Saturday, 11 February 2017

St Christopher's Church at the V&A - Vineyard poplins

One of the Luther Hooper pieces I saw at the Victoria & Albert Museum's Clothworkers Hall was not attributed to St Christopher's Church, but the motifs in the fabric were reminiscent of St Christopher's Church Vineyard Poplin woven hanging by the St Edmundsbury Weaving Works (which I posted on here).  This woven silk sample is described by the V&A as a 17th century design.

Luther Hooper silk damask
T.274-1970, Victoria & Albert Museum

The vine leaves, grapes, corn and what could be a corncrake?  Which is exactly the same content as on the Vineyard Poplin.  The corncrake hiding in the corn looks a bit odd in the Luther Hooper silk, but I cannot make out what else it could be?

Vineyard Poplin, St Edmundsbury Weaving Works
St Christopher's Church, Haslemere

Luther Hooper silk damask
T.274-1970 Victoria & Albert Museum

St Christopher's Church at the V&A - the Curtains

Back in January 2013 I wrote (in this post) about my discovery that the silk damask curtains or 'furnishing fabric' designed by Luther Hooper for St Christopher's Church are at the Victoria & Albert Museum.  There were no photographs of the fabric, just the description: "silk damask. With a design of clover leaves alternating with the monogram 'I.H.S', set in gothic ogives which are combined with palmette and beaded band  ornament in white on a red ground" (V&A website entry here)

Seeing the fabric itself, I quickly concluded that it was not in any of the photographs that I had seen of St Christopher's Church.  The colours were vibrant, and the 'white background' seemed to be more like silver.  I wonder where in the church this fabric would have been?  I have just come across a postcard of the church in 1904 where there is a curtain across the top window, maybe this is a curtain of the fabric?

St Christopher's Church postcard c.1904

The V&A have added photographs of the damask that are better than mine, but they have photographed the damask with the 'IHS' back to front!

Luther Hooper silk damask
made for St Christopher's Church
T.35-1953, Victoria & Albert Museum

Friday, 27 January 2017

St Christopher's Church at the V&A - Silk Damask

In the Summer I finally made it to the Clothworker's Centre, Blythe House at the Victoria & Albert Museum to see their Luther Hooper pieces.  I saw some pieces that were familiar to me from looking at them online, but it was fascinating to see them in real life.

For example, the portion of silk damask side curtain to the altar.  I had seen this picture first in the Art Journal, February 1911.   The damask in St Christopher's Church is described as "red-gold silk damask altar curtains", Spooner describes that the "altar curtains are of red silk damask with copper coloured silk lining, designed by Luther Hooper" (Nicholson, C., and Spooner, C., Recent Eccelesiastical Architecture, Technical Journals Ltd., London, c.1910).   Hooper describes that "their copper-coloured silk lining was woven by Messrs. Warner and Sons of London to the design of the writer" (Art Journal, ibid). 

Portion of Silk Damask, Side Curtain to Altar,
St. Christopher's, Haslemere
designed by Luther Hooper
from Art Journal, February 1911

The colouring of the silk damask held by the Victoria and Albert Museum is clearly not the same as in the Art Journal, but the design is.  

Silk damask by Luther Hooper,
Victoria & Albert Museum

Not only did they have the damask but they also had pattern papers of the same design.   As they were getting these textiles out for me, the V&A took photographs to add the photos to their collection records.  

Luther Hooper, pattern paper
Victoria & Albert Museum
Item T.13:2-1999, Online here

Luther Hooper, pattern paper
Victoria & Albert Museum

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Peasant Christmas

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas.  Next year I hope to return to writing this blog and finishing my research!

from the Haslemere Educational Museum, Peasant Arts Collection

Thursday, 25 August 2016

On the Arthur Romney Green Christchurch trail - the Priory

Walking out of the former 3 Bridge Street, Arthur Romney Green's (ARG's) workshop, showroom and home, it is only a few metres further down the road until you reach the bridge over the River Avon.  ARG "loved the symmetry of the five arches...describing the built arch 'so gracefully suspended over empty space by virtue of its weight' as one of the miracles of human art like the sailing shop and the bicycle."  (Life to the Lees, Elkin, Susan, 1998).

