Thursday, May 1, 2014

Notable Homes: The Viscountess and Viscount Rothermere at Daylesford

Daylesford House
in Gloucestershire, England.
Watercolor image via Christie's.
Some consider the interiors Daylesford to be one of the greatest works of legendary decorator John Fowler.  The 2nd Viscount Rothermere, Esmond Harmsworth, was 47 when he bought Daylesford in 1946.  The late 1940s, 50s, and early 60s were the golden age for collectors like Harmsworth as there was wave after wave of treasures coming on the market.  Also, there were inspiring exhibitions to stimulate interest in the English Taste and new books about 18th century furniture and architecture.  Lord Rothermere's historically-based restoration with the advice of John Fowler was unusual for a private home in the early 1960s, however, despite the significance of the house. 
An architectural rendering of the east (entrance) elevation
of Daylesford by Simon Vernon.
The Daylesford estate was the ancestral home of the Hastings family.  One of the most important figures in  18th century Anglo-Indian history was Warren Hastings who essentially created the base for British supremacy in India.  Beginning with a career in the service of the East India Company, he rose to become the first Governor-General of Bengal, the richest and most powerful of the Indian states.  Unlike many of his contemporaries who were only to extract wealth from India, Hastings was noted to place national interests, both British and Indian, above his own personal gain.  Hastings introduced policies that respected native traditions and the local princes and maharajahs, but clamped down on corruption.  However, political opponents turned public opinion in London and India against him, resulting in his being recalled to London to face charges of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of power and cruelty.  A trial before the House of Lords lasted seven years before Hastings was exonerated of all charges.  But he never returned to India.

The west elevation of Daylesford
in an architectural rendering by Simon Vernon.
In 1788, just as the trial was beginning, Hastings bought back the manor house and estate of Daylesford dating from the medieval period that had been sold when he was a child.  Employing architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell, Hastings set out to create a monument to his career that would house his ever expanding art collection.  (The architect was later to design the fantastic Sezincote House nearby for his brother Samuel Charles Cockerell, Surveyor to the East India Company).  As many of the paintings in Hastings' collection were on the subject of India, it was fitting that the house would have detailing that would be reminiscent of the exotic architecture of that country.  The cabinet makers Ince and Mayhew supplied furniture and textiles.  Although no longer in public disgrace, Hastings was content to life in self-imposed exile in great comfort with his family and friends at Daylesford.

The south elevation of Daylesford
in an architectural rendering by Simon Vernon.
In 1853, the house and contents were dispersed by his stepson, and the house and estate passed through several owners before being purchased in 1946 by the 2nd Viscount Rothermere.

Lord and Lady Rothermere
with son Esmond Vyvyan Harmsworth, in the 1970s.
Image via Christie's.
Lord Rothermere had not only the enthusiasm, but also the means, to restore the house to reflect Warren Hasting's late 18th century transformation of Daylesford.  There are some jobs on which John Fowler was said to have "pulled out all the stops" and Lord Rothermere was an appreciated, insightful client who brought out Fowler's sympathy for the house. 
A view to the Entrance Hall (and beyond)
from the Long Hall.
The entrance to the house had been changed in 1855 by Edward Kemp, moving from the south to the east with the principal reception rooms arranged with a southern exposure.  All had classical decoration but was in poor condition by 1946.  Architect Philip Jebb was brought in for the renovation with the assistance of John Fowler.  The restoration of the Anglo-Indian architecture was compliemented by furnishings in the Anglo-French fashion of the late 18th century based on contemporary documents.
The Saloon at Daylesford as decorated by
John Fowler for Lord Rothermere.
A view of the curtains can just be glimpsed
in the reflection in the mirror.
Image from JOHN FOWLER PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
While Lord Rothermere sought out particular items that had belonged to Warren Hastings, Fowler used written descriptions of the interiors as a basis for the new decoration.  Although not a historical recreation in terms of a museum setting, the furnishings of Daylesford were intended to be in the style that had appealed to Hastings.
Another view of the Saloon at Daylesford.
Image from JOHN FOWLER PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
Colefax & Fowler assistant Tom Parr found a suite of armchairs and settees for the Saloon that had been made for David Garrick.  In the French taste by Thomas Chippendale, the suite will be presented in more detail in the following blog post featuring the furniture.  Although the color of the walls does not come through in these photographs, they were said to have painted by John Fowler in 'periwinkle blue' to match the results of his paint scapings and the contemporary accounts of the original decoration of the room.  An Indian carved ivory games table added to the exotic theme of the room, as did two large Indian pictures.  A blue banquette in the alcove was decorated with velvet cushions that were hand painted in the same decoration to match the curtain borders.

