Visit – All Saints’ Church, Kedleston, Derbyshire

img_2662This church was formerly known as St Margaret’s and stands in the grounds of Kedleston Hall near Derby – the hall being the subject of an exercise in Part 4 which required me to visit a Neoclassical house.

Much of my information is derived from the guidebook available to purchase in the church and it is interesting to note the previous name and the current name is an error that it seems is over 250 years old!  There are 2 Saint Margaret’s and the one this church refers to is St Margaret of Antioch of whom little is known apart from the theory that she was martyred due to persecution of the Diocletian, the Roman Emperor in AD 303.

The cult of St Margaret was apparently popular in Western Europe during the 12th Century which ties in with the foundation of this church – the earliest historical record of the church is dated 1198-99 and it finally became redundant in 1983.

I was unaware that The Churches Conservation Trust now owns the church and is a Grade I listed building due to its historic and artistic importance – the latter I do understand having visited now on several occasions.  The church is still a consecrated building and used on special occasions.

The reason for the redundancy has primarily been due to the social and economic changes of the 20th century including the fact that the community that originally resided at Kedleston was removed, along with the priests who lived there and so they lived further away from the church itself – this has been a common factor for many parish churches on the great estates throughout the 20th Century.    The church was closed at around the same time Kedleston Hall was transferred to the National Trust – a new chapter began simultaneously for both buildings historically.

img_2665As I have noted the first mention of the church appears around the end of the 12th century and this south doorway dates from around that period or the early 13th century.

The tympanum above the door is now sadly defaced but on close inspection you can make out the horseman and wild beasts which the guidebook describes – it is clearly medieval in origin and the secular subjects typical of the Romanesque architecture of the era.

An unusual feature of the church is that it is has a cruciform plan which was more commonly found in cathedral or collegiate churches – the builders it seems had grand plans for this building as well as the resources to build it and this also further enables historians to date the origins of the building.  Further evidence of the 13th century building can be found within the church itself including the 4 arches that support the tower as well as some windows.  There is a Memorial Chapel that obscures the original cruciform plan but it is a very obvious later addition.

Like almost all churches from the medieval period the church has undergone improvements over the centuries or changes at least – I am not always sure if ‘improvements’ is the right word in many cases!  There are 2 square headed windows in the south wall from the Perpendicular period of the late 15th or early 16 century with according to the guidebook one only being moved to its current position when the Memorial Chapel was added in 1907 – it seems the top of the tower was also rebuilt in the Perpendicular style at the same time the windows were added.

As a reminder note to myself the Perpendicular style was a vertical linear style with with elaborate and ornate roof vaulting as well as graceful, highly decorated flying buttresses.  Windows had highly pointed arches with the emphasis on expansive areas of glass and also thin but curvaceous stone tracery – the exterior flying buttresses could be crucial in the support of these large openings which reduced the wall space to a minimum.  This style was the last phase in the Gothic style which had lasted until the early 16th century.

The east end of the church faces the house directly and was altered in the early 18th century so that it would be deemed more acceptable – in keeping with the style of the house it has a more classical style.  The guidebook has answered a question regarding the sundial that can be seen – it has the inscription ‘WEE SHALL’ alongside carved stone hourglasses and a central skull and literally invites whoever sees it to complete what is described as a sombre phrase i.e. the pun is ‘sun/soon dial/die all’ (All Saints’ Church, Kedleston, p. 7).

img_2548In the late 19th century Lord Scarsdale employed an architect by the name of John Oldrid Scott to carry out a major restoration removing box pews and also plaster ceilings which had been added during an earlier century.  During this restoration the nave acquired a high-pitched roof and also a stained glass window in the west end which replaced an earlier plain one – the nave walls had to be raised due to the new roof.

This window is stunningly beautiful and I personally cannot imagine a plain one in its place and it brings to mind the windows of St Mary’s Church in nearby Derby which was designed by Augustus Pugin which had been completed in 1839.    The guidebook points to the cusped tracery above the window which echoes the Decorated style of the early 14th century – this is the second phase of the early Gothic period and is literally a decorated style of the style with much more elaborated tracery and architecture including more complex curves and patterns.

img_2621The Memorial Chapel was added in the early part of the 20th century by Lord Curzon who wanted an elaborate memorial to his first wife who had died very young in 1906.  The north wall was removed and this chapel was added and built in Hollington stone.

The architect, G F Bodley, kept the Decorated style of the west window and recreated it in the new windows with ironwork ‘arcade’ replacing the original north wall – this cannot be seen in my photograph due to the fact I pointed my camera carefully through in order to be able to get a clear image of the chapel.

The chapel is highly detailed in terms of carving and symbols with angels carved on the corbels and incredibly fine and elaborate wooden carving.  The floor itself is green adventurine which is a translucent quartz and upon which the black marble plinth of the white Italian marble tomb stands – the latter marble is apparently from Serravezza.  Upon the tomb itself are Lady Curzon’s interests as well as images of Lord Curzon.

img_2647The Memorial Chapel which is the monument to Lord and Lady Curzon is as elaborate and intricate as was clearly intended and also contains a secret which a volunteer pointed out – the floor to one end of the chapel lowers by a hydraulic system to the burial vault below.  During the course of our visit the volunteer showed us photos of the burial vault and informed us that Lord Curzon’s second wife had refused to be buried in the vault alongside his first wife and hence her final resting place is in the small graveyard.

The small door which can be seen in the background of my photograph opens up on to a spiral staircase which apparently leads down to a disused burial vault of earlier origin.

img_2615The majority of the chapel ornaments were obtained from the abroad due to the English versions being destroyed at the time of the Reformation and these include a large but beautiful silver-gilt Portuguese crucifix dated 1640 –  it is believed to have originally been a processional cross.

Other ornaments in the chapel come from Spain and Mexico  and the fact that Lord Curzon equipped the chapel with such items from far off lands also demonstrates how clergy or lay patrons of the Anglo-Catholic churches did likewise and was common at the time.

