Monday, November 23, 2009

Beautiful Laser Images of Gothic Structures are Works of Art Themselves

A small team of experts at the Glasgow School of Art have have reach a whole new level of sophistication with their innovatine and super-precise laser image modeling techniques, which are millions of times more detailed and accurate than even the best photographs or films. In fact, the images are precise down to a fraction of a millimeter.

PHOTO CREDITS: The New York Times.

Not only are the images of incredible value in terms of documentation and potential restoration, but one look at the images themselves reveals some very unique and awe-inspiring designs. Using their advanced technology, the experts can now imagine what objects may have looked like long ago. With the ability to simulate the effects of climate change, urban encroachment or other natural or man-made disasters, they also have a way to project what a site may look like in the future as well.

After scanning a decaying iron bridge in Dundee, the team eventually took on additional projects, at sites like Stirling Castle and Rosslyn Chapel, the 15th-century Gothic fancy to which The Da Vinci Code has brought a great deal of attention. According to a NYT article:
The basic principle behind the laser technology is simple: A box, with a laser inside, sits on a tripod; as the box slowly rotates 360 degrees, the laser, moving up and down, bounces its beam off whatever is solid in front of it. In so doing, it registers some 50,000 points in space every second. Traditional surveyors might produce a couple of hundred measurements a day, prone to subjectivity and human error. Lasers collect millions of measurements per hour. A scanner can even identify certain materials, determining whether something is, say, made of glass or stone.
The benefits of storing and distributing state-of-the-art views of the world’s most precious cultural and historic sites at a relatively low cost are plain. Canadian-born Douglas Pritchard is the wizard behind the Digital Design Studio at the art school, heading the Scottish laser expedition with David Mitchell, director of Historic Scotland’s Technical Conservation Group. Check out the complete NYT article HERE.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Henry VIII's Newly Rebuilt Love Nest now Available

A property where Henry VIII stayed with his second wife Anne Boleyn has recently gone on the market after was rescued from a state of near collapse.The red brick Tudor gatehouse on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent is all that remains of Shurland Hall, the Tudor palace owned by a courtier of the King, Thomas Cheyney. Built between 1510 and 1518, it stands on the site of a previous 13th century castle.

The Hall had been described as a "stately residence" and "a manor comparable to that of any gentleman in Kent." It had a private chapel, stables, mews, kennels, offices, gardens and a well house amongst other things. Shurland Hall had been neglected for many years and was in a ruinous state although it now has been finally refurbished by the Spitalfields Trust and put up for sale for £2m.


"It is an amazing, unique site which has been occupied since pre-Roman times," said company spokesman Oliver Leigh-Wood. The gatehouse had been unoccupied since World War II and was covered in scaffolding when representatives from the Trust first saw it. The building had no walls or floors, but has been rebuilt into a five-bedroom house with the help of a £300,000 grant from English Heritage.

In the grounds are the fragments of the great hall of the palace, where Henry and Anne were entertained. According to the local history, Henry VIII and his new wife Anne Boleyn visited Shurland Hall in 1532, while traveling to France to meet Francis I. Leaving London shortly after an outbreak of the plague began, they stayed for two days while Sir William Cheyne was using the hall as his family home. For more information, visit the Sheppy website, and see a short video on the BBC website where Oliver Leigh-Wood describes the gatehouse before it was refurbished HERE.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Homes of the Rubber Barons: Harvey Firestone's Harbel Manor

Luckily, Akron still has Stan Hywet Hall, but it wasn't the only great English-style home built by one of the city's rubber barons. Though not quite as large, nor as architecturally significant as Frank Seiberling's home, Harvey Firestone's Harbel Manor was still an exquisite house, loaded with many impressive design features. Firestone loved to entertain his many friends there, including Henry Ford, and he died there in his sleep on February 7th, 1938.

