

Some of the earliest guns in the collection are displayed here: a pair of Chinese t’ungs, small short-range pellet-firing weapons, one of them dated 1409, and the Bodiam Mortar. This early siege weapon, dating from the 15th or 16th century, was unearthed in the moat of Bodiam Castle, Sussex. The oldest English piece in the collection, it was designed to fire incendiary bombs or showers of small stones. A falconet from the English Civil War, one of the lightest pieces of field artillery in use in the 17th century, is mounted on its original carriage. Nearby, the three-pounder Galloper gun, from 1756, was designed to be pulled by one horse. The story continues with a six-pounder from 1796, typical of those used in the Peninsular War, and replaced by the nine-pounders used at the Battle of Waterloo, up to an early British Maxim machine gun. Made in London in 1895, it is the kind that was sold to the Boer Republic in 1899–1902.

A unique survivor on display here is the Gatling gun, dated 1865, manufactured by Colt. Both weapons make an appropriate introduction to the exhibition on the First World War, recounting the key role played by the Royal Artillery in that terrible war of attrition.

On the ground floor, the Gunnery Hall is home to a formidable collection of retired artillery pieces: a rare World War Two British 18-pounder Mark II, donated by the Jordanian Army, of the type used in France by the British Expeditionary Force in 1940; a Maxim Sokolov machine gun M1910, used by the Russian army against Japan; anti-tank and self-propelled guns; a Thunderbird missile launcher Mark 6, 1960, the first guided anti-aircraft missile system used by the Royal Artillery; and a Rapier anti-aircraft missile system from 1985, used in the Falklands and the Gulf.

Across No. 1 Street, the East Wing Gallery houses a collection of trophy guns, including a superb French 12-pounder presented to Queen Victoria by the Emperor Louis Napoleon. The Cold War Gallery tells the story of the regiment from 1945 to the present day, using an impressive collection of tanks, armoured cars and self-propelled guns.

30.03.2015
14:26

Fenton House (National Trust)

Address:

Windmill Hill, Hampstead, NW3 6RT

Phone:

020-7435 3471

Website:

www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fentonhouse

Opening times:

Wed–Sun 11:00-17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Hampstead

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Some disabled access

This handsome red brick William and Mary house, one of the best late 17th-century houses to survive in London, stands at the very top of Hampstead in one of the most attractive parts of the ‘village’. From 1936 until her death in 1952, it was the home of Lady Binning, who bequeathed it to the National Trust. Lady Binning was the beneficiary of George Salting (1835–1909), a celebrated 19th-century connoisseur-collector. Though the finest items from his collection are now in national museums, something of his eclectic taste can still be felt here; the array of Chinese blue and white porcelain is especially striking. Also on display here is the important Benton Fletcher Collection of early musical instruments, given to the Trust in 1937, thus narrowly avoiding destruction in the wartime bombing of Old Devonshire House, Bloomsbury, where it had previously been housed. Music students often play the instruments, and it is a memorable experience to visit this airy house and beautiful garden, and to hear from a distant room the evocative sound of a harpsichord or spinet.

Little is known for certain about the early history of the house. It stands on manorial land which between 1682 and 1690 passed through the hands of four different lords, the last of them only six years of age. It was probably built by William Eades, the son of a master bricklayer, apparently without the help of an architect. In the early 18th century it was bought by Joshua Gee, a Quaker linen merchant who went into partnership with George Washington’s father, importing pig-iron from Maryland. Gee was also the acclaimed author of The Trade and Navigation of Great-Britain Considered (1729); his initials and those of his wife, Anna Osgood, are worked into the handsome wrought iron gates at the south entrance from Holly Hill. By 1786 the place was called Clock House. Six years later it was bought by Philip Fenton, son of a coal merchant from Yorkshire, whose family owned it until 1834. During their time here, the Regency loggia between the wings on the east side, which now forms the main entrance to the house, was added. Otherwise the house appears externally much as first built.

Tour of the House

The Hall, with original 17th-century panelling, contains an oval portrait of Philip Fenton’s son James. There is also the right-hand part of a diptych by Adriaen Isenbrandt, A Donor with St Christopher, part of Salting’s collection. Thirteen paintings by Sir William Nicholson (best known for his woodcut portrait of Queen Victoria) are on loan to the house from Ramsden Hall, Essex. Two can be seen here.

