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Great Dixter Manor: Part Two

 

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Previously we learned the history of Great Dixter and today we will continue our walk around the grounds and gardens.  Apart from a couple of mixed orchards and a scattering of trees, there were no gardens here when the Lloyds arrived in 1910. There are many out-buildings on the property including several old barns. As buildings continue to be restored it is good to know that nothing is thrown away, but recycled to use on other projects. Old, thin, laminated tiles were used for the new roof on the loggia, that was previously the old chicken shed with rotted walls.

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

The Loggia Roof, Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

I think these buildings may be in future works…… or maybe not.

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

However, this might need an improvement……..it is the handicapped bathroom! Very primitive, but you get the feel for how things once were!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Most of the garden design was by Edwin Lutyens.  The gardens are separated by yew hedges, which are sometimes curved, low brick walls, and many, many paths!  The borders are mixed and in all colors. There is no segregating plants of differing habits, so you see shrubs, climbers, hardy and tender perennials, annuals and biennials, all growing together and contributing to the overall tapestry. There are nineteen different gardens here!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Some of the paving is of York sandstone.  London’s pavements were ripped up and replaced by tarmac, and the stone became available for garden use. Lichens grow on it, making their own patterns, particularly noticeable at their ‘flowering’, in April. But the stone is slippery when wet!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

There is a large nursery here and many folks came to shop!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Nothing is wasted! Save the rainwater!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

One of the young gardeners showing us the grounds was a student from the U.S. She is participating in the USA Christopher Lloyd Scholarship. The scholarship provides a gardener from the United States with a year-long, practical education in the traditional style of ornamental gardening as practiced at two of the world’s most respected gardens, Great Dixter in East Sussex, England, and Chanticleer near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

The scholarship offers an American gardener a chance to develop practical skills and an understanding of the ‘sense of place’ needed to manage complex, innovative flower gardens such as those at Great Dixter and Chanticleer. It is hoped that the scholar, in turn, will inspire a future generation of North American gardeners, passing on knowledge and skills. The student spends 11 months, from September to July, living and working at Great Dixter, immersed in all aspects of the garden’s operations and also attends symposiums and visits gardens, plant trials and garden shows. The final month of the scholarship is spent working at Chanticleer. Wow how great is that?

A map of Great Dixter is Here! I hope you enjoyed our tour of Great Dixter! I certainly did. This is the last garden of the year on my English Garden Tour! I have enjoyed every one and hope you did too! Until next time in the garden!

Great Dixter Manor, Part One

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

This is the oldest section of Great Dixter Manor and as you can see it tips to the left!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

All great manors have a fascinating story to tell and Great Dixter is no exception. Nathanial Lloyd, born in Manchester, made his fortune when he founded his own color printing firm in 1893.  In 1905, he  married Daisy Field and rented a manor home in Rye where Nathanial could play golf on the weekends. He became so successful in his business, that by 1909, he was able to retire and devoted himself to golf and his passion for shooting. Nathanial and Daisy began to look for an old house to buy and they purchased Dixter, (a manor completed by the end of the Middle Ages), and its immediate grounds and farm buildings in May, 1910, for six thousand pounds, and the manor was re-named Great Dixter.

Nathanial and Daisy Lloyd

Nathanial and Daisy Lloyd

Lloyd hired Sir Ernest George as his architect, but soon realized that the apprentice to George, Edwin Lutyens,  was the man to complete his manor. Lutyens wanted to enlarge or adapt existing buildings by using local materials and build on existing traditions. He drew up plans which consisted of the mid-15th century original home and added additions to it, by bringing a yeoman’s house from Benenden.  He then added another addition to the house in 1912. So the manor then consisted of three houses, beautifully connected together. Lutyens admired the work of Gertrude Jekyll, who had a reputation for complimenting the grounds of the manors to the garden, which was a new approach to the English Garden. The ideas of Jekyll led Lutyens to design an English Garden for Great Dixter. Lutyens went on designing and building to become  “the greatest British architect of the twentieth (or of any other) century.”

Edwin Lutyens

Edwin Lutyens

This was the ” Yeoman’s House” moved from Benenden, seventeen miles away! I don’t think I could have had that big of imagination! How could the combining of the houses work? The Yeoman’s House was literally falling down!

