Friday, 3 July 2020

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. His Gothic Ideal Is All Around Us.

 I still recall how I wandered around the war torn streets thinking that everywhere was damaged and forlorn, and covered in a thick black patina, from the smog that frequently fell. Like a stone.
That at times, made even circumnavigating the other side of the street impossible.
The first church that I attended, was attached to our school. That was St Georges, and is a Grade I listed building of 1812. St Georges is one of the earliest buildings to be constructed by metal skeleton. Leaving it light and allowing the architecture to float in in its Georgian Gothic splendour. The decoration hanging on its Rickman designed cast iron frame.

I would not know the name Pugin, it would mean nothing to me until I started to feed the thirst for knowledge that I started developing while still in short pants.
Gothic was born of Rickmans work and was championed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.
The first time I looked up at the heavenly architecture of st Georges that was heightened and was shimmering in tinted colours, like a magic lantern slide. I wandered into a world of why. As the light from the only stained glass windows that escaped the Luftwaffe, pierced the pulpit during the services that I had to endure. My mind would wander.
It was built on the site of the old Liverpool lighthouse and Beacon lane fed up to its plateau. This was the old welsh town of Liverpool.
There were numerous massive buildings that I recall, that would either fall down or be demolished and the architecture of the firm of Pugin and Pugin, I would later find out, filled the streets around my home with Gothic pearls.
Our Lady Immaculate with the ambitious foundations of the Chancel Chapel on St Domingo Road. That would never be more than that. The plans to build a Majestic Cathedral, at the top of our street had never been able to to be realized. For lack of finances.
I could feel those ambitions all around me, enveloping my senses.
Decades later I would become a specialist in the restoration of listed buildings and then move into the world of antiques.
But I will never forget the way it made me feel to live in such a place with its monumental faded Gothic glory at every turn.
So now, when I may, understand the esoteric's of design, I try to keep on furthering my knowledge by the continual feeding of that seed. That grew out of those bombed out buildings that I played in as a child.
There were three Pugin and Pugin buildings in stones throw from, our house.

I want to explore here, a little more about The Great Gothic Master of Design.

Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin (Born 1812) wrote a scathing attack on British Georgian architecture. He called it an abomination.
CONTRASTS was written by Pugin when he was 25 and he does not hold back in his thought. The Industrial revolution of the 1830's had saw huge civil unrest.
A strong moral leadership was called for. But it was not there.
The country was burdened with George IV. Who did fancy himself as a patron of the arts.
He wanted to work on Buckingham Palace and the kings favourite architect John Nash who was a master of disguise was employed.
This work showed what we call Facadism where a building is cloaked in a Stucco fronting.
Pugin was an angry young man. He thought he would cleanse the immorality of this Georgian style. In 'Gothic' he asks the questions of the reasons of the demise of architecture.
Even though we now look at Georgian as an example of style that is admired, he thought Gothic was the way forward. Believing classicism to be false to a higher ideal.
St Giles in Staffordshire was an attempt to turn the tide of immorality through architecture. In his eyes Medieval fusion would be controlled into a channel of heavenly paradise. To him, the Gothic revival was devoutly christian. This was his brave new world......of looking back.
His mother Catherine Welby and August Charles had fled the french revolution and they settled in Bloomsbury. As a direct result of Catherine's inheritance. They were wealthy. The young Pugin never really went to school. His father supplemented their income by doing architectural drawing. At five years of age his parents took him to Lincoln Cathedral. He was struck by the genius of the prizmatic light dousing the building in contrasting colour's, that was built 700 years before.
He admired the honesty, and how the building was made.
Its skeleton was on show, there for all to see.
His father ran a drawing school and he and the pupils were taken to Northern France. Rouen Cathedral entranced him.
There is a drawing in the national archives entitled My first design at 9 years old.
He learnt about the engineering. How buildings held up. How they were built.
He was shown them the bones of how they were constructed. He would feel them.
Many Cathedrals were looted during the revolution. Many with sculptures were defaced. He noted this.
He would collect and would study fragments of medieval glass.