There are 2 bas-reliefs at the west end of the chapel which I was unable to obtain clear photographs of but are of Italian marble and it seems copies of two that are to be found in the church of S. Maria Maggiore in Rome.

img_2513The rest of the church contains 37 other monuments all  relating to the Curzon family and one of the most interesting is this one – this is a photograph of a photograph displayed on a nearby wall as the actual carved memorials are two roundels sunk into the chancel floor and covered by a wooden covering to protect them at present.  The roundels are incredibly delicate and date from the 13th century – it is believed they may have originally been painted.  The Churches Conservation Trust is hoping to be able to find a way to display the roundels but glass or perspex is not possible due to the strong likelihood of condensation developing and damaging the stone and hence why currently they are covered to protect them.

img_2516In the chancel is also the alabaster effigy believed to be Sir John de Curzon, 10th Lord of Curzon who died in 1406 – there is a question mark over the exact identity of this figure because Lord Curzon it seems preferred a later date of c. 1440.  However the guidebook does state the canopy above the figure dates from the 16th century and this is accepted.  I find it fascinating to contrast this tomb with the one in the Memorial Chapel – the simplicity of the knight in the medieval period as opposed to the elaborate and wealthy tomb of the Victorian period.

img_2563The other large tomb is in the south transept which is the monument to Sir John Curzon who died in 1456 and therefore is medieval.

The male figure on this tomb is depicted in armour with his feet resting on a dog whilst his wife wears a gown and a cloak with a rosary still clear – yes this information comes directly from the guidebook but also from a close study of the tomb itself.  I find this one of the most beautiful and moving tombs I have seen – the detail of the carving is exquisite and there are figures around the base which my fiance and myself were told represented the children of the couple.

In my photograph on the left hand side you can just see another memorial to a later Sir John Curzon and his wife – Sir John died in 1686 and is wife in 1642.   The memorial was apparently erected in 1664 and is very naive in carving and bright in comparison to many others in the church – it was erected after the end of the Civil War and again it is interesting in style when compared with the tomb directly in front.

As stated above there are 37 surviving monuments in the chapel to the Curzon family and this small church is in effect the history of the Kedleston estate itself – it started off as possibly a farm with the owners of Norse origin.  The name Kedleston it seems derives from the Old Norse name of Ketill and also ‘tun’ which was the Old English word for farm. The Danish had arrived in Derbyshire in 873-74 and it is thought that they took over an English farmstead and promptly renamed it. There is certainly mention of a village or settlement in the Domesday book which went by the name of Chetelstune and within 100 years the Pipe Rolls mention a settlement called Ketelstan – this is the same village which over the course of many centuries became this great estate and the surviving village.

My earlier blog, for Part 4 of this course,  on the hall goes further into detail of the history of the Curzon family.

img_2531One of the most striking aspects of the church is the stained glass windows some of which date from the 16th century.

This photograph shows one of 4 panels which depict the Stations of the Cross by Franz Fallenter of Lucerne (1550-1612) and along with a window in the chancel by the same master craftsman were purchased in Switzerland and only installed in the church in 1910.

These windows are exquisite in their colours and it is remarkable that they are survived the subsequent centuries in such condition.  These windows were made during the time of the Catholic Counter-Reformation which also took place in Switzerland in opposition to the Protestant Reformation and these windows are very direct and compelling in their Biblical message.

img_2537The north window of the north transept is in contrast to the Swiss windows very recent in origin as it was only inserted in 1912 and made by one James Powell of London.  The figures of St Chad, St Thomas a Becket and St Nicholas and the 3 figures of St Catherine, St Mary and St Margaret are however based on medieval glass windows that were in the church in the late 17th century and described in documentation.

An aspect of Lord Curzon I do admire is the fact that he seemed intent in restoring much of the medieval aspects of the church as he possibly could and in doing almost brings back the atmosphere of religious devotion from that period in time.

The windows throughout the church inspire religious piety and also speak to the parishioners without the need for words – bearing in mind in many churches the community members were illiterate in the medieval era and subsequent centuries and stained glass windows were used to tell of the biblical stories or of the saints.

img_2564Another window by James Powell and dating to 1890 is in the south window of the south transept and tells of the Ascension of Christ.

What I note about these later windows as opposed to the earlier medieval ones by Franz Fallenter is the more restrained colours and more refined detail.  Franz Fallenter’s windows are brighter and more pictorial with the directness of the Catholic Counter-Reformation whilst the later Victorian and early Edwardian windows by James Powell seem more spiritual in their message in their use of simple colour.  These colours are also seen at St Mary’s in Derby with  the gold colours are representative of the brilliance and splendor of God and the divinity of the Lord, the blue is the life giving qualities of air, sky, hope and healing as well as being representative of the Virgin Mary and the white means purity, virtue and innocence as well as holiness.

I have only covered a very basic history and summary of the interior of this small parish church and feel I have barely scratched the surface – it may be small in size but it is very rich in history.  Kedleston Hall in its present form was effectively built around this church hence its close proximity and I personally feel the church holds the key to the history of the land – it has the history of the family within its walls and grounds and the history of the estate itself.

For me personally All Saints’ Church, or if I am being historically correct I should say St Margaret’s Church and correct the aforementioned 250 year old mistake, is the hidden gem of Kedleston Hall.


The Churches Conservation Trust. 2006.  All Saints’ Church, Kedleston, Derbyshire.  London. The Churches Conservation Trust.



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Visit – Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

img_1570During September 2016 my fiance and myself visited Calke Abbey near Melbourne in Derbyshire for the first time and first impressions of the house were very high as it is set in the most beautiful grounds and which include formal and kitchen gardens.

As can be seen the house itself is a Baroque mansion built around 1700-02 on the site of Calke Priory which had been founded originally around the 12th Century and occupied until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538.

After the aforesaid dissolution of the priory the buildings left the ownership of the church and after going through a series of different owners eventually it was sold to one Henry Harpur in 1622 and the family connection remained until 1999 when the last of the direct line died although the National Trust took over ownership in 1985 in lieu of death duties.

The first grand house on the land after the priory passed out of ecclesiastical ownership was built by one Richard Wendsley after he acquired ownership in 1573-5 and he subsequently sold it to Robert Bainbridge in 1585 and it was his son who then sold it to the aforesaid Henry Harpur.  The Harpur family had their wealth due to a marriage between one Jane Findern  and Richard Harpur combined with his employment as a lawyer and judge.  It is interesting to realise, as I live in Derby, that the Findern family are the ones connected with the village of Findern just to the south of the city which I know well – the family owned the estates and combine this family land with the land that Richard Harpur purchased near Ashbourne, as the guidebook for Calke Abbey states, the foundations of the estates that supported the Harpur family through the subsequent generations were laid.

