Monday, February 27, 2012

Gervase Jackson-Stops' Folly, The Menagerie

As incredible as it was to have the scholarly visits to all the historic sites, an even more valuable experience of my time as an Attingham student was getting to know so many talented historians, curators, and conservators.  Easily at the top of this list is Gervase Jackson-Stops, my architecture tutor.
Gervase Jackson-Stops.

Grandson of the founder of the eponymous up-scale British real estate firm, Gervase was educated at two of Britain's top schools, Harrow (secondary school) and Christ Church, Oxford (a college of the University of Oxford).  He was trained at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1969-71 and was a Research Assistant at the National Trust from 1972-75.  As Architectural Advisor to the National Trust for over 20 years, he was responsible for instituting many policies for the first time.  Canons Ashby, an Elizabethan manor house built from the stone of the Augustinian priory that occupied the Northamptonshire site, was saved using Government funds, a first in Britain.
Head of the National Gallery of Art, J Carter Brown, gives HRH Princess Diana
a tour of The Treasure Houses of Britain exhibit.

Gervase was the curator of many exhibitions, most notably "The Treasure Houses of Britain", held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 1985-6;  a product of six years of preparation, it was an enormous success that contributed to the growing trend of admiration for the stately British country houses, their collections, and their decoration.  (U.S. sales of flowered chintz skyrocketed).  In 1987, Queen Elizabeth II named him Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contributions to the heritage of Great Britain.
Horton House as it was remodeled by Thomas Wright.
The cupolas were removed in a 19th century remodeling.
Image from

When Gervase bought the dilapidated folly in Horton Park in 1973, it was being used for agricultural storage.  Horton House, the ancestral home of the Earls of Halfax, built in the 17th century on the site of a medieval village, had been demolished in 1936.  The park, some of the auxiliary buildings, and some alterations to the main house were designed by astronomer Thomas Wright.  Today, thirteen listed buildings remain, including the folly known as the Menagerie.
Horton House as it appeared in a view by J. Storer, July 1812.
Image from

The Menagerie, built in the late 1750s, was an eye catcher for the main house.  It was the architectural feature of a private zoo beyond where the animals were kept in cages in an enclosure of approximately two acres surrounded by a circular moat, which may or may not have contained water.  An account by Horace Walpole who visited in 1763 listed storks, racoons, a young tiger, a bear, 'uncommon martins', 'wart hogs with navels on their backs', and 'many basons [sic] of gold fish'.
This drawing of the Menagerie was used as the letterhead of Gervase Jackson-Stops' stationary.

Although the folly was purchased for only GBP 500, the roofs of the end pavilions and the lead dome on the projecting bay had been stripped off and the windows were boarded up (though none of the original sash remained).  The Menagerie's main room, the Saloon, was filled to the cornice with hay.
The Saloon.
The chimneypiece is painted to resemble porphyry.
Photo by Bruno de Hamel for Architectural Digest.
Another view of the Saloon, from the opposite direction.
The urns are copied from the limewood models Rex Whistler made for Samuel Cortauld.
Photo from Country Life magazine, October 12, 1995.
The bay of the Saloon opposite the fireplace.
Photo from Country Life magazine, October 12, 1995.

Originally, the Saloon was used as a banqueting hall with the food prepared in the brick-vaulted kitchen below.  Although the exceptional plasterwork, attributed to Thomas Roberts of Oxford, had been badly damaged and large portions were missing, there were 1945 photographs to provide documentation.  Christopher Hobbs and Leonard Stead and Son of Bradford restored the decoration, improvising where there was no other evidence.   In keeping with Wright's status as a distinguished astronomer, the ceiling had been given a cosmos motif with Father Time in the center and the Four Winds at each corner.  According to the Walpole account, there was a plaster urn, representing the animals of the four parts of the world, painted to resemble bronze in each of the four niches;  these have also been recreated.  Analysis of the paint in protected areas enabled the restoration of the original color scheme.
The rear of the Menagerie showing the additions behind the screen wall.
Photo by Bruno de Hamel for Architectural Digest.