The
Dining Room occupies the whole of the south front, originally two separate rooms, one of them a morning room. Refurbished—as was much of the house—in 1973–74 by John Fowler, the man whose taste, together with that of Sybil Colefax, shaped what we now think of as the ‘English country house style’, the room now displays the rest of the Nicholson paintings. These include the Jewelled Bandalore (1905), showing a sombre woman in a feathered hat dangling an 18th-century forerunner of the yo-yo, and Hawking (1902), which shows the artist’s more famous son Ben (who later married Barbara Hepworth) as a young boy, dressed in a kilt with accompanying greyhound. Another portrait, Nancy in Profile (1912), depicts Nicholson’s daughter, who after a brief marriage to the poet Robert Graves went on to make a name for herself in textile design. Other paintings are characteristically muted still lifes and his forceful South Down Landscape Sunset 1912. Winston Churchill cited Nicholson as the formative influence on his own painting. Also in this room is the largest harpsichord in the collection, a Shudi and Broadwood of 1770. Burkat Shudi, a Swiss emigré who enjoyed the patronage of both the Prince of Wales and Handel, took on John Broadwood as his apprentice in Soho in 1761.

The Porcelain Room (which also provides a good view of the garden) contains some of the finest figures produced by English and continental factories in the 18th century. The former are displayed in the left-hand alcove: porcelain from Bow, Chelsea and Derby, a rare Longton Hall figure of a harlequin (c. 1755) and a remarkable Bristol set of the ‘Rustic Seasons’ (c. 1773–74). In the right-hand alcove early Meissen figures by master-modeller J.J. Kändler, including harlequins designed to decorate the table at the Dresden court of Augustus the Strong, can be compared with a Scaramouche modelled by F.A. Bustelli for the Bavarian Nymphenburg manufactory, and other pieces by J.C. Ludwig von Lücke for Höchst, near Frankfurt (c. 1752). On the walls hang bird and flower paintings by Samuel Dixon (d. 1769), his so-called ‘basso relievos’, which use an unusual method of applying gouache to embossed paper. They appear in their original black and gold frames.

The Oriental Room, formerly Lady Binning’s library and little altered since her time, takes its name from the collection of Song- and Ming-dynasty porcelain displayed here, mostly in a mahogany glazed cabinet in Chinese Chippendale style. On the mantelpiece stand translucent blanc-de-Chine Dehua joss-stick holders in the shape of Dogs of Fo, from the Kangxi period (1662–1722). An alcove closet contains a curious collection of Qing dynasty (1644–1911) snuff bottles in porcelain, glass and hard stones.

Upper Floors

The Rockingham Room takes its name from the china now displayed here. Rockingham ware was produced on Lord Rockingham’s estate near Manchester between the mid-18th and mid-19th centuries. By the fireplace hangs an early print of Dürer’s The Sea Monster (c. 1525). The harpsichord in this room is a Shudi single-manual (i.e. an instrument with a single keyboard) of 1761 that once belonged to the pianist Fanny Davies, a pupil of Clara Schumann. In the small closet is the oldest instrument in the collection, an Italian virginal of 1540, signed Marcus Siculus, with stencilled decoration, the keyboard boxwood with ebony accidentals.

Next door is the Blue Porcelain Room, formerly Lady Binning’s bedroom. The Chinese blue and white porcelain is of the Kangxi period (late 17th–early 18th centuries), of the type later successfully copied by the Delft factories. The double-manual harpsichord of 1777 by Jacob and Abraham Kirckman, Shudi’s main rivals, features a ‘nag’s head swell’, a curved lever used for opening part of the lid. It was developed after the invention of the piano—which could create crescendos and diminuendos—in order to make the harpsichord suitable for the new musical scores, which called for changes of dynamics.

The main room on this floor is the
Drawing Room. Though also redecorated by Fowler, it is more of a piece than some of the other rooms, the satinwood Sheraton-style furniture and display cabinets having been specially commissioned by Lady Binning. In the alcove to the right of the fireplace is a landscape drawing by Jan Brueghel; between the windows an Elizabethan sweet purse embroidered with silver, gold and pearls. Either side of the chimney breast are alcoves displaying outstanding examples of Worcester porcelain. The hexagonal pink-scale vase and cover, with unusual decoration of birds and chinoiserie figures, is the most important English piece in the house. A pair of tea bowls depicts scenes from Aesop’s Fables. Meissen porcelain on display here includes an early grotesque teapot and cover modelled by J.J. Irminger and a fine pair of parrots on ormolu bases. Also here is a very important pair of Frankenthal court dancers, sometimes called ‘Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour’, in the guise of Acis and Galatea.

Across the landing, the Green Room, formerly a bedroom and dressing room, has been redecorated by interior designer David Mlinaric. There are Staffordshire figures on the mantelpiece. A Dutch cabinet displays a pair of ceramic hares from the Plymouth factory (c. 1768) and two Bow dogs of a type known as the ‘Dismal Hounds’ (c. 1758). In the closet alcove hangs Psyche, a Persian Cat (1787) and A Terrier, both by Francis Sartorius.

