The Spell + Roupell Street

1 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Gazing at a house on Roupell Street, any house, lucky number seven, luckless number 13, before a visit to The King’s Arms (crammed Monday to Friday; only the fireside cat for company at the weekend), after a visit to The King’s Arms, makes us think of that part in Alan Hollinghurst’s The Spell when, in the grips of his first ecstasy experience, Robin Woodfield realises why house music is so called: “Because you want to live in it.” Or there’s the picture of a house in the photographic book Camera Lucida which Roland Barthes captions, simply and perfectly, “I want to live there.” It’s a short cut to The Cut, thespians acting at the Old Vic, acting up at the New Vic.

2 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

A grid, a toast rack, a tight urban grain, a bout of Augustan nostalgia, a classical survival in an otherwise redeveloped postcode. Roupell Street runs parallel with both Theed Street and Whittlesey Street to the north and Brad Street to the south all traversed by Windmill Walk. The early 19th century terraced houses, once unremarkable by their compact ubiquity, now listed for their intact rarity, a lesson in brick for planners and architects. The original artisan workers have long gone, replaced by harrumphing gazumping bankers, collars swapped from blue to white. Modest houses bought with immodest bonuses. Appropriately, property developer Mr Roupell also worked as a gold refiner.

3 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

4 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

5 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

6 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

7 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

8 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Ian Nairn writing of course in Nairn’s London: “Here is true architectural purity… nothing but yellow London brick and unselfconscious self respect. Whittlesey Street is… two storeys made into three with a blind attic window concealing a monopitch roof of pantiles. Roupell Street answers with a wavy pattern. On one level there is no finer architectural effect in London.” Stock brick darkened by soot over the passage of time, closer in colour now to the Welsh roof slates, incidental homogeneity. Originally the timber sash window frames holding mouth blown hand spun glass would’ve been painted black; they’re all white now. Solid to void relationships are predictable, correctly so. A pleasing wallage to window ratio is maintained.

9 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Who says repetition is monotonous? Who says repetition is monotonous? It creates rhythm. Strength and safety in numbers, arithmetical progression. Ah… the terrace. The arrangement of buildings in friendly continuity, expressing conscious couplings by the noblest concepts of civic design. The two bay houses of Roupell Street coincidentally correspond to the height and width of the arches of the massive railway viaduct which ponderously makes its elephantine progress across the area carrying wistful commuters longing to live in this coveted patch of SE1. Each has a butterfly roof with two pitches nose diving into a central valley gutter that drains to the rear. The gables on the grander three bay Theed Street and Whittlesey Street houses are hidden behind one continuous high, no, make that very high, stone coped parapet with three blind mice windows. Mono pitched roofs descend behind ending in cat slide returns.

10 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Character is derived from uniformity and regularity of appearance. Regimented form contributes to cohesive sense of place, place having lost its definite article. Come closer. Character is also derived from the quiet details. Stucco cornices and pediments, arches over openings, half moon fanlights, iron knockers, tall chimneys holding slender pots shrouded in a spider’s web of aerials, striped bollards guarding granite kerbs like Lilliputian lighthouses.

11 Roupell Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

“The period of domestic architecture from which of all others we have most to learn is the Georgian,” ponders Trystan Edwards. “The essential modernity of the Georgian style should be widely recognised. If we do not derive full benefits from this tradition, the failure will certainly be justified by the extremely disputable suggestion that such a manner of building is unsuitable to our present social circumstances. Its reliance on the virtue and dignity of proportions only, and its rare bursts of exquisite detail, all express as no other style has done, that indifference to self advertisement, that quiet assumption of our own worth, and that sudden vein of lyric affection, which have given us our part in civilisation.” Roupell Street – so Georgian; so English; so reticent, gentlemanly and polite; abstracted; understated classical authority; so not suburban; so not Poundbury.

Roupell Street Waterloo © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

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Clea Irving + sketch Mayfair

A Play on Words

Sketch Mayfair Parlour Ceiling © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

sketch, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is, “A rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture.” Or, “A rough or unfinished version of any creative work.” Or, “A brief written or spoken account or description, giving only basic details.” Or, “A short humorous play or performance, consisting typically of one scene in a comedy programme.” Or, “A comical or amusing person or thing.” sketch is also Mayfair’s most up for it eatery with so much art and music it’s institution as installation. If art makes what was not there before, sketch creates what was lacking.

