CDFAS STUDY DAYS
The Houses of
Dr Caroline Shenton
Are our Houses of Parliament the most famous buildings in the world?
Our Study Day Director, Dr Caroline Shenton, is the former Keeper of the Parliamentary Archives and knows more about the Palace of Westminster than almost anyone alive. In this Study Day she will tell the history of the old and new Palaces of Westminster; the disastrous fire in 1834, famously captured by Turner and many other artists; the battle to save Westminster Hall the finest Medieval hall in the country, through the struggle of Charles Barry to build the Victorian Gothic Parliament; and then finally on to the World War 2 bomb damage and consideration of the present day conservation required.
Discounted copies of Dr Shenton’s prize winning and acclaimed books on the Houses of Parliament will be available to purchase on the day.
Heraldry Study Day
Our lips are sealed on any further incorrect use of the word "Family Crest" which is only a part of a "Coat of Arms". Those of us who had brought along our own family ‘Crests’ were quickly corrected.
We covered–raced-through many aspects of heraldry such as those of ‘Corporate bodies’ ( ranging from those of the twelve Livery Companies to modern horrors such as those of Tesco-ugh- and Derbyshire University ) ; ‘Marriages and Marquises’; Church Hatchments;
’Wives and Daughters’; and even ‘Heraldic Beasts’!!
Now we should all be able to ’read’ a Coat of Arms more easily and interpret the significance of such items as Chevron, Bend, Bend Sinister ,the Pile. We can now try to interpret the information all hidden on a Sheild’s ‘quarters’ (can be up to 100 on a single shield!). We can read them like a Balance Sheet (here speaks an accountant) and understand family backgrounds, regions, level of nobility, family links. We can read of personal preferences in terms of animals, birds, hobbies, skills etc.
If any members wish to create their own Coat of Arms, and have £5,000 to hand, then one of 15 Heralds at the College of Arms will interview them and discuss their background , personal preferences and a host of other aspects of their life, before proceeding.
If one wish one’s nearest and dearest to be included and is of a noble line, then she can be included, in perpetuity, as a Heraldic Heiress. If not, then her inclusion disappears when she passes on.
So here are a few interesting snippets that we learnt;
• The Shakespeare Shield shows an item looking just like a pen and nib. In fact it is a spear-- Shake Spear!!
• The Grosvenor Shield includes a ‘Bender Grosvenor’ which is linked to a famous horse called Bender which once won the Grand National.
• The origin of the word Garter-around which are many myths as to its origin-is still somewhat obscure. It is the highest order that the Queen can bestow. There are 24 Knights of the Garter. But lesser known is that there are ‘Extra Knights’ and ‘Stronger Knights’-of which
Prince Edward is one.
• The Spencer Churchill shield has a rather interesting motto which reads "Faithful but unfortunate" !!
• Hatchments -quite a few can be seen in Gt Longstone Church
• Lady Thatcher’s shield has two ‘supporters’ at the side, one being a naval officer (ie Falklands) and the other side the profile of Sir Isaac Newton. You might think that is because she was a Chemist by training. Wrong! He is there because he came from her home town of Grantham!
• Some shields show a Wyven-a symbol of power and strength and which is a legendary creature with a dragon’s head and wings, a reptilian body, two legs and a tail!!
• Some shields show a Griffin-another legendary creature with the body, tail and back legs of a lion, and the head and wings of an eagle. This is mainly seen on the Coats of Arms of descendants of Welsh settlers from Eire in the 17th Century.
• Many shields show an eagle. Very few a cat. Reason; because cats were always associated with witchcraft!!
We learnt of six types of Coronets (on the tops of Shields), and which are used by nobles and by princes and princesses rather than by monarchs.
If I really wish to stir up-which I’m about to-then compare the Coats of Arms of Cambridge University and Oxford University: Cambridge shows a closed book at the centre (Chloe went to Cambridge!); Oxford shows an open book ie still got a lot to learn!!
One outstanding fact-again quoting Peter- is that in medieval times, they were very good at designing Coats of Arms, whereas many of today’s are anything but inspiring.
This Study Day proved just how much one can learn in a single day from a real expert. Our thanks go to Chairman Peter Stubbs for organising the event so expertly.
Birmingham Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.