The House Moved from Benenden

The House Moved from Benenden

Nathaniel and Daisy Lloyd raised six children at Great Dixter where they all developed a lasting attachment to the house and a deep knowledge of the garden. One of the bathrooms still has the pencil marks on a wall, recording their increasing height year by year. Selwyn (1909-35), the eldest child, went into the family business, but died at a young age from TB; Oliver (1911-85), whose second Christian name Cromwell spoke of Daisy’s ancestral connections, became a medical doctor and academic; Patrick (1913-56) was a professional soldier and died on active service in the Middle East; Quentin (1916-95) served as the estate manager for Great Dixter for many years; Letitia (1919-74) trained as a nurse; Christopher (1921-2006), the youngest child, was born in the north bedroom of the Lutyens wing and for the rest of his life Dixter was his home.

The Lloyd Childen

The Lloyd Childen

With the renovations and extension complete by 1912, Great Dixter was a large and comfortable family home. Central heating and electric lighting were installed from the onset and there was a domestic staff of five or more, including a chauffeur, a cook, two housemaids and a nursery maid. Outside staff included nine gardeners. For four years during the First World War, part of the house became a hospital and a total of 380 wounded soldiers passed through the temporary wards created in the Great Hall. In the Second War, Dixter housed evacuee boys from September 1939 until it was decided that they should go further west and away from the path of enemy aircraft.

After Nathaniel’s death in 1933, Daisy was in control until her death in 1972. Her contribution to the garden was most evident in the wild flower meadows, but her passion for all things plant related was as extensive as it was infectious. She was a determinedly energetic lady, an accomplished cook and brilliant embroiderer, who, having taken to wearing Austrian peasant costume, became an eccentric figure on the local scene. Christopher Lloyd, exceptional gardener and writer of gardening books, was the last Lloyd to occupy the manor and it was left to a charitable trust upon his death in 2006.

Christopher Lloyd

Christopher Lloyd

Part of the manor is open, but no photography is allowed inside!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

But we did manage a photo of the garden from the window!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

We took many photos of the gardens around various out buildings such as the oasts, which were restored in 2012.

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

This was one of the meadows. I just couldn’t get wrapped up in it though. I didn’t like the formal topiaries mixed in with the meadow. I would have preferred all lawn around these, but they didn’t ask me.

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

I think they were undecided too!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Flowers, flowers everywhere!

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

The Loggia…….with more flowers and plants……

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

Great Dixter, Sussex, UK

I hope you enjoyed the history of Great Dixter! There is a lot to explore here, so we’ll meet up with you again tomorrow! Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Pashley Manor, A Walk Around the Ponds

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

There are just so many many beautiful details to this garden I couldn’t resist showing more sculptures, the manicured garden and the walk along the ponds! Which way should we walk first?

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

A cottage is nested in the woods!

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

These little guys have a grand place to play!

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Maidens take a dip!

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

We’re about to tuck into an arbor here!

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Here is one of my favorites, Goose Girl by Marion Smith!

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

Pashley Gardens, Ticehurst, UK

I am so glad we were told about this garden. I must remember to always ask the locals about gardens in the area where we are staying! What a treasure Pashley Manor is!

For Information about openings and special events at Pashley Manor Gardens look Here! See you tomorrow in the garden!

 

Cowbeech House, Hailsham, East Sussex, UK

Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

The Entry to Cowbeech Estate, Hailsham, UK

The Entry to Cowbeech Estate, Hailsham, UK

The Patio Garden at the Hailsham Estate, UK

The Patio Garden at the Hailsham Estate, UK

Where There is a Him There is a Her, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Where There is a Him There is a Her, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

I love surprises don’t you? That is why I so look forward to the gardens on the National Garden Scheme in the UK! They are all so unique! The gardeners really shine at bringing out the best of their gardens and also their personal tastes and likes. Cowbeech House had many surprises! First of all, there was the car collection! Wow! And then we saw the sculpture collection in the garden that surrounded this beautiful country estate! Mr Cowbeech loved modern art also. So let’s take a walk in this great estate garden!

The Patio Garden at the Hailsham Estate, UK

The Patio Garden at the Hailsham Estate, UK

The Patio Garden at the Hailsham Estate, UK

The Patio Garden at the Hailsham Estate, UK

This is the butterfly garden guarded by the lions!

Art in the Garden, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Art in the Garden, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Patio Garden at Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Patio Garden at Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Mr Cowbeech also liked cannons!