Sketch Martin Creed Gallery @ Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

“Over 50 artists are represented here,” relates the beautiful art curator, Clea Irving, gazing at Annabel Karim Kassar’s Trophée Stag Light, Mark Lawson’s Bell Ash Tray, Ron Gilad’s Dear Igo Spider Lamp. Names, names. “My job is curating, assisting artists – sourcing plates!” she laughs. A conduit. Melbourne born UCLA educated Clea also arranges Sunday evening art classes in the Parlour from life drawing to lessons on design. The salon reborn. “It’s a Grade II listed house. It was previously the home of a balloonist, suffragettes, occupied for a spell by Dior, then RIBA. We’ve 190 staff but no elevator, just the original staircase. As the bar is being cleared at 4am, the pastry chef arrives. We’re 24 hours, front of house, back of house. It’s a little bit Downton Abbey.”

The Glade is a verdant decadent fecund indoor garden brimming with 1950s French rattan furniture. “It was dreamt up by partners slash life partners Carolyn Quartermaine and Didier Mahieu, both artists,” explains Clea. “An enchanted fairy tale forest in central London. A postcard provided inspiration for the découpage walls.” Mrs Delaney on weed. The Gallery, a colourful cavernous cacophony by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed, is about to be revamped, given a rollercoasting makeover by Turner Prize nominee David Shrigley. Both downstairs restaurants serve Viennoiseries and afternoon tea with Dubonnet and Gin, the Queen’s favourite tipple. The menu is decorated with images from the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalogue.

“Restaurateur Mourad Mazouz oversees the interiors,” explains Clea, “And master chef Pierre Gagnaire looks after all the restaurants including the two Michelin star Lecture Room and Library upstairs. The interiors personify Mourad’s style and taste, his sense of humour. They’re purposely over ornamental, over the top, exuberant, playful, funny, tongue-in-cheek, about performance. Unlike Christo and Jeanne-Claude revelation through concealment, sketch’s décor is extrovert!” A barrel vaulted coffered kaleidoscope, a translucent tectonic Teutonic tartan, hovers over a pale monochromatic moonscape. Enigmatic eggs, USOs (Unidentified Stationary Objects), hatch humans (completely out of the loo). Blue steps for boys; red steps for gals.

She suggests, “People like to feel intimate when fine dining. Even though there are 46 covers in the Lecture Room and Library, the padded walls create that effect, softening the acoustics, adding ambiance.” Designed by South African born London based Gabhan O’Keeffe, burnt amber upholstery merrily zigzags across carpets and chairs, a marble Adam fireplace adding a moment of sobriety. Found and reflected objects fuse to become an eclectic whole. The restaurant as gallery, the Gallery as restaurant. Visual stimulation for digestion. “London’s where it’s all happening. There’s access to the best history, teachers, media. We’ve five of the best art schools in the world: Central St Martin’sCourtauld, Goldsmiths, RCA, Slade.” And with that, Clea finishes filling in the outline of sketch. The picture is complete.

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Heron Tower Duck + Waffle

Windows on the World

1 Heron Tower Duck + Waffle © lvbmag.com Stuart Blakley

As its name suggests, Duck + Waffle isn’t the most glaringly obvious choice for a chronic coeliac, devout vegan and puritanical pescatarian. But then this restaurant puts the extra in front of ordinary. A high speed glass lift swoops customers like a ravenous transparent vulture from street level up 40 storeys in sixteen seconds of ear popping heart stopping stomach churning vertigo inducing awe inspiring spirit lifting butt clenching knicker bocker glory.

2 Heron Tower Duck + Waffle © lvbmag.com Stuart Blakley

The view from our table reminds us of Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida. “The Photograph belongs to that class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying both: the windowpane and the landscape.” The great indoors and great outdoors as one. Filling the foreground is the sharp grey homogeneous city, all metallic silver angles and bottle green glass shapes. A morning mist lingers over the blurred strange hinterland beyond, merging with the hazy blue sky toward an uncertain horizon. The tip of the glacial Gherkin is our neighbour.