28 of us travelled to Birmingham in an enormous 6 wheel coach which negotiated the narrow streets and tight junctions with remarkable ease and managed to park on time right outside the museum. We were then after coffee treated to a tour which took us through the whole of the manufacturing process with ancient machines and presses being operated by our guide. At the end of the process and before polishing and buffing the jewellery was dipped in an acid bath to remove any foreign matter. This work was done by the tea lady and there we saw the teapot and sugar bowl and cups and saucers sitting on her workbench next to the acid bottles! A health and safety inspector would have a fit. We also had an insight into why the business was so profitable. Enormous trouble was taken to collect and preserve gold dust that was a side product of the manufacturing process. Each workbench had an apron attached to it which the manufacturing operative put across his knees to catch any residue. The buffing machines had an air extraction point beneath them to prevent gold residue falling on the floor and being dissipated. The extraction system sucked in the gold dust and residue which was taken through a system of pipes dropping into a sawdust pit. The sawdust was then removed and burnt leaving the gold to be recovered. The directors even ensured that worn out overalls were burnt to recover any gold residue.
It was a fascinating tour of a jewellery factory in complete albeit old fashioned working order. At the end our guide told us there was in the entrance hall a visitors book in which we were invited to make comment. He said if we had not enjoyed the tour his name was Steve but if we had his name was George. His name was definitely George.
Like most of our great cities Birmingham has a superb collection of art much of it given or lent over time by wealthy local industrialists. In particular the Birmingham Museum and Art gallery which we visited in the afternoon has the largest collection of Pre Raphaelite paintings in the country. The Pre Raphaelites rejected the art of the previous generation as substandard; they referred to Sir Joshua Reynolds as ‘’ Sir Sloshua Reynolds ‘’.They sought to put more detail and complexity into their work together with intense colour, seeking the discipline of the painting of earlier times ( hence Pre Raphaelite ).We had a guided tour of the Pre Raphaelites but concentrating on three great paintings; Lizzie Siddall by Rossetti,portrayed as a beautiful but dying woman, The Blind Girl by Millais ( surely no impoverished blind girl could really look as good as this ), and The Finding of Christ in the Temple by Holman Hunt, all three exquisitely painted in almost obsessive detail and in the most beautiful bright colours.
As we were split into two groups for the guided tour we also had some time to explore and see some of the rest of the collection. By way of example of the quality as well as the quantity of the collection I noted in one room alone, of British 20th century art paintings by among others Walter Sickert,Augustus John, Gwen John, Alfred Munnings, Paul Nash, L.S.Lowry, Barbara Hepworth, and Ben Nicholson.
If you like and are moved by paintings and have not been there Birmingham Museum and Art gallery is a must.
All in all a most successful day. Our thanks go to Liz Wake for yet another impeccably organised visit.
The Fine Art of
Crime, by Malcolm Kenwood
ALL NATURE IS A GARDEN'
William Kent and the
English Landscape Movement -James Bolton
The study day was held at the Whitworth Institute in Darley Dale. Here we were treated to a series of three fascinating lectures by James Bolton which sailed through the 17th and 18th centuries, linking the gardens of the wealthy to the politics of the day, and how they were affected by civil wars, royalty, and whether the Wigs or Torys were in government. He showed us, with numerous illustrations from across Britain and Europe, how gardens and gardeners eventually became THE must have fashion accessory of the time, as grand as your purse or your inheritance could afford.
A magnificent and enduring redesign of the natural order of your estate, which had to be conjured up by the celebratory architect of the day, would reflect the importance of your standing in Society.
Gardens of the medieval age were designed to keep nature, and the dangers of the outside world, at bay. So the gardens were clipped and controlled into knot gardens, with emblematic free-standing poles, to provide impressive and meaningful views for your visitors, from the safety of your first floor rooms. Initially these were relatively small, but by the Stuart period had developed into the Baroque Italianate style fashioned by Indigo Jones, as at Hatfield and Chatsworth, with miles of labour intensive hedges and walks, fountains and statues. The plants being supplied by industrious royal gardeners at Brompton Gardens.