The majority of the information in this blog is courtesy of the National Trust guidebook due to its comprehensive nature – it is fascinating to read each and understand fully the history of the house, the land and the family that occupied both and throughout my visits around these great houses I have gained a fuller understanding of the area in which has become my adopted home.

As I read through the history I note a fascinating connection with the last house visit I will be writing up before I submit this course for assessment – it seems that Richard Harpur’s eldest son, John, was also a lawyer who served the greatest family in the Midlands during the Elizabethan age and that is the family known as the Talbots or Earls of Shrewsbury.  The 6th Earl Shrewsbury (George) hired John Harpur during his conflicts with his wife who was one Elizabeth Cavendish – the same Elizabeth Cavendish who is better known as Bess of Hardwick of Hardwick Hall.  John Harpur was knighted in 1603 and when he died it comes as no surprise to realise he was one of the wealthiest lawyers in the country.

It is Sir John’s son Henry who purchased the hereditary title of baronet in 1626 and the estate eventually passed to his son Sir John and the guidebook notes that both Sir John’s were Royalists during the Civil War in the 1640’s but failed to hold Swarkestone Bridge – one cousin was resident at Swarkestone and the other at nearby Calke and were subsequently fined before retiring from being involved in further conflicts.  Due to the Swarkestone John dying without heirs the two branches of the family united once more  under the 3rd Baronet (yes also named Sir John – the family used the name along with the name Henry throughout two centuries which I find does get a little confusing if you do not keep track!).  The 4th Baronet succeeded to the title at aged just 15 months – another John and it is he who eventually took over the estates aged 20 in 1701.

Sir John (number 4) also married an heiress – Catherine Crewe in 1702 and built the current house at Calke.  The old building was hugely extended and remodelled as well as formal gardens being added and also extensive new stables too – what I love most about Calke Abbey is these grounds.

However strangely, despite the wealth of the family, Sir John did not become a politician – it was almost expected particularly as he was High Sheriff in 1702-03.  The guidebook points towards a couple of theories – there is an unsociable streak that runs through the family and it is possible he could not stand the thought of the election or there is another possibility that he did not want to compete with his cousin who had been elected in 1701 and 1710 or it could simply have come down to cost as his own High Sheriff office had cost a huge sum at the time and when his son tried to get elected there was another huge outlay which still did not secure the seat.

Sir John’s son inherited the estates and Baronetcy in 1741 and married the daughter of the 2nd Duke of Rutland – Lady Caroline Manners and this marriage introduced him into court circles and eventually the connections meant his election to parliament.  However his political ambitions were cut short when he died in 1748 and his son Sir Henry inherited the family seat.

Sir Henry, 6th Baronet decided to naturalise the formality of the Calke estates gardens and also built a riding school with fields and gallops at Swarkestone – from a personal interest point of view I would love to find out where this is as I am a huge horse lover and used to ride myself.  Sir Henry did become a successful trainer and breeder.

To take a step back to a personality trait – the unsociability – this makes its appearance with the 7th Baronet, another Sir Henry, who was known to be a loner using a term from my own childhood as he enjoyed solitude. Sir Henry became High Sheriff in 1794 and apparently did what was required of him but then caused a scandal when he not only had an affair with a lady’s maid and an illegitimate daughter but then he married her – I cannot help think ‘if only the walls of Calke Abbey could talk’ because there must have been some stories to tell then!!  This marriage meant that the polite society of the time ostracized him – apparently this really didn’t worry him and for that in a modern era I must respect him because it could not have been easy in the social times of his era.

img_1700Sir Henry continued to work on the landscape and also added the Grecian portico on the south front of the house with. This addition of the portico meant that the main entrance of the house was through the door seen in my first photograph at the beginning of this blog – you enter through this door into the room which is both an entrance hall and waiting room with the heads of Longhorn cattle on the walls which Sir Henry had introduced to the estate and which are still bred there today.

img_1690A fishing pavilion was added on one of the ponds and also a grotto which is hidden from view from the house and is really delightful.  The grotto is fed with water from a freshwater spring.

Sir Henry’s liking for solitude extended to communicating with servants through notes which seems incredible in the modern era.  A fascinating fact is that under threat of invasion he recruited a troop of soldiers and then commissioned Joseph Haydn to write two piece of music that they could march to – the original engrave printing plates are still at Calke and are unique in any country house in England.

Sir Henry eventually died in a carriage accident and so the title and the estates were inherited by his son Sir George Crewe who he had banished during his education and for several years afterwards.  The estate was in total disarray and the tenants living and working in appalling conditions and Sir George improved all aspects immediately.  It is Sir George who rebuilt the church on the estate along with that at Ticknall and also built new schools and chapels in the surrounding areas.   There is no question history remembers him as a politician in support of parliamentary reform and it seems he did much good for the people of his communities but the sociability of Sir Henry was to be replaced by the unsociable gene once more that ran in the family with the 9th Baronet – Sir John Harpur Crewe.

This Sir John is  responsible for the start of the collection of taxidermy which in truth my fiance and myself found a little overwhelming – the house is literally stuffed full of it and we were not alone in our feelings as we heard many other visitors say the same.

The gene of unsociability was compounded by the fact that this Sir John married his cousin who was also the granddaughter of the loner baronet and consequentially this eccentricity was to be seen at its height in the 10th Baronet, Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe.   Sir Vauncey is the man responsible for the feeling that the house has a museum like quality in all the class cases stuffed with everything that nature had – eggs, butterflies, taxidermy animals and birds are just examples.  Sir Vauncey was also another man who lived in isolation despite his marriage – his wife it seems dealt with visitors.

Half of Sir Vauncey’s collections were sold after his death to cover death duties – it staggers me to realise that what is in the house is only half as it really is stuffed full!!  The estate was inherited by Hilda Ethelfrida, Sir Vauncey’s daughter, who had married Godfrey Mosley.