3 Heron Tower Duck + Waffle © lvbmag.com Stuart Blakley

4 Heron Tower Duck + Waffle © lvbmag.com Stuart Blakley

Under a sea of yellow waves billowing across the ceiling, rough luxe, loud music and smooth service collide. Classic comfort dishes originally styled, it’s the sort of place does all day breakfast. Duck egg en cocotte it is then, a soft delight of wild mushroom strips, truffle and Gruyère with soldiers standing to attention. Essex beets and goats’ curd to follow, nuts giving it crunch. Hash browns and sourdough bread and elderflower cocktails please. Lunch ends on a high, well it would, with cinnamon sorbet.

Duck + Waffle Hash Brown © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

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Mayfair + The Grosvenor Estate

All That Glitters

1 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

“He walked, as was his custom, through the shaded streets and pleasant squares of Mayfair,” writes Michael Arlen in A Young Man Comes to London, 1932. “This corner of town was our hero’s delight. He loved its quiet, its elegance, its evocation of the past. Of Mayfair he wrote those stories which no editor would publish. In those stories he dwelt on the spacious lives of the rich and on the careless gaieties of the privileged.”

2 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Mayfair has long been celebrated in literature, most famously in the 1890s in Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband and Lady Windermere’s Fan. This compact area, north of Piccadilly and west of Hyde Park, a patchwork of streets linking the generous squares of Grosvenor, Hanover and Berkeley, has been developed by several landlords  over the last few centuries, most notably the Grosvenor family. There are four “golden streets” of the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair and neighbouring Belgravia: Mount Street, Elizabeth Street, Motcomb Street and Pimlico Road.

10 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Mount Street shines the brightest. East to west, it starts opposite Alfred Dunhill off Berkeley Square and ends at Grosvenor House Apartments, Park Lane. The hotel is on the site of the Grosvenor family’s original townhouse or rather town mansion. Edwin Beresford Chancellor records in 1908, “Park Lane is synonymous with worldly riches and fashionable life. Down its entire extent, from where it joins Oxford Street to the point at which it reaches Hamilton Place, great houses jostle each other in bewildering profusion on the eastern side while on the west lies the park with its mass of verdure and, during the season, its kaleidoscopic ever-shifting glow of brilliant colour.” Park Lane is London’s Park Avenue (Manhattan not Bronx).

9 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Pair of large Nicholai I vases at the Mayfair Gallery

5 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Between the classical Protestant Grosvenor Chapel on South Audley Street and the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, known to all and sundry as “Farm Street” after its address, lie Mount Street Gardens. First laid out in 1890 on the site of a former burial ground, the gardens are now a sanctuary for locals, travellers and wildlife. Native London Plane trees grow between a more exotic Canary Island Palm and Australian Mimosa in this sheltered oasis.

7 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Close to where Mount Street meets South Audley Street is the Mayfair Gallery. A treasure trove of furniture, lighting, paintings, sculpture and objets d’art, it was founded by Iranian born Mati Sinai who has dealt in antiques since the 70s. “Mayfair was and still is the premier location in London from which to exhibit and sell some of the pieces we have acquired over the years,” he says. “There is a peaceful serenity to the area.” His two sons Jamie and Daniel have joined the family business. “Once upon a time,” Mati says, “90 percent of our sales went to Japan and the US. Whilst we do still get customers from those regions, the growth of Russia, the Middle East and now China has radically changed our business.” A pair of vast vases commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I stand proudly in the shop front. The streets may not literally be paved with gold, but even on the outside of the red brick buildings are blue and white ceramic vases set in terracotta niches.

8 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

Mayfair has always attracted the rich and famous. Chesterfield Street alone boasts three blue plaques marking the homes of former Prime Minister Anthony Eden, playwright William Somerset Maugham and dandy Beau Brummell. The Queen was born in Mayfair, 17 Bruton Street to be precise. A Michelin starred Cantonese restaurant called Hakkasan is now at that address. Sketch on nearby Conduit Street is such a fusion of art, music and food that it is an installation itself. Art curator Clea Irving says, “Mayfair has a high concentration of artistically minded people – architects, artists, fashion designers, gallerists.” The fine dining restaurant at Sketch has two Michelin Stars.

