Yesterday I went to see Charleston House with a friend. It's an hour and a half's drive from home through some lovely countryside. For those of you who don't know Charleston House, it is the home of the Bloomsbury Group and became a country outpost for a group of artists, writers and intellectuals. It started in 1916 when the painter Vanessa Bell, her husband Clive and their two sons Julian and Quentin moved there from London on the recommendation of her sister, the writer Virginia Woolf. With them were another painter Duncan Grant and his friend David Garnett. They rented the late 16th century farmhouse and despite the house having no hot water or heating, guests increased the household. It became a rather unconventional household of friendships and relationships - they didn't separate or divorce, they just reorganised!!!
From when they moved in the artists transformed the house with decoration and this continued throughout their lives. They also decorated a nearby church at Berwick which we also visited yesterday (images shortly).
Unfortunately it is not permitted to take photos in Charleston House so my images are restricted to the beautiful garden which epitomises a traditional English cottage garden. However I was permitted to take a photo of the vase of garden flowers in the hallway.
The choice of plants was influenced by Vanessa and Clive's love of intense colour, silver foliage and their suitability for use in still lives. I've never seen so many hollyhocks in a garden!
The cafe has seating among the hollyhocks and fig trees laden with fruit
Hollyhocks grow to the height of the roof of the shop!
Even the hoardings by the shop are beautiful complemented by more hollyhocks
Even the ladies' bathroom is beautifully decorated with paint effects, handpainted tiles and flowers from the garden!
The best way to see the house is to book a place on the guided tour which lasts about an hour. The guides are very knowledgeable and create a real atmosphere with their dialogue so you really feel as if you are living in the house back there in the 1900s.
In front of the house is a pond which is edged with tiles which are copies of the originals painted by Vanessa Bell.
The garden has some unusual statues and urns
There is a pair of this urn - they are replicas made in 1997 of the originals which were made in 1956
The garden is awash with colour, texture and forms. It's a real English country garden.
The artichokes add another dimension to the garden
The shop at Charleston House is a veritable sweet shop and there is the temptation to buy loads of the lovely items on sale. I bought a couple of books - one about Charleston House and another 'Deceived with Kindness' an autobiography by Angelica Garnett who was the illegitimate daughter of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Until the age of 18 Angelica believed her father was Clive Bell; it's a record of a young girl's struggle to achieve independence from the intense and remarkable milieu. I also succumbed to the temptation of one of the hand-painted lampshades.
Love this West Wind fabric of the front cushion, designed by Duncan Grant
The lampshade I purchased firmly in place in the corner of my sitting room
Next stop was the village of Berwick for a pub lunch at the Cricketers' Arms and then a visit to the church where the Bloomsbury Group had painted the inside of the church with murals
Dressed crab salad for lunch!
The church in Berwick is a Grade I listed building and is most famous for the extensive murals covering the nave walls, chancel arch, screen and pulpit. These were painted during the Second World War by the Bloomsbury artists, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell.
There wasn't time to visit Monk's House which was Virigina Woolf's home so that will keep for next time with a lunch at The Ram Inn in the beautiful village of Firle.
Have you visited Charleston House and/or Berwick Church? Would love to read your comments about them.
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Day 4 on the 13th August, less than a week after my previous day out, started as an invite from my sister and husband to go to Great Dixter with them. It’s a favourite garden of ours which I try and visit every year. Given that it’s a fair schlep to Great Dixter, my sister identified three churches that we could visit in the vicinity before lunch. Great Dixter is in Sussex close to the Kent border but the three churches we visited were all in Kent:
I was really starting to enjoy these days out on my own with my camera so decided to venture back into Sussex a week after the previous trip, armed with another list of churches. I’m always tempted to include a stop at Charleston House or Monks House given my passion for anything Bloomsbury Group and this time the temptation was too strong when I found myself within a few miles of Monks House.
If you read my previous blog post, Visiting Churches in Sussex (day 1), you will know that I am doing day trips to Sussex in search of the little churches often found in woodland, at the end of lanes, in hamlets or villages – steeped in history. I’ve focused on Sussex as it’s not too far to travel by car and it’s a beautiful county. The first day trip was 9th July.
I decided not to have a summer holiday this year and instead do day trips to Sussex which is only about 80-90 minutes from home, on my own with my DSLR camera for company. I wanted to focus on visiting historic little Sussex churches in obscure places. I’ve done four of these day trips so far and I have another planned for this week.
I’ve focused on churches with historic interest, be it for their age (some as old as 9th century), their features or even their setting. I have been the only person at every church I’ve visited so far as these are off the beaten track for tourists. That was one of their attractions for me. I could have visited large churches, cathedrals or castles in towns where there would be loads of visitors but I find crowds of people so unappealing.
We are in mid winter here in London. Temperatures plummeted a week or so ago and we barely reach 6 Celsius most days. However I won’t complain as when it’s so cold there is less of the debilitating grey skies and more of blue skies and sunshine which really do elevate the spirits.
Monday 21 January was Blue Monday the most depressing day of the year. What a load of twaddle, isn’t it?! Why would you identify a day as the most depressing? Most of us stuck two fingers up at Blue Monday, smiled and got on with our lives.
January started with a vengeance from a work perspective so I’ve had no time to feel the post Christmas blues. And I have a trip to Sydney to look forward to in a few weeks - family, sun, sand and sea and loads of oysters and Riesling!
Between a lot of client meetings and client work at home, I managed to squeeze in some outings. First up, a day of sourcing for clients started with a visit to the Decorative Fair in Battersea Park with an interiors friend. I enjoy a wander around the stalls as they are all so beautifully styled but everything is eyewateringly expensive!
This post is for all you garden lovers. If you are lucky enough to live in London you have the chance to see the gardens of Petersham House, the home of the owners of Petersham Nurseries, Gael and Francesco Boglione. Their home is adjacent to the Nurseries and is a stunning Georgian house with extensive gardens, swimming pool and tennis court. They have a substantial vegetable garden which is used for the restaurant in the Nurseries.
This week has been action packed. I’m furiously trying to finish a two-bedroom flat which the owners want to put on the market asap (they are moving out of London and already put in an offer on a house).
Sorry for my radio silence since my last post on 31 October - in the run up to Christmas I was manically busy with client work and in January I headed to Sydney for five weeks.
I thought I'd kick off with one of the highlights of my Sydney sojourn - the coastal walk from South Coogee (where I was staying) to Bondi, a distance of about 10k with some of the most spectacular scenery. I did this walk last year with a friend but this time it was just me, my iPhone and my DSLR. The weather was cloudy, windy and about 26C so perfect for a long walk.
A couple of weeks ago a friend and I went to Charleston, the home of the Bloomsbury Group, to do a lampshade painting workshop with Cressida Bell who is the talented artist granddaughter of the artist Vanessa Bell and daughter of Quentin Bell. I wonder if you are as passionate about the Bloomsbury Group as I am? I devour books about them and have often visited Charleston, Berwick, Firle and Monk's House.