The house now enters its decline because Hilda changed very little except cars were now allowed on the estate and a telephone was installed but little else.  Hilda’s heir was to the son of her younger sister Frances – Charles Jenney  who inherited the estate in 1949 who in turn was not really interested in the house and the estate although he fulfilled his local duties.  It appears that Charles Jenney had inherited the unsociability of his forebearers although he did also fulfill his duties when he became High Sheriff in 1961 which is when he changed his surname to Harpur-Crewe.

The last family member associated with Calke was Charles’s brother Henry who inherited the estate and as I stated at the beginning of this blog it was eventually taken over by the National Trust in lieu of death duties with the support of the government through the National Heritage memorial Fund.

Calke Abbey differs from the other National Trust houses that I have visited because there has been a purposeful decision to not restore it to its former glory but rather to preserve the house in the state of decline in which it was found – its decline throughout the 20th Century is mirrored by many other great houses but it has clung on and survived due to its underlying wealth and behaviour of the family i.e. the reclusivity of the family with their wealth somehow provided a safety barrier from collapse.  The house demonstrates perfectly the decline of the way of life of some of the great families and provides a huge contrast to the houses at Kedleston, Sudbury and even Hardwick and I can understand why the National Trust has chosen to preserve this decline in the way it has although I am not 100% certain it is the right decision.

img_1779The original building built by Richard Wendsley was L-shaped it seems and is now part of the east wing of the current house and also the easternmost part of the north wing according to the guidebook and it is possibly that the east wing is build on the foundations of the original priory or its buildings due to being out of alignment with the later wings.

This photograph is from a hallway in this east wing and it is quite disconcerting as you look up it as the walls are not even and the hall not straight so if it was indeed part of the original priory or built on the foundations of one of the buildings it would come as no surprise.

The guidebook goes into detail about the remodeling including the addition of balustrades to the roof in the late 18th century and the Grecian portico – the capitals are of Ionic styling although with smooth shafts as opposed to the fluted ones you would expect.

img_1735On the east front there used to be a flight of steps leading up to the original entrance hall which is now the Saloon – this is the original door showing the balcony which replaced the steps in front.  The guidebook states that this room may have been a loggia which is a room open to the elements so I question whether the door and windows were there originally and just opened when the weather allowed.





The Saloon is a two story room during the 19th Century it essentially became a personal museum for the family and the National Trust has kept it as such – this is the first room I really was unsure about.  I can understand the decision to keep this room essentially as it was used in that period but on the other hand a part of me personally would like a clearer idea of what the room was like when it used originally as the entrance hall – the classical influence is clear with the faux Grecian columns and porticoes which are not just above the doorways but also the fireplace.  This room is unmistakably Neoclassical in its styling and has a grandeur that would have looked magnificent as an entrance hall but feels as if the 9th and 10th Baronet’s have ignored the beauty of the hall due to their love of taxidermy and collecting.  Sir Vauncey turned the estate into a nature reserve and there is no doubt the abundance of wildlife has thrived ever since but I question whether the National Trust could provide, even, in one corner of this hallway a glimpse into what it looked like before his father inherited the house and used some of the estate wildlife in their private collection.

A note of interest is that the ceiling was installed in the 1840’s y Henry Isaac Stevens, a Derby architect who also redesigned the entrance hall – the ceiling has the Harpur boar carved in the plaster work and this is something I will now be looking for on our next visit.  The fireplace in the Saloon was also added during this period so again I question how it would have looked before the glass cases were added.

I have given a brief overview of the history of the house summarised from  information in the guidebook which is comprehensive but it is lacking in information about the individual rooms except – there is a leaflet available and information in each of the rooms at the house but I personally feel this should be in the guidebook itself.

Below are some of the photographs I took as my fiance and myself toured the property with a brief information.

img_1716The Dining Room is typical of the house in that it is largely unchanged since the late 18th Century and is typical of the Neoclassical period in its styling – it is an elaborate room but also is one I did feel has a welcoming feel about it despite the grand entrance through the classical style columns with Ionic capitals which are out of shot in my photograph.


img_1726The Breakfast Room was originally the Music Room and dates from around 1810 – personally this was one of my favourite rooms in the whole house perhaps because it did not have any taxidermy in!

I really liked the round table with its marquetry detailing combined with the furnishings and you suspect this was a much used room, if not by the reclusive Baronets but possibly by their wives and families.

img_1752The Library originates from the time of the 7th Baronet and being a lover of antiquarian books this room held a natural fascination for me.  It is obvious here of the family interest in racing due to all the paintings in the room – again this strikes as very much a family room or one which the reclusive owners could hide away in without being disturbed.

As you go around the house there is an air of decay and neglect of times gone by – the house does not feel loved atmospherically but rather that the last owners were disinterested and for me personally I found this incredibly sad because in its day or era it was clearly a very beautiful house although somewhat eclectic.


This room is known as the Boudoir – it was originally part of the principal private apartment until the 8th Baronet refurbished his own private apartment and this because his wife’s Sitting Room or Boudoir.

I have not mentioned the art apart from briefly with the racing pictures because there is simply not a huge amount of information available.  Like at Kedleston the owners of the house seem to collect more for their status or alliance rather than the artistic merit of the painters although there are portraits of the occupants or of their great racehorses.  Apparently very few works of art were brought back from the Grand Tours although in the Breakfast Room and also the Drawing Room there are some genre scenes by Dutch painters which the 8th Baronet collected through his art dealer.

The furniture throughout consists of typical items that would appear in any large house of the period – my knowledge here is lacking but there is no doubt there are some stunning Regency pieces which warrant another look on our next visit.

img_1765From this Boudoir you enter the declining areas of the house including the Schoolroom which was created from the 8th Baronet and his wife’s bedroom around 1860.  During World War II army officers used this room whilst they were billeted at the house.

This room really does have the air of dilapidation and it is here you first notice the strong musky scent of damp and notice the decay of the old house everywhere you look and it catches in your throat.  When you look around you can however almost hear the voices of the children educated in this room and imagine how it would have looked.

img_1782Sir Vauncey’s bedroom is one that was apparently found with literally inches of dust in a wardrobe and also holes in the ceiling and roof which had to be repaired very swiftly when the National Trust took over.