4 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

A property budget of £1 million will at best stretch to a studio flat in this “golden postcode”. Established over 30 years ago, Peter Wetherell’s eponymous estate agency is on Mount Street. “Wetherell recognises that people from around the world seek Mayfair’s finest properties,” he says.  A few doors down, 78 Mount Street has just been sold by Wetherell for £32 million. This corner mansion, originally built for Lord Windsor in 1896, has five reception rooms, nine bedrooms and nine bathrooms spread over six floors. An international influence is evident in its architecture, from French neoclassicism to Italian Renaissance and English Arts and Crafts. Two of Osbert Lancaster’s architectural idioms originate in Mayfair: “Curzon Street Baroque” and “Park Lane Residential”. Another two could easily be “International Eclecticism” and “Grosvenor Grandeur”.

3 Mount Street © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

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Ogilby Family + Altnachree Castle

Pieces of Me

Altnachree Castle © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

It is not a complete building; it has been broken into pieces inside me; a room here, a void there; a lintel surmounting nothingness, a transom and mullion framing perpendicular space, and then a piece of an empty hallway that goes nowhere but is preserved as a fractured fragment suspended mid air. Cracked. In this way, it is all dispersed inside me, a skeleton; the fleshless flights of stairs where you once moved through the darkness as blood flows through my veins… all this is inside me and will never cease to be there. Awakening. It is as if the ceaseless images of this dreamlike house had fallen into me from an infinite height and shattered upon my ground, splintering my very existence.

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SCABAL + Christ Church Spitalfields

Raising the Profile

2 Christ Church Spitalfields © SCABAL @ lvbmag.com

It appears in paintings, guides, novels and Gavin Stamp places it on the front cover of his latest collection of essays Anti-Ugly. Hawksmoor’s Grade I listed Christ Church Spitalfields is about as high profile as a building can get. Jon Buck of Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects (SCABAL) considers it to be, “A strong white stake in the dissenting soup of different interests of early 18th century London. ‘Here I am!’ it proclaims.”

A row of buildings including the original Christ Church Primary School once stood next to it on what used to be Red Lion Street, now Commercial Street. The school moved to nearby Brick Lane and the adjacent churchyard was decommissioned in 1874. An informal garden emerged along the vacant frontage and by 1970 a youth centre occupied part of the site. Nine protected London Plain trees date from the decommissioning.

The current Rector, backed by the London Diocese, has a vision for this sliver of urban space sandwiched between Fournier Street and Fashion Street. Geographically and symbolically, Rev Andy Rider sees the church as a meeting place of creative East London and the financial City to the west. An integral element of this vision is the new nursery and community building which provides much needed accommodation while opening up twice as much usable outdoor space. For instance, the northern flank is much shorter than its predecessor resulting in a more generous space next to the church.

Christ Church Spitalfields © Stuart Blakley lvbmag.com

SCABAL won the bid. Jon believes in responsibility to the past and future. Part of the planning application was a 168 page tome of a Conservation Management Plan. Architecture is too often pastiche (Ecclesiastes 1.9: ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun’) whether neo Georgian, recycled modernist boxes or Accordia-lite. Not here. SCABAL has produced something original, subtle referencing in place of derivation. Sensitive handling instead of intrusiveness.

The barn-like pavilion is, appropriately, tripartite in plan. Clusters of rooms to the north and south are linked by glazed central multipurpose hall. With low eaves and reclaimed London Plum bricks similar to those of Fournier Street Rectory, the northwest and southwest corners are treated as a walled garden. Jon explains, “The plan arrangement is derived from that of Christ Church: 12 metres describing the nave; 5.5 metres, the aisles. In its humble way, the central gathering place is nave-like and lofty.” Large spans of section posts and beams maximise flexibility of use. Rooflights avoid overlooking in response to the sensitivities of diverse cultures. Low level windows in the nursery are child-friendly.

