A Legacy of Needlework – Part Four – Keeping the Art Alive

Women have been turning their hands to needlework for centuries, both for pleasure and necessity. To be an accomplished needlewoman was one of the hallmarks of being a well bred lady and Englishwomen displayed their work on everything from clothing to linens to decorative objects such as rugs, firescreens and draperies. Depending on the age and skill level of the artist, these objects ranged from the simple to the level of true artwork.

1783 ENGLISH NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER BY SARAH PRICE
17th CENTURY ENGLISH NEEDLEWORK TABLE CARPET
ENGLISH STOMACHER c.1730

Today, London’s Royal School for Needlework keeps the tradition alive by offering courses in a variety of needlework mediums, whilst the Embroiderers Guild and the National Needle Arts Association foster learning, the exposure of these arts to the public and the preservation of a national legacy. If you are a needle person and strive to keep this art alive, I’ll tell you about a few of my personal favorite finds as far as canvas and kits are concerned.

One of the banes of any needleperson’s life is what to make next. There are only so many pillows and cushions one can make before a person grows tired of the insipid designs available on most commercial needlework kits. And there are only so many kits and designs that are of sufficient quality to spur one on towards undertaking them. After all, one has to actually like the finished product in order to become enthusiastic about working it. For many years I put aside my hoop and thread in despair of ever finding anything that would fire me up creatively. I resorted to embroidering sheets and pillowcases just to have something to work on. Well, really, one can only own, or give away, so many pairs of bed linens. And people tend to look at you oddly when you ask leading questions about the decor of their bedroom. They don’t know that you’re trying to suss out what colors to embroider their next pair of sheets in.

When in London this summer with Victoria, we went to Liberty’s, where we ended up in the needlework department and where I discovered the work of designer Beth Russell, who offers many kits, including a series of projects based on scenes adapted from the work of William Morris.

As Russell explains on her website: This remarkable William Morris tapestry was originally designed for his patron Alexander Ionides. Completed in 1887, it measured 15ft (4.5m) wide. Morris delegated the drawing of the animals to the architect Philip Webb and the foreground millefleurs to his eventual successor Henry Dearle. The result is a tribute to their lifelong friendship and various talents. It is interesting to compare the Greenery tapestry designed later entirely by Henry Dearle. The original Forest is owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

This is the canvas I bought at Liberty’s, soon to be joined by it’s counterpart, the Fox. While I’ll be making cushions for my couch out of the finished works, we’ve seen in previous posts that a handful of Englishwomen regularly displayed their finished work for the pubic. These women included Harriet Frankland and Anne Morritt.

Anne Morritt
Anne Eliza Morritt (1726 – 1797) was the spinster sister of J.S. Morritt, once owner of Rokeby Hall. She created exquisite needlework “paintings,”  most of which are now displayed for visitors to see in the stairwell at Rokeby in Yorkshire.

 
Perhaps the most famous needlewoman of her day was Mary Linwood, whom we met in a previous post. Mary also created copies of masterpiece paintings with her needlework. Below is a picture similar in style to that of Linwood and Morrit, which recently sold in the Althorp Attic Sale held at Christie’s, London.

A LARGE NEEDLEWORK PICTURE IN THE STYLE OF MARY LINWOOD

What these artists had in common was that they embroidered from paintings using a technique known as needlepainting, a type of embroidery in which oils or other paintings were faithfully copied,
with the brush strokes rendered by stitches worked in crewel wool.

With this in mind, this series will end in Part Five with an interview with Doreen Finkel of the Art Needlepoint Company, who offer kits based on Old Master paintings by many artists and that are available in various sizes and using either wool or silk threads. Here are just a few examples of the kits available:

Pinky by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Vermeer
Stay Tuned for Part Five!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY 2 – PART 2

After watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Diane and I
skirted St. James’s Park and noted all the glorious gardens in full bloom, above and below.
Crossing the Mall, we then walked up the path that runs along Green Park up to Piccadilly, but instead we turned in at Milkmaid’s Passage as short cut through to St. James’s Street.
I wanted to introduce Diane to Boulestin, a favourite restaurant of Victoria’s and
mine in St. James’s Street. In fact, I like it so well that I’ve included it on the itineraries for several upcoming tours as a dinner venue.
The restuarant is a revival of Marcel Boulestin’s pre-war venue in Covent Garden and has achieved the perfect blend of modern chic, French flair and historic touches. Click here to read about the original restaurant, the most expensive in London, and about chef Marcel Boulestin.
In the photo above, you can see the outdoor seating area which is in Pickering Place, which is also adjacent to Berry Brothers and which was also the site of the last public duel in England.
Diane and I each had a bowl of homemade soup and shared a cheese plate afterwards. Delicious!
Afterwards, we detoured through Jermyn Street in order to pay a visit to an old and dear friend.
Then it was on to meet another old friend, antique dealer Mark Sullivan,
whose shop is in Cecil Court.
After pouring Diane and I a glass of wine each, it was at least a half hour of catch up before we got to the business at hand – Artie-facts, the true reason for our visit. As usual, Mark had found me another Wellington for my collection, and what a corker!
As you can see, he’s right at home now and fits beautifully into the collection.
We decided to end the afternoon seeing even more of our pals, so Diane and I headed over to the Regency section at the National Portrait Gallery.
Part Three Coming Soon!

CALKE ABBEY – THE UNSTATELY HOME

The National Trust presents Calke Abbey as an illustration of the English country house in decline. Displays show how house was left when abandoned in the 1920’s and the NT refers to the property as an “unstately home.”

