186 Gwydir Street

The David Parr house is a new discovery for Cambridge. The exterior was very shabby and the interior was a mystery to most of the world, but it is highly decorated in the Arts & Crafts style. The house was owned by David Parr, who worked for F. R. Leach & Sons.

The company Leach & Sons were mostly employed in Cambridge restoring and painting churches and the university. Most noted is the work at All Saints Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge in 1870 for

George Frederick Bodley. William Morris was previously employing Leach at Jesus Chapel as early as 1866.

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 Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge. William Morris Designed Ceiling. Executed by F.R.Leach & Sons

After working as Morris’s executant painter at Jesus College and for Bodley and Kempe at All Saints’ F.R.Leach developed a flourishing practice as a decorative artist on his own, and also branched out into the design of stained glass. Further research is needed to establish the complete corpus of his work, but during the 1870s and 1880s he carried out schemes of decoration in the Churches of St Clement, St Edward, Holy Sepulchre and St Michael. Painted work inside Scott’s new Master’s Lodge at St John’s College is also ascribed to him.

In St Michael’s, he worked under the younger Gilbert Scott to decorate the chancel arcades and east wall in 1874. Four years later he also painted the nave and designed stained glass for the west window. The firm was continued by his son, Barnett Leach, at the original premises of 36-37 City Road, until well into the middle of this century. 

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 Interior of All Saints Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge. Designed by George Frederick Bodley and executed by F. R. Leach and Sons.

We may state that the roof of the nave has been richly decorated with black monograms of the Holy Name, and varied scroll work in red colour on the plaster ground… Great praise must be given to Mr F. R. Leach, our fellow-townsman, who is carrying out these works, for it is no small credit these days to be able to work out such details in free hand drawing… and we rejoice that so important a step in the education of the Art workman should be so successfully illustrated in Cambridge.

My memories with the Parr house don’t factor him at all, but I do remember Mrs Palmer. The shop that I have my artworks in is just over the road from 186 Gwydir Street and I would see her walking up and down the road with her walking stick and large coat. Elsie Palmer came to Gwydir St in 1927 aged 12 to look after her grandmother, David Parr’s wife. She lived there for 85 years and inherited the house, got married and had a family within this gothic revival interior.

When she died the property was preserved and has been in the process of being cleaned and restored. As when the house was opened I wasn’t allowed to take photographs inside all of the photos are scavenged from other people who could.

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Duncan Robinson – Morris & Company in Cambridge, 1980

All Saints and Saint Andrew, Kingston.

Here is a brief bit of information and some photographs from the church in Kingston, Cambridgeshire. It’s within cycling distance from my home so I went and took some photos of the church and surroundings.

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The most interesting features of Kingston Church is the wall paintings with-in. Many didn’t survive the reformation and ‘whitewashing’ of churches and fewer still the later Victorian fashion of stripping plaster from walls in favour of stonework and totally refitting the woodwork.

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Above is a wall painting of the Crucifixion, with unusual iconography. On a red ochre ground decorated with a brocade pattern there are three silhouettes, of a crucifix and two figures. On either side of the crucifix is a kneeling angel holding a cup which catches Christ’s blood; beyond these a pair of angels playing musical instruments and a pair censing. The censers, with their chains, were probably appliqué wood or metal. Above the rood are two faint circles, representing the sun, to the left, and the crescent moon, to the right, symbolising life and death.

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One of the paintings on the walls is of the Devil standing on a tree. He has bat wings, a tale and horns. 

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The Seven Acts of Mercy – Wheel of Mercy.

Six of the seven acts, intended to counter-balance the Seven Deadly Sins, were derived from the gospel of St Matthew, Chapter XXV:

  1. feeding the hungry;
  2. giving drink to the thirsty; 
  3. offering hospitality to the stranger; 
  4. clothing the naked; 
  5. visiting the sick; 
  6. visiting prisoners. 
  7. burying the dead – this one comes from the Book of Tobit, Chapter I. 

The wheel is turned by two angels with outstretched arms, one to the lower left, the other to the lower right.

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The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Harlton.

Within cycling distance from my home is the church at Harlton.  The village is known now as the home of Gwen Raverat from 1925 to 1941, although she is buried with her family in Trumpington.

There are various monuments over the church, in windows and on plaques. Also over the church are bits of scratched graffiti as well as a large monument in alabaster and marble. However at the bottom of this post are a set of small statues that are a local secret and rather beautiful.

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The Fryer Monument

The first John Fryer, father of Thomas Fryer, the elder of the men commemorated on the monument, was born at Balsham and educated at Eton, King’s College Cambridge, and the University of Padua, then the greatest medical school in Europe. Although he was for a time a Lutheran, and was indeed imprisoned for heresy in the 1520s, by 1561 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for Catholicism. He was released in 1563, but died of the plague in October of that year. 

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A scratched Elizabethan gravedigger with spade.

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Said to be a consecration mark this pattern can be found all over the country, in churches, barns, castles and on furniture. Most people call them Daisy Wheels or Hexfoils.