View of Prezzo, formerly 3 Bridge Street, from the bridge,
Christchurch, Dorset

The bridge over the Avon by 3 Bridge Street,
Christchurch, Dorset

From the bridge you can see the Priory, the remains of the great tower of Christchurch castle and the Norman House.  You have to walk past the Norman House and castle remains to access the Priory.  English Heritage describes these buildings as "the mound top-keep or great tower was a part of a large Norman castle that once dominated the town...Nearby is the 12th century riverside chamber block known as the Norman House, one of the few remaining examples of domestic Norman architecture in England.  Built in about 1160, it provided grand and comfortable living quarters for the lord of Christchurch.  The tall circular Norman chimney is a particularly rare survival."
The view from the bridge across to The Priory,
Bridge Street, Christchurch
The Priory approach is particularly impressive.  Following the description of the ARG furniture in the  Priory by Elkin (ibid.) we were aiming to go to the Lady Chapel at the far end of the building, but we stopped to see the main features on the way.

It was a good job we did because the nice surprise was that the ARG chairs are now placed at the front of the nave altar and choir stalls.   Elkin describes only one of these chairs in her book, the one of the right below, although surely they are both by ARG and are displayed opposite each other as "a magnificent ceremonial chair".  The geometric designs on the chairs are classic ARG, the mirror of the cut-out pattern on the left opposite the other carved with various Christian symbols.

the nave altar at Christopher Priory,
the ARG chairs facing each other either side of the altar

There 'IHS' at the top, and a star of David below it on the right, with another star of David below on the far left.  A circle with a cross in them are I think referred to as a 'solar cross' or 'sun cross'.  The fourth row of symbols are two 'X's.  The final row, that can be seen at least from standing as a visitor, seems to have the initials HRX.  These symbols by the side of the altar which has the large altar cloth symbol of the triquetra reflects an interest I suspect by someone at the Priory in Christian symbolism.  Wikipedia explains the triquetra as representing "the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The unbroken circle represents eternity. The interwoven nature of the symbol denotes the indivisibility and equality of the Holy Trinity. It symbolizes that the Holy Trinity is three beings of power, honor, and glory but is indivisibly one God".

ARG ceremonial chair engraved with Christian symbols,
Christchurch Priory
Walking further into the Priory, looking at the High Altar, we saw the two prayer desks opposite each other.  Elgin describes these as "Instead of a ball shape for the hand to grasp at the top of each upright, there is a truncated octahedron.  It's a mathematical idea typical of Green.  He had the same shape carved in stone for eventual use on his tombstone." (ibid.)

High altar, with ARG prayer tables opposite each other
Christchurch Priory

The positioning of the chairs at the nave altar and the prayer desks at the High Altar is all the more remarkable for the story behind ARG's commission, as Elkin explains "She and Green were still unmarried, and although most of their London friends had been away of their position, they saw little need to advertise it on arrival in Christchurch.  When, however, the Vicar of Christchurch, Canon Gay, decided to order some pieces for the Lady Chapel in the Priory, Green thought that he had better 'own up'.  And his honesty cost him the order.  It wasn't until several years later, when Gay's successor saw Green's and Bertha's dog, Fanny, clad in a cosy jacket, that he observed that a man who looked after his dog so well couldn't be all bad, so he placed an order." (ibid.)

ARG prayer table, high altar
Christchurch Priory

ARG prayer table, high altar
Christchurch Priory

ARG prayer table, high altar
Christchurch Priory
I could not find the moveable altar rails which Elkin had also identified as at the Priory, but I think that the chairs and prayer tables are more distinctive and pleasing to the eye.  ARG's memorial stone is shown on the Dorset Life website here.