With the help of his mother, an architect, Gervase added a room behind each of the screen walls that had given a visual connection of the two flanking pavilions to the central block.  The arched openings on the stone facade, originally gates to the zoo, were given windows.  The additions on the brick side were designed to appear as glassed-in loggias, adding a dining room and a bedroom.
The added Dining Room.
Photo by Bruno de Hamel for Architectural Digest.
The added Bedroom.
Photo by Bruno de Hamel for Architectural Digest.
Originally, the end pavilions were probably used to store garden equipment and food for the animals.
The Guest Cottage.
Photo from a private collection.
The gardens around the Menagerie began to be further developed in 1992 to a design by Ian Kirby, Gervase's partner.  Two thatched roof Gothick arbors were built in the garden;  one was later converted into a chapel and the other, a guest cottage.
A detail of the shell Grotto.
Photo from a private collection.
A shell grotto was created in the cellar of the Menagerie, substantially completed by 1995.

Sadly, Gervase died in 1995 at the age of 48.  After several years of being leased, Timothy Mowl, the historic landscape author and professor, another of my tutors at Attingham, bought the property and made additional improvements to the folly.  He also added a walled kitchen garden designed by Jinny Blom.  (Post-script:  thanks to information from BISH - BRITISH & IRISH STATELY HOMES who referenced COUNTRY LIFE magazine, Timothy Mowl was not an owner of The Menagerie).

The last known owner, however, was the film-maker Alex Myers.  Around this time last year, the Menagerie with 4.3 acres was offered for sale, soliciting offers in the region of GBP 1,600,000.  As the property no longer appears among the current listings, it is assumed to have been sold.

More information about Horton Park and the surviving features can be seen at the website of The Horton Park Conservation Group.

All the Architectural Digest photos come from the book CHATEAUX AND VILLAS, THE WORLDS OF ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST edited by Paige Rense, published by The Knapp Press, 1982.

Note: As a service to my readers and in addition to a selection of new books at a substantial discount of the published price, The Devoted Classicist Library offers a number of interesting used and out-of-print books for as little as under $1.00 plus shipping and handling, including the title featured in this post.

Addendum February 28, 2012
The Devoted Classicist is grateful to devoted reader Toby Worthington for bringing to light two additional photos of the Saloon from Gervase's time from an article by John Cornforth.  These have been incorporated into a revised version of this post.

Addendum March 1, 2012
The Devoted Classicist is also grateful to devoted reader Mrs. Beverly Hills for letting us know that the grotto is pictured in Hazelle Jackson's book SHELL HOUSES AND GROTTOES, available through The Devoted Classicist Library.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

That Woman: Wallis Simpson

The Duchess of Windsor, 1945, in a dress by Vionnet, one of her favorite designers.
Photo uncredited,

Following the previous post of The Devoted Classicist with mention of Billy Baldwin, this post features another famous native of Baltimore, Wallis Warfield Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, wife of the ex-King of England.  Much has been written about the Duchess, one of most famous personalities of her day, but new information is brought to light in a recent book THAT WOMAN: THE LIFE OF WALLIS SIMPSON, DUCHESS OF WINDSOR by Anne Sebba.  The title comes from the Queen Mum's referring to Wallis as "that woman", no doubt wondering how she was able to snare Edward VIII, as "a middle-aged married woman with large hands and a mole on her chin."
Edward and Wallis, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Redemption may eventually come to Wallis Simpson, after suffering vilification during her lifetime.  Courtiers worried that the Prince of Wales' depression and stunted mental growth was a liability to the throne, but more serious was the Prince's chuminess with the Germans and his willingness to make concessions to an agressor to avoid war.  The Prince and Wallis were photographed in friendly visits with Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler.  It was said that even after the abdication, the Nazis had plans to install him as a puppet monarch after a successful invasion of Britain was complete.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor at Friedrickstrasse Station, Berlin, 1937,
with Robert Ley, head of the German Labour Front.
Photo uncredited,

The British government exiled the Windsors to the Bahamas in 1940 and installed Edward as Governor.  The intent was that the remainder of their lives would be spent in what was then relative seclusion, restricting their indulgences to parties and the creation of clothes and jewelry.  George VI and Elizabeth, adament in their refusal to acknowledge Wallis as HRH, seemed to blame her for the abdication despite knowing that Edward VIII would have made a disasterous monarch.
The Windsors playing cards in Nassau, Bahamas, 1941.
Photo:  David E. Scherman for LIFE magazine.

