Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Mary Poppins Returns Interview with Sandy Powell Costume Designer




THE 'MARY POPPINS RETURNS' COSTUMES ARE JUST AS MAGICAL AS THE MOVIE
Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell even helped dress the cartoon animals for a song and dance number.
FAWNIA SOO HOODEC 19, 2018




"It was the first movie I saw — a long time ago," says "Mary Poppins Returns" costume designer Sandy Powell, about the original 1964 classic children's film starring Julie Andrews in the titular role. "I do remember Mary Poppins's dress, and that's always stayed with me. Also, the fact that, you realize now, you know all the words to the songs still."

It's all come full circle as the three-time Oscar-winner (and nine-time — so far — nominee) excitedly took on the momentous job of bringing everyone's favorite flying nanny, the Banks siblings and co. forward two decades via costume. Grown-up Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) are raising the latter's three children after his wife's death a year ago. Money management hasn't ever been his thing, either, so the family home is in jeopardy of repossession. Yeah, dark. Hence the urgent need for a visit from Mary (Golden Globe and SAG Award nominee Emily Blunt), who hasn't aged at all, as Michael incredulously comments (only to be met with a scolding from his former nanny). But she has received an ultra-chic — but authentic to the original character — outfit update from Powell.

"Her silhouette is ingrained on everyone's memory, isn't it? We know it. It's an iconic image and I knew I had to reference that, but didn't want it the same. We didn't want to put Mary Poppins in 1934 in something that would have been worn in 1910," explains Powell, who also designed another awards season, erm, favorite, "The Favourite." But in a moment of sartorial kismet, 1930s fashion actually nods back to Edwardian style, with mid-calf hemlines and nipped-waist silhouettes.

"I designed a 1930s version of the belle-tiered, elegant longline coat, with the edition of a double-cape at shoulders," adds the costume designer. "Just to make it more modern and fashionable for the 1930s and also to create a bit of movement." (Also perfect for a jaw-dropping landing via aeronautic umbrella.) In a nod to the traditional nanny's uniforms in navy, Powell stayed within the blue family for Mary's iconic coat. But she "bumped up" the shade to a brilliant cobalt to stand out in the more dimly-lit interiors of the Banks household.



Powell also integrated cheerful geometric prints and textures — authentic to post-Art Deco, 1930s fashion — that just jump off the screen: hypnotizing chevron weaves on Mary's jackets and skirts, whimsical polka dots on her bow-tie and gloves and delightful orange contrasting stripes on shirting. "I didn't think she was remotely floral," laughs the costume designer. "There's something nice about graphic images and shapes that appeal to children. I didn't want it to be remotely messy; I wanted it to be clean-cut and clear." Also, look closely to catch the diagonally-shaped buttons that Powell and her team also specially created for the jackets.

True to her legendary M.O., Mary also takes Michael's children Georgie (Joel Dawson), Anabel (Pixie Davies) and John (Nathanael Saleh) on fantastical journeys via everyday household items, like the bathtub. Obviously, they need appropriately magical outfits. For a dive into the evening bath-turned-nautical journey, the kids and Mary change into brighter, beach-y hued and Edwardian-inspired swimwear based off their usual stripes and polka dots prints. "Mary Poppins is wearing blue, a much brighter blue than she would have worn normally in real life, and with the exaggerated chevrons; her hat has a flying fish on it, instead of a bird, on her daytime hat," says Powell.

Mary, Georgie (Joel Dawson), Anabel (Pixie Davies), Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and John (Nathanael Saleh). Photo Courtesy of Disney
Mary, Georgie (Joel Dawson), Anabel (Pixie Davies), Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and John (Nathanael Saleh). Photo Courtesy of Disney

The four — along with singing, dancing and rapping lamplighter Jack, played by (Emmy-, Grammy-, Tony- and Pulitzer-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda of "Hamilton" fame) — also jump into a 19th-century art-covered Royal Doulton bowl to join an animated song and dance sequence — in the vein of the beloved "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." To help make the live-action actors blend in seamlessly with the animation, Powell pitched an ingenious idea: "Why don't we try painting the costumes to look as if they've been painted by the animators?"

Of course, the answer was a "yes." Powell and her painting team went through a painstaking "trial-and-error" process of different painting techniques on cotton and canvas. The final result: Museum-worthy, "watercolor-y" 2D-painted bows, ruffles, pleats and buttons decorate the 19th-century silhouettes, which fit into the era of the artwork on the bowl. Mary and Jack also change into pink-and-purple striped and polka-dotted stage looks for a spectacular song and dance number, backed by similarly clad cartoon circus and farm animals. And, yes, Powell kind of designed the animated outfits, too.


"The costumes that [the actors] are wearing came first and then the animators started building their world. They would pop images of my costumes in to see how it would all work together," she explains. Powell also sent the animation artists reference images for 1800s clothing, so they could draw matching outfits for the pig, elephant, hippo and all. "They would send me little sketches of the animals in their ideas of costumes and then I'd do adjustments," continues Powell. "'I think it would look a bit better if it was like this.' Then we went back and forth for a little bit." Because the dancing animation worked best with straightforward patterns, the stripes and dots consistently carried over into the cartoon world, but in heightened, exuberant colors.


Along with costume designing the cartoon extras, Powell influenced the ultimate look of Meryl Streep's eclectic artist and restorer character, Topsy, who's dressed in deco prints and Boho fringe, and accessorized with paint brushes and pencils. The costume designer's inspiration ranged from the flapper-style of 1920s actress Louise Brooks to the eccentric, turban-sporting Edith Sitwell to heiress Nancy Cunard and her signature stacks of Bakelite bracelets up each arm. But when the two Oscar winners met for their first fitting, Streep suggested a slight tweak, inspired by Powell herself.

Topsy (Meryl Streep) chats with Mary and the kids. Photo: Jay Maidment/Courtesy of Disney
Topsy (Meryl Streep) chats with Mary and the kids. Photo: Jay Maidment/Courtesy of Disney

"I really wanted Topsy to have a turban and not see her hair — just have the turban and big jewelry," says Powell. "And then Meryl came into the room and said she would like a bit of hair. 'But I want it that color,' she said, and pointed at my hair," laughs Powell, about the origins of Topsy's bright-red tousled bob.

As for the Banks family, Jane carries on her suffragette mother's legacy as a workers union organizer in beautiful high-waisted wool trousers, tweedy plaids and a collection of berets (that I need). "I wanted her to be an emancipated woman, and, of course, the really iconic way of doing that is to put her in trousers, so she could be active," explains Powell. "She's always running somewhere, rushing around, and she couldn't be doing that in a skirt and heels. I wanted her to be free to move and be strong."

Michael struggles with raising the kids without his wife and working a soul-less office job. "He's in a cozy, artistic dad look. At home, he's a little bit disheveled, a little bit worn-out," says Powell, about his forest-green, chevron-weave cardigan. "Then he wears the suit to work, which I feel he's never that comfortable in, because he doesn't really want to be working at a bank anyway. By the end, when everything is made good, he's looking dapper and handsome in the boater and the blazer."

The Banks kids are, of course, adorable in their pocket-size pea coats, Fair Isle knits, mini-hats and little high-waisted herringbone shorts. "It's quite difficult to get kids of today to wear knitted things made of real wool because everybody is used to very, very soft things, and synthetics are all comfortable and stretchy," she says. "But they were all very professional kids." Powell also intentionally made their clothes "a bit small" to depict a year's worth of rapid growth and a distracted dad not picking up new clothes for them. "I didn't want them to look too perfect," she says, which, in itself — and with her design acumen — incredibly perfect.

"It's very exciting," says Powell, about designing for the beloved characters in the first film she ever saw. "There was no question of a doubt when I was offered the job that I was going to say no. I was absolutely, 'Yes, I want to do this. It's important."

Follow Sandy Powell on Instagram at @thesandypowell. "Mary Poppins Returns" opens in theaters on Wednesday, Dec. 19.


