Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Country House Architect as Dashing Hero? That Sums up The Steadfast...

 As I have discussed previously in the "About" section of the site, my study and interest in ancient English building styles and revival-style architecture left me rather empty after the completion of my home in the 1990's. While the work has continued on there over the years  (and it still does) I had sought to use the knowledge I had gained in some useful manner, and The Steadfast was the result.

While the book is also currently available through Creatspace in a print version, I just finished converting it to a PDF ebook version that is available from Lulu at $3.77.  To check out a few sample chapters, head over to .

We are providing some copies of the ebook version for free to the first six of our friends who make the request via Twitter - just DM @thelonggallery to let us know - and please be sure to give us a review when you are finished!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

200 Years of Pugin Brings Celebrations, Special Events


2012 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of A.W.N. Pugin, one of the great Victorian architects, and was responsible for a number of well-known buildings as well as countless beautiful designs for tiles, metalwork, furniture, wallpaper, stained glass and ceramics.

For Pugin, Gothic architecture was the greatest style of building, and was hugely influential on other architects and designers of the Gothic Revival throughout the Victorian era.Some of his best known work includes the magnificent interiors of the Houses of Parliament, the church of St Giles, Cheadle, in Staffordshire, and his own house, The Grange, in Ramsgate, Kent, together with the nearby church of St Augustine. As Clive Aslet notes in The Telegraph:

"Before Pugin came to prominence in the 1830s, the Gothic Revival had been an antiquarian affair, a style to titillate the imaginations of Regency aesthetes, in whom ivy-covered ruins and rusty armour roused a frisson of pleasurable gloom. Almost single-handedly, Pugin gave it a new seriousness. What he called Pointed or Christian Architecture became a moral crusade that went global, carried to every part of the world where English was spoken and cathedrals were built, from Brisbane to Bombay"

In celebration of Pugin's 200th anniversary in 2012 here will be events around the country, organised by the Pugin Society and by others. Here is a partial list of just some of the planned events; you can visit the Pugin Society website to find out more.


Thursday 1 March: Commemorative Mass and Reception, Ramsgate

A commemorative mass will be sung in remembrance of A.W.N. Pugin on the two hundredth anniversary of his birth on 1 March at St Augustine's Ramsgate, the church he designed and built on the West Cliff of Ramsgate. Mass will be at 12.00 and is open to all. This will be followed by a champagne reception with light refreshments in the Cartoon Room nearby by kind permission of the Landmark Trust, courtesy of the Pugin Society and assistance of Friends of St Augustine's. A toast to the memory of Pugin will be proposed by Lord Deben, formally John Selwyn Gummer. Pugin Society members are invited to the free reception, but asked to apply for tickets as numbers are strictly limited. Please send stamped addressed envelope. Apply: Professor Julia Twigg, 9 Nunnery Road, Canterbury, CT1 3LS, , 01227 766879.

Wednesday 21 March: Grand Reception and Address at the Palace of Westminster

We are holding a grand reception in honour of Pugin in the beautiful River Room of the Palace of Westminster by kind arrangement of Baroness Wheatcroft and with the support of Laura Sandys MP. The address will be given by Dr Tristram Hunt MP, the well-known social historian, on Pugin, Medievalism and Modernity. Wine and canapÈs. 6.00-8.00 Tickets: £25 with SAE. Apply: Professor Julia Twigg, 9 Nunnery Road, Canterbury, CT1 3LS, , 01227 766879.

Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 May: Art Workshop for young people, based around Pugin Themes

by Dawn Cole, award-winning printmaker, and Tony Roche, from the Wallpaper History Society, who is an accomplished wallpaper designer. Wednesday afternoon (2.00-4.00) will focus on details in the Grange and St Augustine's to learn something about Pugin's design principles. On Thursday (1.00-4.00) these ideas will be put into practice with opportunities to make Pugin-inspired relief prints and stencilled wallpaper designs in the Cartoon Room, by kind permission of the Landmark Trust. Cost: £5.00. Space is limited, no more than ten. Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult. Contact Catriona Blaker for further details.