The sample board for the Saloon, left.
The original border for the curtains, right,
found after the death of John Fowler.
Images via JOHN FOWLER PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
The contemporary documentation had also described the curtains as having painted borders with sequins.  With Tony Watkins and George Oakes, Fowler painted the borders on ivory velvet using copper stencils he had made, using antique bell pulls as inspiration.  After the borders were sewn onto pale blue satin curtains, they were edged in sequins.  (When Stanley Falconer worked at Daylesford for the present owners, he discovered a fragment of the orginal curtains that had been preserved with the Hastings furniture in another collection to be very similar to what Fowler had produced, and had the borders copied and the curtain fabric dyed to match the original.  More about the present owners of Daylesford will follow in a future post).
The Evening Room at Daylesford
decorated by John Fowler.
Image via JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
The Evening Room, facing west, was painted a very pale grey to compliment the yellow-tinged light from the setting sun.  The curtains were mustard colored with bullion fringe and cording.  Much of the upholstered furniture was covered in yellow silk, picked up in the colors of the 19th century needlework rug.
The Morning Room at Daylesford
with John Fowler's curtains as they were realized
and how they were planned.
Image via JOHN FOWLER PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
The Morning Room which faced east was painted off-white with details of the cornice picked out in gold.  Using the colors in the Aubusson rug, Fowler devised a fresh color scheme for the room.  According to Martin Wood in JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS, the curtain panels were made of sewn-together strips of taffeta in celadon green, French blue and dull apricot; the French blue pelmets were swagged and scalloped with an apricot lining and fringed apron.  Wood says that John Fowler's curtain sketches were annotated by his long-time assistant Imogen Taylor.  In the sketch above, another hand has written "Lath Line" and drawn two horizontal lines to indicate the framework that was needed for support.  Below that, the notes presumably by Taylor indicate an earlier scheme, "Blue Tails & over Sways.  Green linings & under Swag." 
The Dining Room at Daylesford.
Image via JOHN FOWLER PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
The furnishings of the Morning Room, also referred to as the Chinese Room, along with the Dining Room and the Study will be discussed in detail on the next post.
Lord Rothermere's Study at Daylesford.
Image via JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
As always in Colefax & Fowler projects, the guest bedrooms were treated in detail to make them very individual and comfortable. 
John Fowler designed a tent wardrobe
similar to a Mughal tent
for a guest bedroom needing a closet.
Image via JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
Additional guest rooms at Daylesford.  The Red
Bedroom is pictured on the left.  Another
guest room has walls covered in "Print Room' toile.
Image via JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
The guest room with walls covered in a toile
giving the effect of a print room.
Photo from COLEFAX & FOWLER
THE BEST IN ENGLISH INTERIOR DECORATION.
 
 
Lord Rothermere succeeded his father Harold Sidney Harmsworth, the very successful owner of Associated Newspapers Ltd who developed the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror newspapers and a 1930s supporter of Germany (convinced the Nazis would restore the German monarchy), in the viscountcy in 1940. His first marriage, 1920 to 1938, resulted in two daughters and a son, Vere, who became the 3rd Viscount Rothermere after his father's death in 1978.  (Vere was married, Devoted Readers will recall, to Bubbles Rothermere who was the subject of the previous post here).  His second marriage, 1945 to 1952, also ended in divorce (with his ex-wife marrying James Bond author Ian Fleming that same year).  His third marriage, in 1966 to Mary Murchison, produced a son in 1967 (prompting Vere and Bubbles to have another child, a son who would become the 4th and present Viscount Rothermere).
A guest room at Daylesford decorated by John Fowler
using "Hollyhock' chintz as the primary fabric.
The hand-blocked print is still produced for Lee Jofa.
Image via JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS.
The next post in this series of The Devoted Classicist will feature the interiors and specific antique furnishings of Daylesford as created by the 2nd Viscount Rothermere and John Fowler as it appeared until the dispersal at the death of Mary Harmsworth, Viscountess Rothermere.

19 comments:

  1. Thomas de Volpi - CanadaMay 1, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    In the mid eighties, the American House and Garden magazine showed Daylesford as it was done by Renzo Mongiardino for the Thyssen-Bornemisza family-I would love to see that again if you could find it. Best Wishes to you-an excellent blog.