Lime mortar is a subtler reference to the church than using dressed stone. “Copying Christ Church would look cheap,” believes Jon. “This building is next to, but not a fragment of, the church. It’s small but generous, different… ground level heroic.” An asymmetrical plan dictates the irregular shape of the half-hipped roof with its timber frame overhangs. Too shallow a pitch for slate, zinc picks up the reddish hue of the bricks.

Hailed as best practice in action by statutory bodies, it’s staggering that Spitalfields’ lowest profile new building (the church is 14 times taller) is gaining a high profile. A local group is seeking to have it demolished. Meanwhile the sands of time are sinking and the lessons of Gavin Stamp’s essay Hawksmoor Redivivus go unnoticed. Until this disagreement is resolved, the nursery and community building lies unused next to the overcrowded school.

462_A020_SITE PLAN 2013.dgn

  • Drawings © SCABAL
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David Linley + Highclere Castle

Inside the Box

2 Linley © Stuart Blakley

Thanks to a certain Sunday evening wind down from the wild weekend historisoap, Highclere Castle is as recognisable as the Houses of Parliament. Golden Bath stone Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite pilasters framing corner turrets ascend to a parapet – a tumultuous riot of strapwork, tracery, heraldry, pinnacles, plaques, coronets, colonettes, rosettes and finials. Jacobethanaissance architecture with Perpendicoco interiors. Handiwork of Sir Charles Barry, circa 1840.

A drawer in an upper floor of the V+A contains a perspective drawing commissioned by the architect to show his client Lord Grantham Carnarvon how the redesigned castle would look. It was originally displayed at the Royal Academy. Who says artists’ impressions and exhibitions are recent tools of self promotion for savvy architects? Architectural models are another tool. British design company Linley has developed expertise in creating scaled down versions of buildings – with a twist. They are functional, whether a humidor, bureau or writing desk. Robert Smythson meets Frank Smythson.

Linley Highclere Castle © Stuart Blakley

Mavisbank, Monticello, Monte Carlo Casino, Marino Casino. The latter a miniature in wood of a miniature in stone. Chairman David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret, nephew of the Queen, drops his title and abbreviates his name to David Linley in business. “Something of lasting value is most important,” he says, “beautifully made with the best possible materials. We search out wonderful woods.” Accuracy derives from photographs, drawings, surveys and even aerial views from helicopters.

Highclere Castle is the latest building to receive the Linley treatment. Honey I shrunk the treasure house. It’s a jewellery box. Constructed of maple, 11,000 individual pieces of marquetry have been meticulously selected and pieced together by highly skilled craftsmen. This architectural box, lined in faux suede, has three main drawers plus a trademark secret drawer. Costs £65,000, price of a car or parking space.

At Lavender’s Blue we’re good with colour. So is Linley. Upmarket London shops must have their signature colour. Liberty: regal purple; Selfridges: canary yellow; Harrods: Pantone 574c greenLinley: aquamarine blue. David says, “We needed a striking colour to stand out cause, in a senses, the logo needs to be something you can see from far away… so that when you see a bag being carried down a street you know it’s that colour. Therefore it must be Linley. It’s rather nice when you see one – oh, that bag’s come out of the shop.”

1 Linley © Stuart Blakley

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Peter Sheppard + Smallbone Kitchens Brasserie Range

Range in the Home

1 Peter Sheppard's Smallbone Brasserie Kitchen lvbmag.com

Where better for Smallbone of Devices to launch its new range than the kitchen designers’ very own home? And where better to dwell than the converted Friary of St Francis, a brogue’s shuffle from Westminster Cathedral? The building was designed in 1884 by Henry Astley Darbishire, Peabody Trust’s trusted architect. His flats on nearby Pimlico Road form a rambunctious High Victorian yellow brick hallelujah to piety. They rise above quotidian stockists: Semmalina toys; Ramsay art, Tomasz Starzewski fashion; La Poule au Pot wine dining; Wild at Heart flowers; Michael Reeves furnishings; Gordon Watson antiques; Gallery 25 antiques; Moloh fashion; Luke Irwin art; more Luke Irwin art; Langston antiques. Living over the shop has never been so glam. Oh. Em. Gee. The former friary elevates philanthropic grandeur to a whole new level: a four storey loggia lined Romanesque palazzo of patronage.