This room was literally abandoned and left to decay.

img_1798The room that fascinated me purely for the textiles was Lady Crewe’s Room – the reason for the fascination was the bed covering.  The origins of this embroidery are unknown but the opinion in the literature at Calke Abbey seems to suggest it is from around 1890-1910 and in the Revival Embroidery style.

img_1793Housemaids and servants were taught to sew purely for functional reasons but the daughters and ladies of the house were taught to stitch decorative items and their own designs with inspiration from portraits and nature.

The work on this bedspread is exquisite and I only wish I had been able to get a much closer look or the lighting was a little better.

The room was last used by Charles Harpur-Crewe right up until his death in 1981.

img_1828My final photograph of the house is of the State Bedroom which contains the 18th Century State Bed which is kept in a glass case in controlled conditions.

The bed itself is incredibly beautiful with intricate embroidery and gold-work in stunning colours and it is absolutely right that the National Trust has taken such steps to preserve it.

My photographs have barely scratched the surface with the detail in this house and have only shown about half the rooms which you see on the tour around the property but I have also just wanted to get across the general feel of the place – from entering through grandeur to the preservation of the decline.

I am still unsure over whether this preservation in the decline is right although at the time we visited there was extensive work being done on the inner courtyard areas and the early parts of the house as those were of the highest priority to prevent further decay.  From the comments I heard as we toured the house many visitors would like to see some kind of display on how the house looked at its height even if in just one area of each room or in a display of computer generated images.

img_1557I have barely mentioned the stables or the gardens which are also being preserved and restored.

In the stables there is a collection of carriages which my only complaint is is that the information is not clear enough – it is stuck to one side and in a rather small font which is a shame because there was great interest from our fellow visitors.

img_1572The gardens consist of floral gardens, walled gardens, an Orangery that has been partially restored and also Physic Gardens for the cultivation of medicinal herbs and the Upper Kitchen Gardens  plus the Gardeners Bothy which in essence is the garden potting shed.  I really loved all the different doors which lead from one to another as it felt like you were entering secret gardens and you never knew what you would find.  At the time we visited the Kitchen Gardens had a  gourd tunnel and also some wonderful large pumpkins growing as well as off in one corner behind a small orchard the relatively new addition of some beehives which were clearly fully occupied.

Overall I find Calke Abbey a place that I really enjoyed but have mixed feelings about – I love the house and the grounds are my favourite of all the ones I have visited during the duration of this course but I am just not sure about whether the preservation of the decline of this great house is the right thing or not but only time will give the answer.


The National Trust. 2016. Calke Abbey.  Swindon. Pureprint Group.



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Visit to St. Michael with St. Mary – Melbourne Parish Church

img_3707This visit came about after going to Melbourne for an art trail in September – Melbourne is just over 12 miles from where I live in Derby and yet I had never visited the town and was unaware of the beautiful medieval church.

Please note my information is derived from the guidebook available in the church which has been comprehensively written by the Reverend Frederick Ross.

To give a brief history there is a church mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1066 but the remains of the church have long since one as it was replaced in the 12th century by the current church.  The exact  history of Melbourne itself is lost in the midst of time although it is known to have had a royal castle and Lord Melbourne of Queen Victoria fame gave his name to the city founded in Australia.

Like the history of the town the origins of the current church are unknown but the common theory seems to have been it built by the Bishop of Carlisle – the diocese was certainly founded by King Henry I.  If indeed Adelulf or Aethewulf, the first bishop of Carlisle did build the church it was due to the fact his native town was not a safe place at the time due to the constant warfare on the border with the Scots and so it is thought he found a safe haven in Melbourne after Carlisle was captured in 1136.

img_3788By the 13th century records show that the church was used by bishops to ordain priests and it is this that gives rise to the conclusion that the building of the church would have to have been between 1136 and 1156 when Adelulf was believed to have been a resident in the town.

One unique feature of the church is that it has a two storey arrangement which apparently gives rise to the second theory of why it was built – that of a royal church as part of Henry I’s manor at Melbourne which would have meant that the west gallery was essentially his pew and the upper chancel was for his use but this would have also meant it was already built when Adelulf received it from the King.

img_3708Whatever the origins of the church it is an exceptional example of a 12th century church with all its Norman features with the additional of  of a unique 2 tower facade.  The door on the left has got clear carving surrounding it and is the most beautiful Norman door I have seen during my visits around my locality.  According to the guide book the east end of the church had a triple apse but two have since been removed although evidence does remain both inside and outside of the church.  The church is built in the classic cross shape and has again a unique feature of 3 towers in total.

img_3737I had visited the church as part of the art trail albeit only briefly so knew as my fiance and I entered the church to expect to be in awe of the exquisite architecture but even then it does not prepare you for the first time you look up the nave towards the altar – the rounded arches and solid columns so typical of Norman architecture but combined with the light from exquisite stained glass windows truly gave this church a spirituality I have only previously experienced in cathedrals such as Lincoln which I know well.

img_3726It is interesting to look at the carving of the arches and note the the chevron or lozenge style carving  which was again so typical of the period.

The guide book points out the different capitals on top of the columns – there are cushion, ram’s head, tear drop and figure head and also one capital apparently bears the motif of a cross with 4 roundels which I did take a photograph of but frustratingly it did not turn out clearly enough – apparently the reason for this particular capital has never been explained.

img_3751In the chancel the side walls are Norman whilst the east wall is part of the late medieval rebuilding although my photograph does not show this clearly – I took this image looking through the narthex in order to capture the stained glass window.  In the chancel are the remains of 2 Norman windows and also traces of the stone vault which originally covered the chancel.

The stained glass in the east and south windows is dated 1867 and 1869 so much later and very much in keeping with the religious revival of the period – these years are at the end of the Gothic Revival artistic period. All the stained glass windows within the church are of a similar religious nature and presumably from the same period – they transform the church interior into the lux nova and give an impression of heavenly reflections in the same manner I have witnessed at St Mary’s Church in Derby and luckily on the afternoon we visited the sun shone through the windows to show this effect at its most spiritual.

img_3721The area photographed on the left is one of the areas of the church I spent considerable time in looking up to the central tower in awe of the 3 tiers of triple arches.  According to the guidebook the upper stage was built in the 17th century to house the bells of which the were eventually 4 but now there total 8 with an additional 2 hung in 1882 and then 2 more in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – I am not a huge fan of being in churches when bells are ringing due to a type of deafness but for this church I would more than happily make an exception!