Low church services were held in preaching boxes in small chapels and his mother supported Edward Irving who was a sort of evangelist of the day.
He began to loathe the low style of service and turned to the theatre.
The Theatre Royale Richmond, entranced him at 15 years old, he saw the scenery flying on and off the stage. As if by magic. He began to study in three dimensions and in 1831 he designed quite lavishly for Henry VIII.
He gained a sense of the dramatic, with the immorality of the theatre.

Ann was 5 months pregnant when Pugin married her. He did the right thing and they seemed happy, until Ann died, shortly after childbirth. Then his mother died. And at the age of 21 he was a single parent. He was shattered by events and buried himself in the wreckage of his life and his Gothic ideal.

Contrasts won him the friendship of John Talbot the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury and his money gave him the capital for amongst others St Giles in Cheadle.
Cheadle, my perfect Cheadle he declared in later life. Picture The west doors of St Giles
At the consecration of his Gothic masterpiece of St Giles, Archbishops were present. He had come a long way. It was a national event. He wanted to capture a spirit something he felt and it all went into his ideas for Gothic.
Talbot's stately home is now Alton Towers.
He had converted to catholicism while writing 'Contrasts'. He adored the playing out of the service with all theatrical theatrical manner, he adored.
George Myers was his prefered builder, a Yorkshire man. They struck a chord, he had a understanding what Pugin wanted. Though on one project he was not involved in, the Bellfry fell down.
He would design wallpapers and Mintons took the decision to reinstate the practice of making encaustic tiles around his designs.
His friend John Hardman would make his metalwork and stained glass.

'The True Principle Of Pointed Architecture' was his second book. Published in 1841 it laid down six principles for building in the Gothic style.
Pugin believed good architecture is good society and it lays down all the principles of how to achieve this. A vision. Detail must have meaning. If it is constructed it can be decorated.
In his work he puts the hinge in full view showing exactly how the door is opening. A hidden hinge was imoral he thought.
He declared classicism was wrong and truth and honesty was Gods work.
'God will see if you skimp on hidden parts of the building' he would declare. This inspired a new generation of architects such a s George Gilbert Scott.
Who would say after reading Pugin.
'I felt as if I had awoken from my slumbers'.
The whole landscape of Britain would subsequently change through the thoughts and writings of the man'.
Though some people claim that modern buildings such as the Pompidou or Lloyds of London hold true. This is stupid thinking. They may hold the twisted principles dear but these have been, shall we say, stretched by the architects for good PR.

The Palace of Westminster burnt down and the rebuilding of the corrupt place would be replaced by Pugins moral ideal. Charles Barry had classic training, but Pugin overshadowed him. The towers were definatly Pugin which led but the heraldic interior, combining the work of John Hardman, that showed an ideal to an almost heavenly enlightenment of the mind.

We take for granted today the interiors of the chamber because we see it almost every day on TV. But it was made to overawe everyone who came in contact. And from his thousand drawings, he aimed for perfection. He was a man posessed. Working tirelessly.
The Soveriegns Throne is an example encompassed. The medieval view in revival form, evoked history and with a linear heritage from days gone by.
Though Barry was the architect, Pugin, in 1834 had designed an imaginary college and by co-incidence the year the Houses of Parliment burnt down.
It is almost the same building.
He was subsequently, unfairly written out of the final finished scheme. Barry claiming it all. While Pugin was working, he had no idea of the PR that was playing out around him.
Pugin worked because he wanted to. Barry got £25,000 while Pugin got £800.