Emily Blunt On The Costumes of 'Mary Poppins Returns' - Variety Artisans

Sunday, 27 January 2019

“The rights to be consulted, to encourage and to warn”

“The rights to be consulted, to encourage and to warn”
Walter Bagehot famously wrote in The English Constitution (1867) that the British monarch has three rights: the rights to be consulted, to encourage and to warn.
“As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture,” the queen said.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Three Books: Splendour & Squalor by Marcus Scriven / Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House by Susan C. Law / Country House Society: The Private Lives of England’s Upper Class After the First World War by Pamela Horn




Splendour & Squalor by Marcus Scriven: review
Christopher Silvester is entertained by an account of the life and crimes of the aristocracy in Marcus Scriven's Splendour & Squalour
By Christopher Silvester11:20AM GMT 23 Dec 2009

"In as far as they developed talents, it was to misapply them; in as far as they were aware of their own deficiencies, it was to ignore them.” Thus does Marcus Scriven introduce his cast of four scapegrace aristocrats, whose lives coincided with a wider decline of aristocratic power in the 20th century. These are Edward FitzGerald, 7th Duke of Leinster, an inveterate gambler known as the “bedsit duke” after the ignominious accommodations to which he was ultimately reduced; Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol, who was sent to prison as a jewellery thief in his youth and subsequently struggled to overcome this stigma; Angus Montagu, 12th Duke of Manchester, who was dubbed the “Crook of Manchester” by the News of the World after being jailed for fraud in his mid-fifties; and Hervey’s estranged son John Jermyn, 7th Marquess of Bristol, a cocaine and heroin addict who was twice jailed for drugs offences and impelled to raid his own tomb to pay for his hedonistic habits, before dying prematurely.

FitzGerald arguably made one of the worst bargains in history when he mortgaged the entire future income from his family estates during his lifetime (once he had inherited his title from his mentally incapacitated brother) to the financier Sir Henry Mallaby-Deeley. In return, Sir Henry agreed to pay off FitzGerald’s gambling debts of £67,500 and to give him a lifetime annual allowance of £1,000. Predicated on the assumption that Edward’s brother would live for a long time, the bargain came into operation a mere 17 months later, though were it not for this agreement Edward would almost certainly have dissipated his family fortune in some other way. He may not have been vicious, but he was “driven by an incendiary wilfulness” and careless in causing pain to others. “His wives, and other women,” Scriven notes, “usually died unhappily – variously overdosed, drowned or demented.”

Hervey seems to have been the most monstrous of all these characters. At Eton, he assaulted a fellow schoolboy with a knuckle-duster and was expelled for keeping a book. His annual allowance while at school was £1,000 (a staggering £269,000 in today’s money). He had been abandoned by an unloving mother early in his childhood and inherited his title from his distant father at the age of 19. He sought to compensate for this lack of parental affection with a “lifelong shriek for attention”, even inventing stories about heroic exploits during the Spanish Civil War. His conviction for jewellery theft in 1939 became confused in the minds of others with a more notorious hotel robbery involving violence that had taken place at around the same time. Thus he “came to be remembered for a crime he did not commit – an oddly appropriate fate for this most delusional of men”. His business enterprises were disappointing rather than disastrous, but his treatment of his eldest son was shameful.

Angus Montagu’s “hunger for companionship, for cosseting, never diminished”. His father and older brother kept him at a distance. Like Hervey, he was a fantasist. His desperate craving for affection rendered him vulnerable to unscrupulous business colleagues, who implicated him in a fraudulent transaction. He was likeable and generous, but a hopeless figure when it came to earning a living.

Jermyn was more gifted than the other three black sheep in this book. He had business acumen and a core of decency, but was ravaged by drug addiction. Scriven includes a chilling description from a friend of how Jermyn would “chase the dragon” (smoke heroin) and drink Vodka Collins while in command of a helicopter, then switch on the autopilot while he took a brief snooze, only waking just before he reached his destination. Like the others, though, he liked to cast himself as the “perpetual victim” of his upbringing.

There is no particular lesson to be drawn from this quartet of misspent lives. Instead, their capacities for self-destruction and self-delusion are to be wondered at. Scriven guides us through each catalogue of errors with relish and wit, but at the same time invites us to pity his subjects for the horrible failings of their parents. When Jermyn, who was bisexual, decided to marry, his father, Victor Hervey, by now a tax exile in Monaco, decided not to attend the ceremony. He rubbed salt in the wound, taking out an advertisement in The Times to say that he would not be attending his son’s wedding because of a prior engagement in London.

Splendour & Squalor: the Disgrace and Disintegration of Three Aristocratic Dynasties by Marcus Scriven


Scandalous tales of excess, self-indulgence and sleaze among British aristocrats
Thu, Dec 31, 2009, 00:00
PATRICK SKENE CATLING



Splendour Squalor By Marcus Scriven Atlantic, 397pp, £25

SCHADENFREUDE IS a German word with no one-word English equivalent. But the neurotic kink it denotes, the delight derived from another person’s misfortune, is universal. Never before have I read a book that so relentlessly exemplifies this human foible as Marcus Scriven’s collection of case histories of British aristocrats staggering down the primrose path to perdition.

The stomachs of many otherwise normal readers have long been inured to any amount of garbage, with appetites whetted for scandal, no matter how loathsome, especially if it discredits members of families once rich and powerful and considered to be socially superior.

Scriven writes in the manner of an indignant moralist as he doles out the sleaze. Though he has chosen four extreme examples of aristocratic squalor, he evidently abominates the whole House of Lords and all its unearned privileges. His book’s epigraph is a quotation from Denis Healey, one of the Labour Party’s most acerbic veterans of the class war: “The upper classes in every country are selfish, depraved, dissolute and decadent.”

Scriven read history at Oxford University. There are fleeting passages in this book, his first, indicating that he is still seriously interested in the subject. The decline of the English landed gentry began in the 19th century, he relates, when the great landowners’ income from their land shrank from colossal to merely enormous.

One factor he cites is the importation of grain in refrigerator ships. The industrial revolution created rival new wealth in the cities. In spite of increased taxation, hereditary peerages maintained potent though diminished influence in the 20th century, but the aristocratic mystique was irreparably corrupted by the sale of titles during the Lloyd George premiership, a practice that has continued to the present day.

“At the end of the 17th century,” Scriven writes, “there had been only 19 dukes, three marquesses, and a total of 152 earls, viscounts and barons.” By the end of the 20th century there were more than 1,000 of them.

Scriven presents five genealogical pages of “simplified and selective lineages” of his four principal scapegoats, diagrams of complex family interrelationships between Fitzgeralds, Duncombes, Grahams, Herveys, Montagus and others.

Then he gets down to spilling the beans. He concentrates on men who were recreationally obsessed not so much with hunting, shooting and fishing as with drink, drugs, gambling and bisexual promiscuity.

“Adultery,” Scriven writes, “was invariably a useful antidote to the inexpressible boredom of so much aristocratic life.”

Edward Fitzgerald, the seventh duke of Leinster, ran through £400 million, suffered a series of bankruptcies and took his own life; Victor Hervey, the sixth marquess of Bristol, was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude for a jewel robbery; Angus Montagu, the “absurdly stupid” and grossly overweight 12th duke of Manchester, spent time in a prison in Virginia and ended up broke; John Hervey, the drug-addicted, homosexual seventh marquess of Bristol, had a New York entourage of “le tout Eurotrash”, collected luxurious cars, of which the most ostentatious was “an eight-seater, six-door Mercedes previously owned by pope Paul VI and rock star Rod Stewart”, and is believed to have shot a peacock.

According to Scriven, it has often been said that the Herveys were “genetically destined for damnation: programmed for lives of cruelty, self-indulgence, untamed lust and ultimate self-destruction”.

By the end of my wade through all this, I turned with relief from Burke’s peerage to the relative purity of the pigs in Animal Farm.




Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House
by Susan C. Law

Scandal existed long before celebrity gossip columns, often hidden behind the closed doors of the Georgian aristocracy. But secrets were impossible to keep in a household of servants who listened at walls and spied through keyholes. The early mass media pounced on these juicy tales of adultery, eager to cash in on the public appetite for sensation and expose the shocking moral corruption of the establishment. Drawing on a rich collection of original and often outrageous sources, this book brings vividly to life stories of infidelity in high places – passionate, scandalous, poignant and tragic. It reveals how the flood of print detailing sordid sexual intrigues created a national outcry and made people question whether the nobility was fit to rule.
Susan C. Law is a journalist and historian. Her work has been published in a wide range of newspapers and magazines, including The Times Higher Education Supplement, BBC History Magazine and London Evening Standard. Dr Law completed her PhD in History at Warwick University, and has spent many years researching the 18th and 19th century aristocracy, servants, family life and country houses.

