Sunday, 2 August 2015
The French influence continues inside with the plan: two public rooms in the central axis (Hall and Salon), with three apartments of three rooms (withdrawing room, bedchamber and closet) on each floor with subsidiary service spaces. That, apparently, is very close to the French manner of planning a country house. There is a touch of Baroque too to the original rooms with their luxuriant carvings by Grinling Gibbons, just as there are little Baroque touches to the exterior: the curve of the door pediment crossing the string course on the garden (N) front, and the carving in the pediments. Nothing though to frighten the horses. The paneling is a throwback to the Tudor period. The greatest room in Belton is the chapel, but alas the blinds were down and it was just too dim to photograph, so I can't show you fantastic the Wren style reredos, which is of wood, painted to resemble marble. Looking back through the photos it's become apparent to me that as we go round houses like Belton I tend to photograph the most architectural thing in the room i.e. the fireplace. I've tried to keep the appearance of the fireplace to a minimum in the following images. The two Neo-classical rooms are by Wyatt, the first (1778) replacing the Great Dining Room, and the the second (1776) replacing one of the withdrawing rooms. The fireplace in the last picture is by Sir Edwin Lutyens and came from another house.
Monday, 20 July 2015
Our final port-of-call on what was a busy day was Abergavenny - a lovely market town in Mid-Wales. The priory church is full of good things: a good set of late Medieval choir stalls, a plethora of tombs (Medieval and later) and a remarkable sculpture, in wood, of the sleeping Jesse. It is about life-size and would have formed the base of a monumental sculptural group culminating in a figure of Christ - a 'Tree of Jesse'. It is a rare and fortunate survivor. Of the church the crossing, transepts and chancel (with chapels) are Medieval; the nave is Victorian replacement for the replacement of the Medieval structure. The nave is not too bad, rather G F Bodley in style. Like the priory at Kidwelly that we visited last year it was founded, along with a castle, by a Norman aristocrat (in this case Hamelin de Bohun) as part of Norman invasion and settlement of Wales.
Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Our next stop was the mighty Raglan Castle. As far as Welsh castles go it is not as famous the great Edwardian castles, like Harlech or Caernarvon, however architecturally it gives them a run for their money. It is a large and deeply accomplished Late Medieval design - a Perpendicular Gothic interpretation of Late Gothic French domestic design, both formidable and luxurious. There is an outer and inner bailey, the latter consisting of two courtyards connected by the screens passage at the kitchen end of the Great Hall. From the second courtyard access is gained by a bridge to the great donjon - 'The Yellow Tower of Gwent'. Hexagonal in plan, it stands isolated in the outer bailey surrounded by its own moat and wall. It was both the final place of refuge during a siege and a flanking defense for the main gate to the inner bailey. After a long siege during the Civil War - like the rest of Wales it was a Royalist stronghold - the castle was dismantled, and thereafter left to decay.
Monday, 13 July 2015
Tuesday, 7 July 2015
Saturday, 27 June 2015
Monday, 22 June 2015
Friday morning found us standing outside Tintern Abbey. It's hard to know what to say about this building it is so well known. Some facts: it was founded in 1131, and the abbey church rebuilt in stages in the second half of the 13th century; it remained pretty much unaltered until 1536 and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. For the next two centuries it passed into relative obscurity - the domestic buildings robbed for building stone, but the church left oddly intact - until the late Eighteenth century when it became a locus for the secular cult of Romanticism, and it has been painted, photographed and written about repeatedly ever since. It is, rightly, still on the itinerary of tourists and day-trippers. Rightly, because the church is such an elegant, slightly austere design, as befits a Cistercian house, and its setting is magical. The reasons for choosing this particular place to found an abbey are obvious. It is incredibly idyllic, beautiful. An enclosed, remote place. The proportions of the church are superb. The style is Geometric Decorated with touches of that next stage of Decorated Gothic, Reticulated - eg. the great west window. Everything is clear and lucid. There is no triforium as such but a plain, blank wall, like you might find in some German churches.
The first tours to the Abbey were started by The Rev. John Egerton, who lead parties of friends down river from Ross-on-Wye. Thomas Gray, the poet, and later William Gilpin, anglican priest and aesthetic theorist, made the 'Wye Tour', as it became known, in 1770s in search of the picturesque; "The first source of amusement to the picturesque traveller," Gipin wrote, "is the pursuit of his object - the expectation of new scenes continually opening, and arising to his view." The Wye valley with it's winding course and steep valley offered much to the 'picturesque traveller' including the Abbey then overgrown and surrounded with industry. Gilpin though confessed he wanted to get a ladder and assault the abbey church with a hammer to make it more picturesque for “though the parts are beautiful, the whole is ill-shaped”. The Abbey was only seen for its scenic, landscape value; for other later visitors the melancholic emotions it stirred. Gilpin wrote up his travels in 'Observations on the River Wye and several parts of South Wales, etc. relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the summer of the year 1770', published in 1782. This did much to publicize the 'Wye Tour' and Turner, Coleridge, Wordsworth all followed in Gilpin's wake. "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey" ('Lyrical Ballads') was written on Wordsworth's second visit in 1798.