Times changes, heads rolled, and politics changed as did fashionable taste, although Indigo Jones was still the designer of choice. Gone were the tightly controlled medieval ideas and the baroque and in came romantic gardens. Full of temples, grottos and discrete hidden arbours, these became essential to all Society movers and shakers of the day. Inspiration came mainly from Europe, including Versailles, Upper Belvedere in Vienna and Peterhof in Russia
As with all fashion, this style eventually became 'old hat' and, with the cost of hiring labour getting more expensive, gardens became more expansive and less controlled, with rolling parkland adorned by ribbons of lakes, purposeful tree planting and long walks with directed views. Not only did you bring paintings and Palladian Artifacts back from your Grand Tour, but also the latest ideas about the potential style of your new house and garden. Not to be outdone, Lord Burlington also returned in 1718 with his own painter and interior decorator, William Kent. Kent became the new 'must have' garden designer and went on to transform the grand estates of Britain. Capability Brown followed on, creating picturesque 'natural' landscapes tinged with gothic horror.
No more keeping nature at bay , now your visitors could be amazed with the knowledge that their host owned the land as far as the eye could see.
And it was all in perfect pastoral harmony.
DAY APRIL 15th 2014
Following his excellent lecture on Handel last year, Peter Medhurst was invited to return and lead a whole Study Day at Ashford. There was enthusiastic response and some 74 members came on a beautiful spring day.
Peter is a consummate professional with a wealth of knowledge about music and art and an innate ability to communicate with his audience. His delivery is enhanced by clever use of digital technology, both audio and visual, but for many of us it was his own singing and playing that made the day memorable.
The morning session on the theme 'music inspired by paintings' commenced with a visual promenade through Dulwich Art Gallery, accompanied by moderate Mussorgsky's 'pictures at an exhibition' Mussorgsky had been much affected by the death of his friend, the painter Hartman in 1874 and wrote the piece after visiting a posthumous show of his work. This set the tone of the music. Peter showed us how to hear the visitor's footsteps and he goes on from picture to picture and how the music changes in direct reponse to the emotion evoked by their different subject matter. The music ends with the great bell peals representing Hartman's painting of the 'Great Gate of Kiev'.
The morning continued with many fascinating examples of how composers have drawn inspiration from different paintings which touched their souls. This could happen at unexpected times and in unusual places when something sparked their own creativity in great moments of connection or epiphany.
After a sustaining lunch at the Ashford Arms we resumed our seats at 2.30 and Peter showed us the links between three Botticelli paintings from the 15th century and the musical responses to them composed by Respighi in 1927.. Under his guidance we could hear much more in the music.
Peter clearly made the point that some people listen to music and others 'hear' it, looking out for underlying themes and music structures. He drew the parallel with just looking at a painting or studying it with understandings of its underlying symbology and meaning.
The afternoon continued with the theme flipped around to 'paintings inspired by music'. He linked Schwind with Beethoven, Whistler with Chopin, Leighton with Mendelssohn and exposed us to Kandinsky and Schoenburg and finally Mondrian and Boogie-Woogie!. I think we were all a little shell-shocked by the end with so much visually and orally. We had all been challenged to look and listen in different ways and inspired to look for more links between music and paintings.
NOUVEAU AND ART DECO – 22ND APRIL 2013
In the morning with his knowledge and expertise he took us through a history of Art Nouveau and into Art Deco with many sumptuous illustrations. In relation to Art Nouveau, any member who is a fan and has not visited Nancy where Art Nouveau was virtually invented, was encouraged to g o there with a guarantee of an enjoyable and interesting weekend, with no doubt a drink in the main square, which is now a World Heritage site. Having visited our middle son some years ago when he was a student at Nancy University I can also endorse the quality of the many fine restaurants in the city.
In addition to two knowledgeable talks, delivered with great wit and style, Eric also gave us the benefit of two simple rules. Art Nouveau has curves; Art Deco has angles! Art Nouveau stopped in about 1910; Art Deco started in about 1910!
Members had been invited to bring their own items with an Art Deco or Art Nouveau connection for an assessment and evaluation session in the afternoon. This also was a tremendous success with Eric being good enough to stay long after the planned finishing time to value each and every of the many items that members had brought.
We were very fortunate to have Eric Knowles with us with his winning combination of knowledge, wit and a great sense of humour. We look forward to welcoming him back to Derbyshire next year when he will be lecturing on the subject of Moorcroft.
Last but not least as we all know Study Days do not run themselves. We were very grateful to James Kelly our projectionist in setting up the equipment for Eric’s visuals and to Pat Paulette and Barbara Hudson and others for setting up the hall and making us an excellent cup of coffee.
last edited 14/02/2017 15:53:23