"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Wightwick Manor

Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton has been on my list of places to visit for many years - it is only about 45 minutes away but the thought of the congestion of the dreaded M6 through the West Midlands conurbation has always put me off. I finally persuaded B to go along one day last week.

Wealthy paint, ink and varnish manufacturer, Theodore Manders bought the early 17th century manor in 1887 and built the present house in two stages. In 1892/3 the East Wing, designed by Edward Ould, was added. It was built in an old English style with timber framing and bright red brick. Quality was important to the Manders so stained glass by Charles Kempe was incorporated along with antique furniture, eastern rugs and Chinese porcelain.Flora engaged the garden designer, Thomas Mawson to create the Edwardian garden. The house has changed little in the intervening years and still contains many of Theodore and his wife Flora's possessions. Sadly they both died not long after completion of the house - Theodore aged 47 in 1900 and Flora also aged 47 in 1905.

Geoffrey Manders ( a Liberal MP) and their son and his second wife Rosalie (a biographer) commissioned Mawson to make more improvements. Geoffrey gave the house to the National Trust in 1937 although he and Rosalie continued to live there for the rest of their lives. They built up, in partnership with the National Trust, a huge collection of William Morris designs and pre-Rapahelite art

A peep into the gardens.

We decided to look round the house first - I must admit I didn't realise there was so much to see! You can visit over 30 rooms. Many were dark and gloomy making photography rather difficult so please forgive the quality of the images. In fact, in several rooms photos were impossible and I just enjoyed looking round.

Photo of Theodore and Flora Manders and their children taken in the 1880's.

The painting in the background is a portrait of Jane Morris with the face painted by Rossetti and the red hair completed by Maddox Brown.

The Drawing Room

The Italian Renaissance fireplace of around 1550 is lined with De Morgan tiles (more of the De Morgans later). The stained glass is by Kempe.

The Library

This beautiful stained glass window by Kempe (1888) is in the hall. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a photo that did it justice.

The Great Parlour - used by the Manders for entertaining, relaxing, for music and for parties.

It was too dark in the Billiard and Dining Rooms to get photos so onto the Back Hall and Corridor.

The Guest Bedrooms have names inspired by their decoration - Honeysuckle, Indian Bird, Acanthus, Daisy and Oak.

The Great Parlour from the Gallery

William Morris owned the Kelmscott Press and this is a hand printed copy of their edition of the "Works of Geoffrey Chaucer".

The Nursery Wing comprised the Day Nursery where the children played and ate their meals

and the Night Nusery which has a frieze by the illustrator Cecil Aldin.

More stained glass by Kempe

The Tower Rooms consist of the servants rooms.

Back on the ground floor - the Kitchen and

laundry. The mangle and boiler brought back memories of wash day when I was a child!! No washing machines or tumble dryers in those days. I remember my mother's joy when she finally got a spin dryer!!!I think I was in my late teens when she finally had a washing machine!

We had a quick look round the gardens. I would have liked to walk round the woodland but it was quite muddy and I was only wearing pumps. We also managed to miss the kitchen garden! To be honest we hadn't really allowed enough time for the visit as I had to get back by a certain time as I had a family chauffeuring commitment and we couldn't leave the return journey to the last minute in case the M6 caused problems!

Ferns in Walls

We did visit the Malthouse though - this is part of the original farm buildings used for malting and brewing, a school room, a squash court and home guard base and now an art gallery. There is currently a 10 year partnership displaying works from the De Morgan collection which shows the artistic vision of William and Evelyn de Morgan of the Pre-Raphaelite Arts and Crafts Movement. Their work was inspired by early Medieval and Renaissance art using intense colours and rich patterns.

William Morgan and Evelyn Pickering were married in 1887. William was 48 and had studied Fine Art before specialising in ceramics. Evelyn was 32 and very independent. She had trained at the Slade School of Art and had been a professional artist for 10 years.Once married they became involved in political campaigns to improve the rights of women and to try and produce a better society. In 1889 they both signed the Declaration in favour of Women's Suffrage. During the first World War William used his scientific knowledge to develop ways to strengthen war defences and Evelyn held an exhibition and sale of her paintings to raise funds for the Red Cross and in her will she left money to help blind veterans.

William de Morgan, like other artists of the Arts and Craft Movement, turned away from the modern industrial methods and instead tried to recreate the hand produced techniques of Medieval craftsmen. After many years of effort he finally discovered the metallic lustre glazes used on ancient Middle Eastern ceramics and the bright turquoise and green glaze of Turkish "Iznik" pottery. There is a poignant quote from William where he says "All my life I have been trying to make beautiful things... and now that I can nobody wants them".

They were part of the Spiritualist movement and Evelyn's views were expressed in some of her paintings. They both "escaped" into their art also creating works that were based on fairy stories, myths, legends and great literary works. Angels, cherubs, monsters, centaurs, elves and unicorns appeared in their work. William's pottery was also inspired by classical mythology.

Flora - this was my favourite painting and I returned to it again and again.

Oil on canvas 1914/16. Painted at the beginning of World War 1. The female figure is surrounded by sea monsters symbolising the evils of war. The woman leans towards heaven for hope, strength and salvation.

No cake - B refused to queue in the tearoom!

Oh and Timothy came too - he was most upset at having been left to languish in my backpack for the whole outing!!!

Reference: Guide Book to Wightwick Manor
Various information boards in the De Morgan exhibition.