Born Bessiewallis Warfield in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1986, Wallis' father died very soon afterwards leaving her mother in strained circumstances, eased by running a residential hotel but branding the family as "boarding-house keepers".
Wallis Warfield in an undated photograph.
Photo uncredited,

In 1916, she married Lieutenant Winfield Spencer, Jr., a US Naval pilot who was a violent alcoholic.  After the separation but before the divorce, Wallis went to live in Shanghai.  There, "she learnt from the Chinese prostitutes some ancient oriental techniques for pleasuring men" and "appeared in naughty postcards".  While in New York waiting for the divorce to be finalized, she met Ernest Simpson who owned a shipping firm.  Although he was already married, it is generally acknowledged he did not know what hit him when he invited her "to make up a fourth at bridge".  They were married in 1928 and went to live in England where the prolific romance novelist Barbara Cartland (later the stepgrandmother of Lady Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales) taught Wallis "the niceties of British etiquette". 
Edward VIII giving a radio broadcast, 1936.
Photo:  Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

A highly visible representative of the slowly building trend to reject stifling Victorian protocol, the Prince of Wales was soon a grateful guest of the Simpson's lavish dinner parties.  Completely using up her husband's resources on couture clothes and entertaining, the Prince of Wales, known for his love of everything American, was noted to be immediately enthralled by Wallis, relishing her taunting him and publicly berating him.  Soon the Simpsons were weekly guests at the Prince's retreat, Fort Belvedere, and the Prince wanted Wallis as his bride, no matter the consequences.
The Windsor marriage photo, June, 1937, at Chateau de Cande, France.
The chateau was owned by their friend, naturalized U.S. citizen Charles Bedaux.
In 1942, he was arrested in North Africa supervising construction of a German pipeline and returned to the U.S. on charges of treason.  He committed suicide in prison awaiting trial.
Photo by Bettman/Corbis.

In this book, Anne Sebba contends that Wallis was not in love with the Prince, only the opulent lifestyle.  Based on new archives and letters written by Wallis to Ernest Simpson recently made available, the author re-evaluates the role of politicians in the 1930s and sheds a new light on the character and motivation of this powerful and complex woman.
The Duchess of Windsor arriving in Florida, 1956, with her custom Maison E. Goyard luggage.
See the June 25, 2011, post of The Devoted Classicist blog
 for more about the Goyard luxury brand that continues today.
Uncredited photo from

Although it may have been a "hellish exile", it was a pampered one, with a Jansen-decorated mansion in suburban Paris leased from the French government for a nominal amount, a tax-free allowance, and off-shore investments siphoned off from the Duchy of Cornwall estates.  The Windsors were always commissioning jewelry for each other from Cartier;  the pieces that remained after their deaths were auctioned for $50,281,887.  But this book presents that this indulgent existence was better than the alternative;  Wallis saved Britain from Fascism by staying with Edward.
The Flamingo clip of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and citrine
 set in platinum was made by Cartier, Paris, in 1940.
It is currently in a private California collection.

Author Anne Sebba will present a talk "That Woman: The Duchess of Windsor and The Scandal That Brought Down a King" on Saturday March 31, 2012, 2 pm, at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art sponsored by Decorative Arts Trust in association with The Royal Oak Foundation.  A book sale and signing will accompany the talk with the public invited to attend free with regular museum admission as part of Decorative Arts Trust's educational programs.  (Upper level Trust members will be invited to a reception following the talk at one of the city's most remarkable private gardens).  For more information, see the D.A.T. website.
Author Anne Sebba is also a delightful speaker.

For those not able to attend the event, THAT WOMAN: THE LIFE OF WALLIS SIMPSON, DUCHESS OF WINDSOR may be ordered at discount here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

John J. Tackett To Speak At Evergreen Museum

The Entrance Vestibule of a new house in Miami Beach Florida.
Ink and colored pencil drawing by John J. Tackett, 2011.
John Tackett Design.
Baltimore-area readers of The Devoted Classicist might be interested in The House Beautiful lecture series at Evergreen Museum and Library.  On Wednesday evening, April 25, 2012, John J.Tackett will speak on the topic "A Devotion to Classicism:  The Enduring Popularity in Decorative Arts".
Evergreen, the Garrett mansion, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Photo from Evergreen Museum and Library.
The presentation will be made at Evergreen, the historic Garrett mansion now one of the museums of the Johns Hopkins University, in the Baskt Theatre starting at 6:30 pm, followed by a reception in the Far East Room.
The Baskt Theatre at Evergreen as it appeared during the time of Billy Baldwin.
Fans of Billy Baldwin will remember that Mrs. John W. (Alice) Garrett and her mansion Evergreen had a great influence in the legendary decorator's development in taste.  Their meeting and subsequent friendship is fondly related in Chapter 2 of BILLY BALDWIN REMEMBERS. 
Alice Garrett as a Russian peasant in a portrait by Leon Baskt.
It was dancing that first brought them together.  She chose Billy to be her partner in productions that she often performed for her friends in the brilliantly decorated theatre in an added wing of the house that had been converted from the former gymnasium and school room.  The first space in this annex, however, is a long gallery lined with vitrines filled with Oriental porcelains and bronzes;  formerly a billard room and bowling alley, this is now known as The Far East Room. 
The Far East Room at Evergreen Museum.
Photo from

More pictures of Evergreen can be seen in a linked post by my blogging friend Meg of Pigtown*Design.