Leading up to the attic from the landing, the
Service Staircase is hung with a series of engravings by Houbraken and Vertue made for Thomas Birch’s The Heads of Illustrious Persons of Great Britain (1743). At the top hangs G.F. Watts’ Neptune’s Horses (1888–92), inspired by the waves at Sliema in Malta. On the attic landing stands a French or Italian late 16th-century buffet, carved with representations of the river god Tiber and the infants Romulus and Remus. On it stands a Rhenish bellarmine wine-jar: the mask of the bearded man on this and all other ‘bellarmines’ represents Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine (1542–1621), opponent of Protestantism and of the divine right of kings.

The Attic Rooms (those on the southeast and southwest side give superb long-distance views towards the landmarks of central London) display the rest of the Benton Fletcher collection. In the southeast room is a single-manual harpsichord by Jacob Kirckman from 1752, rare in having only two sets of strings, as well as an 18th-century hurdy-gurdy and small 19th-century archlute. In the southwest room is a German clavichord, a painted Venetian virginals, and a single-manual harpsichord made by Thomas Culliford in 1783.

In the northwest room is a double-manual harpsichord by the Kirckmans from 1762, a 1925 Arnold Dolmetsch clavichord, and a spinet rescued by Fletcher from a leaking outhouse in Wales. In the north room the Hatley virginals (1664) can be seen (and like many of the other instruments, sometimes also heard). With traditional flower and fruit decoration, it is one of only ten English virginals to survive from before the Great Fire of London, and the earliest English instrument in the collection. Also in this room is a 1774 Broadwood square piano. In the northeast room stands a grand piano (1763–78), at one time attributed to Americus Backers, the inventor of the revolutionary escapement which came to be known as the ‘English grand action’. Though the piano is now known not to be by Backers, it is still of a very early date. There is also a Broadwood piano from 1805, of the type given to Beethoven a decade or so later.

30.03.2015
14:22

Fashion and Textile Museum

Address:

83 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XF

Phone:

020-7407 8664

Website:

www.ftmlondon.org

Opening times:

Tues–Sat 11:00–18:00, Sun 11:00-17:00

How to get there:

Tube/Station: London Bridge

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Founded in 2003 by fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, this small museum of contemporary fashion and textiles mounts two or three special exhibitions each year. The designer has cited the success of her 1999 San Diego exhibition ‘Fashion Is’ as germane to the museum’s inspiration as a forum for the display, study and practice of contemporary garment design. The centre showcases a programme of changing exhibitions exploring elements of fashion, textile and jewellery as well as courses for creative students and businesses.

Situated in the heart of fashionable Bermondsey Village, in a fantastic building designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, the FTM aims not just to display and collect items relating to fashion, jewellery and textile design, but to offer inspiration to a new generation of creatives. Now redeveloped and operated by Newham College, the museum is a hub of learning, ideas and networking for the fashion and jewellery industry.

30.03.2015
14:19

Fan Museum

Address:

12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, SE10 8ER

Phone:

020-8305 1441

Website:

www.thefanmuseum.org.uk

Opening times:

(Museum) Tues–Sat 11:00–17:00, Sun 12:00–17:00 (Orangery for afternoon tea) Tues and Sun from 13:45, Fri and Sat from 12:30

How to get there:

Station: Greenwich (from Charing Cross); DLR to Cutty Sark

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Afternoon teas, Tues and Sun only. Shop

This small museum, which occupies two 1721 Georgian town houses, is dedicated to the history of the fan and fan making. It was the brainchild of Hélène Alexander, whose own collection forms the heart of the museum’s over 3,500 items. The collection ranges from the 11th century to the present day and includes fans from all over the world, from India, China and Japan as well as Europe. There is a fine representation of 17th-century French fans from the court of Louis XIV, elaborately painted on vellum, as well as intricate lace fans, a large collection of 18th- and 19th-century European fans, a c. 1889 fan painted by the British artist Walter Sickert, and other rare examples. The collection is shown through a series of exhibitions (three a year) which highlight the ceremonial, social and fashionable use of fans as well as different craftsmanship techniques. The mural-decorated orangery, which is open for afternoon tea, overlooks a Japanese-style garden with a fan-shaped parterre and small pond.

30.03.2015
14:15

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

Address:

39a Canonbury Square, Islington, N1 2AN

Phone:

020-7704 9522

Website:

www.estorickcollection.com

Opening times:

Wed–Sat 11:00–18:00, Sun 12:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Highbury and Islington

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Disabled access to galleries 1–4 only, café and shop

The Estorick Collection, which opened in 1998, is the best collection of Futurist art outside Italy. It was formed by the American-born sociologist and writer Eric Estorick and his wife Salome Dessau (d. 1989), who married in 1947 and began to collect Futurist works on their honeymoon in Switzerland and on their return to England via Milan. Further trips to Italy in the 50s shaped the collection, which they began to exhibit from 1954, including a show at the Tate Gallery in 1956. By this time Estorick had become an art dealer, and in 1960 founded the Grosvenor Gallery. Before his death in 1993 he set up the Eric and Salome Estorick Foundation, to which the Estorick collection of Italian works was donated, and in 1994 the Georgian house at 39a Canonbury Square was purchased for their display. Futurism, which embraced the modern world and new technology and which called for a cultural rejuvenation of Italy, was launched in 1909 when Filippo Marinetti published its manifesto in Le Figaro. The Foundation has an excellent collection of works by Futurism’s early pioneers, a group of artists in Milan which included Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini. Their subjects were urban and frequently political, emphasising the rapidity of change in modern life by their focus on the dynamism, speed and power of machines. The collection also contains works by other well-known Italian modern artists, mainly figurative art and sculpture dating from 1890–1950, including a series of drawings by Modigliani, his portrait of Dr François Brabander, and early works by de Chirico.

