Welcome to my new followers, thanks for joining me!
Have you ever visited Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex? On Saturday we took a trip to do just that. The weather was a perfect summer's day and we left early so as to miss the traffic. On the way we saw a field of poppies, so red and so sublime that people stopped their cars to take a walk.
Before the tour we stopped in the Charlston cottage garden for tea and cherry clafoutis. The tea shop is decorated very much in the Bloomsbury period and we sat in the garden surrounded by flowers, fig trees and bees.
I have to share this photo with you. It reminded me so much of my childhood and the milkman...milk delivered the old fashioned way lined up outside the cottage tea shop.
Charleston was the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and their group of friends who were known as the 'Bloomsbury Group'. The house was everything that I thought it would be. Vanessa wrote a letter to Roger Fry in 1916 and this is how she described it:
"It really is so lovely that I must show it to you soon, it's absolutely perfect I think.....the pond is most beautiful with a willow at one side and a stone or flint wall edging it all round the garden part, and a little lawn sloping down to it."
In 1916, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Vanessa's two sons, Julian and Quentin and David Garnett, moved to Charleston. Gradually and throughout the years, various people came to stay at Charleston, some were just visitors and others stayed for longer periods of time. They shunned the conventions of the Victorian way of life and instead followed the philosophy of G E Moore, who believed that one's prime objects in life was love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge.
Unfortunately cameras inside the house was strictly prohibited so I shall try and explain how magnificent the interiors were! As soon as Vanessa took occupation of the house, she started to decorate the rooms, and the house was painted over several years. The walls of the rooms have been hand painted to resemble wallpaper and some with what seems like a sponge technique, and I was very surprised to see that in one of the bedrooms, one entire wall was painted black! The windows are draped in curtains designed by Duncan Grant and chairs propped with cross stitch cushions sewn by his mother, Ethel Grant. Arm chairs are covered in fabric designed either by Vanessa Bell or Duncan Grant. The house is filled with handmade objects. It's a very friendly house. Light and airy and one gets the sense that there are people still living in the house. There's a wonderful little sitting room, which they call the Garden Room, small and intimate, hung with beautiful paintings, decorated walls, and beautiful worn floorboards laid with hand woven rugs. The garden can be viewed from both a window and the French doors and one can imagine how many summer days and evenings were spent with the scent of the garden flowers wafting into this sitting room as they discussed art or philosophy. In 1939 Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant made Charleston their permanent home.
The last room we entered was the studio. It's at the end of the house, overlooking the magnificent garden and is filled with light from the windows. It's spacious too and very unlike a studio, it's furnished with, among other things, a beautiful Dutch Walnut cabinet, one of a pair which were once the property of the novelist W M Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair. A Chaise Longue graces one wall and above it an ornate gilded mirror, both formerly owned by the painter Walter Sickert.
Angelica Garnett, Vanessa's daughter with Duncan Grant said 'the studio was the citadel of the house, the sanctuary in which I spent the most treasured hours of my life. It was here, basking in the atmosphere of hard work and concentration, that I felt the most important things would happen'.
The door leading out of the studio opens up to this tiny courtyard with a mosaic pavement. This is the earliest decorative feature to have been made in the garden by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, helped by Barbara Bagenal. The garden must have had an enormous influence on their creativity, as it is absolutely beautiful in every way.
At the end of the pathway stands a cast of Venus by Giovanni da Bologna, bought by Quentin and Olivier Bell in Brighton in the 1980s.
Hope you enjoyed the tour - I have plenty more photos to share with you next time!
Have a lovely week and enjoy the sunshine!