The House Beautiful 2012 Lecture Series.
Other speakers in the series will be Hermes Mallea who will present "Great Houses of Havana:  A Century of Cuban Style" on March 28, and Donald Albrecht who will present "The American Style:  Colonial Revival And The Modern Metropolis" on May 16.  View and/or download the brochure for more information.  Seating is limited and advance ticket purchase, either for the series or the individual events, is recommended.  I am looking forward to meeting some of you in Baltimore!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Recent Redecoration at Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
This is a follow-up essay of sorts for The Devoted Classicist post John Fowler's Paint Scheme At Syon House, the palatial London estate of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.  Their primary residence is Alnwick Castle, pronounced "ANN-ick", the second largest inhabited castle in England (after Windsor Castle).  Apologies come at the onset for the size of this post, especially for those without high-speed connections, but it was just impossible to leave out any more images that I have, so The Devoted Classicist begs your indulgence.
The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, Ralph and Jane Percy.
The current Duke of Northumberland inherited his title in 1995 when he was living with his wife and four children in a farm house on the estate.  The second son of the tenth duke, Ralph Percy, born 1956, became the twelth duke unexpectedly when his brother died of an accidental overdose.  (Once linked to Naomi Campbell's mother Valerie, he had a history of drug addiction according to the Daily Mail).
William Turner's Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, c1825-8, watercolour on paper.
National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Alnwick Castle has been home to the Percy family since 1309.  For more about the fascinating family history, the connection to the Smithsonian Museum, and the art from the house that has been sold in recent years, see The DiCamillo Companion.
The Madonna of the Pinks.
La Madonna dei Garofani, about 1506-7.
Photo from
After his first visit to the castle, Sir Hugh Smithson, who had assumed the Percy name after his 1750 marriage and would become the first Duke in 1766, began a series of restorations and renovations.  This Gothic Revival construction, at the forefront of what would become a trend in England, continued through to the 1770s at great expense, beginning under the direction of Henry Keene, then James Paine, and later Robert Adam.  Extensive landscaping by 'Capability' Brown accompanied the work.

Plan of Alnwick Castle from "A Guide to Alnwick Castle 1856 by The late Rev. C H Hartshorne.  M.A. Rector of Holdenby"
Image from
The fourth Duke, who succeeded to the title in 1847, hired architect Anthony Salvin to remove the Gothic in favor of a more medieval decor, but switched to a scheme in the manner of a 16th century Roman palace after meeting the archaeologist and classicist Luigi Canina and his assistant, Giovanni Montiroli.  The present Duke and Duchess have spent several years restoring this mid-19th century architectural and decorative scheme.
The Lower Guard Chamber.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Lower Guard Chamber is at the entrance to the domestic apartments of the castle.  The room is decorated with the weapons of the Percy Tenantry Volunteers which was active from 1798 to 1814.
The Grand Staircase.
Photo courtesy of Alnwick Castle.
The Grand Staircase leads to the State Apartments.  The side walls are panelled in marble.
The Upper Guard Chamber at Alnwick Castle.
Photo courtesy of Alnwick Castle.

The Upper Guard Chamber.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.