The Cannon Gazebo, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

The Cannon Gazebo, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

The Lawn at Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

The Lawn at Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

The Vegetable Patch, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

The Vegetable Patch, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

The Pond at Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

The Pond at Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

And a Very Big Mosquito, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

And a Very Big Mosquito, Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Well this piece reminded me of a mosquito! But, I liked this little guy tucked into the bushes!

Sculpture at Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Sculpture at Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

Cowbeech House, Hailsham, UK

It’s clear to see Mr Cowbeech is a man of the world! As we say goodbye to Cowbeech House and move on to another garden I had to know, “what is a cowbeech?”

The name Cowbeech was first recorded in 1261 as Coppetebeche, referring to a ‘capped’ or pollarded Beech tree. This was then shortened over the years to Coppebeche, Cobbeach and then to the Cobeech, before becoming the modern Cowbeech. Ahh, that explains it!

See you tomorrow in the garden!

 

Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola; Purple Pizzazz

 

Beautiful Purple Pizzazz in the UK Cottage Garden

Beautiful Purple Pizzazz in the UK Cottage Garden

 

A Spot of Purple Pizzazz

A Spot of Purple Pizzazz

In Europe Crayola calls Purple Pizzazz, Powerful Purple. In the US Purple Pizzazz is a fluorescent color which was introduced to the line in 1990.

In the cottage gardens of the UK you will find some Powerful Purples clustered together to make a beautiful Purple Pizzazz spot in the garden!

This post is just one of many in the Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola Challenge!

 

 

Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola: Blue Violet

The Blue Violet Flowers

The Blue Violet Flowers

 

A Beautiful Garden in West Hoathly, UK

A Beautiful Garden in West Hoathly, UK

I do not know what these flowers are. I think they are primroses. They were a beautiful iridescent Blue Violet! It was just one of thousands of beautiful plants that I saw in the English gardens on my English Garden Tour 2015! 

Just to let you know, I’ve been thinking of what I would do with the lottery money that now is up to over 1 billion. One of the things I would do is purchase a garden and lovely little cottage in the UK and hang out with gardening friends that know all the latin names of flowers. Perhaps they would have a class on such at the local Woman’s Institute meeting, for transplants like me, who would like to be in the know. I can only dream! Well, maybe I could start on one flower. If the flower shown is a primrose, it is called primula vulgaris. How could anything so beautiful be vulgar?

This post is just one of many in the Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola Challenge! Enjoy!

The Dirt on the Domestics; Life with the Bloomsburys

Nellie Boxall, Lottie Hope and Grace Higgin

Nellie Boxall, Lottie Hope and Grace Higgins in their Younger Days with Angelica Bell 

In 1904, the Stephen’s children, Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian, left their comfortable surroundings  in Kensington, after their parent’s death, to move to the bohemian neighborhood of Bloomsbury. Since they could no longer afford the grand house and the ten servants for four people, they chose to escape many of the rituals of the Victorian household.  No more dark rooms, heavy furniture, formal dinners and restrictive lifestyles for them! Vanessa painted all the rooms of their new home white and decorated with shawls and mirrors! Discussing their new lifestyle in their weekly meetings with the Cambridge Apostles, they were full of ideas about how one should live….think, talk, write and paint. This group, made up of middle and upper class men, except for Vanessa and Virginia, formed The Bloomsbury Group, who were dedicated to domestic experiments, which were scandalous to their families and the general population.  (For more information about the members of the Bloomsbury Group see my previous post on the Charleston Farmhouse.)

They all wanted to be free from the social norms of the time, however, there was one problem. None of them could live without servants. For the men it was easier, they were not expected to take care of themselves or stoop to the mundane tasks of running a household. They could either have servants or replace them with wives, who would take care of all the nitty gritty of the household. Vanessa and Virginia had a dilemma.  Staff demanded a lot of time; they would have to hire and train the servants and supervise their work. Where would they find the time to write and paint? Neither of them knew how to clean or cook, since it had never been required of them. If they did the cooking and cleaning themselves, how would they have time to write and paint? Such a dilemma! The women could only follow their grandiose lifestyle because they and their inner circle of friends relied on some sort of unearned family money for support. It certainly was not the same for their servants.

So while the social experiments were forming and taking shape, who did all the work behind the scenes for Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell?

This is what I learned……..about three of the servants, who worked for these two women.