13-14 July : International Conference: New Directions in Gothic Revival Studies Worldwide, University of Kent, Canterbury

This interdisciplinary conference will be the primary international academic event marking the bicentenary of the birth of A.W.N Pugin. Plenary speakers include: Professor Stephen Bann on Pugin and the French Connection; Professor Barry Bergdoll on Pugin and the Paradox of Historicism; Dr Margaret Belcher on Pugin's Letters; and Professor Thomas Coomans on the Belgium Gothic Revival Worldwide. The conference will be based at the University of Kent in Canterbury, but there will be opportunities before and after to visit key sites in Ramsgate and Cheadle. The conference is organised by Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin of Kent School of Architecture. A special rate is available for Pugin Society members. For further details and joining information:

Visiting The Grange and St. Augustine's

Throughout the year it will be possible to visit The Grange, the house that Pugin designed and built for himself on the West Cliff of Ramsgate, and St Augustine's the church he designed and built next door. The Grange, under the ownership of The Landmark Trust, will be open as usual on Wednesday afternoons 2-4 (booking in advance required 01843 596401). St Augustine's is also open on Sundays 2-4 every week and every Wednesday 2-4. Please note that some restoration will be in progress in St Augustine's during the year. This should not affect visiting, but just in case, if you are coming from any distance, it might be as well to ring 01843 592460 or 01843 596401 to check in advance. Whilst visitors to St Augustine's are welcome to wander at will, there will be official tours at 2.30 on the first Sunday of each month, starting from March, and on Wednesdays (weekly) at 2 and 3.

Open Weekend at the Grange and St Augustine's: Friday to Monday 20- 23 April:

The Grange: every day 10-4 except Monday 10-1. St Augustine's Church: Friday 11-4, Saturday 10-4, Sunday 2-4, Monday 10-1.

Open Weekend at the Grange and St Augustine's: Friday to Tuesday 7-10 September:

The Grange: every day 10-4 except Tuesday 10-1. St Augustine's church: Friday 11-4, Saturday 10-4, Sunday 2-4, Monday 10-4, Tuesday 10-1.



Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Fate of Country Houses: England's Lost Downtons

Millions of people watch Downton Abbey on Television, or visit the stately homes that have managed to avoid demolition, through some combination of good luck, intelligent management or adoption by a group such as The National Trust. Unfortunately, many thousands of houses did not survive. Many were lost to urban development, fire, or simple neglect; years ago, people were less included to worry about conservation, and it turned out that a great homes which had been passed down through centuries could be lost within a generation.


Many of these homes became simply unaffordable as the owners' incomes fell, or due to inheritance tax demands. In the case of Beaudesert (pictured above) the "Dancing 5th Marquess of Anglesey" simply gambled his fortune away, leaving his estate to ruin and eventual sale after his death in Monte Carlo in 1904. While some of the neglectful practices and development schemes common to the 20th century are no longer accepted, many great houses are still at risk.


The Mail's Catherine Ostler presented a fine article on this subject, featuring a number of grand houses that have been lost to the ages. As the article states:

"Death, debt, urban sprawl: there are many reasons why England has lost so many of its Downton Abbeys. A third of Britain’s historic estates, with their elegant country houses, deer parks, farms and churches with family crypts, have been demolished, diminished or turned into flats — 1,000 since World War II. The lucky ones got taken over by the National Trust. The unlucky ones had the contents ripped out and sold off and were then flattened by developers."

The article highlights Historian John Martin Robinson’s new book, Felling The Ancient Oaks,  How England Lost Its Great Country Estates (Aurum, £30), which examines the fate of 21 of these extinct estates, illustrated by poignant photographs of a lost world.

You can read the article HERE.

Buy the Book HERE.

Ellen Leslie: A Go-to Resource for Old House and Listed Property Owners


Ellen Leslie's work takes her all over the UK, researching all kinds of old houses and halls...from medieval manors to Victorian mansions. She studied at the Architectural Association’s School of Architecture, attaining a Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Historic Buildings.

As a regular contributor to Period Homes and Interiors and in other places such as the Country Life property blog,  Ellen has lectured at the Architectural Association’s School of Architecture and regularly gives talks and workshops on architectural history and house histories to interested groups and associations. She is also currently the house history expert on the UKTV Home website to accompany series 2 of Nick Knowles' Original Features