The organ built in 1860 and rebuilt in 1981 can just be seen to the left of my photograph as I look back down towards the nave and it is a masterpiece in itself and I would love to hear it being played as the church has beautiful acoustics.

img_3755One thing I personally noted was the carved crucifix in the arches above the central tower facing towards the nave and the congregation almost seems to take the place of the rood screen in smaller churches.  The effect of this crucifix is that it draws the eyes heavenwards and conveys the Biblical message.

img_3726This area is part of the wall-passage combined with the clerestory which is rarely seen in parish churches – this clerestory serves two purposes with one to let in light and the other to give access from the west gallery to the upper chancel. The north and south sides of the church have different arches – the south side of the clerestory has pointed arches and twin lancet windows, (shown in my photograph),  as it was rebuilt in the 13th century by which time Gothic architecture had replaced Norman whilst in the North side the arches are the original Norman rounded style with single windows.

img_3710From a purely art history interest and by this I mean with specific regards to paintings I could not help be fascinated by the  remains of a  Medieval painting depicting the ‘damnation of sinners and their suffering in hell’ (Melbourne Parish Church guidebook).  I had not been aware of the fact that the inside of late Medieval churches would have been adorned with similar imagery and this is the only fragment that has survived only because it was subsequently covered by a plaque.

img_3773Another feature of this church is the architectural style which shows a continental influence including with the carvings on the capitals of the chancel arch  – the Melbourne cat as this carving is known is just one of the several different creatures that can be identified.  The cat is smiling happily because across the chancel is a dog being restrained by a man by his tail desperate to get to the cat but unable to do so – in truth when my fiance and myself saw the dog we could not understand the significance as we did not connect the two carvings!  The guidebook also refers to a ‘sheela-na-gig’ carved onto one of the capitals and this is a pagan symbol regarding female fertility and it is grotesque in its nature but unfortunately I could not take a clear image of it but if my fiance and I return I will try again and add to this blog.

img_3739Near the church door in the narthex section of the church is the 13th century font which is placed there very deliberately as a remind of baptism being the entrance into the Christian church.

The narthex, which goes across the full width of the building at its main entrance,  is one part of 3 unique features of this church with the second being the the west gallery and the third the twin tower facade of the west front – all these unique features are reminiscent of churches on the continent and point to the possibility of a German architect and also the possibility of the church being built for a royal function.

This is without doubt one of the finest Norman churches in England and I have only included some of the architectural and artistic details – unbelievably my camera battery went flat on the day we visited so I was unable to take all the photographs I wanted but I have written this blog to give an overall impression of a stunningly beautiful and architecturally unique church.

The church was hugely restored and altered during the 1800’s and some of those alterations were subsequently removed but the building retains a real feeling of history as you step into it and with a unique spiritual feeling that my fiance and I have not felt in other churches.  The guidebook points to the fact it has the appearance of a mini cathedral but there an intimacy in this church that you rarely feel in such large parish churches and certainly not in cathedrals – it is almost as if you can feel the footsteps of those who have gone before you seeking to worship or possibly seeking sanctuary in troubled times.


Ross, F (Reverend). 1992. Melbourne Parish Church.  Great Britain.  Beric Tempest.

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Sketchbook work ….

This is a very short blog demonstrating how I have used my sketchbooks with the first one being for primarily the required exercises throughout the course and the second two with additional photographs and postcards.

img_3857On the left is an example of my general coursework sketchbook work based on an exercise during an early assignment – as I write this I am just about to submit my final assignment and this seems a long time ago!




Another  page has some photographs I took at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford on a whistle-stop tour on the day of my eldest son’s wedding and also one further day when I literally had 30 minutes before meeting my 2 sons and daughter!! The casts in the museum I absolutely loved and am looking forward to a visit when I can spend considerably longer at the museum and in particular the paintings which I have not yet had the chance to see.


img_3856The third image is of a sketchbook/scrapbook of postcards and photographs/leaflets purchased and taken during the course when I visited various country houses and any galleries or exhibitions.  This particular sketchbook and the third too have become a favourite because it really does document quite literally the journeys I have been on with my fiance in tow in search of architecture and art  with some of the trips being part of the course requirements and some being additional extras. This first image is of Kedleston Hall which has become one of our favourite places – partly for the history and art and partly for the gentle walks and wildlife because the park lands designed by Robert Adam.

img_4524This is another one of the pages showing a visit to Sudbury Hall near Uttoxeter and again it has become very much a favourite place to visit.  I find this house much more like a family house than Kedleston – it is less show and more home quite literally and has clearly been well loved over many decades.  The house has the grandeur you would expect in many rooms but it also has what I would term ‘parlours’ which are inviting and cosy and clearly used by the family in much the same way any much smaller,  less wealthy families would use them.

img_4518As for the other exercises – this photograph is an example of my version of a still life albeit a slightly tongue-in-cheek version!  I could not draw a 17th century still life so took the ideas of books being about human knowledge and its temporary nature and also the art materials representing an indulgence in the arts – this painting could yet be done again (hopefully improved) and hung near my desk as a reminder of this course and the books studied.

Throughout the whole course I have made many visits and most I have blogged (with one or two oversights I admit) and the sketchbooks have become part of the history of the course and representative of the journey taken – the sketchbooks are in essence a scrapbook of 2015 and 2016 but with the added advantage of the write-ups on this blog.

At the point of writing my household has a wonderful collection of guidebooks and also a National Trust writing which will continue to be used extensively throughout 2017 and beyond.





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Stylistic differences between a 17th Century Baroque painter associated with the Catholic Counter Reformation and a 17th Century painter from the Netherlands

Please note this is a re-worked analysis after my tutor feedback for Assignment 3.

The Catholic Counter Reformation of the 16th century  responded to the Reformation by the Protestants with both the Council of Trent and the formation of the Society of Jesus in the 16th century and the art that followed was to conform to strict rules with direct and compelling presentation of narrative Biblical scenes.  In comparison and completely opposing the emotionally religious scenes of the Counter Reformation the Dutch republic coincided with the end of the 30 Years war and decline of Spain – its economy was founded on free enterprise during a time of great advances in sciences and mathematics and this in turn meant that the artists turned to painting scenes depicting the bourgeois prosperity the patrons now enjoyed.