The root screen below is said to be Cambridgeshire’s only one made totally of stone.

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The rector of the church in 1908-1922 was William Ellison, it is guessed in the 1920s, his son Henry Ian Ellison was the carver of the twelve disciples in the reredos – in the style of Eric Gill. William on his plaque is listed as having eight children.

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Frost and Fog in Cambridge

Gwen Raverat in Colour

In a past post I wrote about the Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, edited by Kenneth Grahame with 54 wood-engravings by Raverat. All of them black and white. This is a post about her colour wood engravings from The Bird Talisman.

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Gwen Raverat, the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, was an English wood engraver and author. Born and raised in Cambridge, England, she studied art at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1908 and studied under Frederick Brown and Henry Tonks. She was inspired by Thomas Bewick’s wood engravings but the Slade at that time gave no opportunities to study wood engraving. When she left the Slade she went to Paris to the Sorbonne where she met and married Jacques Pierre Raverat, a fellow student and draughtsman.

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These images come from The Bird Talisman is a story written by Raverat’s great uncle, Henry Allen Wedgwood, a London barrister. He originally published it with illustrations by the himself in The Family Tutor in 1852 and then later in book form in 1887.

Gwen took it upon herself to re-illustrate the book with her wood engravings.

She overcame her feeling of “sacrilege in tampering with a sacred work” and tried to illustrate it herself for Faber and Faber. It did not worry her that she had never visited India, where the story is set, for neither had her great uncle; and neither of them made any effort to be accurately Indian.

Her interest in colour printing, which had first appeared in the frontispiece to Four Tales from Hans Andersen, is here developed with rich effect in eight full-page colour plates. 

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She held off agreeing to a contract until she had experimented one of these and settled how to do the various cuts. She decided in each to undertake the main block herself, but to hand over to a blockmaker those that would carry the colour. When de la Mare arranged for these to be done in Vienna, Gwen objected, owing to the German occupation of Austria, and asked to estimate the cost of Austrian blocks, postage and insurance against the of using either English or French blockmakers as she was willing to pay the difference.

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In the end she used an English blockmaker she knew and trusted outlining for him the colour on the second block. She herself cut the plentiful smaller black-and-white engravings, in a variety of shapes and sizes, which help make this the most sumptuously decorated of all her books.It was contracted in February 1939 and due to be delivered in May of that year, but took longer, owing to the painstaking work involved.

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At one point the imminence of war cast doubt over the book’s production. “It’s now so nearly finished that I do hope it will get actually printed and bound, war or no war,” she wrote to Richard de la Mare in late August 1939, “that is I should hope this, if I could think about anything but war.” More positively, she wrote: “I hope you will like the colour plates; they are, at any rate, just what I intended them to be.” She threw further encouragement his way, reminding him that in the last war people had bought a lot of books, “especially if they were absolutely non-topical – quite away from war subjects, which this is. And there’s always Christmas for children even in war. However,” she ended, unable to stem her own despair, “nothing really matters much does it?”

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The book did, however, get published, though work on it was slow for by the time they started printing half the men at the Press had been called up. (This may have limited the number produced in 1939 and helps explain why a second edition was produced in 1945, soon after the return to peace.) †

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Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family and Affections by Frances Spalding, p357, 2001.

Cantab

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 Cantab by Bretherton / Bunbury. Image from the British Museum collection.

Yesterday I bought an etching. Printed in 1772 by James Bretherton after the drawing by Henry William Bunbury. It’s shows a man, likely a priest, travelling by the river. The church in the background is Chesterton church (back then it was surrounded by fields) and the path there left the river toward the town.

His direction confused me for a short while until I remembered there were no bridges on the lower end of the Cam, only ferrymen. The sign to the left shows, he was heading To Cambridge, so not yet there, hence Chesterton. 

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 Detail of Cantab by Bretherton / Bunbury. 

Although many of the prints published by Bunbury were satires, I am unsure of the joke; it may just show the wealth of the clergy in the time of George III and the purpous of the dogs in the bottom left to be the poor. Even without the comedy it’s a beautiful picture in it’s original frame and glass.

Gwen Raverat and all that

Gwen Raverat, the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, was an English wood engraver and author. Born and raised in Cambridge, England, she studied art at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1908 and studied under Frederick Brown and Henry Tonks.

She was inspired by Thomas Bewick’s wood engravings but the Slade at that time gave no opportunities to study wood engraving. When she left the Slade she went to Paris to the Sorbonne where she met and married Jacques Pierre Raverat, a fellow student and draughtsman.

She had some luck to obtain some instruction from her cousin Eleanor Monsell – Mrs Bernard Darwin – who had begun to cut and engrave wood blocks as early as 1898 but soon desisted owing to the pressure of other work. By 1914 Gwendolen Raverat had nearly sixty blocks to her credit. 