Nellie Boxall, (1890-1965) was the youngest of ten children and orphaned by the time she was twelve. Life for many of these women meant leaving their large families and taking up work as domestics at an early age, and moving away from their villages into the big cities. They had little to no formal education and relied on their large families for emotional support. Without that support they were nervous and often afraid of the unknown in a new family, and new town. They relied heavily on the friendships of other domestics in the household.  When the wealthy could no longer support the large household, it was a blow to the domestic life in more ways than one. There was more work to do and less support and comfort. 

From 1912 until 1916, Nellie worked for Roger Fry (a member of Bloomsbury Group) and then in 1916 joined the Virginia Woolf household as cook, with Lottie Hope as maid. Nellie’s relationship with Virginia was fraught with tension from the start.

Virginia wanted to live the life of “ the fully self-directed, autonomous woman,” but because of her mental instability and nervous breakdowns was looked after by her servants, who supervised her eating, her bodily needs, and her resting times, in addition to the cooking and cleaning, as instructed by her husband. Virginia hated their meddling and felt she never had any time for herself. She constantly wrote to Vanessa with what she called “the servant problem.”  Virginia absolutely loathed the servants.

“I am sick of the timid, spiteful servant mind, my brains are becoming soft by the constant contact with the lower classes,” she wrote to Vanessa.

I think Virginia wanted life both ways. She felt she couldn’t live with the servants and couldn’t live without them. Even with Virginia’s work for Women’s rights, Virginia had no desire to improve the economic situation of her servants. When Virginia went on to make 4000 pounds a year for her writings, she paid a meager total of 40 pounds a year for her two servants! A woman is hardly going to become self sufficient on 20 pounds a year! Why did the domestics put up with all the strife? In the Woolfe and Bell household the servants didn’t have to wear uniforms, attend church, wait on tables, or do “fetching and carrying” for their employers. They enjoyed the glamour of working for famous artists and traveling with them on their luxurious vacations.  They were allowed to mingle with the guests and no longer lived in the dismal attics or basements. The arrangements with the servants appeared to be “unbelievingly lax.” It was a trade off that they all considered. 

Nellie Boxall stayed with the Woolfs until 1934, although she frequently threatened to quit, having big rows with Virginia. Nellie was doing her best to take care of Virginia and Virginia despised her. Nellie wanted recognition for all she did and Virginia refused to acknowledge her. They played on each others dependencies. Nellie did quit (after 16 years) and went on to work for the actor, Charles Laughton, in London. She made much more money and was treated with respect, something that she never had received from Virginia.  She never married or had children. In her middle age she had saved enough money to buy a house, one of the first people in her neighborhood to do so.  The neighborhood children thought she was “a lady” and “a notch higher in her manner,” but also very bossy. Perhaps she was finally able to express her personality that had been suppressed for years.

Lottie Hope (1890-1973) was a housemaid for Virginia Wollfe. She was a foundling and grew up in the Home for Deserted Children at Hambleton in Surrey. She left the Home at fourteen and went into service at the home of Roger Fry, where she worked with Nellie Boxall. She left Fry’s home and moved to the Woolf’s home when Nellie did. When Lottie had had enough of Virginia she left the Woolfe’s home in 1924, and went to work for several of the Bloomsbury Group, but finally settled with Clive Bell and eventually went with him to Charleston Farmhouse, the country house of his estranged wife. Lottie was back living near her good friend Nellie Boxall, who was like family to her.  She left the Charleston Farmhouse in 1941, to work at a local laundry, and lived with Nellie Boxall, in her house. Like Nellie, she never married or had children, but died at the Hambleton Homes for the Aged. For a fascinating read of all the servants that worked for Virginia Woolf I suggest, Mrs Woolfe and the Servants; an Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury, by Alison Light. It sheds light on all the unheard voices of the domestics, while Virginia established her reputation as a feminist. It tells of their meager existence and lack of control of their futures.

Grace Germany Higgins, (1904-1983) called “the Angel of Charleston,” worked for Vanessa Bell for more than fifty years. She came to Charleston at the age of 16 to care for Angelica Bell, Vanessa’s daughter with Duncan Grant. That’s a long intertwined story in itself. I think Grace, at such an early age, was fascinated with the lifestyle created by the Bloomsbury Group, who frequently partied, and lived off and on at Charleston. It certainly would have kept her entertained! Eventually, she was promoted to cook and housekeeper and remained full time at Charleston, even when nobody was there. Was that truly a promotion? There was no indoor facilities, no heating in the house and no running water. When the Bloomsbury gang was all there, and after she had met her household duties and served the Friday evening meal, she was allowed to take her bath outside in the tub, while all  the guests ate their dinner! After her bath she could return and clean up after them! In 1934, she married Walter Higgins, who also worked at Charleston, and they moved into a large bedsit over the kitchen. Ironically, this room is still deemed too un-important to be part of the tour at Charleston. The domestics are still kept firmly in their place.