Firestone originally built the house in 1912, placing it on 60 acres in West Hill, which was on the outskirts of Akron at the time. Reportedly, he had to borrow the funds for both the land and the house because he was often cash-starved as a result of always re-investing his money back into his tire company. In his book, The American Country House, Clive Aslet noted that Firestone himself once reflected: "Why is it that a man, just as soon as he gets enough money, builds a house much bigger than he needs?"

On her Q&A blog, Highland Square Neighborhood Association Board Member Rosemary Reymann goes on to tell the story of Harbel Manor:

"The Harvey Firestone Mansion, Harbel Manor, was at the site of [the current] Georgetown Condominiums, with the polo field at the site of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church. You can still see the wall for Harbel Manor at the northwest corner of West Market and Twin Oaks. Torn down in 1959, the house was of the Free English Manorial style, designed by architects Harpster & Bliss, with a sensitive addition in 1916 on the north side by architects Trowbridge & Ackerman. The landscape architect was Alling S. DeForest. There is a model of the mansion in the Archives of the University of Akron, housed in the basement of the Polsky's Building."

While it's truly unfortunate that this great home could not be preserved, the loss of the building is really no surprise. Torn down during a time when such huge homes were commonly seen as money-guzzling white elephants - and before it was common to re-use such structures as offices - it's doubtful that the Akron community would have been able to support and maintain two large historic houses like Stan Hywet and Harbel Manor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rich Colors, Exuberant Designs on Display in The Tudor Pattern Book

As a lover of beautiful books and illustrations, one of my favorite resources on the Internet is Bibliodyssey, which features a wide array of works highlighting the art and science of historical book illustration. Curated by Sidney's Paul Peacay, the site is a treasure house of beautiful and exquisite period book illustrations.

Of interest to many of our readers would be this collection of designs from a volume known as the Tudor Pattern Book, (Bodleian MS. Ashmole 1504 ) which includes a wide range of illustrations, including herbal and bestiary images, as well as other decorative motifs. The images are full of imagination, color and detail, and are a great source of inspiration for those interested in Late Medieval and Tudor design. This particular example deserves to be treasured, as the site explains:

"Pattern books were practical tools and also helped to circulate artistic traditions and ideas around the manuscript making community. Because they were working documents, passing between many different people, few medieval pattern books have survived.

Researchers have estimated that this particular book was actually created about 1520; a slightly older (twin) version is now part of the Yale Center for British Art collection, which is housed in New Haven, Connecticut. To see all of the Tudor Pattern Book designs featured in this Bibliodyssey post, you can check out the article, HERE. Paul Peacay is also on Twitter at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Now - The Steadfast Available Online

We've been planning this for a while, and now it's happening...each week, we'll be uploading a brand new chapter of The Steadfast online for you to enjoy.

Based in London in 1895, the novel follows the adventures of British architect G. Morris Moneypenny - a talented designer and a true renaissance man - as he is thrust into a new and unpredictable world of deadly anarchists, arms development and political intrigue.

Morris designs houses any fan of TLG would love...sprawling Olde English piles, inspired by the work of his elders like Richard Norman Shaw and Philip Webb, as well as contemporaries like Lutyens. In his plans, his practice and his adventures, he draws upon his creativity, his appreciation of history, and his deeply-embedded sense of propriety to win the day. The new chapters will be available HERE. Have a go...and tell your friends.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tudor Oak: Using Original Techniques to Create Inspired Reproductions

Founded in 1970 by Richard Foreman, Tudor Oak is a specialist UK manufacturer of not only fine English Oak reproduction furniture, but also makes some selected pieces in English Cherry, Walnut and Yew wood. The company's high-quality, hand finished pieces are fully distressed and colored to simulate the warmth and character of genuine antiques. Tudor Oak also offers an very comprehensive selection, with over 350 different designs available.

One of the first examples of their work which we'd like to highlight is this excellent #472 bookcase and display unit, which features 6-pane glazed top doors, 3 panelled lower doors, highly detailed hand carving, and bun feet. It's a useful and substantial piece that - while certainly echoing Tudor designs - isn't so period-specific that you couldn't use it in many different situations.