1 Peter Sheppard's Smallbone Brasserie Kitchen © lvbmag.com

The reports of the death of fine dining are greatly exaggerated. Eating out hasn’t quite cataclysmically descended from fish knives to fishwives. More like a move from blue blood to blue jeans. Out formality; informality. Chris Corbin and Jeremy King are the pioneers of creating dress down town restaurants with an uptown social scene. Meritocracy over aristocracy. Michel Roux’s La Gavroche and Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus may still be serving haute cuisine at triple the price and triple the waiter-to-customer ratio, but the brasserie scene dominates now in London. Fine dining is niche, not norm. Even the famously conservative Marcus Wareing has binned the white linen tablecloths at his fine dining restaurant in the Berkeley Hotel. He’s replaced the late David Collins’ interior with “free and easy dining accompanied by American style service”. Peter Sheppard who along with Keith Day designs for Smallbone observes, “Restaurant style creeps into homes.”

Ever since its seminal 1970s Pine Farmhouse Range, Smallbone has been setting kitchen trends. In the 80s came Hand Painted and then in the 90s, when everyone else was busy doing fitted, came Unfitted. This trailblazing salute to Charles Jencks’ postmodernism introduced freestanding furniture, stoves, larder cupboards and the singular kitchen island. “Fitted kitchens first became popular in the 1950s,” relates Peter. “The Brasserie Range continues the move away from fitted kitchens. It’s influenced by the 30s, based around the needs of the family. A place to cook and chat. The starting point was an oversized dresser in a French bistro we frequent. It adds to the relaxed Provençal ambiance. We’ve adapted the dresser, adding sliding glass doors, an integrated worktop and back painted open shelving.”

Peter Sheppard's Smallbone Brasserie Kitchen lvbmag.com

Characterful strips of knotty oak contrast with nickel plated saucepan style drawer handles. Plain cornices and skirting boards are finished with a slip of brushed stainless steel. It’s versatility, though, that defines this range. The traditional plate rack has been updated to hold glasses under it. The ceiling rack now has a wraparound shelf. Below the sink unit is a slatted ledge for Keith and Peter’s pug, Chanel. St Francis is not just here in spirit. A bronze statue of the patron saint of animals is on the wall outside. As for the kitchen island, that’s so last century. Smallbone’s Brasserie Range has three islands of varying size. The kitchen archipelago.

Peter Sheppard's Smallbone Brasserie Kitchen © lvbmag.com

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Mark Purcell + Irish Country House Libraries

Notes on a Lecture | The Iveagh League 

1 Kenwood House © Stuart Blakley

Libraries Curator of the National Trust, Mark Purcell, on country house libraries in Ireland, at the Irish Georgian Society lecture in the National Liberal Club

2 Kenwood House © Stuart Blakley

“When we think of historic private libraries we tend to associate them with the grand aristocrats of Palladian country houses but there were much earlier examples. There was a library in the now ruinous 16th century Maynooth Castle. Kanturk Castle, which incidentally was the National Trust’s first Irish property until it was transferred to An Taisce, was another case.

3 Kenwood House © Stuart Blakley

There aren’t that many privately owned libraries in Ireland. One of the great survivors is Clonalis, a slightly unlovely villa, but with contents going back much earlier. Ironically, it’s the library of a Catholic dynasty. Tullamore is another of the great surviving libraries. Thanks to Valerie Pakenham. Townley Hall is preserved as a building but the remains of its library are in Trinity College Dublin. The great Nash library at Caledon is only partially intact; much of it is now in Queen’s University.

Edith and Charlie Londonderry had two libraries at Mount Stewart. Their descendant Lady Mairi Bury gave them to the National Trust along with the house. The library at Castle Coole belongs to the private collection of John Belmore. It has an intensity of 18th century riches. But this library also retains all of its 20th century ‘trash books’ which makes it extremely interesting! On the eve of the Famine, there were over 2,000 Big Houses and presumably over half had substantial libraries? Plus pre Union there were the great houses of Dublin too. Some libraries disappeared in country house burnings of 20th century Ireland but many more did in major sales.