Pugin had entered the debate surrounding wallpaper which was now entering into more mainstream consciousness after the Great Exhibition by designing a series of two dimensional papers. These were mostly heradic motifs for The Palace of Westminister. He would design a hundred different styles. There is a wonderful book showing his pattern designs from 1851-1859 in the V&A. Of course the best place to see them would be in place, on the walls. Of those hundred different wallpaper designs that were commissioned many were lost but his inspiration would seep into the public. I picked hand blocked Pugin wallpaper for my hall that is still available today if you know where to look. Though most of his designs would be too bold for most domestic settings. This debate be continued by Morris and Co.
His work then strangely dried up. This was his time, and he wasn't there.
Louisa his second wife of 5 children then died and at 32 he would struggle to cope with his paranoair.
He then wrote another book in Ramsgate.
An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England. He explains as best he can under the pressure of his developing illness and proclaims Gothic should be on every detail as what was in The Grange, that he designed for himself. It is.....Gothic to the core. Designed from the inside out and not the other way round, as of most architects of the day seemed to do. Rooms were arranged in the need for movement he was absorbed in theatrical vibrancy of its interiors.
Trefoiled escutcheons and Gothic handles with inscriptions declaring his love of patrons, family and places. It's as if he wanted to surround himself in a cocoon.
He married a third time.
He would stay at the Grange for the rest of his life.
He would exhibit at the 1851 Exhibition, a medieval court. It was acclaimed at all levels. Though he never won a prize for manufacture as a designer.
He then built a church next to the Grange. St Augustin's. Of napped flint, sandwiched between horizontal lines and courses of stone. This was a new departure in architecture for him. This building has recently been restored. His finances suffered.
It encapsulated his faith. £14,000 of his own money and he couldnt afford the spire.
It was all becoming too much. He was having blackouts.
The Westminister clock tower hadn't been built and Barry turned to Pugin who was ill with piles, worms and strange visions.
The finished article is said to be a masterpiece in delicacy reaching for the heavens.
He never made the opening of his design after a mental breakdown.
Consigned to Bedlam and in 1852 at the age of 40 he died. His tomb in St Augustin's decorated with carvings of his family.
He died at the same time as The Duke of Wellington and his death was relegated to the back pages of the periodicals. This maybe a metaphor or a symbol of his whole life. His son E.W Pugin would continue his work.
It took a hundred years for his recognition to come to the fore.
Half French, as was Brunel. They both were largely forgotten.
They, in time would both become greats.
In working on his book Gothic revival published 1928 Kenneth Clarke found it hard to believe that a man so little known was actually so important.
But still Pugin needs to be explored because what he created was more than buildings it was an ideal, a movement.
There are not many who could do that. And Pugin is one of the greats.

I will always remember the lightness of the cast iron framed architecture of St Georges. I visited there recently. The side entrance to the back of the church still has the same atmosphere and smell from decades past.
Looking at old photographs, I also remember the stolid Victorian remnants of the Victorian buildings of the era I grew up in. Most of it is heavy, over adorned, over engineered and self apposing.
I think this is why I love the lightness of the Georgians at their best..... and the freshness and the feel of the best of French Art Deco.
Though I do declare I love the work and appreciate the ideals of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Liverpool The City That Knocked The Cavern Club Down, Then Called Itself Beatles Town.

I was born just off St Domingo Road in Everton, though it was nearer to the hallowed turf of Anfield. 
The proximity to Anfield is what provided me with my pocket money.
 I would mind cars on match day.
 It was great running up and down the street “Can I mind your car Sir”.
I would put my Liverpool scarf on early in the morning and we would have a little bit of territory in our cobbled street with which to work.
People were kind.

 It was a friendly gesture rewarded for the effort and enthusiasm. 
The drivers in would get out in their red and white scarves. They didn't have to give you a few coppers but I think it heightened match day for them.
There would be no cars in our street of a normal day. There wasn't anybody living there whose income could afford to run one.
 It showed you that if you tried a bit and were pleasant, you could earn a little bit. Which in turn made your life a bit better.
 Mainly in the ability to buy football cards that you could collect into an album. I can still remember the team goalkeeper was Tommy Lawrence, right up to Peter Thompson on the left wing. The beginning of collecting, maybe.
It was a friendly place, we knew everyone in the street. I still today can recall most of our neighbours names.
 The surrounding streets were pockmarked with missing houses that had been bombed during the war looking like missing teeth within a pretty girls smile. Other houses were shored up with timber.
We played war games amongst the debris and in the abandoned houses with broken window pains.
Around a similar time I was once showed how to throw a brick at a church window by an older lad.
 It was covered in a grill and made a great noise. I hadn't realised why my so called mentor was running away, until a white collared clergyman came out from a side door running towards me shaking his first. I learnt how to run that day. 
And how to keep away from this tearaway who fell about in stitches laughing.
I didn't think it funny at all especially when a knock on the door came and there he was reporting me to my mother. You grow up quick in the school of hard knocks.
The church was two streets away, the other side of Sir Thomas White Gardens which was quickly becoming a failed experiment into social housing. Its no longer there. Either is the church that became our playground. I used to run errands having made friends with the people inside. 
I never picked up a stone in anger again and soon realized why the beautiful glass windows were covered up.
At that time in Liverpool there was a different mentality, Protestants and Catholics were enemies, or so we were taught. 
We played football matches when we found someone with a ball. The teams were usually picked by religion. I thought whats all this about.
I soon grew up and realized, just as I had been shown to throw a stone, that I was not to listen to my elders, not to be guided by the wrong people.
To form my own judgments by study.