A deft analysis of sex, power, and the media in the Regency era describes how the scandalous private lives of the Georgian aristocracy were used to undermine hereditary power
The potent allure of sex, money, and power has always created a public appetite for juicy tales of scandal in the hidden private lives of the English aristocracy. Millions of viewers are captivated by the television series Downton Abbey and screen versions of Jane Austen novels, while visitor numbers to National Trust stately homes have never been higher. The real and fictional dramas being enacted inside country houses were just as compelling for audiences in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the cultural media of the day exploited stories of aristocratic adultery for commercial and political motives in newspapers, novels, and satirical prints. But such attacks on the aristocracy’s moral fitness to rule ultimately undermined traditional hereditary power and marked the first steps towards its decline. This book draws on a rich collection of original sources, bringing vividly to life a cast of engaging characters and their stories of infidelity—passionate, scandalous, poignant, and tragic.




Country House Society: The Private Lives of England’s Upper Class After the First World War by Pamela Horn

When the cataclysm of the First World War impacted on British society, it particularly affected the landed classes, with their long military tradition. Country houses, as in a variety of popular TV dramas, were turned into military hospitals and convalescent homes, while many of the menfolk were killed or badly injured in the hostilities. When the war ended efforts were made to return to the pre-war world. Pleasure seeking in night-clubs, sporting events and country-house weekends became the order of the day. Many of the old former rituals such as presentation at Court for debutantes and royal garden parties were revived. Yet, overshadowing all were the economic pressures of the decade as increased taxation, death duties and declining farm rentals reduced landed incomes. Some owners sold their mansions or some land to newly enriched businessmen who had prospered as a result of the war. Others turned to city directorships to make ends meet or, in the case of the women, ran dress shops and other small businesses. The 1920s proved a decade of flux for High Society, with the light-hearted dances, treasure hunts and sexual permissiveness of the 'Bright Young People' contrasting with the financial anxieties and problems faced by their parents' generation. Pamela Horn draws on the letters and diaries of iconic figures of the period, such as Nancy Mitford and Barbara Cartland, to give an insight into this new post-war era.


REVIEW: Country House Society: The Private Lives of England’s Upper Class After the First World War by Pamela Horn
January 2, 2014 by Evangeline Holland

Country House Society: The Private Lives of England's Upper Class After the First World War by Pamela Horn
The late social historian Pamela Horn is in top form with her final release, Country House Society: The Private Lives of England’s Upper Class After the First World War. I own a number of Dr. Horn’s books, and prize them for her thoroughness, her compulsively readable prose, and her unerring ability to let primary sources (letters, diaries, memoirs, articles) speak through her writing. Country House Society is no different–in six lengthy chapters, Horn takes us through the swift changes to English high society in the wake of the Great War.

Though many hoped to turn the clock backwards to 1914, the carnage and destruction of the war proved to be a point of no return for both aristocrats and the people who served them. I winced a bit while reading about the crippling costs of the great landed estates:

In July 1921…in a leading article headed ‘Landowners Bled White’, Country Life examined a number of ‘typical’ estates selected from different parts of Scotland. In one case the figures showed that whereas parish and borough rates, land tax, heritor’s assessment, and other public and parochial burdens had amounted to £2,320 in 1911–12, by 1920–21 they had climbed to £4,838. The costs of management had similarly grown from £1,210 in 1911–12 to £1,677 in 1920–21, while renewals, repairs and improvements had risen from £3,069 at the earlier date to £4,983. Income tax had nearly quadrupled, from £636 in 1911–12 to £2,342 in 1920–21. No personal expenses, according to Country Life, were included in these figures.

A very interesting section of the book deals with the General Strike of 1926, where young men arrived from Oxford and Cambridge and debutantes set aside their ballgowns to became “scabs” when 1.7 million workers in the transport and heavy industries set down their tools. The irony of how willing the aristocrats were to pitch in to keep the country running is that this very action further marginalized the working classes once the strike ended. Furthermore, beneath the “froth” of the chapters devoted to the London Season and other social pursuits, there lurked the frenetic melancholy and unease of both the Edwardians and their Bright Young Thing offspring that lingered from WWI. Horn does not fail to present a biting, yet balanced portrait of the hedonistic coterie of upper class men and women who took their fun a bit too far. Though Country House Society does discuss life in the 1930s, the focus is mostly on the 1920s, before the Wall Street Crash and the rise of Hitler made frivolity and selfishness appear in poor taste. Accompanying the text are 16 pages of fantastic photographs and period illustrations.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Dumfries House brought back to life by the Prince of Wales


 Dumfries House is a Palladian country house in Ayrshire, Scotland. It is located within a large estate, around 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) west of Cumnock. Noted for being one of the few such houses with much of its original 18th-century furniture still present, including specially commissioned Thomas Chippendale pieces, the house and estate is now owned in charitable trust by the The Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House Trust, who maintain it as a visitor attraction and hospitality and wedding venue. Both the house and the gardens are listed as significant aspects of Scottish heritage.
The estate and an earlier house was originally called Lochnorris, owned by Craufords of Loudoun. The present house was built in the 1750s for William Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries, by John Adam and Robert Adam. Having been inherited by the 2nd Marquess of Bute in 1814, it remained in his family until 7th Marquess decided to sell it due to the cost of upkeep.
Due to its significance and the risk of the furniture collection being distributed and auctioned, after three years of uncertainty, in 2007 the estate and its entire contents was purchased for £45m for the country by a consortium headed by Charles, Prince of Wales, including a £20m loan from the Prince's charitable trust. The intention was to renovate the estate to become self-sufficient, both to preserve it and regenerate the local economy. As well as donors and sponsorship, funding is also intended to come from constructing the nearby housing development of Knockroon, a planned community along the lines of the Prince's similar venture, Poundbury in Devon.
The house duly re-opened in 2008, equipped for public tours. Since then various other parts of the estate have been re-opened for various uses, to provide both education and employment, as well as funding the trust's running costs.

The estate was finally purchased as a whole after Charles, Prince of Wales heard of the campaign after the writer and campaign member James Knox made an impassioned impromptu speech at one of the Prince's bi-annual conservation conferences at Holyrood House in Edinburgh. On 27 June 2007 it was announced that a consortium headed by the Prince and including various heritage charities and the Scottish Government (contributing £5m) had raised £45 million to purchase the house and contents (along with its roughly 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) estate) and to endow a trust for maintaining it. The trust is called "The Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House Trust" — a reference to the title Great Steward of Scotland held by Charles in his role as Scottish heir apparent. A major element of the financial package was a £20m loan backed by The Prince's Charities Foundation. It was reported that the contents of the house had already been removed, and were being transported to London when the sale was agreed.
The trust's intended model is to have the estate become a self-sufficient enterprise, in the process revitalising the local economy. The project was to be achieved through donation and sponsorship of various renovation projects around the estate, as well as through revenues from the construction of an 'eco-village' in the grounds, a planned community called Knockroon.
The breaking in 2008 of the global financial crisis had a major impact on the project, affecting the prospects for the Knockroon development and thus the recouping of the £20m loan, for which the Prince faced much media criticism for putting the charities other projects at risk for what was seen as a vanity project, prompting a response in 2010 describing the risk as manageable and fully covered. After switching to a model of private and corporate fund raising, the £20m loan was repaid by 2012, with a further £15m backing having been raised for the various renovation projects and ongoing maintenance bill for the estate.
Following restoration, Dumfries House itself opened to the public for guided tours on 6 June 2008. From mid-2009, supermarket chain Morrisons began funding the restoration of the meat and dairy farm attached to the estate, both to become a research and education tool into sustainable farming methods, but also with the intention of it becoming profitable by 2014, part of the chain's vertically integrated supply chain. Renovation of the former coach house and associated stable block began in winter 2010. It reopened in 2011 as a catering facility, as both a visitor cafe and bistro dining facility. The first phase of the Knockroon village opened in May 2011. In October 2011 work started to clear the area that used to be the Walled Garden, which had fallen into disuse and become overgrown. In April 2012, the six bedroomed luxury guest house Dumfries House Lodge opened, to provide guest accommodation for wedding parties and other events. It was created by renovating a derelict farm building on the estate. The estate's former water powered sawmill has been renovated to full working order, and with the addition of a larger workshop building, has re-opened as the Sawmill Building Skills Centre, a traditional skills education facility.
The Prince of Wales continues to support Dumfries House. In September 2012, with the Duchess of Cornwall and Alex Salmond, he attended Ladies' Day at Ayr Racecourse in aid of the Trust.