The #5 oak chair we have pictured is a very traditional Late Tudor or Jacobean design, with an ornately-carved back panel. It's solid piece that may not be for every situation, but which would certainly deserve pride-of-place in a foyer or library.

Lastly, we've included the #105 sideboard from their Parsonage Collection, which offers something a little different from their more traditional Tudor-styled furniture designs. Produced in a lighter oak, the design of this range is less ornate and much simpler, yet the general lines we see reflect an appreciation of the arts-and-crafts period, and thus are quite appropriate for Olde English style homes as well as more contemporary interiors.

Tudor Oak can either offer standard or heavy distressing of select pieces, depending on how "old" you prefer them to appear; they can also match color at an additional cost. It's also good to know that in addition to manufacturing fine furniture, Tudor Oak also undertake specialist period architectural joinery - working closely with architects, specifiers and builders to create custom designs using their traditional skills and kiln-dried timber.

To find out more about their lines and pricing, visit Tudor Oak's website HERE.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Questions About the Site of the Battle of Bosworth

Even thought the battle that initiated the Tudor dynasty took place over 500 year ago, the actual site of Bosworth Field has never been precisely located, with scholars still arguing about it. Recently, a team of respected historians and archaeologists announced that it has finally determined the real site of the battle - and the site is not exactly where everyone thought might have been.

The group's newly-established battle site is approximately two miles to the south and west of the traditionally-placed site - which is still marked by a stone memorial topped by a plaque. Checking soil samples, analysing peat deposits and carrying out searches with metal detectors, this latest team of investigators have turned to ancient documents and other clues in order to sort out the ancient riddle. Among their finds are over twenty led shot which would have been fired by the crude medival artillery of the time.

To read more about thsis tory, check out a Guardian article here - as well as this interesting article about the contemporary use of artillery in the Mail Online.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sounds Made for The Season: New York Polyphony

Come each November, I seem to undergo a slow transformation; the island music which lilts across my backyard pool and the bottles of ice-cold Corona quickly give way to ancient music and dark ales as the holiday season begins to take hold. During the winter months, an idle night will often find me seated in the dining room, listening to old madrigals or ancient drinking songs of one sort or another, trying various ales out in an effort to decide what to serve at Christmas.


I've recently come across a new (to me) ensemble, New York Polyphony, which clearly has staked a claim to accompany those efforts this season. The group came together in 2006, and their debut CD, I Sing the Birth, was released on Avie Records in 2007. That disk gained universal praise, and for good reason - the group's clear, rich and engaging a capella sound is well-suited to the works they have chosen to perform. Indeed, the ensemble, which includes Tenor Geoffrey Silver, countertenor Geoffrey Williams, baritone Scott Dispensa and bass-baritone Craig Phillips takes on a wide range of music, from medieval chant to 21st-century liturgical compositions.

The group recently finished a number of Midwest and Rocky Mountain region dates in September, and is next set to appear at the First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta on November 22 and in New York City on December 12th. New York Polyphony is also set to release a CD of Elizabethan-inspired music recorded at Manhattan's Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in spring 2010.

To hear some of this great music, visit the group's website or listen on line at Lala.

Friday, November 6, 2009

FREE STUFF: Enjoy These Very Large Wallpapers

We've been determined for some time to try and offer some free items for our visitors, and here are some wallpapers we've created as a start. Sized at 1920 x 1200 pixels, they are great for large, wide-screen monitors, and can be easily re-sized to fit smaller-size screens as well. We're working on adding some standard aspect-ratio sizes like 1280 x 1024, and should have those ready soon.

Our first design features a painting titled the Embarkation at Dover, featuring Henry VIII’s English fleet setting sail from Dover en route to the Field of the Cloth of Gold on 31 May, 1520. This painting was created about 25 years later, and one of the ships is probably supposed to represent the Mary Rose, though it did not make that particular trip.