30.03.2015
13:50

Eltham Palace (English Heritage)

Address:

Court Yard, off Court Road, Eltham SE9 5QE

Phone:

020-8294 2548

Website:

www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/eltham-palace-and-gardens

Opening times:

Sun 10:00–16:00

How to get there:

Station: Eltham (from Charing Cross), then bus 126, 161

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Café and shop

The manor of Eltham was one of the oldest estates belonging to the Crown and by the 14th century one of the largest and most frequented of the English Royal Palaces. Originally a moated manor house, it was a favourite Christmas residence of English sovereigns from Henry III to Henry VIII. Chaucer was clerk of the works to Richard II here, and here Henry IV entertained the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus. After Agincourt Henry V stayed at Eltham before his triumphal entry into London. The Great Hall, the most evident feature of the medieval palace which remains today, was constructed by Edward IV in 1475–80. Henry VIII was the last monarch to spend much time at Eltham, and after the Civil War both the palace and its grounds were given over to agricultural use. The Great Hall was used as a barn and romantic views of it as such were made by several artists, including Turner.

The Courtaulds and Eltham
In 1933 the site was purchased by the wealthy couple Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, who conceived a spectacular and luxurious house. Designed by Seely & Paget, the aim was to construct a glamorous and modern home while retaining as much as possible of the medieval palace. The result is an extraordinarily eclectic mix, the 1930s house incorporating the Great Hall and other palace walls, and the gardens, the medieval moat, and the exposed foundations of various royal lodgings. Externally the house is inspired by Wren’s Hampton Court, but inside a succession of stylish rooms was created by leading 1930s interior designers. A programme of restoration was completed by English Heritage in 1999.

Stephen Courtauld never joined the family textile firm, which manufactured rayon, but his inherited shares generated immense wealth. In 1923 he married Virginia Peirano, of Italian-Hungarian parentage. Both were interested in the arts (Stephen’s brother, Samuel, was founder of the Courtauld Institute Galleries and in modern design, and Eltham was conceived as a showcase for their art collection. The interiors were created by a team of artistic advisers, personal friends of the Courtaulds, including Winifred Knights and her husband Tom Monnington, the Swedish interior designer Rolf Engströmer (head of the Swedish company Jefta) and the Italian decorator Peter Malacrida. Malacrida, then working for the company White Allom, had been a neighbour of the Courtaulds in Grosvenor Square. The house was a stage for extravagant weekend parties, the quality of its materials and craftsmanship matched by the luxury of the innovative 1930s technological features: an internal telephone system, concealed ceiling lights, underfloor heating, speakers which broadcast music throughout the ground floor, and a centralised vacuum cleaner with sockets in each room.

Tour of the House
The entrance to the house, over the medieval bridge across the moat, is through a curved colonnade flanked by two tall staircase turrets. H. Carlton Attwood’s relief carving Hospitality directly above the door welcomes visitors. The Entrance Hall is triangular in shape, with light flooding in from Engströmer’s shallow domed ceiling, of concrete with pierced glazing. The walls are lined with Australian blackbean veneer with inset marquetry scenes incorporating Florentine and Venetian architecture, and landmark buildings in Stockholm. Large figures, a Roman centurion and a Viking, flank the entrance door. The central rug, with geometric patterns, is a reproduction of the original by Marion Dorn (V&A) and the furniture placed on it, under the dome, replicates Engströmer’s 1930s blackbean and walnut originals, upholstered in cream.

To the left is the
Dining Room, a bold Art Deco interior designed by Malacrida. The walls and ceiling are of maple flexwood, the ceiling having a central rectangular recess finished with aluminium leaf which shimmers in the lighting concealed around its perimeter. The ceiling also conceals the central heating. The fireplace contains a very early instance of an electric imitation log fire which is flanked by curved, ribbed aluminium panels, the whole surrounded by an Art Deco design in black marble with a Greek key design. The latter also appears on the ebonised doors and cupboards, which also have large applied lacquer designs of animals and birds.