 Dumfries House: a Sleeping Beauty brought back to life by the Prince of Wales
Saved by Prince Charles from the auctioneer's hammer, Dumfries House - a time capsule of 18th-century furnishing - has been restored to its former glory

By Annabel Freyberg 27 May 2011 in The Telegraph / http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/8533968/Dumfries-House-a-Sleeping-Beauty-brought-back-to-life-by-the-Prince-of-Wales.html

Dumfries House has been portrayed as an 18th-century Sleeping Beauty. Adam-designed and Chippendale-furnished, it remained untouched for 250 years, so the story goes, before being kissed by a prince and startled into trembling new life. Astoundingly, this fairy tale is largely true.
Until this gem of an estate was 'saved for the nation’ in June 2007, few people even knew of its existence. Yet its contents, dating from the mid-1750s, when it was built by the 5th Earl of Dumfries, include at least 50 pieces by the great British furniture maker Thomas Chippendale – some specially made for the house – along with the finest surviving collection of carved Scottish rococo furniture.
It took a last-minute pledge of £20 million from the Prince of Wales, allied to £25 million raised from other sources, to prevent its contents being dispersed around the world. In fact, less than two weeks before the threatened sale at auction by its owner, the 7th Marquess of Bute, much of the furniture had been packed up, ready to be taken to London. It was a close call.
No time has been wasted since then to make best use of the house’s riches. Its infrastructure has been improved at a cost of £1.5 million, rooms re-presented and gentle conservation embarked on (also to the tune of £1.5 million – much of it donated by individuals keen to see particular works restored, with a further £1.5-2 million spent on outbuildings for imminent use).
The scale of work is a curator’s dream,’ Charlotte Rostek, Dumfries House’s curator since April 2008, says. 'And we have been able to carry out a level of conservation work of which most other museums and stately homes can only dream.’
Indeed, there has never been a historic house project like it. A crucial element is the desire to kick-start regeneration in this impoverished part of east Ayrshire – a version of the Guggenheim effect, perhaps, whereby dramatically designed museums have drawn millions into previously depressed towns such as Bilbao in Spain.
'It’s not solely about Adam and Chippendale, it’s about jobs,’ confirms the writer James Knox, an Ayrshire neighbour who was involved in the campaign to save the house. 'And giving people a sense of belief in themselves locally, and being heard.’ This is not merely talk. When, shortly after the fate of Dumfries House was announced, the Prince of Wales visited the nearby former mining town of Cumnock, he was mobbed in the street by ecstatic long-term unemployed people.
Today, in sunny late April, visitors to Dumfries House are welcomed by clouds of pink blossom from two magnificent cherry trees on the drive. The shorthorn cattle grazing in front of the house are part of the 900-acre farm partnership between Dumfries House and Morrisons supermarket.
The Prince – or the Duke of Rothesay, to give him his Scottish title – has just dropped in to mark the new season’s opening to the public. (He had never been here when he contributed millions to saving the estate, but has made up for it since by visiting every couple of months, and even has a bedroom in the house.)
There has been a major winter overhaul over five breakneck (and freezing) months while the house was closed to the public: 1930s and even some Edwardian electrics have been replaced, the building replumbed from top to bottom, and a vast biomass boiler installed, which will control temperature and humidity levels and be self-sustaining. 'Furniture is susceptible more to humidity levels than temperature,’ Rostek says.
In the grounds, builders are putting the final touches to the new cafe in the converted Coach House. In the 600-acre woods, a team from the East Ayrshire Woodland Group has been working on a programme of replanting for the past 18 months, financed by the Government’s Future Jobs Fund. Fuel for the biomass boiler will come from the estate’s trees; it needs to be dried for a year first, then chipped.
Near Cumnock, a new model eco community – in some respects a Scottish Poundbury – is taking shape on Dumfries estate land. Knockroon, 'a walkable neighbourhood encouraging social interaction and a strong sense of community’, has been designed by the architects Lachlan Stewart and Ben Pentreath for the Princes Foundation for the Built Environment, and is 'inspired by local architecture that was built between the late 17th and mid-19th centuries’.
It is being overseen by Andrew Hamilton, who for the past 20 years has coordinated the Poundbury project, and was in the Prince’s mind from the beginning of his negotiations over Dumfries House. Planning permission for 600 homes was granted in January.
There is much more in the pipeline: traditional building skills workshops in the old saw mill; an educational food centre for children; a conference centre in the stable block; the restoration of the walled garden; even a hotel in the grounds. Yet the atmosphere of the 2,000-acre park is peaceful, as are the revitalised but not over-primped interiors.
Rostek acknowledges that though the house’s treasures are only one aspect of the whole picture, they have inevitably been the focus. It is a rich seam for scholars and restorers alike.
Most exotically, the flamboyant Chippendale four-poster is back from London where it was newly redressed in its original style of blue silk finery, thanks to a feat of archival detective work. While Christie’s insisted that the hangings were originally green, Rostek pored over 18th-century invoices to discover that they were actually blue. The textile historian Annabel Westman then oversaw about 20 craftsmen in three different specialist workshops as they restored the intricately carved cornice and covered it skin-tight in blue silk damask.
A tour of the formal ground-floor rooms reveals the extent of carefully researched housekeeping achieved over the past four years. In the Blue Drawing Room, the first Adam room the paying public come to, a suite of Chippendale elbow chairs and sofas has been reupholstered in a specially woven startling blue damask by Humphries Weaving, and the ruched curtains have been resplendently remade in the same fabric by the expert curtain maker Janette Read (who has redone the curtains throughout the house).
The surprisingly modest padauk Chippendale bookcase – the most valuable piece of furniture in the house (bought for £47 5s in 1759 and valued at £4 million in 2007) – was restored in situ over three weeks by the Edinburgh furniture restorer James Hardie.
The bold Axminster carpet covering the entire drawing-room floor dates from 1759, and is one of the first the company ever produced. Between the windows hang a pair of joyous and intricate pier glasses by William Mathie of Edinburgh (he, Francis Brodie and Alexander Peter are the three great Scottish cabinetmakers, all represented here). On the wall opposite is a pair of full-length Raeburn portraits of members of the family who lived here in the second half of the 18th century.
When Rostek is asked to give talks about the furniture of Dumfries House, she always declares that she can’t do it without reference to the people who lived here. These portraits are a good starting point. They depict the strikingly kind-looking Patrick McDouall-Crichton, 6th Earl of Dumfries, with his ward Flora, Countess of Loudon, and Margaret, his wife, with their daughter, Lady Elizabeth Penelope Crichton. Both Flora and Elizabeth are relevant to the story.
In 1768 Patrick inherited Dumfries House from his uncle, the 5th Earl (his portrait hangs in the Pink Dining Room), who had built and furnished it in 1754-9, commissioning the architects Robert and John Adam, and using pink sandstone quarried on the estate.
Elizabeth married the eldest son of the 1st Marquess of Bute in 1792 and had two sons. Soon afterwards, her husband was killed in a riding accident, aged 27, and she died three years later. (The story of the Butes is littered with early deaths.) For the next few years the boys were raised by their maternal grandparents, alongside Flora.
The eldest boy, John, was nine when his grand­father died in 1803, and 20 when his other grandfather died, and he became the 2nd Marquess of Bute. From that point on, Dumfries House became the family’s secondary home, with Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute their main residence.
This is one of the astonishing facts about Dumfries House and one of the reasons its original interiors are so well preserved – and remained a secret for so long. For 250 years the family who owned the estate took good care of it, constantly upgrading, modernising and making it more comfortable, but only rarely living there. There were certainly changes over the years (the Axminster was 'cleaned and shaved’ in 1846, for example; the Chippendale bed refurbished in 1869), but the original scheme remained intact.
It was the 2nd Marquess who made the family fortune by turning the fishing village of Cardiff into a major port. (This wealth meant that the family never needed to sell Dumfries House.) His first marriage was childless, but by his second wife, Sophia Hastings – the daughter of Flora, his childhood companion – he fathered a son at the age of 52, then died when the child was six months old. Dumfries House fell into another slumber.
The 3rd Marquess continued to develop Cardiff, but is best known as a spectacular patron of the arts, responsible for recreating Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch to the north of Cardiff. He made substantial additions to Dumfries House too, installing a Turkish bath (now the Billiard Room) and a Byzantine chapel (he was a devout Catholic convert). In 1877 Mount Stuart burnt down, and while it was being built anew as a gothic-revival fantasy, the 3rd Marquess and his family spent more time at Dumfries House. In the 1890s he hired the leading Scottish Arts and Crafts architect Robert Weir Schultz to build a pair of large wings at the back – doubling the house in size without making this apparent from the symmetrical Palladian front. He described Dumfries House as the 'homeliest’ of his many homes.
While the 4th Marquess finished the extensions started by his father, the last person to call Dumfries House home was Lady Eileen Bute. The wife of the 5th Marquess, she came here as a young bride in 1932.
The family moved out during the Second World War when the house was requisitioned by the Army, but she returned after her husband died in 1956 (aged 49), and was popular with locals until her death in 1993.
'She had a group of friends known as the Ayrshire widows,’ James Knox says. 'They were all very good-looking women and had a lovely time chain-smoking, drinking whisky and playing poker in those wonderful rooms. They were mad on racing and Lady Eileen would have huge house parties for the Ayr races.’
After her death, Dumfries House went back to sleep. A few months later her son, the 6th Marquess of Bute, died, and his son, the racing driver Johnny Dumfries, now the 7th Marquess (and known as Johnny Bute), was hit with double death duties. The sale of Dumfries House looked inevitable.
In 1994 he approached the National Trust for Scotland. They weren’t enthusiastic – partly, it appears, because Paxton House, another Scottish Adam house also with Chippendale furniture, had recently opened to the public. By now Johnny Bute was fully occupied with opening Mount Stuart to the public for the first time (in 1995), and for nearly a decade nothing happened. Bute even put a new roof on Dumfries House, for which the current custodians are extremely grateful.
The National Trust for Scotland was offered the chance to acquire Dumfries House again in 2004, and negotiations dragged on, with Sotheby’s brought in to value the contents for the trust, and Christie’s for the Marquess (later, Bonhams arrived on behalf of the council). Such was the scale of the task that Christie’s experts spent 18 months cataloguing the collection. When negotiations with the trust failed, an exasperated Johnny Bute was forced to look at alternatives, and in April 2007 he instructed Savills to sell the house and Christie’s its contents.
For several years, a number of art lovers had been monitoring the situation at Dumfries House. As soon as its sale was announced they launched a public appeal to preserve it as an independent charitable trust under the auspices of Save Britain’s Heritage. Generous funding was lined up from charitable bodies such as the Monument Trust, the Art Fund and the Garfield Weston Foundation. But it still wasn’t enough.
The turning point came in May 2007, when Historic Scotland (the Scottish equivalent of English Heritage) declined to support the campaign financially and declared that Dumfries House could not be saved. Every two years, the Prince of Wales convenes a conference at Holyrood House in Edinburgh for the great and the good of the conservation world in Scotland.
James Knox used the opportunity to make an impassioned impromptu speech about the importance to the region of preserving Dumfries House. It was not a popular move. 'Nobody really wanted to talk about Dumfries House,’ Knox says. 'They thought it was too big, too expensive, too impossible, too controversial. I sat down to stony silence.’
But the campaign had caught the attention of the Prince, who wanted to know what he could do to help. With only weeks before the sale of house and contents, the Prince took a huge risk and arranged a loan of £20 million secured against the Prince’s Charities Foundation.
The Scottish government came on board to the tune of £5 million, and the estate was handed over to the newly formed Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust (after one of the Prince’s other Scottish titles). The Prince likes to quote the 5th Earl of Dumfries, who declared of his decision to build the house, '’Tis certainly a great undertaking, perhaps more bold than wise, but necessity has no law’, adding, 'I felt rather the same some 250 years later.’
The Prince’s involvement is hands-on. Last month he met the first couple planning to marry at Dumfries House – a new moneyspinner – and his watercolours line what will be the groom’s room. He was involved in the design of a new sunken garden, and the Pink Dining Room is likely to stay that hue for the moment (it was painted pink in about 1955) because it is his favourite room.
Dumfries House opened to the public in June 2008, and is beginning to establish itself on the tourist trail (it is 15 miles away from the popular Culzean Castle), and new events are springing up locally too – last weekend saw the first Boswell Book Festival at neighbouring Auchinleck House.
'We have a five-year plan, and we aim to be self-sustaining,’ Rostek says. 'We’re not cash rich, and we don’t have an endowment, but the Prince makes it work through his leadership. It’s a journey from an idea to reality – it has to work and pay its way.’
dumfries-house.org.uk








