Friday, 2 January 2009

Low Graythwaite Hall

Just back from a New Year jaunt to the Lake District, staying at this wonderful house, Low Graythwaite Hall, near Hawkshead. Although the east wing was built about 1710, much of it looks straight out of the period of Charles II. In my picture below, Dairy Cottage is on the left and Low Graythwaite Hall on the right.

As with many old buildings, the back is more interesting than the front. You can see from my picture below that what's now the back was originally the entrance, with a little Georgian-style pediment over the front door. (Looks like the Christmas tree has been given the boot!)

We were lucky enough to have a little panelled lounge in the entrance wing to ourselves at the strike of midnight, complete with a real fire. I took a picture of the ornate backplate (below), which is supposed to be the oldest in Cumbria - you can just about read the date 1714 if you look closely.

We also did a trip around Liverpool with the aid of a tourist guide from 1797, followed by an abortive journey to see Sambo's grave at Sunderland Point, both of which I'll blog about very soon.

Pictures © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington

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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

Wishing you health, happiness and contented blogging in 2009.

Above: Lichfield market square. © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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Monday, 29 December 2008

St Bride's, London

Thought I'd share with you my picture of the exterior of St Bride's church in London. I discovered it when - on a crazy errand - I dragged my patient boyfriend from Smithfield to Covent Garden because characters in my 18th-century novel had walked this route and I wanted to know how long it took and what sights they would have seen along the way (it took 35 minutes and a lot of imagination). For some reason, which I forget, we were also trying to find out where the Fleet river came out, having read some fascinating stuff about it in Peter Ackroyd's London: The Biography.

Anyway, on Fleet Street we got side-tracked by this intriguing church (begun in 1673 by Sir Christopher Wren, with the spire finally completed in 1703), which is dedicated to journalists, and because we are both journalists, it seemed rude not to stop and pay our respects. Fifteen minutes browsing the wonderful interior followed. The steeple is actually the model for the traditional wedding cake, first made by a baker on Ludgate Hill in the 18th century (at 234ft it was Wren's tallest). Although my picture of the outside is pretty unimpressive, the inside is beautiful, though it's not original - sadly the interior was destroyed by a fire bomb in 1940, but rebuilt according to the designs of Godfrey Allen, Surveyor to the Fabric of St Paul's Cathedral.

Photograph © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Garrick Temple

Well, in my post about fire destroying Garrick's villa I promised you a blog on the Temple to Shakespeare at Hampton, and here it is. Garrick built the Temple in 1756 and it now houses a small exhibition about the great actor-manager; it's usually open to the public on Sundays between April and September but we made a special trip during Open House London. On this weekend you can get into a range of historic buildings for free - we had a fantastic day in Hampton and Teddington, though I regret not taking the opportunity to visit Horace Walpole's Gothic castle Strawberry Hill while we were in the area (especially as it's now closed for restoration until 2010).

Below is the front of the little Palladian Temple, which you'll recognise immediately from the Zoffany painting above, picturing Garrick with his wife Eva Maria and (I think) a little nephew, playing on the steps.

The Temple itself was possibly modelled on Lord Burlington's Temple at Chiswick House and was a nice spot to invite friends for tea and indulge in a spot of fishing. The riverbank alongside the Temple, which you can see in the picture above, was remodelled with advice by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, who lived nearby and was a good friend of the Garricks. Their villa and the Temple were linked by a grotto-like tunnel under the Kingston to Staines Road which divides the two properties (sadly, it's not open to the public). Below are some pictures of the permanent exhibition, including reproductions of the Zoffany conversation piece and Hogarth's portrait of Garrick as Richard III.

We loved talking to the volunteers at the Temple, who fondly refer to the actor as 'our Garrick', and you have a real sense of his spirit being kept alive. Below is a sculpture of Garrick, sporting a daisy chain.

Garrick also commissioned the fashionable sculptor Roubiliac to create a life-sized marble statue of Shakespeare (below). Visitors were invited to 'sacrifice to Shakespeare' by leaving verses in his honour at the foot of the statue (these often ended up in the newspapers, thanks to Garrick's knack for self-publicity). The actor-manager also displayed his collection of supposedly Shakespearian artefacts here, including a glove, a salt cellar and a signet ring bearing the initials WS.

All Temple photographs © Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.

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