Grace, her husband, and eventually her son, continued with the Friday night bath rituals the entire time they lived there. Vanessa did have one rule for her varied guests. They had to all be in their proper beds before Grace got up and started to cook and clean. I really think Grace would have known what was going on, she just didn’t let on. Walter Higgins, who hated working for Vanessa and living in her house, finally convinced Grace to leave Charleston, where they had continued to live long after Vanessa was dead. She had stayed to care for the ailing Duncan Grant, who she adored. Grant was always a favorite with everyone. He lived there with Vanessa, and had a child with her, (Vanessa’s wishes as she was madly in love with him), as he continued to carry on with his homosexual friends, who financially supported him until his dying days, while he lived and played at Charleston. He and Vanessa just painted their days away, including every inch of the farmhouse and furniture in squares, circles and triangles, their mantra! Grace took care of them all and never complained! When Grace finally moved to Lewes with her family in 1970, she burned all her detailed diaries of her life at Charleston. She was faithful to them until the end, but her son, John Higgins, recalled his recollections of his mother’s time there to Stewart MacKay, who wrote the book, The Angel of Charleston; Grace Higgins, Housekeeper to the Bloomsbury Group. To get the entire story of Grace and her time with the Bloomsbury Group at Charleston read the book. She truly was an angel! It is an eyeopener in the life of the domestic servant and the hardships they faced. If you read these books, I don’t think you will be disappointed! See you next time as I continue to visit the homes and gardens on my “English Garden Tour!”

The Servants of Virginia Woolfe

Nellie Boxall, Cook, in Later Life, the Woman Standing Far Right

Charleston Farmhouse, Home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex, UK

Charleston Farmhouse, the home of Vanessa Stephen Bell, (Virginia Woolf’s sister) is about six miles from Monk’s House, (Virginia Woolf’s home) as the the crow flies. The farmhouse sits in a big open field, down a long narrow road, in the middle of no where.

This is what I learned……..

In 1916, Charleston Farmhouse was rented by Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant, under the terms of his exemption from the military as a conscientious objector. He and his lover, David Garnett, were employed at a nearby farm and lived at Charleston with Vanessa Bell. Vanessa Bell was married at the time to Clive Bell and would remain so all her life. Their unconventional household became the meeting place for the Bloomsbury Group, a group of writers, artists and intellectuals who had formed from the Apostles group at Cambridge. Vanessa’s and Duncan’s decorative style, made up of squares, circles, and triangles, were featured throughout the farmhouse on every wall, ceiling and piece of furniture! People came and went over the years but the farmhouse was lived in by Vanessa and Duncan for sixty years. Vanessa stated, “it will be an odd life, but……. it ought to be good for painting.” The Bloomsbury members came here to relax and have fun. It was said the group lived in squares, painted in circles, and loved in triangles. To me their life was very complicated. To them they lived a bohemian life, and felt anything was OK as long as it didn’t hurt anybody. I’m not sure you can live that life without hurting somebody. Just my thoughts, I tend to be starchy.

There is no picture taking allowed inside Charleston Farmhouse and only a small group is allowed in at any one time with a well versed guide. You must make a reservation or risk not getting in or having to wait. The rooms show a complete example of the decorative art of the Bloomsbury artists: murals, ceramics, paintings, textiles and objects from their Omega Workshops. Vanessa’s room was painted by Duncan, Vanessa’s lover. (a triangle between her, Duncan and David Garnett) He painted a huge red dog above her bed, to always protect her, and she painted his room in delicate pastel circles, squares, and flowers. There are lots of bedrooms in the farmhouse and what struck me the most were the various ceramic numbers above the doorway representing a specific room. For some reason it reminded me of something you would find in a bordello. Maybe because the guide kept reminding us of all the people who came and went and their various activities there. They did more than paint, write, or talk. The farmhouse was interesting and different and the garden was beautiful. It is now owned by the Charleston Trust, a charity set up in 1980 to restore and maintain the property. Every May there is the Charleston Festival, which draws artists and writers alike to promote the arts. For more information about the Charleston Farmhouse see here. There were several very knowledgable artists among our tour group and artists could be found painting or sketching in the garden while we were there, so it is still an artists’ hangout. Let’s walk through the garden!