Decades later whilst driving past, I found the same church in disrepair and about to be demolished so I removed some of the fittings before the bulldozers destroyed them and put them in my stores to re use. Then shortly after, while reading Freddy O'Conners “It All Came Tumbling Down” I found a picture of my street, and a picture of a church that was designed by Pugin, well the firm of E.W Pugin. I was a property developer by this time. I then realized that there were several Pugin buildings in the vicinity and I also realized I had felt the gravity of the history in the humble little street that was condemned by the city council as a slum and we were sent to a modern house in the suburbs.
I always regretted the move. The wash house, that steamy place where the washer women gathered to chit chat away was in fact a Pugin building.
If you are born poor you dont know anything else.
My first BBC appearance was for a documentary about slum housing and I was nominated for interview by the headmaster of my school St Georges. 
I recall in my past memory that I was talking about growing up and there and some shots walking home from school with my friend.

I must have only been six years of age. We did not have a TV and had to go to a neighbours house to watch it. I have tried to find it in the BBC archives but I fear its lost.

 It showed a happy little child growing up and attending a school with its Grade I listed St Georges church, walking home through Everton Library, also a listed building that had escaped the blitz. I wrote about St Georges some time ago.
Not long after being cleared out to the new Metro-land. A concrete jungle. I missed the sturdy security of my poor working class background and the way the people stood together and helped each other. 
People who had nothing would share their last bit of food with you, not knowing if there would be any money with which to buy more for themselves.
 Boot boys and football hooliganism appeared. Things rather dramatically in the coming years. When I started going the match it had become a dangerous place.

Now I understand that that church was in fact The Chancel Chapel erected to be the beginning of the building of a new Cathedral of such gigantic proportions that it would rival St Peters in Rome. The Church never got the necessary finances required and after war decimated Liverpool a free site was given to the Catholic Church near the city centre. This would see The new Metropolitan Cathedral Of Christ The King, or Paddy's Wigwam built. 
I was an apprentice watching this new space rocket erupt on the plateau opposite the Anglican Cathedral by Giles Gilbert Scott. I did not like it.
Later I got angry with what was happening to my city and how it's historical buildings were being targeted for redevelopment in the new era that was bringing a new prosperity...with little respect for my past.
I had become a vociferous heritage campaigner as Liverpool became a World Heritage City it began to destroy the Pier Head. 
The famous Three Graces had escaped The Luftwaffe and then the city planners set about destroying the majesty of Liverpool's waterfront.
Now I was negotiating with Unesco to save its soul as we watched the corrupt city council planners destroying my city that I had been so proud of, yes proud, even with all its tatty edges and incongruities,
It was my town. And they were knocking it down.
I would be as vocal as I could with some great success I gained a respect for my opinions and believed I could shape the argument of how to keep what was the essence of the city yet bring it into the modern times.
This is the city that knocked The Cavern down and then called itself Beatles Town.
Liverpool became European Capital of Culture and some argued that the only culture they could find was in the yougurt, in the fridge, in the Kwik Save, in Old Swan.

They built without respect, on and on, higher and higher, the World Heritage Site was becoming a architectural mess. I tried to inform the public. What happens if the econony shifts? I said.
I would be asked my opinion many times.
 One request was to the merit of The Metropolitan Cathedral by the Editor of the Liverpool Daily Post where I was careful not to throw stones at it, but give it a conseintious view built up by years of experience, questioning.
The lack of knowledge in the city for its heritage assets was apparent, especially that of the Editor of both the Daily Post Mark Thomas and the Liverpool Echo which had sunk to an all time low under Alaistair Machray.
It was in the Lutyens Crypt within the Metropolitan Cathedral that I made my Antiques Roadshow debut where I was invited to become a specialist on the longest running factual programme in the history of the BBC. This was the programme I had loved since discovering it one Sunday night a long time ago. Those stories those objects, It lit up my life like a beacon.