Dumfries House: Preserving Scotland's Heritage

Friday, 18 January 2019

Judi Dench: My PassionForTrees

The man who ​thinks trees talk to each other / VIDEO:"The Hidden Life of Trees" Peter Wohlleben | Interview | SVT/NRK/Skavlan





The man who ​thinks trees talk to each other
Beech trees are bullies​ and​ willows are loners, says forester Peter Wohlleben, author of a new book claiming that trees have personalities and communicate ​via a ​below-ground ​‘woodwide web’
Tim Lusher

Mon 12 Sep 2016 16.46 BST Last modified on Sat 25 Nov 2017 04.28 GMT

Trees have friends, feel loneliness, scream with pain and communicate underground via the “woodwide web”. Some act as parents and good neighbours. Others do more than just throw shade – they’re brutal bullies to rival species. The young ones take risks with their drinking and leaf-dropping then remember the hard lessons from their mistakes. It’s a hard-knock life.

A book called The Hidden Life of Trees is not an obvious bestseller but it’s easy to see the popular appeal of German forester Peter Wohlleben’s claims – they are so anthropomorphic. Certainly, a walk in the park feels different when you imagine the network of roots crackling with sappy chat beneath your feet. We don’t know the half of what’s going on underground and beneath the bark, he says: “We have been looking at nature for the last 100 years like [it is] a machine.”

There’s a touchy-feely warmth to the book – an “ouch!” when he describes trees having branches hacked, roots cut or being gnawed by insects – and he talks about “brainlike things” going on in trees that enable them to learn over their long lifetimes. He points to scientific research – by Aachen University, the University of British Columbia and the Max Planck Society – that he claims underpins all his vivid descriptions, but he writes as a conservationist and admits that much is still unknown. “It’s very hard to find out what trees are communicating when they feel well,” he says.

Wohlleben – it translates as “Livewell” – has developed his thinking over the past decade while watching the powerful but self-interested survival system of the ancient beech forest he manages in the Eifel mountains of western Germany. “The thing that surprised me most is how social trees are. I stumbled over an old stump one day and saw that it was still living although it was 400 or 500 years old, without any green leaf. Every living being needs nutrition. The only explanation was that it was supported by the neighbour trees via the roots with a sugar solution. As a forester, I learned that trees are competitors that struggle against each other, for light, for space, and there I saw that it’s just vice versa. Trees are very interested in keeping every member of this community alive.”

The key to it, he says, is the so-called woodwide web – trees message their distress in electrical signals via their roots and across fungi networks (“like our nerve system”) to others nearby when they are under attack. By the same means, they feed stricken trees, nurture some saplings (their “most beloved child”) and restrict others to keep the community strong.

“Trees may recognise with their roots who are their friends, who are their families, where their kids are. Then they may also recognise trees that are not so welcome. There are some stumps in these old beech reservations that are alive, and there are some that are rotten, which obviously have had no contact with the roots of supporting neighbours. So perhaps they are like hermits.” It sounds like living in a small village – as he does, in Hümmel, near the Belgian border.

He writes about the unforgiving woodland etiquette – no one likes a showoff who crowds everyone out and hogs the resources. When trees break the rules, you end up with a “drunken forest”. He describes “upright members of ancient forests … This is what a mature, well-behaved deciduous tree looks like. It has a ramrod-straight trunk with a regular, orderly arrangement of wood fibres.”

In Wohlleben’s analysis, it’s almost as if trees have feelings and character. “We think about plants being robotic, following a genetic code. Plants and trees always have a choice about what to do. Trees are able to decide, have memories and even different characters. There are perhaps nicer guys and bad guys.”

So which are good, bad and sad? Beeches and oaks form forests that last for thousands of years because they act like families, he says. Trees are tribal (“They are genetically as far away from each other as you and a goldfish”) and ruthlessly protect their own kind: “Beeches harass new species such as oak to such an extent that they weaken.” Douglas fir and spruce also bond within their species.

Willows are loners. “The seeds fly far away from other trees, many kilometres. The trees grow fast and don’t live very long. They are like Usain Bolt – always the first, then they can’t breathe any more after 100 years and then they are gone.” Poplars aren’t social either and “a birch will wipe other trees away so it has more space for its crown. That doesn’t sound very nice but I think birch has no other choice because that’s what it’s grown like because of its genes.” City trees are like street kids – isolated and struggling against the odds without strong roots.

Wohlleben, 52, used to work as a state forester, viewing trees as lumber, then began running survival training courses and log-cabin tours. Since 2006, he has managed the forest on behalf of the community, banning machinery and selling burial plots with trees as living gravestones. His book became a bestseller in Germany last year, charting higher than memoirs by the pope and former chancellor Helmut Schmidt. His accessible, chatty style made him a hit on TV chatshows but he doesn’t want to be seen as a tree whisperer, telling the Frankfurter Allgemeine: “I don’t hug trees and I don’t talk to them.”