Click on any image for a larger look!

While visiting Charleston, I bought a book at the gift shop, called, Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar,  which enlightened me further on the Bloomsbury Group, Vanessa Bell, and Virginia Woolf. Their lives were anything, but conventional. I won’t go into ALL the details, but it was a very good read! The group had ten or so core members, the males, all educated at Trinity or Kings College of Cambridge, and were called the Apostles. Vanessa and Virginia’s brother, Thoby, was friends with the Apostles and this is how they came to meeting at the Stephens home in Bloomsbury, a neighborhood in London, in which Vanessa and Virginia, the only women, were included. Here is the Bloomsbury Group.

Clive Bell, art critic, Vanessa Bell’s eventual husband.

E.M Forster, fiction writer.

Roger Fry, art critic and post impressionist painter. (Had a passionate affair with Vanessa Bell)

John Maynard Keynes, economist. (Had an affair with Duncan Grant, but married Russian ballet dancer, Lydia Lopokova, and eventually lived close to Charleston Farmhouse.

Desmond McCarthy, literary journalist.

Lytton Strachey, biographer, who was Virginia Woolf’s fiancé for one day.  He was a homosexual and in love with his cousin, Duncan Grant.

Leonard Woolf, essayist and non-fiction writer, who married Virginia Stephen.

Thoby Stephen, brother of Virginia and Vanessa, who brought all these men home for dinner and their weekly meetings in Bloomsbury.

Virginia Woolf, fiction writer, essayist and publisher.

Vanessa Bell, post-impressionist painter, started Friday painting club, an addition to the Thursday night intellectual meetings.

Duncan Grant, post-impressionist painter and Vanessa’s lover. He was also the father of Vanessa’s only daughter. He also had many homosexual affairs. What a triangle this was! There was a lot going on with them, read the book!

Were they a group of rich spoiled kids, who did what they wanted, come what may? Or were they trying to change the world? They had grown up in a strict victorian society, and then the great war and the loss of so many men changed the lives of all English men and women forever.  Women were no longer confined to the home and women’s rights were taking front and center stage.  Men and women did not want to return to service for the affluent. The affluent could no longer manage their large estates and homes. So times were changing! Were the Bloomsburys just caught up in this new way of life? Were they the survivors? You can draw your own conclusions. Next we’ll explore the lives of the maids and housekeepers that took care of Virginia and Vanessa! After I had explored  the Bloomsburys, I wanted to know about the other side of that coin! See you next time in the kitchen!

One of my Favorites in the Charleston Farmhouse Garden, Sussex, UK

One of my Favorites in the Charleston Farmhouse Garden, Sussex, UK

The Village of Rodmell, Sussex, UK

The Abergavenny Arms Pub, Rodmell, Sussex UK

The Abergavenny Arms Pub, Rodmell, Sussex UK

In the last several posts I have been writing about Virginia Woolf and her country retreat, Monks House, situated in Rodmell. I am fascinated with small English villages and the people that live in them. Rodmell proved to be one of the smallest, population 250. The Lewes to Newhaven Road twists and turns and upon reaching the Abergavenny Arms Pub, you turn onto a smaller paved road and follow it until it dead ends at Mill Lane, where the parking spaces are for Monk’s House. It was an easy walk through the one lane village of about twenty homes to reach the pub after our visit to the gardens and cottage.  However, I was in for a bigger surprise.

The Sign to Monk's House, Rodmekll, Sussex, UK

The Sign to Monk’s House, Rodmekll, Sussex, UK

This is what I learned………….

The small village of  Rodmell, which can be translated from Old English meaning, place with red soil, has been here before the time of the Norman Conquest, when it was held by Harold II. Located along the River Ouse, the village was an important crossing point between the South Downs way and the Roman road to the port of Newhaven, having a cross channel route to Dieppe in France. The springs in Rodmell made it the perfect place for people to live because there was water here. The original village well is located inside the Abergavenny Arms Pub. So the pub truly was the original “watering hole!”