The Drawing Room, to the right of the entrance hall, was also designed by Malacrida, in Florentine Renaissance style. Originally it would have had sumptuous soft furnishings in silk damask and velvet, with Turkish rugs on the floor. The false beams, with Hungarian folk art decoration, conceal lighting for the Renaissance pictures which once hung here, the most important being Veronese’s Astronomer and Patriarch, now in the National Gallery, Zimbabwe (the Courtaulds emigrated to Southern Rhodesia in 1951).

The corridor off the hall leads to Virginia Courtauld’s Boudoir, designed by Malacrida with a coved and mirrored ceiling with concealed lighting and a large sofa with attached side tables and shelves. The Library next door was originally hung with the Courtaulds’ collection of watercolours, including works by Turner now at the Courtauld Institute Galleries. Edward IV’s medieval Great Hall is at the end of the corridor. The Courtaulds conceived it as a music room and held great parties here. The impressive and lofty hammerbeam roof, with its carved tracery, was restored but the Minstrel’s Gallery, the carved screen and the stained glass are imaginative medieval-style creations. Instead of tapestries, the walls were hung with decorative rayon hangings.

From the entrance hall, the West Stairs lead up to Stephen Courtauld’s Suite, designed by Seely. The bedroom has walls of aspen veneer and expensive hand block printed Kew Gardens wallpaper. Virginia Courtauld’s Bedroom, by Malacrida, is approached through a circular lobby with a sliding door and niches for vases of flowers. The bedroom itself, with a circular ceiling with concealed lighting and heating, has walls of maple flexwood with inlaid marquetry. The bathroom is luxuriously appointed, with walls lined with onyx and a bath set in a gold mosaic niche with, above the gold-plated taps, a classical sculpture of Psyche.

Returning to the landing visitors can see Mah-Jongg’s Quarters, designed for the Courtaulds’ pet ring-tailed lemur, bought at Harrods in 1923. ‘Jongy’ enjoyed central heating, a bamboo forest mural and a bamboo ladder leading down to the Flower Room. He accompanied his owners everywhere and had his own small deckchair for foreign cruises. Among the guest bedrooms is the Venetian Suite, which incorporates 1780s Venetian panelling into Malacrida’s design of mirrored walls painted with elaborate arabesques.

The Grounds
The gardens retain their 1930s layout and include important remains of the medieval palace and its moat, particularly in the area of the Turning Circle and Squash Court. The South Garden retains its luxuriant 1930s herbaceous border and the sunken Rose Garden has at its centre a tranquil pool planted with water lilies. There is a rock garden with a gentle water cascade, and a wisteria-covered pergola made from Ionic columns salvaged from the Bank of England after its reconstruction in 1921.

The Courtaulds and Eltham

In 1933 the site was purchased by the wealthy couple Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, who conceived a spectacular and luxurious house. Designed by Seely & Paget, the aim was to construct a glamorous and modern home while retaining as much as possible of the medieval palace. The result is an extraordinarily eclectic mix, the 1930s house incorporating the Great Hall and other palace walls, and the gardens, the medieval moat, and the exposed foundations of various royal lodgings. Externally the house is inspired by Wren’s Hampton Court, but inside a succession of stylish rooms was created by leading 1930s interior designers. A programme of restoration was completed by English Heritage in 1999.

Stephen Courtauld never joined the family textile firm, which manufactured rayon, but his inherited shares generated immense wealth. In 1923 he married Virginia Peirano, of Italian-Hungarian parentage. Both were interested in the arts (Stephen’s brother, Samuel, was founder of the Courtauld Institute Galleries and in modern design, and Eltham was conceived as a showcase for their art collection. The interiors were created by a team of artistic advisers, personal friends of the Courtaulds, including Winifred Knights and her husband Tom Monnington, the Swedish interior designer Rolf Engströmer (head of the Swedish company Jefta) and the Italian decorator Peter Malacrida. Malacrida, then working for the company White Allom, had been a neighbour of the Courtaulds in Grosvenor Square. The house was a stage for extravagant weekend parties, the quality of its materials and craftsmanship matched by the luxury of the innovative 1930s technological features: an internal telephone system, concealed ceiling lights, underfloor heating, speakers which broadcast music throughout the ground floor, and a centralised vacuum cleaner with sockets in each room.

 

Tour of the House

The entrance to the house, over the medieval bridge across the moat, is through a curved colonnade flanked by two tall staircase turrets. H. Carlton Attwood’s relief carving Hospitality directly above the door welcomes visitors. The Entrance Hall is triangular in shape, with light flooding in from Engströmer’s shallow domed ceiling, of concrete with pierced glazing. The walls are lined with Australian blackbean veneer with inset marquetry scenes incorporating Florentine and Venetian architecture, and landmark buildings in Stockholm. Large figures, a Roman centurion and a Viking, flank the entrance door. The central rug, with geometric patterns, is a reproduction of the original by Marion Dorn (V&A) and the furniture placed on it, under the dome, replicates Engströmer’s 1930s blackbean and walnut originals, upholstered in cream.