He talks about wood as “tree bones” and burns it for fuel at the forest home he shares with his wife, Miriam, where they grow their own vegetables and corn, and keep horses and goats. Every 15 minutes as we talk over Skype, we break off as an old German oak clock chimes loudly. (“I bought it on eBay. It had been in an English country house for over 100 years.”)

He talks about the natural world admiringly, wondrously even, but unsentimentally. “The question for me is not should we use any living being but just how to deal with them.” He wants us to cut down our wood consumption and enjoy trees more – he describes them as “plant elephants”. Have we lost our connection with the natural world? “No, I don’t think so. Perhaps we have a little distance because scientists over the last 200 years have taught us that nature works without soul.”

The Hidden Life of Trees, What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben is published by Greystone Books. To order it for £13.93 (RRP £16.99) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99. Audiobook also available.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Qu'est-ce que la Sprezzatura?



Gentlemen,
nous avons le plaisir de publier ce jour la version en
langue française de  notre épisode
consacré à la désormais célèbre « Sprezzatura ». Dans cet épisode je tente de
clarifier le sens exact du mot en repartant de son origine (le Livre du
Courtisan de Baldassare Castiglione, 1528) et en expliquant comment son sens
initial a glissé petit à petit pour finir par être utilisé de nos jours
quasiment à contre-sens.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Wentworth Woodhouse, a rich History full of Scandals and feuds / VIDEO:1/4 Wentworth Woodhouse (Ep4) - The Country House Revealed


 Scandals and feuds that cost family a home bigger than the Queen's
BRITAIN'S most impressive stately home's future will be decided in a court dispute that will drag up a past of scandal, family rifts and class war. Wentworth Woodhouse, with a fascade wider than Buckingham Palace and a room for every day of the year, is the subject of a £100million legal action that last week attracted the attention of Prince Charles.



By DANNY BUCKLAND
PUBLISHED: 02:55, Sun, Jun 9, 2013

In the grimmest of ironies, the current owners are suing the Coal Authority for compensation for subsidence caused by the honeycomb of mines running under its land, yet it was coal that made its original owners among the wealthiest families in the land.

The Fitzwilliams, who owned the south Yorkshire property from 1720 until 1979, were a dysfunctional dynasty who make events at ITV's Downton Abbey seem as scandalous as a misplayed card at whist.

The Fitzbillies, as they were known to 385 staff and the 115,000 miners employed in their 120 pits, favoured imploding on a grand scale. Their tainted history features an epileptic Earl banished to Canada who returned a national hero after charting a land route between the Atlantic and Pacific and surviving disease to become one of the first non-natives to cross the Rockies.

He died aged 37 and his buccaneering, womaniser son became embroiled in a protracted feud with aunts and uncles who accused him of being a changeling, a child switched at birth for a baby girl, to rob them of their inheritance.

A cousin was disowned for marrying the grand-daughter of a draper and another scion of the family caused controversy by becoming engaged to Kathleen Kennedy, the vivacious sister of JFK, Bobby and Teddy from another torn and tormented clan from the other side of the Atlantic.

They both died in a plane crash over France in 1948, three years before a court case erupted over whether heir Toby Fitzwilliam had been born illegitimate.

Throw in Wentworth Woodhouse losing 183 staff during the Great War while the estate's pits made the family £12million, and rumours of illegitimate children created by a droit du seigneur, and there is enough raw material to keep Downton Abbey scriptwriters busy for a decade.

Grade I-listed Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham, took 15 years to build but was almost sent tumbling into the abyss when the Labour Minister of Power, Manny Shinwell, insisted that open cast pits and mines were pursued up "to its back door", despoiling the house's formal gardens and obliterating its pink shale driveway.

The coal was low grade but the statement was high-class war politics: "Downton has nothing on Wentworth Woodhouse. The story of the family is as epic as the house," says Catherine Bailey, whose book Black Diamonds charts the dynasty.

"In 1900, they were one of the richest and most powerful families in Britain, yet within 50 years they were stripped of power.

"Their ancestors had lived on that site since the 14th century. The 6th Earl had eight sons, all named William after him and you would think they were as solid as the house foundations. Yet they lost their mines, were hounded from their house and this once great dynasty was in danger of dying."

Prince Charles has visited the house and contacted ministers about the need to preserve it as part of the national heritage.

The high watermark of the family's influence was marked at the death of the 6th Earl, in 1902, who left a fortune equivalent to £3billion. His eldest son, the epileptic William, became the source of high intrigue when he insisted that his third child, Billy, was born in a Canadian frontier town wooden house on the shores of Lake Superior where he had made his reputation. Suspicion clouded the remote birth and reached fever pitch when William died aged 37 and Billy became the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam. Relatives denounced him as a changeling with no right to family riches.

Billy employed a private detective to trace the birth doctor, midwife and nurse to discredit the claim. He became a hero after winning a DSO in the Boer War, and became a Conservative MP and Mayor of Sheffield. All the time, £6million a year profits from coal rolled in. He had 80 racehorses, land in Ireland and Yorkshire, and a London property that is now the Italian Embassy.

Billy ruled with a gentle touch ensuring the Fitzwilliam collieries were the safest and his workers received help during economic blights including the 1926 General Strike, when he taught miners on pit ponies how to play polo on his front lawn and fed them during their eight months with no pay.

Scandal was never far away and his son Peter, who had made at least three pit village girls pregnant before his 21st birthday, pursued the life of a hard-drinking, gambling, womanising aristocrat. Billy, despite his enlightened approach to his workers, had incurred the wrath of firebrand Labour's Manny Shinwell for buying a racehorse for 8,000 guineas during the war. His revenge was to order open cast mining on the estate, even though loyal miners threatened to go on strike.

Peter inherited the title in 1943, aged 32, after his father's death from cancer but it didn't stop him joining the Special Operations Executive and volunteering for a vital mission to smuggle ball bearings from Sweden past the Nazis. He made eight trips in motorboats and won a DSO.

His private life became engulfed in more scandal when, despite being married, he fell in love with Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy at the end of the Second World War after meeting the 28-year-old widower at the Dorchester.

Kennedy patriarch Joe had been persuaded to consider them marrying, but tragedy struck as they took a premeeting holiday and their jet crashed in France during a storm. The title passed to a cousin, Eric, who died childless two years later, and then to Toby who was forced into court to prove he was not illegitimate, following his mother's outrage that he wed below his class. His parents had married after his birth and arcane legislation on aristocratic inheritance ruled him out.

His younger brother Tom inherited the earldom but the estate, stripped of its coal income, was drained by its upkeep. As the dynasty crumbled, he ordered 16 tons of family records on to a bonfire that reputedly burned for three weeks.

On Tom's death in 1979 Wentworth Woodhouse, which had become a teacher training college, was sold. It continued to disintegrate, allegedly blighted by Shinwell's mining, but current owners Clifford Newbold and his sons, who bought it for £1.5million, have a £200million plan for a museum, hotel and business centre.

Prince Charles has visited the house and contacted ministers about the need to preserve it as part of the national heritage.

As the battle for Wentworth Woodhouse's future rages, Catherine Bailey says: "You have the story of Britain wrapped up in that house as well as the extraordinary story of a family. It is wonderful that there is a chance it might be saved and have a happy ending after so many tragedies."


King coal
Roy Hattersley sifts through the romance to find the reality of a miner's life between the wars in Catherine Bailey's Black Diamonds
Roy Hattersley
Sat 14 Apr 2007 23.45 BST First published on Sat 14 Apr 2007 23.45 BST

Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey

If books had human characteristics, Black Diamonds would suffer from a severe identity crisis. It begins with the mystery - written in the high romantic style of Baroness Orczy - of the seventh Earl Fitzwilliam's origins and the allegation that he was a changeling, smuggled into a Canadian log cabin to provide the heir that Lavinia, Lady Middleton, could not produce. It ends with the tragedy - written in the breathless prose of Elinor Glyn - of Katherine "Kick" Kennedy (JFK's sister), who married the Marquis of Hartington and, after his death in the war, became entangled with the disreputable eighth Earl Fitzwilliam and died with him in an air crash.