I recently came across a couple of Ellen's articles on - which is a great place to go for information on period and listed building projects. The first, From Alien Priory to Manor House – Uncovering 800 years of History - is an insightful article that give you a snapshot of what is involved in historic building research. It also demonstrates that even the history of what may be described as a rather "modest" house can be full of surprises and interesting details about the people who have lived in them.
"The untold story of this Grade II* building was spread far and wide in the form of maps, deeds, wills, letters, drawings and photographs. My research covered local archives, government records and libraries, as well as the Royal Institute of British Architects, the British Library, the National Archives and the National Monuments Record in Swindon. Researching this house also took me to the archive of Trinity College Cambridge.  Using all these sources, combined with a personal inspection of the building, I was able to bring together the full story of The Manor House. This included who had lived there and how the building has evolved over the centuries."
The second of Ellen's articles, Repair, Alteration and Maintenance: Reasons to Know the History of Your House - sets aside the notion that knowing the history of an old house is simply satisying our curiousity about the past, or indulging some hope that a secret or scandal may be uncovered. As she points out:
"If you own a listed building or you live in a conservation area, there are very real and structural reasons for knowing not only who lived there but when it was built and by whom; knowing what it is built of, where it has been altered, how the building was used. All these elements together define the historic significance of the building and knowing these facts can help you, as the owner, particularly when it comes to repair, alteration and maintenance."
Aside from research needed for planning applications, uncovering information about the construction materials used and how the house has been altered or repaired over the course of many years can prevent unexpected repaier or renovation surprises further down the road. Altogether, you'll find much practical advice and guidance - be sure to check these articles out.

To find out more about Ellen and her work, go to

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Album Sets Shakespeare's Sonnets to Music

Musician Robert Hollingworth, best known for his directorial work with the brilliant ensemble I Fagiolini, has decided to set some of the most famous love poems ever written to contemporary music. Howevere, there is a twist: All the works will be performed on instruments popular at the time of Elizabeth I and her successor, King James.

Singers on the album will include folk star Eliza Carthy, and they are all backed by musicians playing replica instruments such as lutes, a type of 16-string cello called a lirone and a massive stringed instrument called a theorbo. Among the musicians involved in the project is drummer Geoff Dugmore, who dropped his rock and roll roots (having played with Rod Stewart and Tina Turner) to play renaissance drums on an album which has taken six months to record.

The arrangements on the album, which were developed by Hollingworth, have not changed any of Shakespeare's words but have repeated some lines and moved others. The sonnets include 154 poems, and were first published in 1609, just a few years before Shakespeare's death.

The album, called The Sonnets, set to be released on April 23 -- Shakespeare's birthday. Mr Hollingworth says he thinks the venture would have a certain "curiosity value" but expect it to be liked by everyone from pop music fans to poetry-lovers.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chance to Tour Historic Skylands Manor at NJ State Botanical Garden in March and April

 Image Courtesy:
Now is the time to plan ahead for guided tours of the ground floor of historic Skylands Manor at the New Jersey State Botanical Garden will be available on March 4th and April 1 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sponsored by the NJBG/Skylands Association, the group that works with the state to preserve the gardens, the 45-minute guided tours of Skylands history and architecture are conducted by NJBG volunteers.

 Image Courtesy:
Skylands Manor is a Tudor Revival mansion constructed in the early 20th century for Clarence McKenzie Lewis by renowned architect John Russell Pope. Pope also designed many outstanding private buildings, including the Jefferson Memorial and National Gallery of Art, both in Washington, D.C. Among the Manor's many attractions are a remarkable collection of antique stained glass medallions set in leaded windows. It also features a number of valuable items from 16th century German, Bavarian and Swiss sites. The lanterns, electrical fixtures, lamps, spiral staircase rail and gate were fashioned by Samuel Yellin, who was one of the leaders of the American revival of decorative iron art.

The suggested donations for Manor House tours are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students aged 13 to 18, $3 for children aged 6 to 12; and free for children under age 6.

More Delays Confront Project to Repair Elvaston Castle


The Derbyshire county council now says it cannot afford more than £6m of repairs to Elvaston Castle. The Council had been looking for someone to take it over since 1999; the current developer, Highgate Sanctuary had significantly altered plans for a golf course on the castle grounds after recent criticism from English Heritage. As a result, the council says the proposed changes may force it to retender the lease.

The Castle - which is a 19th Century country house built in the gothic-revival style - stands in more than 200 acres of parkland and gardens which attract about 300,000 visitors a year. But the poor condition of the building has allowed it to be open to the public only on rare occasions.

Originally a manor house built for the latter Sir John Stanhope in 1633, the house was redesigned in grand style by James Wyatt in the early 19th century for the 3rd Earl of Harrington. Further modifications were made in the 1830s by the architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham. The gardens were also redesigned by William Barron who spent many years working for the fourth Earl.