In 1085, the Doomsday Book noted there was a church in Rodmell, which was granted to Lewes Priory by William de Warenne, Second Earl of Surrey. This early Norman church is dedicated to St Peter. The font is believed to be Saxon predating the church itself. People have been inhabiting this area for a long time. But the most extraordinary find for me, was the name William de Warenne. That name rang a bell. So upon searching my ancestry files, another passion I follow and update regularly, I located William de Warenne. He is my 27th great grandfather! So strolling this small village which has remained unchanged for several centuries was particularly interesting to me!

Let’s admire the village on the way to the pub!

In 1439 Rodmell Manor  was owned by the Bergavennys, hence the name Abergavenny Arms Pub. For more information about the Pub look here.

In the 1600’s Monk’s House was built as a row of a small cottages.

In 1810, a milling family (The Glazebrooks) moved into Monk’s House and the three or four other small cottages on the property were used for agricultural laborers. The Glazebrooks lived at Monk’s House for the next sixty years.  The Mill was on the hillside just on the other side of the pub, and was sold in 1876. There was also a blacksmith at this junction.  So we’ll whet our whistle at the pub since we’ve had another fine day in the UK! We’ll start afresh with the Charleston House, home of Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf’s sister), and learn about the Bloomsbury Group!  See you then!

The Flowers of Rodmell, Sussex, UK

The Flowers of Rodmell, Sussex, UK

The National Trust: The Garden at Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House

The Garden at Monk's House, Rodmell, UK

The Garden at Monk’s House, Rodmell, UK

The Garden at Monk's House, Rodmell, UK

The Garden at Monk’s House, Rodmell, UK

In letters to friends Virginia said, “ The point of Monks House is the garden. I shan’t tell you, for you must come and sit there on the lawn with me, or stroll in the apple orchard, or pick—-there are cherries, plums, pears, figs, together with all the vegetables. This is going to be the pride of our hearts I warn you.”

The Greenhouse, Monk's House, Rodmell, UK

The Greenhouse, Monk’s House, Rodmell, UK

The Chalkboard Sign of Diary Quotes, Virginia, Woolf

The Chalkboard Sign of Diary Quotes, Virginia, Woolf

Many of the details of day to day life found in Virginia’s diary include the gardens. (Note the writing from her diary displayed on the chalkboard in front of the glasshouse that is being reconstructed in the yard.)

By 1928, after expanding their plot Virginia felt they had really started to “dig in.”

So the Woolfs spent their days comfortably, with Virginia writing in her room or in the lodge, and entertaining many of their Bloomsbury friends, while Leonard became an expert gardener.  Virginia often commented the garden was the third person in their marriage. For Leonard tending and developing the garden was totally absorbing. Virginia found peace and tranquility in the garden which helped her mental state of mind, and walking to her lodge every morning was part of her creative routine.

The Vegetable Garden at Monk's House, Rodmell, UK

The Vegetable Garden at Monk’s House, Rodmell, UK

The vegetable garden was so productive, that when the Woolfs were in London they would have a hamper sent to them every week to keep them supplied. The excess produce was sent to the Women’s Institute market.  Home Fires on BBC’s Masterpiece Theatre is a good start to learning about the Women’s Institute and a very good movie about how one of the women’s group chose to raise money is portrayed in Calendar Girls. It is one of my favorite movies!

The Italian Garden, Monks House, Rodmell, UK

The Italian Garden, Monks House, Rodmell, UK

The Italian Garden, Monks House, Rodmell, UK

The Italian Garden, Monks House, Rodmell, UK

The Italian Garden, Monks House, Rodmell, UK

The Italian Garden, Monks House, Rodmell, UK

In 1933, following the publication of Flush (Virginia’s biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel named Flush) they were able to make additions to their garden.  Upon returning from a trip to Tuscany in the same year, work started on an Italian garden by adding plants, pavings and walkways to various parts of the garden.  Virginia’s contribution was to buy pots, urns, and a statue.

Eventually as the garden grew Leonard employed a gardener, Percy Bartholomew,  who would live in one of the cottages near the property that the Woolfs had bought when they purchased Monk’s House. Although their garden was small and unpretentious compared to that of some of their friends, notably Vita Sackville-West, the delightfully small, informal garden is what made it so special. Leonard was so engrossed in gardening that in 1941 he founded the Rodmell Horticultural Society. I wondered if it included everyone in the village, because it is a very small place! Maybe it was his Bloomsbury Group! Next we”ll explore the village of Rodmell so you can see for yourselves! See you there!

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