The Upper Guard Chamber.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Upper Guard Chamber shows the contrast of the Italian palazzo created within the shell of the medieval castle.  The marble mosaic floor was installed in 1864 by Luigi Malfatti to the design by Giovanni Montiroli.  The marble statues displayed in the niches are by Guiseppi Nucci and they represent Justice and Britannia.
The Dining Room.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The recent redecoration replaced the Dining Room wall hangings with a brilliant emerald green silk damask from Humphries Weaving Company.  The carpet is a new design by Bamford of Powys.  The chimneypiece was carved by Giovanni Taccalozzi.  Barely visible are the portraits over the fireplace of the first Duke and Duchess.  Also little is seen of the newly repainted carved frieze, but this and other decorative painting throughout the castle was done by Charles Hesp, who was trained under the legendary decorator John Fowler.
The Red Drawing Room as seen in 2009.
A new version of  Ambrosio Osmago's original silk from 1864 is shown being installed.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors Magazine.
The Red Drawing Room.
Photos from Country Life Magazine are available for sale at
The Red Drawing Room features a Carrara marble chimneypiece carved by Giuseppe Nucci and painted decoration by Alessandro Montovani.  After two years of conservation work and display at both Versailles and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the famous pair of Cucci cabinets returned to the castle in the summer of 2011.  The cabinets were made for Louis XIV in the late 17th century by the Italian furniture maker Domenico Cucci to the designs by Charles Le Brun.  Delivered to the Palace of Versailles in 1683, each has a unique depiction -- one of a spaniel and one a monkey.
The Red Drawing Room.
Photo from

One of the pair of Cucci cabinets in the Red Drawing Room.
Photo from

A detail of the Cucci cabinet featuring the monkey depicted in marble mosaic.
Photo from
The double height Library holds thousands of books and is used as a Sitting Room.  The extensive historical records of the Percy family estates are privately owned and maintained by their Collections and Archive department.
The Library at Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Library at Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The giltwood armchairs were made by Morel & Hughes for the now-demolished London residence, Northumberland House.
The China Gallery at Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
A detail of the Hanbury Williams dining service by Meissen, c1745.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The service corridor created for the State rooms during the Salvin renovation was redecorated as the China Gallery in 2006 to display the collection of Meissen, Chelsea, and Paris porcelain.  The detail photo shows part of the Hanbury Williams dining service by Meissen, circa 1745, depicting wild animals, including a version of Durer's rhinoceros.  The Devoted Classicist could not figure out the purpose of the dowels extending from the walls although it was suspected that they had something to do with protecting the porcelain.  As it was thought that my devoted readers would be curious as well, a few inquiries were sent out to see if an explanation could be found. 
Photo of the China Gallery from Country Life Magazine.
Prints of photos from the magazine may be purchased at
A special thanks goes to Stanton Thomas, the Curator of European and Decorative Arts at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art who has been mentioned several times previously in this blog, for providing the answer.  The dowels provided support for protective Plexiglass covers that had been removed for The World of Interiors photo.
The Private Dining Room at Alnwick Castle.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Private Dining Room features a Guiseppe Nucci chimneypiece.  The recent redecoration of the castle was done in consultation with Robert Kime as well as Lucy Manners.
The Bowood Room.
Photo by James McDonald for The World of Interiors magazine.
The Bowood Room with a painted George III bed features Robert Kime's fabric 'Jardinieres Cotton'.  Robert Kime was instrumental in having the furnishings about to be auctioned by the former Duke returned to the house.
The Grand Cascade in the garden of Alnwick Castle.
Photo from
Jane Percy, the current Duchess, set out in 1996 to create a new public garden on the grounds of the castle.  The garden belongs to an independent charity, The Alnwick Garden Trust and reportedly cost 42 million by 2003.  The Duke donated the 42 acre site and GBP 9 million.  The design was developed by the Belgian landscape design firm Wirtz International with the first phase opening in October, 2001.  The centerpiece is the Grand Cascade.
A partial view of the Treehouse in the garden of Alnwick Castle.
Photo from
In 2005, a gigantic Treehouse was completed by Napper Architects that includes a restaurant, retail store, and play area. 

The Poison Garden, opened in 2005 as well, requires a guide who warns visitors not to touch or even smell the plants.  Along with plants that would be expected today -- cannabis, opium poppies, magic mushrooms, and coca -- and those lethal by tradition -- nightshade, hemlock, and mandrake -- there are those one might find in any garden -- laburnum, wild clematis, azalea, and floxglove. 

The gates to the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle.
Photo from
Alnwick Castle was used as the school 'Hogwarts' in the first two Harry Potter films, and that has contributed to an increase in visitation.  In addition, the castle was used in many other films such as "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves" and many television shows.  But the latest thing to bring Alnwick Castle into the news is the dating of the eldest son and the sister of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
George Percy and Pippa Middleton.
Image by Dave Benetti, US WEEKLY.
More information about Alnwick Castle can be learned from their website, and from an article in Country Life Magazine, "The Lion of the North".   Subscriptions to The World of Interiors magazine may be ordered here.