Hopefuly I was invited to become part of the show because I understand the meaning of how important the past is to our future.
How we need history, the stories and meanings of the past.
How we use objects as a vessel to discover who we are.
And more importantly how to objectively look at everything without believing what you are told. To question and not be ordered how to think.
I believe that lad who taught me how to throw a brick made me think, and I formed the opinion that we should never trust in those who appear to be in a superior position.

And now I own a 19th century Grade II listed slate built Chapel where I will open my new gallery soon. I spent the summer restoring it and phase one is nearly completed and I realize that those who live in ecclesiastical buildings should not throw stones, yes I have learnt a lot.....................oops, I have just realized I started off writing about the designer architect who brought Gothic architecture back to the fore and in doing so changed forever the shape of our cities. Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin.
I will now have make that my next post I got a bit carried away there.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Stranger On The Shore. By Acker Bilk-One Of My Favourite Things.

Stranger On The Shore. By Acker Bilk.

It seem topical and not hard to imagine the title of this tune in today's Isolated climate of May 2020.

Being born into a slum clearance terrace house that was not deemed fit for habitation, as a family we got moved to a modern council estate on the outskirts of Liverpool.
Times were hard there was no money around and the decline of the docks saw a demise of industry due to the geographical change and containerization.
In this very poor climate it would be easy to fall in to all the traps around me.
During the 1970's times were really tough but I got myself out and worked. Firstly as a milk lad helping deliver milk on our estate for 15p a day. I saved up.
Then I got a job as a paper lad and was able to earn a little money.
All my well earned money went on clothes, as my parents could not afford a lot....and fishing tackle.
Discovering fishing was a lifesaver for me. I joined a newly formed club on the estate and we would go off to these amazing locations in the countryside, of a Sunday, mostly, in North Wales.
I can recall the first glistening Perch I caught on a freezing Sunday morn. It was magical. It was small. And the fact that it jumped on my hook didn't matter.
I had caught a fish.
The excitement of hunting these monster fish we never caught was enthralling.

It was my escape. Some of the kids at school called me Findus or Captain Haddock but I did not care. It was they who did not understand. Many of them would get into serious trouble. While I stayed out of it.
I asked my parents for a radio for Christmas and a small leather cased portable radio that took a single 9V battery was found wrapped up on Christmas day.
It seems hard to imagine in this day and age, how something as simple as having your own pocket radio could change your life but it did. I carried it everywhere.
Listening and learning. Searching for the limited number of stations that would introduce me to new music.
During the course fishing closed season we charrabanged on our old fashioned smiley faced coach up to The lake district. The coach doubled up as a meeting place during the week, a sort of youth club.
 It took hours of motorway.
Then around a corner as if landing on another planet there it was, The Lake. The excitement of seeing Ullswater lake, several miles long simmering in the beautiful luscious green land still lives with me today.
Me and my fishing friend got off the coach we would be picked up early evening for the journey home. For a day we were free. Fishing we went.
It may have been the wrong spot we seemed to be on a shallow gravel shingle and the ledge for the lake drop off was so far out that there was not even enough line on my reel with which to cast out far enough.
This was a bad spot.
Ingenuity was needed. I emptied the contents of my fishing basket on the bank and waded out with my rod until the water came confortably up to the top of my wellies. I sunk my basket and loaded it with rocks so it would not float away, and closed the lid and sat on it.
 I was 300 yards away from the bank. In 15 inches of water.
I took out of my pocket, my box, of tanlged worms and baited up, on a size 14 spade end hook, casting comfortably over the shelf and hopefully into the range of some monster trout.

I turned around and I was so far from the bank amidst the shimmering silver glade of water. I felt as if I was floating on silver ice. All around me was calm. The beauty moved me, and to this day I can remember the rolling hills foreshadowing that crystal mass of becalmed lake. There was no wind. It was beautiful. I felt safe and calm and alone. The silence of the lake deafened me with its majesty.
I felt like a speckle, a tiny little piece in the huge jigsaw of life.