Head of ARG's memorial stone,

Saturday, 20 August 2016

On the Arthur Romney Green Christchurch trail - the workshop, showroom & home

Today we decided to visit Christchurch to see the Arthur Romney Green pieces and his old workshop.  I have been meaning to visit for about 5 years since I was given Life to the Lees (Elkin, Susan, 1998), 'A Biography of Arthur Romney Green'.   It took less than 90 minutes to reach from Haslemere which was a pleasant surprise and made me wonder why we had not visited earlier.

First we passed what had been 3 Bridge Street, Arthur Romney Green's (ARG's) workshop, showroom and home.  The road still retains some character, being a single lane as it passes the former 3 Bridge Street.  Although I had seen this on the map, visiting in person I was surprised by the proximity of the Avon Bridge and the nearby Priory.

25 Bridge Street, Christchurch

It is always fascinating to see an old photograph and the present day view.  Whilst the outside has inevitably changed a great deal in the passing of almost century, the bow windows lend a constancy to the scene.  Elkin describes the scene "An old Victorian grocer's shop, 25 Bridge Street, lay a few yards over Avon Bridge heading out of Christchurch in what was then Hampshire.  With the river so close and the muddy creek running down to the Avon along the back of Green's and other properties, he effectively had river access just as he had had at Strand-on-the-Green.  Although the creek sometimes dried out in summer, for much of the time Green could, and did, swim or sail away from the bottom of his own garden into the Avon, past its confluence with the Stour and towards the open sea." (ibid)

25 Bridge Street, Christchurch, August 2016

A. Romney Green's workshop
3 Bridge Street, Christchurch

The blue plaque to the right of the right hand window is almost hidden behind an olive tree.  It reads "ROMNEY GREEN 1872-1945 Master craftsman lived and worked here from 1920 until his death", "donated by friends".  It is interesting that the plaque dispenses with his first name 'Arthur'.

Blue plaque to Arthur Romney Green,
Bridge Street, Christchurch
When we returned to Prezzo for lunch and went inside the building it was fascinating to see what a comparatively small space was occupied by the workshop and showroom.  According to Elkin "The right-hand shop, nearest to the Avon Bridge, was the low-ceilinged workshop containing several work benches.  Green liked the fact that passers-by could look through the window and watch the work in progress, some of which went on in here and some in the converted apple loft outside.  Finished items were displayed in the left-hand shop which served for many years as Green's showroom.  Some of the heavy work was done in a converted tool shed which the men called the 'article' shed because is contained such 'articles' as a circular saw and a band saw, driven b hand or foot power." (ibid.)  Now, the right-hand side of the shop is almost totally taken up by the serving bar for the restaurant.  

interior of 25 Bridge Street, Christchurch
A. Romney Green's old workshop and showroom

Sitting in-between courses, with a treasured swan feather found from the riverbank, it was nice to read the poem that Elkin prints of ARG describing "his beloved home":

"And so we come by an old-world street, through a modern thoroughfare
To our river-skirted home in the poignant borderland;
Past whose ancient front the tide of painted automobiles flows in fury,
But whose posterns open to the cry of the redshank,
Hyacinths beneath the mulberry
And the music of the flight of the swan."

When we used the toilet, it was interesting to note that "When Green took over 25 Bridge Street its only sanitation was what Graham Castle describes as a 'midden' in the garden.  Inevitably, it wasn't long before Green was compelled by the authorities to install adequate sanitation for all the people using the premises.  This he did - with a certain amount of wryly amused resentment.  Two flush lavatories, one for the men and another for Green and Bertha, were put in the back of the building.  Only Green, lover of 'rural hygiene' and forward-thinking environmentalist would then pen a sonnet 'To a Water Closet'." (ibid)  The sonnet contains the lines:

"The sea, once blue, now foul'd, on which our sway
Declines, our fields, once green on which it grew"

There are only two toilets downstairs at the property still, could these be in the same place?  Hopefully we used the right one.  ARG's sonnet reminds me of the tale of the Blount's gardener from Therese Le Chard "When taking tea on the lawn, the stately old gardener could occasionally be seen passing slowly by with two buckets of human excrement on their way to remoter fertilizing duty.  In nature nothing was held to be unpleasant or unclean." (A Sailor Hat in the House of the Lord, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1967).