To the left is the Dining Room, a bold Art Deco interior designed by Malacrida. The walls and ceiling are of maple flexwood, the ceiling having a central rectangular recess finished with aluminium leaf which shimmers in the lighting concealed around its perimeter. The ceiling also conceals the central heating. The fireplace contains a very early instance of an electric imitation log fire which is flanked by curved, ribbed aluminium panels, the whole surrounded by an Art Deco design in black marble with a Greek key design. The latter also appears on the ebonised doors and cupboards, which also have large applied lacquer designs of animals and birds.

The Drawing Room, to the right of the entrance hall, was also designed by Malacrida, in Florentine Renaissance style. Originally it would have had sumptuous soft furnishings in silk damask and velvet, with Turkish rugs on the floor. The false beams, with Hungarian folk art decoration, conceal lighting for the Renaissance pictures which once hung here, the most important being Veronese’s Astronomer and Patriarch, now in the National Gallery, Zimbabwe (the Courtaulds emigrated to Southern Rhodesia in 1951).

The corridor off the hall leads to Virginia Courtauld’s Boudoir, designed by Malacrida with a coved and mirrored ceiling with concealed lighting and a large sofa with attached side tables and shelves. The Library next door was originally hung with the Courtaulds’ collection of watercolours, including works by Turner now at the Courtauld Institute Galleries. Edward IV’s medieval Great Hall is at the end of the corridor. The Courtaulds conceived it as a music room and held great parties here. The impressive and lofty hammerbeam roof, with its carved tracery, was restored but the Minstrel’s Gallery, the carved screen and the stained glass are imaginative medieval-style creations. Instead of tapestries, the walls were hung with decorative rayon hangings.

From the entrance hall, the West Stairs lead up to Stephen Courtauld’s Suite, designed by Seely. The bedroom has walls of aspen veneer and expensive hand block printed Kew Gardens wallpaper. Virginia Courtauld’s Bedroom, by Malacrida, is approached through a circular lobby with a sliding door and niches for vases of flowers. The bedroom itself, with a circular ceiling with concealed lighting and heating, has walls of maple flexwood with inlaid marquetry. The bathroom is luxuriously appointed, with walls lined with onyx and a bath set in a gold mosaic niche with, above the gold-plated taps, a classical sculpture of Psyche.

Returning to the landing visitors can see Mah-Jongg’s Quarters, designed for the Courtaulds’ pet ring-tailed lemur, bought at Harrods in 1923. ‘Jongy’ enjoyed central heating, a bamboo forest mural and a bamboo ladder leading down to the Flower Room. He accompanied his owners everywhere and had his own small deckchair for foreign cruises. Among the guest bedrooms is the Venetian Suite, which incorporates 1780s Venetian panelling into Malacrida’s design of mirrored walls painted with elaborate arabesques.

 

The Grounds

The gardens retain their 1930s layout and include important remains of the medieval palace and its moat, particularly in the area of the Turning Circle and Squash Court. The South Garden retains its luxuriant 1930s herbaceous border and the sunken Rose Garden has at its centre a tranquil pool planted with water lilies. There is a rock garden with a gentle water cascade, and a wisteria-covered pergola made from Ionic columns salvaged from the Bank of England after its reconstruction in 1921.

30.03.2015
13:47

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Address:

Gallery Road, Dulwich, SE21 7AD

Phone:

020-8693 5254

Website:

www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

Opening times:

Tues–Fri 10:00–17:00, Sat–Sun and bank holidays 11:00–17:00

How to get there:

Station: North Dulwich (from London Bridge)/West Dulwich (from Victoria)

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Café and shop

Designed by the great architect Sir John Soane in 1811–13, Dulwich Picture Gallery is the oldest public art gallery in the country. Purpose-built for the display of pictures, it houses a significant collection of Old Master paintings, the majority of which were bequeathed in 1811 by Sir Francis Bourgeois, including many originally destined for the King of Poland. Dulwich opened its doors to the public in 1817 (seven years before the National Gallery), and in June of that year its first annual dinner took place. Over 30 guests, including many Royal Academicians, feasted on turtle soup and venison accompanied by madeira, claret, port, sherry and champagne. Visitors to the gallery had to purchase tickets in advance from one of a number of shops in central London. Today, Soane’s great building, its east façade recently reconstructed to better accord with Soane’s original intention (galleries had been added along the front c. 1910), sits in spacious grounds in a gracious area of old Dulwich which retains much of the ‘delightful country’ feel remarked on by Bourgeois. The new cloister-like wing, with café (Rick Mather 2000), which wraps itself round the east and north edges of the grounds, against the building of old Dulwich College (relocated nearby in the late 19th century) is low-built and glass-fronted so as not to detract from Soane.