She was one of the founding members of the Society of Wood Engravers in 1920, alongside: Philip Hagreen, Robert Gibbings, Lucien Pissaro, and Eric Gill. The book below is a nice collection of styles of Raverat’s work, but it’s not her best work. It is a quaint throwback to when children would read a book of poetry.


The Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, edited by Kenneth Grahame with 54 wood-engravings by Raverat, was published in 1932, printed from the original blocks.

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 Book cover and Boy Reading wood engraving.

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 The King of Spain’s Daughter.

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 The Wagon of Hay.

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 The Moon.

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 The Eve of Waterloo.

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 Winter Has Come.

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 The Boat.

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 Daffodils.

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 The Forsaken Marman.

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 Columbus.

† English Wood-Engraving 1900-1950 by Thomas Balston, 1951
A History of British Wood Engraving by Albert Garrett, 1978.
The Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, edited by Kenneth Grahame, 1932

Dead Greenhouses

In Cambridgeshire there is a ghost town of glasshouses in a field, they have been replaced with a vast new set of tall metal glasshouses some miles down the road, what is left decaying are there shells from the 1930’s and 40’s — home grown boom.

In the later days of their life with cheap imports, from the plastic covered hills of the Almería region in Spain. The greenhouses in Cambridgeshire where used mostly for garden centre boarder plants until left to die, glass falling into itself like flesh and the skeleton remaining.

Walter Hoyle’s Letter to the editor.

From Private View: The Journal from the Cambridge School of Art. Spring 1986.

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Walter Hoyle – Dieppe Harbour, 1986

I thought this letter was so colourful and a rare insight into the world of Walter Hoyle. Sadly little is known online of Hoyle as books are yet to be penned. But this is a rather funny view on his last days at the Cambridge School of Art and Hoyle’s quest for a coast house.

First a brief biography of Walter Hoyle. Painter and printmaker, Hoyle was born in Lancashire. He studied at Beckenham School of Art from 1938 alongside Bernard Cheese, then moved on to the Royal College of Art in 1940. There he was mentored and educated under Edward Bawden, they became close friends and Hoyle later moved to Great Bardfield to live and work alongside Bawden. Hoyle wrote a book called ‘To Sicily with Edward Bawden’ with Olive Cook and also illustrated editions for the Folio Society. After moving to Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, he taught at the Cambridge School of Art, placing great emphasis on printmaking. Hoyle worked amassing the Collection of Original Works for Children in Cambridgeshire, an art project for City of Cambridge Committee for Education. Hoyle retired in 1985 to move to Hastings and Dieppe.

A personal note from Walter Hoyle.
The new editor of ‘Private View’ (Warwick Hutton) has requested a personal note on my activities since relinquishing my commitment to the Cambridge School of Art (and ‘Private View’) in July, 1985.

I spend most of the summer with my family in Dieppe where we have a flat in the old part of town, near the harbour. As usual, I enjoyed Dieppe and spent my time drawing, painting and recovering from the cool flatness of Cambridge. However, I think that it will take more than one summer to regenerate the energy I spent and lost over the years at Cambridge School of Art. I do not regret the time spent with students — that was very worthwhile — but I do regret the time and energy waster on trying to justify art to the almost blind administration and national authorities, and as somebody said — in the land of the blind the one-eyed is King — or something like that.

At the end of the summer I returned to Cambridge, my faith strengthened by Dieppe and my romantic ideals partially restored. We had decided to sell our Cambridge (Bottisham) house and move to the south coast — it would be easier to commute to Dieppe.

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So we cleaned up the house and put it on the market and to my surprise it sold quickly, within three or four days. The prospective buyers who vied the house were fascinated by my studio and etching press — I do not wear a beret or smock, nor do I sport a beard but I think they also found me a curiosity and to top it all, my wife is French and they loved her accent — obviously the right combination for selling property.

We had to dash off to the south coast to look for a house. We started at Brighton — too brash, polished and pretty, Newhaven — a depressingly ugly place, Eastbourne — alright for Aunty, and then Hastings — interesting, rather shabby, a town that has seen better days, very hilly, amazing architecture and many charming Victorian houses for sale. So Hastings it is, a Victorian house with marvellous views above the Old Town.

From the Hastings house I can look out of the window at the sea, this same sea that fills the harbour at Dieppe, and yet Hastings and Dieppe could not be more different, and this variance I find interesting and entertaining. Also, the sky here in Hastings often looks like a Turner or Constable, but viewed from Dieppe it reflects French painters — however, my aim is to work on my own observations and ideas and make both sides of the channel look Hoylish.

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 Walter Hoyle – St Catherine’s with Acanthus ,  1966

This I found difficult to do in Cambridge, Its so complete and correct and no doubt the University and its architecture are partly to blame. There is a strong smell of education like sour wine and a lack of effervescence and creative activity, and a feeling prevails that education is the end product rather than the means.

I will now be crossing the channel frequently and I welcome the immediate stimulus of the two sides of La Manche.

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 Walter Hoyle  – Senate House Cambridge , 1965

Some posts from my instagram account.