In between the extracts from the social register, Black Diamonds contains a great deal of worthwhile information and interesting analysis about the state of affairs in and about Wentworth House and its estate. Catherine Bailey contrasts the lavish lifestyle of the Fitzwilliam-Wentworths with the grinding poverty of the miners whose sweat paid for the aristocratic extravagance. But not even the worthy meat in the sandwich is left unblemished by the book's regularly recurring flaw. The language in which some of the serious passages are written reduces its best parts to the level of society gossip. It is bad enough that the chapter on the doomed affair between Kennedy and the eighth Earl Fitzwilliam Wentworth is heralded by the single sentence, "The affair seemed madness from the start." But the real offence is the "bogus reporting" which peppers the chapters on important social questions.

The visit of George V to Wentworth - meant to heal some of the wounds of the industrial upheavals of 1911 by producing newspaper pictures of the king with miners - was an important indication of the establishment's anxiety about the prospects of a general strike or worse. Black Diamonds deals with it adequately. But it is preceded by a description of the king's arrival which would be more appropriate to the beginning of a short story in Lady's Home Journal. "Walking briskly through the corridors, the housekeeper missed nothing. From time to time she stopped to adjust the arrangements in the vases of flowers or to knead the bowls of potpourri to release their aroma into the air."

The irritation caused by such flaws is increased by the way in which they diminish the chapters of Black Diamonds that have something sensible, and sometimes important, to say. The verbatim accounts of the miners' attitude to what south Yorkshire called "graft" - not corruption but back-breaking labour - has an air of absolute authenticity. Walter Brierley, a miner from a pit 40 miles from Wentworth who was unemployed for four years, longed to be back hewing coal. "The dependence on the state for money without having honestly earned it has made me creep within myself." Arthur Eaglestone remembered: "The most heinous of accusations lay in the terrible phrase 'He doesn't like work'." When Bailey stops writing like a romantic novelist, Black Diamonds admirably reflects both the true nobility of the inter-war miners and the undoubted degradation of the aristocracy who exploited them.


Wentworth Woodhouse comprises two joined houses, forming west and east fronts. The original house, now the west front, with the garden range facing northwest towards the village, was built of brick with stone details. The east front of unsurpassed length is credibly said to have been built as the result of a rivalry with the Stainborough branch of the Wentworth family, which inherited Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford's minor title of Baron Raby, but not his estates (including the notable series of Strafford portraits by Anthony van Dyck and Daniel Mytens), which went to Watson who added Wentworth to his surname. The Stainborough Wentworths, for whom the Strafford earldom was revived, lived at nearby Wentworth Castle, which was purchased in 1708 in a competitive spirit and strenuously rebuilt in a magnificent manner.
The English Baroque, brick-built, western range of Wentworth Woodhouse was begun in 1725 by Thomas Watson-Wentworth, (after 1728 Lord Malton) after he inherited it from his father in 1723. It replaced the Jacobean structure that was once the home of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, whom Charles I sacrificed in 1641 to appease Parliament. The builder to whom Wentworth's grandson turned for a plan for the grand scheme that he intended was a local builder and country architect, Ralph Tunnicliffe, who had a practice in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Tunnicliffe was pleased enough with this culmination of his provincial practice to issue an engraving signed "R. Tunniclif, architectus" which must date before 1734, as it is dedicated to Baron Malton, Watson-Wentworth's earlier title. However the Baroque style was disliked by Whigs, and the new house was not admired. In c. 1734, before the West Front was finished, Wentworth's grandson Thomas Watson-Wentworth commissioned Henry Flitcroft to build the East Front "extension", in fact a new and much larger house, facing the other way, southeastward. The model they settled on was Colen Campbell's Wanstead House, illustrated in Vitruvius Britannicus i, 1715.

That same year the rebuilding was already well underway. In a letter from the amateur architect Sir Thomas Robinson of Rokeby to his father-in-law Lord Carlisle of 6 June 1734, Sir Thomas reports that he found the garden front "finished" and that a start had been made on the main front: "when finished 'twill be a stupendous fabric, infinitely superior to anything we have now in England", and he adds "The whole finishing will be entirely submitted to Lord Burlington, and I know of no subject's house in Europe will have 7 such magnificent rooms so finely proportioned as these will be." In the 20th century, Nikolaus Pevsner would agree, but the mention of the architect-earl Burlington, arbiter of architectural taste, boded ill for the provincial surveyor-builder, Tunnicliffe. It is doubtless to Burlington's intervention that about this time, before the West Front was finished, the Earl of Malton, as he had now become, commissioned Henry Flitcroft to revise Tunnicliffe's plan there and build the East Front range. Flitcroft was Burlington's professional architectural amanuensis— "Burlington Harry" as he was called; he had prepared for the engravers the designs of Inigo Jones published by Burlington and William Kent in 1727, and in fact Kent was also called in for confabulation over Wentworth Woodhouse, mediated by Sir Thomas Robinson, though in the event the pedestrian Flitcroft was not unseated and continued to provide designs for the house over the following decade: he revised and enlarged Tunnicliffe's provincial Baroque West Front and added wings, as well as temples and other structures in the park. Contemporary engravings of the grand public East Front give Flitcroft as architect. Flitcroft, right-hand man of the architectural dilettanti and fully occupied as well at the Royal Board of Works, could not constantly be on-site, however: Francis Bickerton, surveyor and builder of York, paid bills in 1738 and 1743.

The grand East Front is the more often illustrated. The West front, the "garden front" that Sir Thomas Robinson found to be finished in 1734, is the private front that looked onto a giardino secreto between the house front and the walled kitchen garden, intended for family enjoyment rather than social and political ambitions expressed in the East Front. Most remnants of it were redesigned in the 19th century.

Wentworth Woodhouse was inherited by Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, briefly Prime Minister in 1765–66 and again in 1782. He received Benjamin Franklin here in 1771. The architect he employed at the house was John Carr of York, who added an extra storey to parts of the East Front and provided the porticoes to the matching wings, each the equivalent of a moderately grand country house. James "Athenian" Stuart contributed designs for panels in the Pillared Hall.The Whistlejacket Room was named for George Stubbs' portrait that hung in it of Whistlejacket, one of the most famous racehorses of all time. The additions were completed in 1772. The second Marquess envisaged a sculpture gallery at the house, which never came to fruition; four marbles by Joseph Nollekens were carried out to his commission, in expectation of the gallery; the Diana, signed and dated 1778, is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Juno, Venus and Minerva, grouped with a Roman antique marble of Paris, are at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Wentworth Woodhouse, with all its contents, subsequently passed to the family of the Marquess's sister, the Earls Fitzwilliam.

The park
Having finished the course of alterations in the hands of John Carr, Lord Fitzwilliam turned in 1790 to the most prominent landscape gardener, Humphry Repton, for whom this was the season's most ambitious project, one that he would describe in detail while the memory was still fresh, in Some Observations of the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803). A terrace centred on the main block effected a transition between the house and the rolling grazing land. Four obelisks stood on the bowling green, dwarfed by the scale of the house; Repton re-sited them. Though the parkland had accumulated numerous eye-catcheres and features (see below), Repton found there were few trees, the house being surrounded by "coarse grass and boulders" which Repton also removed, before the large-scale earth-moving operations began, effected by men with shovels and donkey-carts, to reshape the lumpy ground into smooth swells. Two large pools, visible from the East Front and the approach drive, were excavated into a serpentine shape. Some of Flitcroft's outbuildings were demolished, though not Carr's handsome stable court (1768), entered through a pedimented Tuscan arch. Many trees were planted.