History of the Collection

Now an independent charitable trust, until 1994 Dulwich was part of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift (which included the school, Dulwich College), a 17th-century educational and charitable foundation established in 1619 by the Elizabethan actor and theatre manager Edward Alleyn (1566–1626). Alleyn, manager of the Rose and Fortune Theatres, rivals to the Globe, as well as of London’s bear-baiting, bequeathed to his college his collection of pictures, which included a set of English monarchs beginning with William the Conqueror, and a set of Sibyls. Of historical rather than aesthetic importance, these are rarely displayed. They were joined in 1686 by about 80 from the collection of the actor William Cartwright which, with their surviving inventory, stand as an important record of the collecting tastes of a moderately wealthy, neither rich nor noble, 17th-century Londoner. Among the portraits are important works by John Greenhill; the only contemporary likeness of the actor Richard Burbage; and good quality seapieces by Laureys de Castro. Sir Francis Bourgeois’ bequest in 1811 of over 350 Old Master pictures, many of great distinction, transformed the College collection. Bourgeois (1756–1811), an artist of moderate ability (several examples of his work are in the collection), was the protégé of the ambitious art dealer Noel Desenfans (1744–1807), with whom he collaborated. Between 1790 and 1795 Desenfans was collecting on behalf of Stanislaw II Augustus, King of Poland, who wished to establish a National Gallery of Poland; but with the partition of that country and the forced abdication of the king in 1795 Desenfans was left with the pictures on his hands. On Desenfans’s death in 1807 the remarkable collection, which included works from great collections auctioned as a result of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, passed to Bourgeois.

Highlights of the Collection

The pictures at Dulwich include about 56 of those intended for Poland (others were sold at auction in 1802), and those Bourgeois continued to collect. Highlights of the French works include works by Claude and his circle; Charles Le Brun’s Massacre of the Innocents, previously owned by Louis XIV’s Keeper of the Royal Treasury and then the Duc d’Orléans; Poussin’s Nurture of Jupiter and The Triumph of David, showing David parading the head of Goliath through Jerusalem; and Watteau’s Plaisir du Bal, which the artist Constable, on a visit to Dulwich, found ‘so mellow, so tender, so soft, so delicious’. The collection has a particularly strong collection of Dutch and Flemish pictures: several works by Cuyp, Pynacker, Ruisdael and Teniers the Younger, Dou’s A Woman Playing a Clavichord, possibly that in the de Bye collection, Leiden, in 1665; Aert de Gelder’s Jacob’s Dream, with its huge sky and angel appearing in a dazzling, bright light, formerly owned by Le Brun; Rembrandt’s well known A Girl at a Window, signed and dated 1645, probably owned by the influential French art critic Roger de Piles; several works by Rubens, including Venus, Mars and Cupid, also from the Orléans collection; and Wouwermans’ Halt of a Hunting Party, another Orléans picture. Italian pictures include works by Guercino; Sebastiano Ricci’s Resurrection, an oil sketch for the painted apse in the chapel of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea; Veronese’s Saint Jerome and a Donor; and Guido Reni’s Saint Sebastian, a version of the work in the Prado, Madrid (but with a reduced loin cloth), which was a highly celebrated picture at Dulwich in the 19th century. Another popular work, and much copied, was Murillo’s Flower Girl, probably modelled by the artist’s daughter Francisca, later a nun. The British pictures came largely from Charles Fairfax Murray, who bequeathed them between 1911 and 1919 in order to boost the gallery’s British School representation. The bequest included van Dyck’s extraordinary Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby, on her Death-bed, painted in 1633 two days after she died in her sleep; Lely’s Nymphs by a Fountain (before 1640) and the beautiful Young Boy as a Shepherd, possibly once owned by the English 17th-century portraitist Mary Beale. These works joined the early Alleyn and Cartwright British pictures; the Linley portraits, including Gainsborough’s excellent full-length The Linley Sisters, bequeathed by William Linley in 1831; and Sir Joshua Reynolds’ great Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse, a replica of the one now at the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, which Desenfans ordered from Reynolds in 1789.


The Building

Soane’s task was to design a new gallery for the pictures which was also to incorporate a mausoleum for the tombs of Bourgeois and Desenfans and later Desenfans’ wife (d. 1813), all of whom had been Soane’s friends. This dual purpose, and association between death and art, excited Soane, and Dulwich became his ‘favourite subject’. Due to lack of funds, the actual building (which cost less than £10,000) is stark and austere with little embellishment: though celebrated today, it was not truly Soane’s wish. The main galleries, a succession of plain interlinked spaces, had top-lighting in the form of large lanterns, influential for later gallery design in Britain; and the mausoleum was centrally placed on the west side, flanked by almshouses (a key function of Alleyn’s college), now converted to galleries. The contrast between the ‘dull, religious light’ of the mausoleum, filtered through amber glass, and the daylight clarity of the gallery, was deliberate. Internally the gallery has been restored as far as possible to its original early 19th-century appearance, including the smoky dark red of its walls.