I took out my coat pocket my radio and tuned it into the only channel I could pick up. Crackling away I finally balanced it in and on the radio as if by magic came the beautiful sound of....... Stranger On The Shore.
I had heard it before but today the beautiful clarinet solo hit me like a log, and as I looked around here I was.
The Stranger On The Shore.
It was very emotional. I may have shed a tear as I sat there looking around me at the sheer beauty of the place. It was a shimmering surreal experience that I have never forgotten.
The most beautiful isolation of my life.
Away from it all, free of everything in the wilderness of the deep. I was floating on air, or walking on water.
In no time the beautiful tone filtered away and I was forever moved in stillness.

Until my rod tipped and up from the deep cane a two pound eel.
This was the worst place you could wish to catch this slithering slimy half fish half snake, that you can never grab properly.
And all the time it wants to bite you.
We were always scared of eels for some reason they would wrap around your arm like an Anaconda. I didn't want to catch them.
Getting it back to the bank after the cold water slowly slipped over the top of my boots could have easily ruined my day but at least it was a fish caught in the fishing competition of life.
It took me an age to unhook the wriggling slithering monster.

That song has never left me and even through my musical journey into Reggae, Soul, Punk, Joy Division and many other genre's I would always have to pause to have my soul pierced by the beauty of this old fashioned song that never left my heart.
It was something you didn't admit to when your mates were buying Sex Pistols records called Never Mind The B****cks, but I still recalled that day every time it was heard it.
Twenty five years later at a massive street market in Lille, by now I seem to have escaped all those beartraps of life and I am a antique dealer. With a shop in a arcade that Pevsner the architectural historian described as making Burlington Arcade in London, look pedestrian.
There staring at me on the floor amongst a load of junk is a shiny black ebony and silver keyed ......clarinet.
A beautiful instrument, and it seemed to call me. I went over and picked it up and asked the price which was the equivalent of £50. It was old, but I bought it for £35 or the equivalent in Francs.
It was like as if it called out to me. Buy me. As if I got a clarion call.
As if I remembered the tune I grew up with. That old fashioned tune by Acker Bilk who had become a caricature of trad jazz, even though my favorite song was without definition, it was part of that era.
It was a beautiful tune.
Now coming from that council estate in Liverpool and not having an education I have had to use my brains, and my brain is telling me,
“You can't play a note, don't even begin” So I ignored my own advice and showed it to a bloke who come in the shop.
“Have you got a reed for it” he said
“What” I replied.
Ignorant to anything about it. He brought a reed in the next day and clipped it into the mouthpiece. By chance he was an old trad jazzer.
“Can you play Stranger On The Shore” I said.
He did. It was as surreal as my early experience. I wanted to learn it.
I developed a way of writing down the notes by sketching on paper the holes of the clarinet and coloring in the ones that my fingers would close. To form a note.
I soon realized that the note C was, three colored in dots, and D was two. Six was low G and all open was the G in the octave above.
It was like learning a new language. But I like a challenge.
And so began the longest journey of my life. Having no musical experience whatso-ever. At forty years of age. I decided I was going to take up the clarinet. 
Learning to read from the stave was a long and lonely task. You can't buy it. you have to keep on keeping on. Barrier after barrier was broken down until I could read a basic tune.
 I felt that my fingers needed breaking and resetting again as they had formed, not as a musician at all, at all.
Every day I worked an hour at least for years. I learnt the tune I heard as a child and it was an achievement like nothing else I had done before.
I was now a musician of sorts. Formed a band even. wrote out scores.

I stopped and thought one day why do you like that old fashioned tune so much?
I learnt that when I was still a baby, it was the theme tune to a series on BBC. It was written by Acker Bilk and named after his daughter Jenny shortly after she was born. He gifted her all the royalties. It went to no One in America and no two in Britain. And in May 1969 the crew of Apollo 10 took it with them, into their own isolation, to the moon. It was played at the funeral of a dear friend who knew I played it.
I have often seen Acker Bilk on TV in daft hats and striped waistcoats , in old films with names like Its Trad Dad or similar, man he could play.
I learnt it was the second longest running record in the charts, ever, or the hit parade as it used to be called.
 Fifty two weeks in continuity. It made number two.
It wasn't just me that liked it. They played The Cavern Club.
Then The Beatles came along and it all changed.
But you cant keep a beautiful tune down and here I am several decades later still talking about it.

