Monday, 24 August 2009

Great review

It's always a boost to receive a great review, so I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Ice Angel has been given a coveted Top Pick Rose keeper award at Romance Reader at Heart. Sheila Smith at RRAH describes Ice Angel as 'packed with drama ... there is something for everyone in this book' and says the characters are 'awesome; everyone of them contributed to the believability of the story.'

Thank you, Sheila! You can read the full review at RRAH here :-)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Kedleston Hall

Many people know of the glorious Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, home to the Dukes of Devonshire, but there is another architectural gem nearby which bowled me over when I visited recently – Kedleston Hall.

Kedleston Hall North Front
Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire (North Front)

Kedleston Hall is the seat of the Curzon family, who came to Britain from Normandy with William the Conqueror. Curzons have probably lived at Kedleston since 1150, certainly since 1198/9 when they were granted ‘Ketelstune’. The family lived in a succession of manor houses until Sir Nathanial Curzon, the 5th Baronet (later 1st Lord Scarsdale) inherited the estate in 1758 aged 32. Sir Nathaniel was proud of his lineage, but notwithstanding his familial pride, he tore down his grandfather’s house and set about building a new mansion set in idyllic parkland. This involved moving the entire village of Keldeston (as you do!) and building a new toll road to the house, which required an act of Parliament. The only thing that didn’t get moved was the medieval church, All Saints – Sir Nathaniel did not want to disturb the burial place of his ancestors. As a consequence, the church is sited remarkably close to the house (more of this anon).

The contemporary house that Curzon most admired was Holkham Hall in Norfolk and this, along with his fascination for classical Rome, was to influence the design of Kedleston from the start.

After a succession of architects, Sir Nathaniel eventually settled on a young Scot who had recently returned from studying in Rome. Robert Adam, or ‘Bob the Roman’ as he was nicknamed (love it ;0)) , had made an intensive study of classical antiquity. Drawing on this and the designs of Andrea Palladio, the 16th century Italian architect, he set out to build a house and park for his Tory employer that would rival its Whig neighbour, Chatsworth. He supervised almost every detail of the house, from the plasterwork to the door fittings, and designed the bridge, the fishing pavilion and other buildings in the park. He even built a hotel to house visitors in on the new toll road! The result is one of the masterpieces of mid 18th century English architecture, which remains remarkably intact today because Sir Nathaniel’s successors lacked the money or the desire to make wholesale changes. In 1987, the house was given to the National Trust by the 3rd Viscount Scarsdale, whose son now lives in the family wing. The long association of the Curzon family with Kedleston therefore remains unbroken.

The House

From the time it was completed in 1765, visitors were welcomed at Kedleston and shown around by the housekeeper, Mrs. Garnett. Samuel Johnson and Horace Walpole were two of its more famous visitors. The central block was never intended to be lived in on a daily basis – they were show apartments, designed to impress and display Sir Nathaniel’s collection of art, sculpture, furniture and silver. These rooms were used on grand occasions, such as balls or for entertaining important visitors.

The original design was based on Palladio’s unbuilt Villa Morcengo: a central block to which four pavilions would be joined by curved corridors. The family (north-east) pavilion was built first, then the central block and the Kitchen (north-west) pavilion. Unsurprisingly when you consider the scale of the project, the money ran out before the south-east and south-west wings could be added!

This fabulous cut away image of the house (drawn by Brian Delf) gives a perfect bird’s eye view of all the main rooms.

Kedleston Hall cutaway (by Brian Delf)Kedleston Hall cutaway (Brian Delf) (2)

It’s impossible to do justice to the interior of Kedleston in this blog post – as usual, interior photographs are not allowed so you’ll have to visit yourself – but some of the highlights are:

Kedleston Hall (Marble Hall and Dining Room) NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie
Kedleston (Marble Hall and Dining Room) NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The Marble Hall – a massive entrance hall designed to impress and overawe visitors. It rises the full height of the building and is lit only from above by skylights. The hall has twenty columns of veined alabaster which were quarried nearby.

The Dining Room - beautiful formal dining room with painted ceiling and alcove for displaying silver. I loved the HUGE wine cooler at the front of the alcove, big enough to have a bath in! You can just see it in this postcard image to the right.

The Music Room – the only part of the main block which was in regular use. It contains an organ by John Snetzler, contained in an Adam-designed case carved by a team of carvers at Kedleston in 1765.

The Drawing Room - featuring decorative plasterwork ceiling and four magnificent sofas. Made in London in 1765 by John Linnell, the sofas are embellished with languid mermaids and sea gods to compliment the maritime theme of the room. The sofas have recently been recovered in newly woven mixed wool and silk damask to replace the 1970s damask, which faded quickly because of the high proportion of man made fibres incorporated.

The Library – in contrast to the drawing room, the library is a more sober masculine-themed room, with magnificent bookcases and large mahogany desk/library table. There was also a reading chair. These were also known as cockfighting chairs (scroll through the images on the link) as they sometimes appeared in paintings of cock fights. Their prime purpose was for reading though. They were designed to be sat astride like a bicycle with your elbows resting on the arms and a book or papers on the stand. There was also an ivory hinged chess board, a gift from Sir William Rumbold to Lady Scarsdale on the death of her son, Captain William Curzon of the 69th foot at Waterloo in 1815. William Curzon was Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General and the third (illegitimate) son of Nathaniel, 2nd Baron Scarsdale, and Felicite de Wattines. More on the 2nd Baron later….

The Saloon – this beautiful room, a domed rotunda, lies behind the Marble Hall. It was occasionally used for balls so the wooden floor was sprung.

The State Apartments – three formal rooms, used as ‘parade rooms’ where visitors and ball guests could wander and view the paintings, furniture and d├ęcor.