30.03.2015
13:25

Dr Johnson’s House

Address:

17 Gough Square, (off Fleet Street), EC4A 3DE

Phone:

020-7353 3745

Website:

www.drjohnsonshouse.org

Opening times:

May–Sept Mon–Sat 11:00–17:30; Oct–April Mon–Sat 11:00–17:00; Closed bank holidays

How to get there:

Tube: Blackfriars/Chancery Lane

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

No disabled access, shop

Dr Johnson’s House lies tucked behind Fleet Street, approached via a number of passages, Hind Court, St Dunstan’s Court or Johnson’s Court, narrow alleyways which are part of London’s pre-1666 Great Fire street pattern. They open into Gough Square with its granite paving and, in the evening, atmospheric gas lighting. The house occupies the square’s west end and is its principal remaining old building. A handsome c. 1700 house of red brick, with a later 18th-century doorcase, it was where the great lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson (1709–84) lived from 1748–59. The house has had a mixed history since Johnson’s occupation. In the 19th century it was a hotel, a print shop and a storehouse, but was restored by Cecil Harmsworth and opened as a museum in 1912. The small-scale house immediately adjoining is the curator’s residence.

Originally from Lichfield in Staffordshire, Johnson moved to London with his friend the actor David Garrick. A struggling journalist when he first occupied the house, he produced The Rambler here and wrote his novel Rasselas. It was also while he was living here that he was commissioned to write the celebrated Dictionary. Published in two volumes in 1755, it went through four editions in Johnson’s lifetime and instantly became the standard authority. A congenial man with a wide circle of intellectual friends, including at this point in his life the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds and Charles Burney, Johnson nevertheless was not a wealthy man. He lived simply at Gough Square with his wife, Elizabeth Porter, 20 years his senior, until her death in 1752, and later his Jamaican servant, Francis Barber, joined him.

MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.

Latest

National Maritime Museum
Wimbledon Windmill Museum
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
2 Willow Road (National Trust)
William Morris Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery
Westminster Abbey Museum
Wesley's Chapel
Wellington Arch (English Heritage)
Wallace Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)
Tate Modern
Tate Britain
Sutton House (National Trust)
Spencer House
Southside House
South London Art Gallery
The Courtauld Institute of Art (Somerset House)
Sir John Soane's Museum
Shakespeare’s Globe
Serpentine Gallery
Science Museum
St Bride’s Crypt Museum
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
Saatchi Gallery
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Mews
Royal London Hospital Museum
The Faraday Museum
Royal Hospital Chelsea
RCM Museum of Music
Royal Academy of Music Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
Red House (National Trust)
Ranger’s House (English Heritage)
Ragged School Museum
The Queen’s Gallery
Prince Henry’s Room
The Photographers’ Gallery
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Osterley Park (National Trust)
Orleans House Gallery
Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret
Natural History Museum
National Portrait Gallery
National Gallery
National Army Museum
Musical Museum
World Rugby Museum
Museum of the Order of St John
Museum No. 1 (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Museum of London
Garden Museum
Museum in Docklands (Museum of London)
The Royal Observatory
The Queen's House
Old Royal Naval College
Marianne North Gallery (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Marble Hill House (English Heritage)
Mall Galleries
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
London Transport Museum
London Fire Brigade Museum
London Canal Museum
18 Stafford Terrace – The Sambourne Family Home
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Leighton House
Kingston Museum
Kew Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
London Museum of Water & Steam
Kenwood House (English Heritage)
Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Keats House
Jewish Museum
Jewel Tower (English Heritage)
Jerwood Space
Imperial War Museum
ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts
Hunterian Museum
Horniman Museum
HMS Belfast (Imperial War Museum)
Hayward Gallery
Handel House Museum
Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Ham House (National Trust)
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guards Museum
Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy
Geffrye Museum of the Home
Fulham Palace
Freud Museum
Foundling Museum
Forty Hall & Estate
Florence Nightingale Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum
Fenton House (National Trust)
Fashion and Textile Museum
Fan Museum
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Eltham Palace (English Heritage)
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dr Johnson’s House
Dennis Severs' House
Danson House
Cutty Sark
Contemporary Applied Arts
Chiswick House (English Heritage)
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chartered Insurance Institute Museum
Charles Dickens Museum
Carlyle’s House (National Trust)
Camden Arts Centre
Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum (Imperial War Museum)
Burgh House - The Hampstead Museum
Buckingham Palace
Brunel Engine House
Brunei Gallery SOAS
British Optical Association Museum
The British Museum
The British Library
Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee
Black Cultural Archives
Museum of Childhood (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Benjamin Franklin House
Ben Uri Gallery - The London Jewish Museum of Art
Barbican Art Gallery
Banqueting House (Historic Royal Palaces)
Bankside Gallery
Bank of England Museum
All Hallows Undercroft Museum
Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum

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