300px-caravaggio_-_la_deposizione_di_cristoMichelangelo Merisi the man known as Caravaggio was a painter during the Baroque and Catholic Counter Reformation period and his naturalistic and highly emotionally charged works fitted exactly the requirements of the Council of Trent.

This image of the Entombment of Christ painted around 1601-1603 was painted as an altarpiece and is the very epitome of Caravaggio’s religious work and he has used his technique of tenebrism with the dark background contrasting with the light that is cast from a source coming from the top left to illuminate the figures – it falls directly onto Mary Magdalene’s face and the figures in front of her.  The composition is diagonal with the movement of the figures projecting downwards towards Christ’s lifeless body which is portrayed almost unbelievably naturally in tone including the sallow skin and blue tint to his lips.  The colour palette is one of muted tones which does not distract from the religious spectacle.   The whole image is one of emotionally charged theatre which is direct and compelling and typical of the work of Caravaggio and typical of his religious works of the time.

the-milkmaidIn contrast Jan Vermeer’s painting of the Milkmaid which was completed around 1657-58 is restrained and austere.  The patron was a wealthy private collector and yet the work is of a a domestic servant with indications she had romance on her mind – the foot-warmer in the bottom right was a common symbol that romance was in the air.

The work is of a normal domestic scene with an abundance of bread on the table and the milkmaid’s clothes are painted using  vivid primary colours of blue, yellow and red with the tones being repeated around the work providing unity and harmony which in turn creates a happy calm scene.  The light that comes from the window to the left  enables you to see the whole scene in front of you unlike the tenebrism of Caravaggio.  Lastly the composition is on a central vertical axis unlike the  theatrical compositions of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Jan Vermeer’s work perfectly illustrates the art of the Dutch Golden Age portraying the domestic scenes of ordinary people as they went about their lives and the patrons expressed their enjoyment of their wealth.


Bernard Fischer. 2011.  Caravaggio Entombment of Christ [online].  [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:

Encyclopedia of Art History. (date unknown).

Encyclopedia of Art History. (date unknown).  Catholic Counter-Reformation Art (1560-1700) [online].  [Date Accessed:  October – November 2016].  Available from:

Encyclopedia of Art History. (date unknown).  Dutch Baroque Painting (c.1600-80) [online].  [Date Accessed:  October – November 2016].  Available from:

Encyclopedia of Art History. (date unknown).  The Entombment of Christ (1601-03) [online].  [Date Accessed:  October – November 2016].  Available from:

escodavi. 2009.  Johann Vermeer’s ‘The Milkmaid’ [online].  [Date Accessed:  November 2016].  Available from:

Jansen, J. 2001-2016. A Brief Overview of the Dutch Art Market in the 17th Century [online].  [Date Accessed:  October – November 2016].  Available from:

Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2000-2016.  Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) [online]. [Date Accessed: October – November 2016].  Available from:

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Reflection on Part 5 and Assignment 5

This is a section of the course I freely admit to have struggled with particularly in terms of style and hence my notes have been left longer than required which I have appreciated I may get marked down for.

My understanding the work of abstract-expressionist artist such as Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still or Jackson Pollock and going forward into minimalist art was non-existent before reading that last chapter of WHA  but it became a revelation in terms of that understanding.  I also have felt that there was much to understand too in the style details during the two wars and preceding WWI as well as the developments that seem to suddenly take place – these developments in terms of artistic style and use of mixed media revolutionised the way in which the spectator views art and asked the spectator what exactly constitutes art in the modern era.  Although I have struggled with this period much more than earlier periods I feel I have achieved a level  of understanding and knowledge that will endure and no doubt result in more research in the future as my textiles studies continue – I am no longer afraid of looking at modern artists of the past century and not understanding their technique and this is part of the reason for those longer notes so that I can look back and refer to them when required.

img_3852What has been particularly interesting is the early part of the 20th century was this is the era in which my grandparents were born – my maternal grandfather was born in 1894 and my paternal grandfather in 1913 and as I have read the material and researched the different styles and aspects my mind kept wandering to wondering what John  Sheehan or Leonard Murdock and my grandmothers, Mary and Gladys, would have thought to these new artistic styles.  Leonard was an amateur artist himself  as can be seen from my photograph – I cannot finish my last reflection of my art history course without including this much loved picture I have had since childhood and perhaps even inspired my love of art alongside my own mother’s beautiful sketching. I do not know  my grandparents artistic tastes but I know from the paintings that Leonard did he was interested in naturalistic styles so I wonder what would his opinion have been of Pollock or Rothko or other abstract-expressionists or what would John have made of the Dada artists?

I fully confess to having changed my opinion on previously disliking abstract-expressionist art personally and have certainly become a huge fan of cubism and fauvism along with Picasso and Braque

whose work will continue to fascinate me but I am now looking forward to looking at abstract art works in future trips to any art galleries and being able to understand them whether on a technical level or on an emotional level.

Although at this stage I have some blogs I wish to add including one long-planned on the Medici family as well as others on various articles I have saved from the internet or newspapers which quietly got filed away until ‘a rainy day’  I am now at the end of the actual coursework and it feels incredibly strange.  It has been one hell of a journey through the centuries and I feel it has been the biggest, most frustrating and also most enriching journey of my life in terms of academia – it has been incredibly frustrating at times which I will now admit to but on many other occasions there have been expressions of wonderment and delight as I read a particularly interesting section or the proverbial light bulb goes on with understanding a passage or style I have been totally flummoxed about.  The conversations between my fiance and myself have totally changed over the last two years as we discuss and debate either different artists or art works and the enjoyment we have both gained through the knowledge of this course enables us to visit galleries or country houses in our locality and so hence our lives have been enriched in ways we never expected – and I do say ‘both’ of us in terms of knowledge gained due to those aforesaid discussions and my fiance reading passages himself of my textbook and other library books.

As I reflect on this journey I also do so with a knowledge that I will be setting up another blog in order to continue my art history studies  to run alongside my textiles degree courses and this course will have had a direct influence on those studies as my aim is still to incorporate art history studies into my textile work in the future and for that to be a major part of my practice.