A spokesman for Derbyshire County Council says "We are now considering whether we need to go back out to the market. This is because English Heritage had concerns over the scale of the proposed development. If we do go back to the market and choose another developer then we would carry out a full public consultation. Whatever is decided public access to the grounds will remain."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Outstanding 360-degree View of Chastleton House Long Gallery

As part of it's ongoing series of 360-degree views of outstanding architecure, The Guardian/Observer features the work of Rowan Moore, who introduces a spectacular interactive 360-degree panoramic view of this classic example of the Jacobean long gallery.


The Guardian/Observer describes it thus:
"A smallish but satisfying example is in Chastleton House in the Cotswolds, built by a rich wool merchant (or possibly lawyer), whose family later dissipated his wealth and so were unable to alter the original building. Nikolaus Pevsner called the decoration of Chastleton "blatantly nouveau riche, even barbaric, uninhibited by any consideration of insipid good taste", but it now it looks gentle and charming, softened by wobbles in wood and plaster and the fall of light. It is also more bare than it would have been, in the absence of its original artworks and tapestries."


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weston Hall Stands Empty as its Future in Doubt


For now, callers to Weston Hall will find that the telephone goes unanswered--as the popular wedding venue near Stafford has been empty for two weeks and the telephone line is dead. This development comes just two months after an earlier attempt to save the business. The future of facility is now in doubt today its apparent closing.

The Grade II-listed Jacobean building is owned by local businessman Paul Reynolds, who has not responded to contact efforts by the local media. Manchester-based businessman Seyed Deraviz was brought in last year to run the facility after it had been closed for a week, following the departure of Weston Halls’s previous operating staff.

Lottery May Fund Efforts to Restore Betchworth Castle

Four years ago, Martin Higgins purchased Betchworth Castle, a former medieval manor house for a single Pound. Now, he is trying to secure lottery funding to complete his ambitious restoration project. A building historian from Brockham, Mr. Higgins has since been busy in efforts to restore the building site. The success of his plan will rely heavily on his bid to obtain £500,000 of lottery money, which he plans to use for improvements to the castle's terrace, re-planting hedges, creating paths and improving access to the area.


"Since I was a child it has been my dream to own Betchworth Castle and allow others to visit it without trespassing," Mr Higgins said. "It will never be a major tourist attraction, but it is an important part of our local heritage and the views are splendid."

So far, the project has already been funded by English Heritage and Surrey Historic Buildings Trust, but more money is needed to complete the work. Higgins added, "Within a few years I hope to get the paths and landscaping sorted out, but it can be enjoyed in its wild state now."

Read More at  Surrey Today.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

In Praise of Pargetting: The Plasterer's Art


Pargetting is one of the less-common elements found in Tudor and Elizabethan buildings. Perhaps the inherent nature of exterior plasterwork and its comparative durability vs. brick, timber and stone makes this inevitable - but there are still existing examples to be found dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. New or old, it is always a delightful feature whenever it is found.

The term Pargetting derives from the word 'parget', an old Middle English term that is probably derived from the ancient French 'pargeter' / 'parjeter', which means to to throw about, or 'porgeter'- to roughcast a wall. With the ‘wattle and daub’ method of construction (since pargetting is really best suitable for a lathed and timbered backing) the craft became an important and integral part of the building trade until bricks became more freely available. The term is more usually applied only to the decoration in relief of the plastering between the studwork on the outside of half-timber houses, or sometimes covering the whole wall.

In some cases, the pargetter would press the moulds of wet plaster (usually a mixture of slaked lime, sand, hair and the inevitable ‘secret ingredient’, known only to individual craftsmen) to the house exterior until it was fixed. In other examples, the ornate plasterwork is done in-situ totally freehand, in the still-wet lime render. In this case, the work is roughly outlined with a small trowel and then built up with the addition of hair in the lime plaster.

The work is then brushed back into the wall to smooth it out and finally finished with a lime wash. Pargetting patterns came in a variety of forms including friezes (using ribbons of chevrons, scallops, fantails or dots); often there are overall frames enclosing motifs, geometrical or floral designs, and coats of arms. Occasionally devices were stamped on the wet plaster in varying degrees of relief, and work in the time of Elizabeth I of England will often represent figures, birds and foliages.