There’s much more to see at Kedleston, including the Kitchen Corridor, Caesar’s Hall, the Eastern Museum and the Great Staircase.

In the Eastern Museum, the famous peacock dress is on display. This was worn by Mary, Lady Curzon at the ball following the Coronation Ball Durbar in Dehli in 1903, when her husband was Viceroy of India. It’s so beautiful, embroidered by Indian craftsmen with metal thread and jewels woven into gold cloth, in a pattern of peacock feathers.

The Kitchen Corridor is lined with family portraits and there were three that caught my eye. Nathaniel, 2nd Baron Scarsdale and his second wife, Felicite, and their illegitimate son Edward. In 1782, when his first wife died, the 2nd Baron was forced to flee to the continent to escape his gambling debts. There he met a Flemish girl, Felicite de Wattines. They eventually married in 1798, but by then she had borne him six children. Four more followed after they were married. The portraits of the 2nd Baron and Felicitie, painted in their late middle aged, were charming – they both looked as if they had a twinkle in their eye, perhaps not surprising when you know their history *g* Edward, their second son born out of wedlock, rose to the rank of Admiral and I admired his portrait too - a very dashing looking man!

As I mentioned in as earlier post on Sudbury, there is a Behind the Scenes exhibition of costumes and information from The Duchess movie on display at Kedleston until 1st November 2009. It’s worth visiting if you can. Again, no photos are allowed inside the house, so I bought some postcards ….

Kedleston Hall (Duchess collection) 001Kedleston Hall (Duchess collection)

(photos NTPL/Andy Tryner)

All Saint’s Church, Pleasure Gardens and Park

Kedleston Hall (memorial and A.
Kedleston Hall (North Chapel memorial and All Saints Church) photo by Mike Williams

The only surviving feature of the medieval village - the church - is very close to the house. It’s now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The North Chapel was added in 1906-13 by Lord Curzon as a memorial to his first wife, Mary Leiter, who died at the age of 35 (the same lady pictured wearing the peacock dress). Note that one foot of Lord Curzon’s figure remains uncovered by drapery – this is because Lord Curzon was still alive when the memorial was built.

When I visited, there was a Georgian weekend ongoing and the Pleasure Gardens were inhabited by some delightful Georgian characters, rakes and highwaymen, aka members of the Lace Wars 18th reenactment society!

Georgian Gentleman (and lady!) aka Lace Wars Reenactment Society

The Park at Kedleston is delightful. It’s almost entirely man-made but you would never guess it from the landscape. The breathtaking approach to Kedleston, winding through the park and over Adam’s three arch bridge, is one of the best of all National Trust properties in my opinion. The Fishing Pavilion on the upper lake is also Adam’s work.

Kedleston Hall (view of bridge) Kedleston Hall (view from the North Front towards the bridge)

One final item of interest about Kedleston and the Curzon family – in 1671, Sir Nathaniel, the 2nd Baronet, married Sarah Penn, the daughter of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.

There are more photos from my visit to Kedleston here. :-)

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Ballgowns in the Ballroom

Himley Hall is an 18th Century Palladian style Grade II listed building, once the family home of the Earls of Dudley. Set amongst 180 acres of 'Capability' Brown landscaped parkland, it's currently hosting a dazzling collection of ballgowns in - where else? - the ballroom :-) .

The Ballgowns in the Ballroom exhibition features dresses from film and TV productions. The costumes include gowns from The Duchess, Little Dorritt and Casanova, and have been loaned by Cosprop, one of the leading costumiers to the film, theatre and television industries.

It's only when you have the chance to see costumes like this up close and personal that you can appreciate the amount of work and detail that goes into them. Amazing. The Ballgowns in the Ballroom exhibition is particularly good because it allows visitors access all around the costumes so the back detail can be seen too. Here's a few of my favourites (the quality on the pictures is not brilliant, I'm afraid, as the light in the room is limited to protect the interior and I wasn't allowed to use a flash)


From 'Phantom of the Opera'.



Dress worn by Emmy Rossum, playing Christine Daae. Military outfit (style circa 1870) worn by Patrick Wilson, playing Raoul, Viscounte de Chagny. This is in the style of the colourful miliary uniforms of the Hussars, worn from 1700 onwards and inspired by the Hungarian fashions of the day.



From 'Casanova'



Circa 1750 coat worn by Heath Ledger made from woven patterned silk mixture with gold lace. The complimentary silk waistcoat woven with flowers and paisley motif has gold thread running throughout. Circa 1750 dress worn by Sienna Miller. More understated than the flamboyant outfit worn by Casanova, this dress is made from brocaded silk with a shot silk taffeta lining.


From 'Jefferson in Paris'



Dress circa 1785 worn by Charlotte de Turckheim. A great deal of time, money and effort went into creating the opulent look of this dress. The shimmer of the metallic threads in the tulle is enhanced by the satin underskirt. The effect would have been increased by the movement of the wearer and probably enhanced by the candlelight. Note the long velvet train, too.

From 'The Duchess'



Dress circa 1785 worn by Keira Knightley who plays Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire. In the scene in which this dress features, the Duchess is decidedly drunk and manages to catch her wig alight by standing too close to a candelabra! The dress has been cleaned since, but you could still see the marks on the fabric.
Green dress circa 1780 worn by Hayley Atwell who plays the Bess, mistress of the Duke of Devonshire. Outfit worn by Ralph Fiennes who plays the Duke of Devonshire.


From 'Little Dorrit'


Dress worn by Amanda Redman. This dress is not typical of the period (1850) as it was worn to a fancy dress party. It's a cross between Victorian and Georgian. Lurve the shoes!


There's more coming up soon on the blog on costumes from The Duchess - I've just got back from a visit to Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, where scenes from The Duchess were shot and an exhibition of costumes is currently on show. Details and pictures to follow!