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    1. Thomas, Daylesford during the ownership will be discussed in the post after next. Thank you for commenting.

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  2. Good to see proper Fowler color and comfort. The guest room with the Hollyhock chintz is delicious and that tented wardrobe .... superb. I suspect we might be seeing a lot of that in various forms in the next couple of years. Excellent post and I'm looking forward to the ned installment.

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    1. Blue, tented wardrobes can be a wonderful solution to a lack of closets, can they not? And for me, chintz has never gone out of fashion; I am content that the imitations from the 1980s are no longer produced, however. Thank you for commenting.

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  3. John,
    Christopher Worthland mentioned the Rothermeres in his post on Round Hill, Jamaica, (under Angelo Donghia) I did not realize that Ralph Laurens home there was the former Clarence Dillon estate...
    Christopher was on holiday there. Enjoy!

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    1. Dean, Esmond and his second wife, Lady Anne, were the original owners of the villa known as Cottage 16 at Round Hill, Jamaica. Ian Fleming also owned a villa but moved, along with Noel Coward, to a nearby similar resort development as the Anne-Ian relationship heated up. As mentioned in the post, they married. Thank you for commenting.

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  4. I'm enjoying this series immensely, and looking forward to its continuation. Thanks for enlightening us, your devoted readers... Reggie

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    1. Thanks, Reggie! Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

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  5. Those are some very skillful renderings -just beautiful.

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    1. Stefan, those exterior elevations with the black background are striking, are they not? I want to try that for some of my own work.

      There will be more of the watercolors on the next post. The artist is not credited however.

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  6. I'm crazy about what Mr Fowler achieved at Daylesford, but that might have something to do with the fact of those rooms being among the very first seen of his work.
    If I am not mistaken, there is a colour image of the print room bedroom in Chester Jones's book on the history of Colefax & Fowler. The bed hangings were lined in the firm's classic "Fancy" and in fact the walls were of Toile de Jouy, rather than papered--black and white, bordered in apricot orange tapes. The whole thing unexpected, charming, fresh-- and carried off with supreme confidence.

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    1. It was a great house to present the Colefax & Fowler design approach, and a rich & willing client didn't hurt, either. Despite the problems with color in these images, the use of color was really remarkable, and a far cry from the neutral schemes popular (in the media, anyway) today. If anyone knows if the 'Print Room' toile is still in production today, I hope he/she will let me know; it appears to be wonderful, and much better than similar that I have seen. Thanks for commenting, Toby.

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  7. I am struck by the rather unusual photograph of the Rothermeres, she wearing a tiara, and he not dressed in the complimentary accoutrements; perhaps they were going to separate engagements*? Also the pictures on the left of Lady Rothermere are intriguing, the lower one appearing to show a headless woman. I've heard of the "headless man" in the Duchess of Argyll's case, *and I know this chatelaine enjoyed a long affair with Ian Fleming before she divorced Rothermere and married Fleming. On second viewing it is perhaps the dress depicted in the portrait above it.

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    1. Columnist, you are correct that the lower frame contains the jacket that is worn in the portrait above; more about both will be presented in the next post. In this photo, the viscountess is Mary, the third wife (from a wealthy Dallas family); the second wife, very attractive according to photos, was the one who married Fleming. And yes, there's a long story involved. As for the photo, perhaps there was a reason for wearing the tiara and felt her dress, at least, should be in accordance. Thanks for commenting.

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    2. Ah, not Ann then. Ann was having an affair with both Rothermere and Fleming, and married Rothermere first, (after her husband, Lord O'Neil was killed in the war), and then Fleming.

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  8. Exactly , and thats one of my favourite things in the Victoria and Albert museum. I had no idea it used to belong to the Rothermeres. It is a 16 th century portrait of a lady called Margaret Layton, and the actual jacket or bodice that she wears in the painting has survived and is displayed alongside it, making it a unique pairing of objects.
    Those renderings of the house are indeed beautifully done but they make the house look very chunky.

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    1. There was also a pair of gloves with matching embroidered cuffs in the Rothermere collection. Thanks for commenting, David.

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  9. John thank you , I am enjoying this series so much! I know I have been remiss in visiting....that will change now.

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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    1. Karena, I am happy to welcome you back. The blog is a fun outlet for me, a way to share info while also learning some things along the way myself. Thank you for commenting.

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