Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Terry Urban at Willowbrook...

The highly skilled NZ jade carver and photographer, Terry Urban, paid us a visit at Willowbrook the other week and took some photos of the gardens looking in quite a disarray...

The main project this Winter is to get the gardens in order for showing them off in Spring. They have been very neglected over the past year with study etc; but are now under going a spruce-up. We spent today trimming all the hedges - Peter driving the Range Rover along the hedge rows and I sticking out of the sun roof trimming the top 3 feet off the hedge with our new petrol hedgetrimmer. I'm sure it must have seemed a site to the neighbours.  

Above: Abandoned seats in the Potager 

Below: More of Terry Urban's Photography

Now with the hedges trimmed we shall move onto weeding and mulching, as well as planting another 300 Hornbeam, planting 200 Alders and 100 Silver Birches, guying up the Olives, and shifting a fejoa hedge.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Great Country Estates of Britain Series. Part Ten: Holkham Hall

Holkham Hall is an 18th century country house in Norfolk, and is one of the finest examples of the Palladian revival style in the UK. It was built for Thomas Coke (born 1697), the first Earl of Leicester, by the architect William Kent, aided by the help of Britain's strongest Palladian supporter, Lord Burlington.

The grounds of the estate were purchased in 1609 by Sir Edward Coke, who was the founder of the Coke family fortune.

Thomas Coke was an erudite and wealthy aristocrat, who like most men of his time, completed and grand tour. It was during this tour (1712-1718) that he met both Kent an Burlington, and it is likely that in Italy under the influence of these men that the concept of Holkham Hall began to precipitate out of the miasmas of architectural ideals and noble sensibilities.

He returned from his tour with a bountiful library, art and sculpture collection. He now needed to create a house suitable to showcase his plunder. He began to design the house directly, however, due to his over corpulent lifestyle and financial losses that ensued, he was forced to postpone the build by at least a decade. The construction started in 1734, but he died in 1759, 5 years before Holkham was completed. His wife, Lady Margaret, oversaw the completion and the furnishing of the house.

He employed Matthew Brettingham a local Norfolk architect as a draftsman to put down on paper Kent and Burlington's ideas...

Above: Cross section through marble hall

Below: Cross section through grand salon

Below: Cross section through statue gallery

The Palladian style was popular around this time, with the leading proponents being Inigo Jones, Willam Kent and Burlington. However, following the restoration, the English baroque style swept in and architects such as Vanbrugh came to the fore. Holkham is noted for the severity of it's adherence to Palladio's style compared to other houses of the day, and the sheer vastness of the house.

Kent based the external appearances on Palldio's unbuilt Villa Mocenigo as it appears in I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (with a few modifications)...

The large central block of the house was built around two courtyards, used to provide light to all rooms. The central block is flanked by two rectangular wings, linked to the main house not by two colonnades (as with Willowbrook, and as was more common with Palladian design) but by two small two story blocks.

The south facade is 344 feet long, with a 6 column portico in the centre, the exterior resembling a vast Roman palace, relatively devoid of ornamentation by the standards of the day. There were also strict designs around the utility of a room, for instance it was to have just enough windows to provide adequate light, but no so many that it made the room hard to keep warm, even if this mean that the exterior façade was lacking windows amongst the vast sea of bricks (which were made especially for Holkham, based on the appearance of the ancient bricks that Coke had seen in Rome.

The flanking wings contain services and secondary rooms, such as a chapel, kitchens and guest rooms.

The main entrance opens into the marble hall, which is modeled on a Roman Basilica, with a coffered ceiling based on the pantheon in Rome rising to a height of 50 feet...

The Marble hall is infact made of Derbyshire alabaster. The enclosing peristyle of Ionic columns is thought to be a replica of that in the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome. In niches around the hall, much like at the Pantheon, are repliocas of statues of Roman deities...

Above 3 photos by xavier de Jaureguiberry

The steps in the hall lead up to the piano nobile. Each of the state rooms on this first floor is strictly symmetrical [a man after my own heart], to the point where false doors were employed to maintain symmetry. saloon The steps in the hall lead up to the piano nobile. Each of the state rooms of this floor is strictly symmetrical [a man after my own heart], to the point that false doors were employed to maintain symmetry.

The saloon is thought popularly to be the grandest of these rooms. It is immediately behind the great portico. Its walls are lined with Genoan velvet and the coffered ceiling is gilded. Of note, the PP Rubens Return from Egypt can be found hanging on the wall...

Above: Ruben's Return from Egypt

The Landscape Room

The Landscape room is adorned with 22 old masters, by painters such as Claude Lorrain and Gaspar Poussin.

As was the fashion, Coke returned from Italy with a vast array of copies of famous Italian statues and sculptures. Accordingly he planned a statue gallery, which runs the full length of the house from north to south.

The North Dining Room

The North dining room 27 feet x 27 feet x 27 feet. The statue in the niche is of Aelius Verus (Hadrian's adopted heir). It was found during restoration work at Nettuno, outside Rome.

The carpet design exactly mirrors the moulded ceiling details. The apse on the left contains concealed entrances to service alleys which lead to the kitchen and other services. You can just make out the door behind the right hand pillar of the apse in the above photo.

The Libraries

There are 3 libraries on the first floor, the Manuscript, Classical and Long Libraries. The long library (above and below) is the main library and is used for informal entertainment.

The Parrot Room

Above Photo by Mark Abel

One of the functioning guest bedrooms in the 'Strangers' Wing', taking its name from the painting of Macaws and parrots to the right of the bed.

The Green State Bedroom

The Green state room is the principle bedroom, and is decorated in rich tapestries and classical paintings, including Gavin Hamilton's painting of Jupiter caressing Juno - which was considered too lewd to be seen by Queen Mary, so when she visited the painting was hidden in the attic for the duration of her stay?

Above: Hamilton's Jupiter and Juno

Above photos by Hans A Rosbach.

Much of the furniture in the state rooms was designed by Kent himself, in the english baroque style. Some of the bedrooms have had modern ensuite bathrooms added to accommodate the modern guest.

The Chapel

Fairly modest...
Photo by Hans Rosbach

The Grounds

Above and Below: Kent's Temple Folly

Above and Below: The Leicester Monument - a monument to Coke of Norfolk, the great Nephew and heir of Thomas Coke. He was ennobled as The Earl of Leicester by Queen Victoria. It is a monument to his success in growing the estate's agricultural income and fame.

Above Photos by Xavier de Jaureguiberry

The Triumphal Arch
Above Photo by Xavier de Jaureguiberry

Photos in public domain. Additional Photos: Xavier de Jauréguiberry, Hans A Rosbach and Mark Abel

Friday, June 22, 2012

Countryside Love...

Some photos of countryside vistas to see us into the weekend. By Sunday the next Great Estates of Britain post should be ready. 
Have a great weekend. David.

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