The second design features Rembrandt's well-known depiction of The Night Watch, completed in 1642. The painting may be more properly titled The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch. It is on prominent display in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and is its most famous painting.

The last design features this year's set of Royal Mail stamps, featuring well-known portraits of the Tudor Royal Family.

To download, simply click on the images above, and in most browsers, they will open in a new window or tab. Right-click to "Save As", then go to the folder where you saved them and Right-Click again and select "Set as Desktop Wallpaper." Enjoy all of these, compliments of TLG!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Guy Fawkes Night

For 400 years, bonfires have burned across England on November 5th to celebrate the failure of the famous "Gunpowder Plot" in 1605. On the very night that the plot was foiled, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night and is commemorated every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hunters & Gatherers: Found Objects

One of the funnest aspects of appreciating the Ancient Styles is searching for and finding various objects which can be incorporated into a new creation or some room design. I'm not averse to pulling over to the curb when someone sets out an unwanted treasure on trash pickup day, and I'll always stop in at the local Goodwill or Salvation Army store to see what the truck has brought in. Fortunately, most of what I'm looking for is clearly out-of-fashion, and unless it's an antique of some obvious value, the object is usually left sitting on the shelves for me to claim.

This Renaissance-style candle sconce (left) is a great example of just such an item; it's ornate strap work and flourishes modeled in the very best heavy plastic that you could find in 1963, when it was manufactured by Homco. Though I know most would be totally dismissive of anything plastic, this sconce is actually quite well-done; the original finish certainly does not look like plastic, and at $1.50, it was a nice fit for my current budget. My only regret is that I could not find a pair.

The second example I've included here today wasn't really found by me, but obtained as a gift from my best friend, who was a former city councilman. Back in the 1990's a local redevelopment project required a partial demolition of the huge M. O'Neil Co. department store on Akron's Main Street. Though most of the building was thankfully preserved and renovated, the back portion was taken down, and my friend claimed a few of these cast concrete parts from the Italian-renaissance balustrades that graced some of the upper office windows. About 12" long, I once thought to make some type of lamp or candle-base from it, but for now, it remains an interesting and sentimental relic.

If you have any interesting found objects of your own, send us a photo - we'd love to see them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

OLD BOOKS: Sydney Jones' 64-Page Treatise on How to Draw Houses

I have always been a huge fan of good architectural photography, whether it's Charles Latham's classic house images from Country Life or sharp new work from photographers like Andy Marshall at Nevertheless, there is something marvelously evocative about superb architectural drawings as well, and I have always been a big admirer of the work of Sydney R. Jones, who's illustrations for books such as P.H. Ditchfield's The Manor Houses of England as well as many other classics, like Old Houses in Holland, The Village Homes of England, and Thames Triumphant resonate so perfectly within these old volumes.

As a result, I was thrilled to add this tiny volume of just 64 pages to my book collection - How to Draw Houses, which was written and illustrated by Jones and published by The Studio in 1946.

Brief and appropriately illustrated by the author, the little book touches on the proper pencils and papers to use, as well as subjects such as proportion, perspective, light and shade, construction details, composition, textures and even thoughts about the illustration of interiors. Jones explains his overall purpose at the outset of the book:
"Because house and home mean so much to the majority of people, it is not surprising that boys and girls, grown-ups, and quite young children also, often, say, " I wish I could draw my house ". This is a very natural remark to make. But before the wish may end in good results, it is necessary to know how to proceed. John Ruskin once said, and with great truth, that almost anyone could learn to draw by really trying to do so. I therefore hope to show the methods of drawing houses, in order that anyone who wishes to try may succeed in drawing his or her own house, and the homes of other people too."

To see more of Jones' work, I'd suggest visiting the online Internet Archive, where a full copy of The Manor Houses of England (no longer in copyright) is available as a PDF here, as well as a number of other fine period books on architecture.