Follies
The grounds (and surrounding area) contain a number of follies, many with associations in the arena of 18th-century Whig politics. They include:

Hoober stand. A tapering pyramid with a hexagonal lantern, named for the ancient wood in which it was erected. It is 98 feet (30 m) high and was built to Flitcroft's design in 1747–48 to commemorate the defeat of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, in which Lord Malton and his surviving son took part; his defensive efforts for the Hanoverian Whig establishment were rewarded with the Lord Lieutenancy of Yorkshire and the title Marquess of Rockingham: thus the monument indirectly reflects the greater glory of the family. The tower, which surveys the surrounding landscape like a watchtower, is open to the public on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.
Keppel's Column. A 115 ft (35 m) Tuscan column built to commemorate the acquittal of the court-martialed Admiral Keppel, a close friend of Rockingham. Its entasis visibly bulges owing to an adjustment in its height, made when funding problems reduced the height. It was designed by John Carr.
The Rockingham Mausoleum. A three-storey building 90 ft  high, situated in woodland, where only the top level is visible over the treetops. It was commissioned in 1783 by the Earl Fitzwilliam as a memorial to the late first Marquess of Rockingham; it was designed by John Carr, whose first design, for an obelisk, was rejected, in favour of an adaptation of the Roman Cenotaph of the Julii at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, near Arles.The ground floor is an enclosed hall containing a statue of the former prime minister by Joseph Nollekens, plus busts of his eight closest friends. The first floor is an open colonnade with Corinthian columns surrounding the (empty) sarcophagus. The top storey is a Roman-style cupola. Like Hoober Stand, the Mausoleum is open on summer Sunday afternoons.
Needle's Eye. A 46-foot (14 m) high, sandstone block pyramid with an ornamental urn on the top and a tall Gothic ogee arch through the middle, which straddles a disused roadway. It was built in the 18th century allegedly to win a bet after the second Marquess claimed he could drive a coach and horses through the eye of a needle.
Bear Pit. Accessible if patronising the nearby Garden centre. Built on two levels with a spiral stair. The outer doorway (about 1630) is part of the architecture of the original house. At the end of the garden is a grotto guarded by two life-sized statues of Roman soldiers



Royal visit of 1912


Arms of Watson, Earl of Rockingham: Argent, on a chevron azure between three martlets sable as many crescents or. Motto: "Mea Gloria Fides" ("Faith is My Glory")], which is displayed in large Roman capitals on the frieze of the classical pediment of Wentworth Woodhouse

King George V and Queen Mary visited South Yorkshire from 8 to 12 July 1912, and stayed at Wentworth Woodhouse for four days. The house party consisted of a large number of guests, including: Dr Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury; The 5th Earl of Harewood and The Countess of Harewood; The Marchioness of Londonderry; The 1st Marquess of Zetland and Lady Zetland; The 10th Earl of Scarborough and Lady Scarborough; The 5th Earl of Rosse and Lady Rosse; Admiral Lord Charles Beresford and Lady Mina Beresford; Mr Walter Long and Lady Doreen Long; and Lord Helmsley and Lady Helmsley.

The visit concluded on the evening of 11 July with a torchlight tattoo by miners, and a musical programme by members of the Sheffield Musical Union and the Wentworth Choral Society. A crowd of 25,000 gathered on the lawn to witness the King and Queen in the balcony of the portico, from which the King gave a speech.

The Intelligence connection in the Second World War
During the Second World War the house acted as a Training Depot and Headquarters of the Intelligence Corps, although by 1945 conditions for trainee intelligence soldiers had deteriorated to such a state that questions were asked in the House of Commons. Some of the training involved motorcycle dispatch rider skills, as Intelligence Corps personnel often used motorcycles. The grounds of the house and surrounding road network were used as motorcycle training areas.

Coal mining on the estate

Opencast mining reaching the back of the house. From The Sphere, 8 February 1947
In April 1946, on the orders of Manny Shinwell (the then Labour Party's Minister of Fuel and Power) a "column of lorries and heavy plant machinery" arrived at Wentworth. The objective was the mining of a large part of the estate close to the house for coal. This was an area where the prolific Barnsley seam was within 100 feet (30 m) of the surface and the area between the house and the Rockingham Mausoleum became the largest open cast mining site in Britain at that time: 132,000 tons of coal were removed solely from the gardens. Ostensibly the coal was desperately needed in Britain's austere post-war economy to fuel the railways, but the decision has been widely seen as useful cover for an act of class-war spite against the coal-owning aristocracy. A survey by Sheffield University, commissioned by Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, the 8th Earl, found the coal to be "very poor stuff" and "not worth the getting"; this contrasted with Shinwell's assertion that it was "exceptionally good-quality."

Shinwell, intent on the destruction of the Fitzwilliams and "the privileged rich", decreed that the mining would continue to the back door of Wentworth, the family's east front. What followed saw the mining of 99 acres (400,000 m2) of lawns and woods, the renowned formal gardens and the show-piece pink shale driveway (a by-product of the family's collieries). Ancient trees were uprooted and the debris of earth and rubble was piled 50 ft (15 m) high in front of the family's living quarters.[36]

Despite Shinwell's vindictiveness, local opinion supported the earl - Joe Hall, President of the Yorkshire Area of the National Union of Mineworkers, said that the "miners in this area will go to almost any length rather than see Wentworth Woodhouse destroyed. To many mining communities it is sacred ground" – in an industry known for harsh treatment of workers, the Fitzwilliams were respected employers known for treating their employees well. The Yorkshire branch later threatened a strike over the Labour Government's plans for Wentworth, and Joe Hall wrote personally to Clement Attlee in a futile attempt to stop the mining. This spontaneous local activism, founded on the genuine popularity of the Fitzwilliam family among locals, was dismissed in Whitehall as "intrigue" sponsored by the earl.



The open-cast mining moved into the fields to the west of the house and continued into the early 1950s. The mined areas took many years to return to a natural state; much of the woodland and the formal gardens were not replaced. The current owners of the property allege that mining operations near the house caused substantial structural damage to the building due to subsidence, and lodged a claim in 2012 of £100 million for remedial works against the Coal Authority. The claim was heard by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber)in April 2016. In its decision dated 4 October 2016 the Tribunal found that the damage claimed for was not caused by mining subsidence (2016 UKUT 0432 (LC).

Two sets of death duties in the 1940s, and the nationalization of their coal mines, greatly reduced the wealth of the Fitzwilliams, and most of the contents of the house were dispersed, in auction sales in 1948, 1986 and 1998. In the Christies sale in 1948, Rinaldo conquered by Love for Armida by Anthony van Dyck raised 4,600 Guineas[40] (equivalent to £161,180 in 2016).

Many items still remain in the family, with many works lent to museums by the "Trustees of the Fitzwilliam Estates".

On 23 November 2016, the Conservative Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that £7.6 million would be invested in reversing the damage caused by the mining that commenced in 1946, and restoring the house to conditions suitable for visiting.

Lease to Lady Mabel College
The Ministry of Health attempted to requisition the house as "housing for homeless industrial families". To prevent this, the Earl attempted to donate the house to the National Trust, however the Trust declined to take it. In the end, Lady Mabel Fitzwilliam, sister of the 7th Earl and a local alderman, brokered a deal whereby the West Riding County Council leased most of the house for an educational establishment, leaving forty rooms as a family apartment. Thus, from 1949 to 1979, the house was home to the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education, which trained female physical education teachers. The college later merged with Sheffield City Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University), which eventually gave up the lease in 1988 as a result of high maintenance costs.

Sheffield City Polytechnic
1979 - 1988 saw students from Sheffield City Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) based at Wentworth Woodhouse. Two departments, Physical Education and B.A. Geography & Environmental Studies were based on site. The mansion building housed student accommodation (reputedly haunted, according to student accounts) and a dining room and kitchens for lunch and dinner for students living on site. Four separate blocks of modern student accommodation were built in the grounds of the deer park. The Stable Block became the centre of student life, housing offices, lecture rooms, laboratories, squash courts, a swimming pool, and a student bar.

Sold by Fitzwilliam family
By 1989, Wentworth Woodhouse was in a poor state of repair. With the polytechnic no longer a tenant, and with the family no longer requiring the house, the family trustees decided to sell it and the 70 acres (280,000 m2) surrounding it, but retained the Wentworth Estate's 15,000 acres (61 km2) of land. The house was bought by locally born businessman Wensley Grosvenor Haydon-Baillie, who started a programme of restoration. However a business failure caused it to be repossessed by a Swiss bank and put back on the market in 1998. Clifford Newbold (July 1926 – April 2015), an architect from Highgate, bought it for something over £1.5 million. Newbold progressed with a defined programme of renovation/restoration as evidenced in Country Life magazine dated 17 and 24 February 2010. The surrounding parkland is owned by the Wentworth Estates.

In 2014, the house was informally offered for sale by Newbold, with no price specified, but a figure of around £7 million was thought to be sought according to The Times. The house was reported to need works of around £40 million. Following the death of Mr. Newbold, the house was formally advertised for sale in May 2015 via Savills with an asking price of £8 million. In March 2017, the house was sold to the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust for £7 million after a sale to the Hong Kong-based Lake House Group fell through.


In the United Kingdom Chancellor's budget statement of November 2016, it was announced that the Trust was to receive a grant of £7.6 million for restoration work; the Chancellor noted a claim that the property had been Jane Austen's inspiration for Pemberley in her novel Pride and Prejudice. It was thought that there might have been a connection to the house because Austen uses the name Fitzwilliam in her novel, but following the Chancellor's Autumn Statement the Jane Austen Society dismissed the likelihood that Austen had had the house in mind, given the absence of any evidence that she had visited the estate. Austen does, however, name a character Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion, and the eponymous heroine of Emma has the surname Woodhouse.