While staying at Auchinleck House my evenings were spent mostly in the Library, enjoying the warmth of a log fire while browsing the rows of handsomely bound spines. Libraries have always held a potent attraction for me, stirred by the prospect of abundant knowledge just waiting to be discovered. It is frequently my favourite room when visiting any country house, being a major component of any self-respecting stately home. These private collections, often maintained and refined by generations of a single family, reveal the tastes and interests of those who once lived there. I find it a sure method of determining anyone’s passions; search through my own shelves and you will immediately learn what varied topics enthuse me.
Today I’ve added a new page to the site to accommodate another branch of my work – clothing. This comes at a time when a place that fuses my two loves of costume and architecture is under threat, and I digress a moment to mention this. Shambellie House, Scotland’s National Museum of Costume, is facing closure. I first read of its plight a few weeks ago and was saddened and shocked to think this cultural asset could be lost, considering the value of the building itself and the collection it houses.
Since the beginning of my on-going artistic work with ruins, I have chosen to concentrate on those found in Scotland. I’m sometimes asked why I favour these buildings over those in other parts of Britain, the answer being that it is not really a conscious focus but simply the result of my deep love of the country. In fact my love of ruins and Scotland seem to go hand in hand. My early explorations of derelict mansions took me to the far reaches of the land I’d always called home without having experienced to any great extent. I discovered Scotland to be a truly beautiful place of diverse landscapes and captivating architecture, and this love only intensified after living in London where I often craved my homeland as the antidote to city life. Continue reading
All has been quiet here for the past week while I’ve been away on a trip which will get its own blog post very shortly. While on my return journey I took the opportunity to stop off in Gloucestershire and Derbyshire to visit two rather remarkable National Trust properties. Country Houses are of course generally admired for their collections of precious paintings and priceless pieces of furniture, but it was the jumble of the eccentric and ordinary which made Snowshill Manor and Calke Abbey particularly special for me. Both houses are home to extensive collections of miscellanea amassed by their previous owners, and perfectly embody my belief that a house should not simply be a building, but an experience to stir and entice.
Snowshill Manor plays host to an eclectic mix of objects accumulated by its most recent owner, Charles Paget Wade, who bought the 16th Century manor house in 1919 purely to house this vast collection. Behind the picturesque Cotswold stone façade the house is packed to the rafters with literally thousands of items of diverse origin. On the surface the collection seems completely random and resembles a slightly obsessive hoard, but the quality of all the pieces demonstrates that Wade simply had a love of all things beautiful, be they humble or highly decorative.