We looked outside in the garden for the mulberry tree which of course was not to be found.  There was no prospect of a swim from the end of the garden.  Elkin explains "Today the geography is different.  Bridge Street was re-numbered in the 1930s and the French restaurant which now occupies Green's former premises, and sports a commemorative blue plaque, is No.3.  The back garden behind it is quite short, the creek has been filled in and there are newish buildings behind.  Christchurch Marina, built after Green's time, has altered the views."  

The French restaurant of 1998 has now become Prezzo, an Italian restaurant.  The kitchen occupies the back of the building, maybe in an area that had been used as a tool shed!  The restaurant takes over the adjoining buildings also, maybe what was 2 further properties in ARG's time.  Whilst the non-solid wood furniture in the restaurant would not have met with ARG's approval, it is interesting that the old showroom and workshop are still full of chairs and tables almost a century on from ARG's time.  And the food was very nice.

No prospect of swimming to the sea from 25 Bridge Street
in August 2016

The back of 25 Bridge Street, Christchurch

Sunday, 10 July 2016

"Come and reason" with Godfrey Blount by Edwin Herrin, Part 2

The July 1937 newspaper appreciation (Part 1 is here) continues:

Godfrey Blount, 3rd from left, a family snapshot
from Haslemere Educational Museum's press cuttings,
July 1937

"Nothing paved the way to his respect and sympathy so infallibly as the honesty and sincerity of the truth-seeker and an enquiring mind was the one qualification for admission to his heart.

"There is more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds"

"was with him no mere aphorism, to be framed in gilt, and forgotten.  He knew no distinctions of class or status.

from Arbor Vitae, Blount, Godfrey, A.C. Fifield, 1910

"Spiritual difficulties were as real in the humbler walks of life as in the ranks of the more sophisticated, and, accordingly, postman, gardener and railway servant as often resorted to his aid in the solution of difficulties, and were as sure of sympathy and understanding and "the warm touch of the mediator's hand to interpret for them the mysteries of existence," as visitors of greater distinction who had also discovered the road to Saint Cross.

"On the day of his last fight with mortality (a fight of which I was quite ignorant) I was reading from "Science and Symbols" (perhaps the most irresistibly simple and convincing of his many literary efforts in that direction) the chapter on "Life, Light and Love."  I venture to claim that in this chapter he succeeds in achieving the very acme and apex of elevation of thought and clarity of statement.

"May I quote one paragraph with is an expansion of the saying of Jesus.  "I am the Light of the World," and in which the Founder of the Christian Faith is represented as saying: "This glistening pearl: the leaven in those loaves set to rise; this tree ready to shoot out new leaves; the wine in that cup you will drink; this mustard seed, smallest of things, are divine in their natural use: does not God shine in them as well as through them?  These clouds, do they not close this day as well as foretell the last of all?  This corn, does it not prove the truth of sacrifice, as well as prophesy my own, because, like me, it must be bruised for your food, since I am it and it is I?  This bread, sown, grown, reaped, thrashed, ground, mixed, baked: this is I, my body; eating it, you eat me.  This wine, crushed from the grape with the sun in it, fermented, inspiring, refreshing, is my blood: drink it and you drink Me.  I am the way, the road you walk along: walk it then with a purpose.  I am the field you work in; work while it is day.  I am the door, the gate you pass, the home you enter, the fire you stir.  I am, your Father, your Mother, your Friend.  I am the Shepherd that cares for his sheep; the Ploughman, the Carpenter, the Mason.  I am the Cripple, the Prisoner, the Beggar, the Leper, the Child: see Me in these, the Man of infinite sorrow and infinite joy; of infinite power and hope."

from Arbor Vitae, Blount, Godfrey, A.C. Fifield, 1910

"Paganism?  Possibly, but surely paganism touched with divinity.  And I venture to think that this paragraph serves best to illustrate the scope and purity of his thought and the brightness of his vision.

Branksome Dene Hotel,
July, 1937."
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