4 Kenwood House © Stuart Blakley

Florence Court is one of my favourite country house libraries of Ulster. I was very much involved in the rescue of the collection. The Earl and Countess of Enniskillen did not get on with the National Trust. They upped sticks in 1974 and moved the entire contents of the house to Perthshire. But in 2000 after a long hiatus the Dowager Countess came to an arrangement for many of the contents to be returned to Florence Court. My favourite book is the 1868 collection of photographs by the Kilkenny photographer John Hudson. It includes Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which is now owned by the National Trust.

5 Kenwood House © Stuart Blakley

Then there is the octagonal tower at The Argory. It once housed a library. But in 1890 a servant named Tommy Sloane accidentally sent it up in smoke. The servants rescued linen and chair covers but not the books. Although there is no library as such now at The Argory, there are 8,500 books scattered all over the rest of the house. They represent a 20th century provincial collection. Like good wine, they may improve with age!”

6 Kenwood House © Stuart Blakley

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Peerman Premier + Kingston House South Ennismore Gardens

Sloane Squared

Et in Arcadia Ego

Kingston House

They first entered the public’s consciousness in the 1980s as the backdrop to Lady Diana Spencer being hounded like a kimono’d gazelle by the paps. Mansion blocks were the natural setting for the ultimate Sloane Changer and her kind. Rewind a century or two and it would’ve been mansions for the original girls about crown, the Sloane Endangered. Look them up in Debrett’s. Take Liz Chudleigh, maid of honour to a previous Princess of Wales. Her crash pad was Kingston House, Knightsbridge. An awe inspired guest gushed in 1762,

Kingston House

“Her house can justly be called a gem; it contains a quantity of handsome and costly furniture and other curiosities and objects of value, chosen and arranged with the greatest taste, so that you cannot fail to admire it greatly. Everything is in perfect harmony. The view, over Hyde Park, and at the back over Chelsea, is considered with truth one of the finest that could be pictured.”

Kingston House

Kingston House was pulled down in 1937.

5 Peerman Premier Kingston House South © lvbmag.com

A Twitch Upon the Thread

1 Peerman Premier Kingston House South © lvbmag.com

3 Peerman Premier Kingston House South © lvbmag.com

2 Peerman Premier Kingston House South © lvbmag.com

4 Peerman Premier Kingston House South © lvbmag.com

Like the fictional Marchmain House in St James’s, flats with 24 hour porters took its place. “They’re keeping the name,” says Lord Brideshead. And so, Kingston House was reborn, the exquisite manmade landscape of two acres retained. Enclosed and embraced behind spacious and quiet streets, all this had been planted a century ago so that, at about this date, it might be seen in its maturity. Leaf and flower and bird and sun-lit brick and shadow seem all to proclaim the glory of God. It’s a sequestered place of cloistral hush, beech faintly dusted with green and grey bare oak. Marchmain House was recorded on canvas by Charles Ryder. Country Life photographed Kingston House the forerunner for prosperity.

Flat 12 Kingston House South © Stuart Blakley

Kingston Revisited

1 Kingston House Ennismore Gardens © lvbmag.com

Peerman Premier’s offices are at Beauchamp Place cheek by jowl with Princess Diana’s restaurant of choice, San Lorenzo. The company specialises in luxury lets and property management in Belgravia, Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge. No bridge-and-tunnel addresses, in other words. Flat 12 Kingston House South is typical Peerman Premier. Its linear lateral layout has been optimised by opening up the reception into the hallway and juggling around rooms to segregate the bedroom wing from more public areas. A terrace is the final consummation of the flat’s plan.

Flat 12 Kingston House South Peerman Premier © Stuart Blakley

The light streaming in from the west is fresh green from the trees outside. All 150 square metres of Flat 12 have been refurbished. White crêpe de chine, dove grey tweed, biscuit coloured linen. Very English, very correct, bespoke but quite delicious. A place to play chemin de fer or watch one of the smart TVs, while warmed by the open fire. Bathrooms glitter with chromium plate and heated demist looking glass. A toothbrush is all that is needed to make this flat home. The Sloane Price Range is fixed at £3,250 a week for a minimum one year lease. Not bad, considering it would take over £5 million to buy the flat. It’s looking unusually cheerful today.

Kingston House South Ennismore Gardens © lvbmag.com

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