From Wikipedia: “Set in the midst of a landscape park, the National Trust presented Calke Abbey as an illustration of the English country house in decline. A massive amount of remedial work but no restoration has been done and interiors are almost as they were found in 1985 so the decay of the building and its interiors has been halted but not reversed. Before the National Trust work of the late 1980s everything had remained untouched since the 1880s. The Trust manages the surrounding landscape park with an eye to nature conservation. It contains such features as a walled garden, with a flower garden and a former physic garden, now managed as a kitchen garden. Some years after Calke was handed over to the National Trust to settle death duties, an heir was discovered: Andrew Johnson, a distant cousin of the Harpur family. Johnson was a wealthy resident of Vermont and the owner of important stands of timber and of a lumber business, though the popular press in Britain referred to him as a `lumberjack.’ Johnson was given the use of an apartment in the Abbey, which he and his family have used on occasional visits.”

And from The History of the County of Derby, Part 2 (1829) by Stephen Glover: “In this house, although it has never yet been put up, either for use or ornament, is, perhaps, one of the most splendid state beds in the kingdom, presented, on the occasion of her marriage,-by ” Caroline,” queen of George the Second, to Lady Caroline Manners (afterwards Harpur) as one of her bridemaids. This now beautiful seat was, in the memory of persons n6w living, one of the plainest and least ornamental, it is said, almost desolate and ugly, places in the county. The present improvements were all planned and executed by the late Sir Henry Crewe, bart. who devoted a life of retirement to this purpose, affording thereby, for many years, ample employment to the workmen and labourers of the surrounding neighbourhood. The house being ill supplied with water, Sir Henry Crewe, at a great expense, brought it from an excellent spring beyond Ticknall, about a mile and a half, to a covered reservoir in the park, from whence the stables, house, gardens, and dairy, are now fully and amply supplied. The style of architecture is Ionic, highly enriched, with fluted pilasters between the windows, and an elegant balustrade round the whole building, within which is a flat roof covered with lead. The stables are excellent, and stand on an elevated site to the north of the house.”

The Potting Shed at Calke Abbey from natures-desktop.com
All of this sounds vastly intriguing and Victoria and I are loathe to admit that neither of us has yet visited Calke Abbey. Have you? If so, please share your visit with us. And in the meantime, Victoria and I have yet another stop to put on a future itinerary.

The Wellington Connection: The Household Calvary

As we recently ran a post about a Household Calvary horse named Sefton, we thought it would be appropriate to look into the Duke of Wellington’s connection to the Household Calvary, a term used to describe the cavalry of the Household Division, the most elite senior military groupings or those military groupings that provide functions associated directly with the Royal Family. The British Household Cavalry is made up of two regiments of the British armed forces, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons). These regiments are divided between the Armoured Regiment stationed at Combermere Barracks in Windsor and the Household Calvary  stationed at Knightsbridge Barracks, London. 

 

The first Regiment with whom the Duke of Wellington was connected was the Royal, or 1st, Dragoons, who served under Wellington, as Lord Wellesley, during the Peninsular War. They acted as rearguard during the retreat at the Torres Vedras lines in 1810 and their charge at Fuentes d’Onor in 1811 contributed greatly to that victory. By the end of 1814, the Royal Dragoons had advanced into southern France and were granted permission to march through France to Calais.
In 1815, their successful charge at Waterloo alongside the Union Brigade was responsible for maintaining the Allies’ weakest position until the Prussians arrived. The famous charge against the French Cuirassiers took place at the height of the battle and saved the British centre from being overrun. During this charge, the 105 Eagle, now part of the The Royals’ and The Blues dress, was captured from the French 105th Infantry Regiment of the Line by Captain Clarke and/or Corporal Stiles.
 

 

 

 

However, the Duke of Wellington is most closely connected to the Royal Horseguards, also called The Blues. He was appointed as Colonel of the Regiment on 1st January, 1813, which proved to be the first step towards raising The Blues to the distinction of belonging to the Household Calvary. Wellington was the first Colonel to take office as Gold Stick with the colonels of the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, regiments with whom The Blues fought at the battle of Vittoria.

The Blues formed the Heavy Cavalary Brigade at Waterloo, fighting alongside the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Life Guards. At the beginning of the Brigade charge, the Regiment was in support, but as the charge unfolded, they drew into the first line. After the battle, the following equine casualties were reported: 48 killed, 21 wounded and 25 missing.

 

In 1821, King George IV ordered the Regiment to be brigaded with the 1st and 2nd Life Guards and to share the duties of the King’s Life Guard.
Today, the Household Cavalry continue to guard the monarch, appearing daily at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Fittingly, the Viewing Galleries within the Wellington Arch, in front of Apsley House, offer unique views of the Household Cavalry passing beneath the Arch on their way to and from the Changing of the Guard. The Arch opens daily at 10 a.m., with the Guards usually passing at around 10:30 a.m.

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT . . . . 24 HOURS IN THE PAST?

24 Hours in the Past is a BBC One living history TV series first broadcast in 2015. Six quasi-celebrities were immersed in a recreation of impoverished life in Victorian Britain. Each of the four episodes represented 24 hours living and working in four different occupations – dust yard (filmed at the Black Country Living Museum), coaching inn (the New Inn at Stowe), potteries (the Gladstone Pottery Museum) and the work house (Workhouse Museum in Southwell).  You can watch the first episode at the link below – all four episodes are available on YouTube.