I was honored to have been invited to join The Antiques Roadshow team in 2015 and its fair to say I kept myself away from all those traps that lurked in wait.
I educated myself but it was all due to a work ethic to aquire my fishing tackle, and the need to get out of town, to be, even just for a few hours, that Stranger On The Shore.

In these difficult times with everyone in lockdown, I can put my licquorice stick together and play....from memory......Stranger On The Shore.
That I learnt by dots.
And I am transferred back to the Cumbrian lakes, in isolation, on a shingle shore, without a care.
And today as I play, several decades later a tear slips down my cheek, again.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Bathing Venus-Piece of the Week

More widely known as The Crouching Venus. 
This study, after the antique and was cast mid 19th century.
The Crouching Venus has been excavated on numerous different Roman sites, in Italy and in France. There are slightly differing versions. But one thing that never changes is the fact that the study captures Venus at her bath, startled, and she very often is depicted with her arm slightly raised to cover her breasts.
 She has been an inspiration to sculptors and artists for centuries.
There are, among others, examples in The Louvre Paris, The Uffizi in Florence and The British Museum has an example.
She is Hellenistic in style and has influenced so many artists such as Rubens who painted an 'Allegory' 1612-13, after he saw The Lely Venus then in The Gonzaga collection at Mantua.

This example bears its foundry seal.
Bronze. Beautiful Chocolate Patina.
 34cm high

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Art Nouveau Corner Cabinet-Piece of the Week.

Its an age since I purchased this Art Nouveau Corner cabinet in the South of France at a trade fair.
 Its fragile alright. The work that has gone into it is unbelievable.
 The fretwork is so delicate in places that I dared not move it for ages. 
So it stayed under the stairs at my previous address for so long that I forgot about it. 
When moving house a few more pieces become loose but it was all there. 
So I got my tools out and restored it. 
I had kept all the bits and put them in the drawer, so it was just a case of regluing them back into place.
 I felt guilty that I had forgotten about this amazing piece of Art Nouveau that has a look of Henry Van de Velde, a hint of Guimard but is probally school of Nancy if the location in which I bought it is any indication.
I remembered when I purchased it, right as it came Au Cul Du Camion....right out the back of a wagon within five minutes of the start of the market.
 I grabbed it.
 Dealers fell all over it but I had hold of it tight, I was not going to let it go and the guy who owned it did a deal, looking bewildered with all the excitement it had generated, thinking he had undersold it, which he had. Two guys asked me if I wanted to sell it and how much I paid for it right away.

It breaks down into two parts and when I was carrying it back to the van an Italian bloke tried to buy it off me.
 "Style Liberty, Style Liberty" he kept saying. 

The Italian call Art Nouveau, Style Liberty after the shop in Regent Street opened by Arthur Lazenby Liberty. I refused and eventually I wound my way back up to the North West of England with it rattling about worrying me every time I turned a corner. There it remained for a decade or more. 
It dried out a bit, as it would, so I had to reglue the joints. Its times like this that my apprenticeship training comes in really handy. It is made of two different woods the carcasse of it being a softwood and most of the fretwork edges are made of oak so they are stronger and easier to carve.
This detailed restoration was needed when I bought it and considering its over a hundred years old its done well to last.
 But with all the work now carried out and a coat of wax its now looking great.
 But now..............................

I dont want to move it again. 
I wonder how long it will sit in the corner for this time. 
Well I can think of worse things to have in the corner of your room.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

The Antiques Roadshow venues for 2020

This year to keep the public and our specialists safe. We request that you contact Antiques Roadshow on the BBC website or through the links below and if you wish to share your story.

The Antiques Roadshow venues for 2020

Following government guidelines for filming at our postponed venues
We’re unlikely to be able to film on the scale we are used to, but we are exploring the option of inviting a small number of guests with items, and our experts to future Roadshows.
To make this work we really need to know in advance about the items you were planning to bring along.

Follow the links below to let us know about the items you want to show us.

I Look forward to seeing you at Windermere Jetty, Bodnant Gardens, Culzean Castle and
Newby Hall. These are Exceptional times. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Church of St Mark Brithdir-One Of My Favourite Things.