I can honestly say that despite the frustration at times this course has been one of the best decisions of my life and has woken up a passion for art history that I know will be lifelong not least a passion for a certain female Baroque artist by the name of Artemisia.

Regarding the expected criteria this is where I feel much more confident than I have previously:

Demonstration of subject-based knowledge and understanding: 

I feel that I have demonstrated my knowledge and understanding much better than I have previously through both through my notes on the 3 chapters and also the course exercises including my final essay and any separate blogs regarding visits or own research. I am aware I have struggled at times with understanding various stylistic concepts but I have demonstrated a level of knowledge despite the difficulties.

Demonstration of research skills:

This is where I feel I have progressed the most as I have used a variety of sources including IT and also textural in the form of a variety of books – the information that I have been required to evaluation has been more challenging particularly with regards my final essay but also the coursework.  My final essay has enabled me to demonstrate that I have been able to design and carry out a research project and also locate and evaluate evidence from a wide range of sources – this has been a fascinating and challenging process but also an enjoyable one too.


For this point I can reflect on the coursework as a whole and as I have prepared for my final assignment to be submitted I have spent time going back through the various blogs and either adding tags or checking for spelling errors and in doing so I have been able to see how much progress I have made throughout the course.  I have learnt to communicate ideas and knowledge and support my ideas with relevant visual material as well as improving my presentation.

Much of my work for my final essay was based on modern day author’s works who have spent time researching the available information including trial documentation and newly published letters but this information has enabled me to also consider the information that was available at the time of Artemisia Gentileschi.  However in terms of the art I have studied in the last 3 chapters of WHA and the last section of the course the information is more readily available and is presented by modern art critics and writers and this has meant I have had to re-consider the ways in which I evaluate the art or communicate my ideas and arguments.

My weak point throughout the course has been working on analyses and I freely admit to having seriously struggled with them but at the same time I feel I have been able to demonstrate a learning curve with regards to information communicated in a clear and coherent manner.    I have applied methods used for analysis when writing my final essay as I was effectively analyzing two works of art by Artemisia and also comparing them to Caravaggio’s work on the same subject as he was such a strong influence and this in itself has been an incredibly useful exercise.

Overall I do feel that my communication skills have been through their own steep learning curve and I must take into account I have never studied art history before and as I continue my studies beyond this course this course has provided a solid and valuable foundation.

My final reflection is that this is my final end of assignment reflection – as I state above it is a very strange feeling particularly as I now anticipate my final tutor report and start to prepare for assessment with some trepidation.


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What happened to Artemisia and where is she buried? short research notes with additional information

Artemisia returned to Rome in 1621 and shortly after she and her husband separated and all trace of him vanished.  Artemisia is known to have resided in Naples between 1630 and 1637 and then in England between 1638 and 1639 when she joined her father Orazio at the invitation of the court of Charles I – one of their collaborations together was  An Allegory of Peace and the Arts under the English Crown, 1638-39 which was the ceiling of the central hall of Queen’s House which has subsequently been moved to Malborough House and is in the possession of the Royal Collection.  After her fathers death she returned to Italy and to Naples where she remained until her death.

There is no question of the remarkable art works Artemisia produced both as an independent artist and also in collaboration her father in England but my interest has piqued with details of her life as well as it gives me am impression of just who she was and this intrigues me – I am someone who likes to investigate the person behind the art as well as the art as I am rapidly discovering!

There is a question  mark over her exact date of death but it is thought to be 1653 or 1654 although no cause is known – the art historian Charles Moffat may have committed suicide but this is where I disagree due to the fact it is known that she was buried in the Church of San Giovanni Battista dei Fiorentini which sadly was partially destroyed during World War II and her tombstone, simply inscribed ‘HEIC Artimisia’ was destroyed during restoration works. The reason for my disagreement is that suicide has a history of being considered a sin in the Catholic church and hence she would not have afforded the privilege of being buried in consecrated ground and most certainly not inside a church.

chiesa_di_san_giovanni_battista_dei_fiorentini_napoli If I ever get the chance there is no doubt that I would like to visit that small church where Artemisia may still lie.  The church was extensively restored after WWII as my photograph shows and personally this brings a small touch of reality to my research.

On less salubrious notes during my reading I discovered in Mary D Garrard’s book, Artemisia Gentileschi there are two epitaphs to Artemisia which was published in Venice around 1653 and it is ‘shockingly irreverent’ (Artemisia Gentileschi, p. 137) as it refers to her in terms of a seducer who cuckolded her husband – her artistic life is barely mentioned:

“By painting one likeness after another, I earned no end of merit in the world;  While, to carve two horns upon my husband’s head, I put down the brush and took a chisel instead.”

“Heartseize Gentlewoo-men was I ever to anyone, Who was able to see me in the unseeing world; But now that hid beneath these marble slabs I lie, Allure turns to bate and Gentlywormeaten am I.”

It seems that in a male dominated world Artemisia’s artistic life was dismissed purely because she was a woman – this was common at the time and persisted for centuries afterwards.  My research has uncovered the fact that Artemisia had more than one lover – the first a nobleman named Francesco Maria Maringhi and the second was much later after her husband had left her which means I question whether the gossip that followed her to Florence and Naples was solely due to the trial.  Artemisia was also well known to be an artist who struggled to finish works on time and hence got into many financial difficulties – one article I discovered refers to her husband drinking and gambling and that was the cause of debts but I could find no further evidence for this but rather the emphasis was put on Artemisia and this is despite the fact that her husband was also a painter of some repute too (bearing in mind he was also admitted to the Accademia del Disegno in Florence at the same time as his wife).

Sadly only one of Artemisia’s 4 children reached adulthood – her daughter Prudentia or Palmira (there is a little uncertainty on her name) and she became a painter herself.  The other children were two boys and a girl with one boy having Cristofano Allori as his godfather – Artemisia and Cristofano knew each other well.

I have rarely found myself so fascinated by an artist but what started  with watching a TV documentary by Michael Palin last December  called – Michael Palin’s Quest for Artemisia has resulted in what I now know will be a lifelong passion.  I have no doubt that my research and reading will continue long after the end of this course and I would hope to do some textile works based on Artemisia’s work or life.



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