Saturday, 27 April 2019

Whitaker Wright and the Peasants

I recently read Ultimate Folly: The Rises and Falls of Whitaker Wright the World's Most Shameless Swindler (Macrory, Henry, Biteback Publishing, London, 2018) about Wright who lived at Lea Park, Witley.  Wright is famous for having an underwater glass ballroom in the lake and for committing suicide in the Royal Courts of Justice after being sentenced for fraud by cyanide pill.  Whilst Wright was local to the Haslemere Peasant Arts, I had not anticipated any overlap in their lives despite the Kings living at Sandhouse, literally down the road from Lea Park.  However, I was rather taken aback when I read this amongst the description of Wright's house, purchased in Witley in 1896.



"With money no object, he bought two large tracts of land to the west of the village, paying £150,000 for the Lea Park estate, which included the nineteenth-century manor house, and a further £100,000 for the adjacent South Park Farm estate.  This gave him a total of 9,000 acres, or a little over 14 square miles...the acquisition gave him ownership of two local beauty spots, Hindhead Common and the Devil's Punch Bowl...A London architect, Paxton Hood Watson, was contracted to turn the existing manor house into a pleasure palace, and royal warrant-holders George Jackson and Sons, who had carried out work at Buckingham Palace and Sandringham, were entrusted with the ornamental plasterwork.  Edwin Lutyens, who had been brought up in the neighbouring village of Thursley...was asked to design some lakeside buildings....

"...Under Paxton Watson's direction, two wings were added to the existing half-timbered manor house at the stupendous cost of £400,000.  The end of the new west wing was adorned with a vast conservatory, which alone cost £10,000 (around £1 million in today's money). ...At the far end of the house - a walk of several minutes along more than 500 ft of corridors adorned with hunting trophies, suits of armour and ceremonial swords -...a domed observatory...Between these two great embellishments were thirty-two bedrooms, eleven bathrooms, seventeen cloakrooms, seven receptions rooms and numerous courtyards paved in white marble and beautified  with Moorish arches." (Macrory, p.98)

The house and grounds were clearly "fit for an Oriental prince" which had been Wright's ambition.  It is incredible to think that such a sumptuous residence could exist in this quiet corner of Surrey.  As I read on, I was more amazed:

"The most sumptuous of the upstairs apartments was the so-called bridal suite, formed of two rooms, each 74ft long and 54ft wide...It had thirty windows, and was adorned with moulded ceilings, tall mirrors, oriental carpets and an array of antique Chinese and Japanese furniture.  The walls were hung with Japanese silk pictures patterned with foliage on an ivory background.  The dressing table, all 32 square feet of it, was covered with a tapestry embroidered with the words 'Love Maketh a Feast With Most or Least."(ibid.)

This distinctive phrase is on a tapestry held at the Haslemere Educational Museum, and was illustrated in The Craftsman (Stewart, Dick, 'Handicrafts of English peasants at Haslemere', pp.589-595, August 1907).  Reading the words in these versions the phrase is actually 'With Most of Least, Love Maketh a Feast'.  I have not seen a reference made to a 32 square foot version of this.

It seems extraordinary that someone who epitomised all that the Haslemere Peasants rallied against appeared to have in the heart of his home a piece of peasant tapestry that preached a very different message.  

Peasant Tapestry, The Craftsman, August 1907



Saturday, 26 January 2019

Peasant bed hanging on the BBC


The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts Episode 2 last week, BBC 2 (BBC iPlayer) featured the challenge of making a bed in the style of this Heals bed, below.  The image of the Heals bed was shown at various points in the show, but sadly at no point did they discuss the appliqué bed hanging or bed cover which was Haslemere peasant tapestry!

still from The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts, Episode 2,
BBC2, 18 January 2019
The picture appears in the Textiles of the Arts & Crafts Movement (Parry, Linda, Thames & Hudson, 2005) which states "At the Paris Exhibition in 1900 (Exposition Universelle), Heal's exhibited a pair of oak bedsteads with the "covers and hangings of Haslemere 'Peasant Tapestries'".

Godfrey Blount bedcovers and hangings, exhibited by Heal's at 1900 Paris Exhibition,
Parry, Linda, Textiles of the Arts & Crafts Movement, Thames & Hudson, 2005, p.50

Friday, 7 December 2018

Godfrey Blount's Christmas Greetings

The Haslemere Educational Museum have printed Christmas cards this year with Godfrey Blount designs.  These unique cards showcase the special local talent of Haslemere's Peasant Arts movement, and raise money for the museum who hold the only collection of the Haslemere Peasant Arts movement.  They have been selling like hot cakes, even the overtly religious design!