I was recently asked if I knew about an Arts and Crafts Church, in a village that I had been driving past for some time and unfortunatly I had to declare I not seen it. 
I was told that it was hidden back from the road behind some Rhododendrums. 
So I decided to make more of an effort. I almost felt guilty that I had not seen it.
Its not everyones cup of tea, that is spending time, studying architecture but it keeps me out of trouble and its something I have done since I was young.
I stopped the car and opened a stop gate designed to let a single file of people enter, and keep sheep out, and there it was. 
My first thought was whats all the fuss about though it had an interesting bellfry and a rather heavy overhang. 
Then I notice the rather unimposing door was rather small so it is obvious the entrance was round the back...or the front as the road entrance was not the main.
The first thing I notice is the brackets for the gutters being wrought out of two pieces of iron, twisted, leaving a patterned heart as decoration.
The heart was a symbol of the Arts and Crafts period that is forever linked to C.F.A Voysey but was adopted by the legions of architects and designers around the late Victorian and early Edwardian period.
Built of a heavy local stone its long roof with Aberllefenni slate gently slopes down to just above your head as you enter the gates of the porch. It reminds me of the signature roof style of Herbert Lucknorth who designed many houses in North Wales.

Pulling and twisting a delightful wrought iron handle the door opens to reveal a Font right in front of you, almost in the way. Its obvious that the siting of the church is now slightly out of sync with the modern interaction, which is that it is owned by The Friends of Friendless Churches. I think that explains a lot. The Font is unpolished copper, I test it for sound and noticing the wall decoration and the intricate pannelled door I turn to see the most amazing Alter.....made of copper a blaze in the midday sun at the far end of my entrance. Then there is a pulpit, made of copper.
The colour of the walls is a mediteanean terracotta which in the sun seems to transport you to another clime.
I turn back to the double doors facing my entrance which are oak inlaid with what appears to be Macassar Ebony and Abalone shell. The benches or pews are carved with playfull animals Rabbit, mice and owls are but a few. The SM stands for St Marks.
The Church was built in 1895-98 for Louisa Tooth in memory of her second husband Charles who was the Chaplain of St Marks English church in Florence. Her first husband Richard Richards of Caerynwch bequeathed her the land in Merionedd and she was wealthy enough to adopt a style that pleased her.
The architect she picked was Henry Wilson (1898-1934) who was Master of The Artworkers Guild in 1917 and Editor of The Architectural Review. He designed the metalwork for Holy Trinity Church in Sloane Street that John Betjamin called “The Cathedral of Arts and Crafts”. He later turned his hand to silversmithing and designed jewellry.
He said of Mrs Tooths agent, Mr Williams who he had to liase with that “he knew no more than a cat” and it seemed there was plenty of disagreements.
Wilson wanted the stone left rugged but Mr Williams made it smooth.
Wilson believed that “the chief merit of Brithdir is that it is personal”.
I think in that he achieved great success.
He also said that “what has come out of Brithdir must live, because it has come out of my own life”. He wanted a simple beautiful setting and a beautiful altar. In this he achieved a great thing. The altar is lined with copper beaten into a beautiful realism with skill and attention that could only be done by a master.
It was claimed that the work was in fact hammered in parts, in repouse by Wilson himself along with John Paul Cooper.
The small boy, winged, with lillies in his hand is overshadowd by the figures who seem to welcome him or look over him. He seems to be kneeling in front of a hedge of thorns with various inscriprions, hammered from behind.
I believe there could be several different interpretations of this and I will leave people to make their own mind up. But to me it is a lament in copper and as the blade of sun shone across it I saw more and more detail unfolding like a poem before my eyes. It lit up my day.
I really will have to go again as I only had a limited amount of time and as I left I was still noticing further details. On the way out I noticed what must be an ancient stone structure perhaps the original place of worship. Covered in moss the stones were erected in the round. The symbol of an ancient structure that now has a little brook running through it shone in the winter sun. the graveyard is slightly overgrown with large crosses carved from the same stone that stand tall. There is a path that must be the orinal way for procession. It was silent and calm.
I will be back. To study in more detail, When I have some more time,
It made my day. I am so glad I stopped.
I took a little video. Click above.

Two days later I purchase a Copper beaten plate or plaque with Voysey hearts and grapes that could have come right out of The Church of St Mark.