I've now safely bought my cards, so I invite you to buy yours.

Godfrey Blount Christmas Cards,
for sale at Haslemere Educational Museum

Godfrey Blount Christmas Cards,
for sale at Haslemere Museum



Friday, 31 August 2018

Haslemere Museum Annual Report 2017


Haslemere Peasant Tapestry on the cover of the newly published 2017 Annual Report of the Haslemere Educational Museum.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Godfrey Blount & the Peasants in New Zealand

The work of the Haslemere Peasants was exhibited in New Zealand as part of a British Government exhibition.  The Arts and Crafts works were curated by Walter Crane.

In 5 December 1906 there is an article in Evening Post  describing "the room at the Exhibition Art Gallery devoted to craft works.  These were sent out by the British Government as examples of the ideals to follow in our struggle for the beautiful...A visit to the wall in the Craft room specially devoted to the craftwork of William Morris, shows his marvellous power over tone applied to textile manufactures, in all its force.

The British Government Arts and Crafts Exhibit at the New Zealand International Exhibition, 1906


"One of his energies was the starting of cottage weaving, now carried on by Godfrey Blount, an architect, of Hazlemere (sic), a village in Surrey, Mr Edmund Hunter, of the Edmunds Association of Weavers, and others.  They have on view a large and varied collection of hand-woven articles, beautiful in design, in colour and in texture.  No. 234 is a hand-spun silk, founded on the thistledown, and has all the lightsome beauty of the down in colouring, and a lightly suggested head of thistledown all over the fabric makes a very fine piece of design.  A great deal of the work of the cottage weavers is on view in glass cases about the British sector.  Some of these are exceptionally beautiful in texture, and certainly fulfil the adage “that strength and honour are in her clothing.”  One especially lifts itself out as more than usually lovely.  It is a combination, woven of silk and linen, in flashing grass green colouring, and for perfection has hardly ever been surpassed.  These handwoven linens and silks are woven in the cottages of the English villagers by the women themselves.  These are for a lifetime.  Any housewife who has been lucky enough to own a pair of Irish linen sheets, made by the Irish weavers in their homes, will appreciate what it would mean to have their tablecloths, linen sofa covers, and cream canvas curtains hand-woven.

"All of these articles are shown here, the produce of spare time in quiet English villages.  The men are away working all day, and the Peasants’ Arts Society have endeavoured, with what seems astounding success, to put artistic craft into the hands of the cottagers, and at the same time to put money into their pockets. ..There is another, door-hanging, hand woven, No. 347, with a design of a vine intertwined with the grapes, and a flying bird.  This shows how it is possible to harmonise contrasting colour.  The colour scheme is a deep olive-green, deep scarlet, deep blue, and deep organe, and in the hands of any one but an artist, such a combination would have made the hanging a thing of horror, a nightmare, where this is quiet and harmonious.  This was designed by Edmund Hunter and woven by the St Edmund’s Weavers Society.”

Christchurch City Libraries (here) describes the 1906 Exhibition thus "The art exhibition proved hugely popular, attracting one and a half million visitors. "To a great many New Zealanders the British Art display… was the most attractive section of the Exhibition". It was gratifying, the Press enthused, that New Zealanders should have the opportunity to see the largest art exhibit ever shown by the Mother Country at an international exhibition...The exhibition of British art at the International Exhibition was the first major collection of non-colonial art seen in New Zealand. The collection "was one of the most perfect … ever sent from Great Britain, and by far the finest ever shown in a British colony"...
"An important Arts and Crafts section, with 690 works by 171 artists, was put together by Walter Crane and Alfred Longden. This section included furniture and furnishings, textiles, jewellery, metalwork, book bindings, glass, ceramics, mosaics, wood carvings, silver and illuminations. Nearly half the exhibitors were women, including the only New Zealander, Alice Beatrice Waymouth of Christchurch who exhibited art jewellery work and sold 8 pieces.
The New Zealand Government paid for the collection of the works, packing, insurance, transportation and the cost of installation, a total of £7126."

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Healthy, happy and sane



Quoted in 'The Girl Wanted',
Nixon Waterman,
Forbes & Company, 1913



Friday, 30 March 2018

The Utter Gladness of the Spring by Godfrey Blount

"How can my spirit 
fitly sing the utter 
Gladness of the Spring
When every crocus
cracks a clod bursts 
its shell and shouts
to God"

Godfrey Blount

by Godfrey Blount
reproduced courtesy of Haslemere Educational Museum



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