Magic Hour at Southborough Allotments

Isn’t it strange, when you are on holiday, you still wake up at the same time as if you were going to work? In addition, I have been suffering with a bad cold for days which was not conducive to sleeping in. I had found myself waking up at some ungodly hour last Saturday morning and conceded that sleep was not going to happen. I decided to get up and experience photographing in what is known as the magic hour – the time just after sunrise (in my case) or sunset.

Looking out at the last few dahlias still going in the garden, I picked two in full flower (and a few nigella flowers on the way) and brought them inside to photograph before the sun rose.

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Sadly our garden at the moment was not going to offer the range of blooms and autumnal colour I was after. So I layered up and headed down to our local allotments, knowing that there are always a few beds full of impressive dahlias.

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The magic hour certainly lived up to its name. I headed home even before the dog walkers were out. I already felt better.

All images and text copyright Castles on the Ground, 2016

 

Sir David Salomons’ Two Theatres

Last weekend we spent the early afternoon walking in the grounds of Salomons Estate, to investigate any similarities between the Science Theatre and our beloved Royal Victoria Hall.

Salomons Estate houses an excellent museum which records the lives of the three David Salomons who made Broomhill their home in the 19th and early 20th Century.

40613Over the last few years the house and grounds have undergone extensive restoration and although institutional elements from its former life as an outpost for Christ Church Canterbury and as a nurses training college – still remain, the grounds are being remodelled, the water tower has been restored and plans are afoot for a new, partly subterranean luxury hotel which will occupy the space once given to a large greenhouse in the produce garden.

Sir David Lionel Salomons, the second of the three Davids as well as being an early advocate for the motorcar (and one of the  first two British owners of a car in 1894) was a scientist, engineer, writer, photographer, architect, inventor and philanthropist.

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Facial hair that would make any hipster weep.

Salomons gave 3000 of the £5000 to build Southborough’s Royal Victoria Hall,  wanting to build a venue “exclusively for purposes of amusement…whether it be stage plays, tableaux vivants, amateur theatricals, concerts, bazaars, dances or other entertainments or meetings, political or otherwise”.

In an article taken from the Courier on 26th October, 1898, you can see the builders who tendered for the contract to erect the theatre. Next to the article is a photograph of Sir David proudly standing  in front of the hall published 29th October, 1909.

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Four years earlier, in 1896, Salomon had built his own ‘Science Theatre’ which at the time was said to be the largest private theatre in the country. The science theatre is now  fully restored and Grade 2 listed although all the original scientific apparatus was removed in 1929 and donated to Cambridge University. The Theatres Trust website describes the theatre thus:

It was a flat-floored room, originally benched, with a gallery supported on columns on three sides. Rectangular-arched proscenium and ante-proscenium, both higher than wide. For the demonstration of scientific effects and theatrical illusions, it had projectors, painted scenery and electrical apparatus for producing the effects of thunder and lightning.

It produced the effects of thunder and lightning! In 1896! I wish I could go back in time when I read about such amazing things!

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Above each column is a hand painted shield bearing the name of a notable scientist.

I was particularly keen to see examples of ironwork here as it would have been similar to the ironwork on the original façade of the RVH. The spiral staircases backstage were most likely manufactured by the Saracen Foundry, Glasgow, who also made the ornamental ironwork on the original RVH frontage.

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Salomons’ Science Theatre and the Royal Victoria Hall share features such as varnished pitch pine, iron work columns and balcony. The traditional Victorian colours of deep oxide red and dark bronze green have been repainted here (although the RVH interior is now painted in garish pillar box red and a flock wallpaper that someone thought was the height of sophistication in 1976).

Upstairs had some interesting early electrical equipment and a very early rise and fall lamp that he had designed and patented (and would be very fashionable today).

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Back down on ground level exists some original Victorian wallpaper preserved behind clear Perspex.

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The museum is small (just two rooms) but packed full of interesting artworks, documents, objects and original furniture, fittings and wallpaper.

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Before entering the inner room with the beautiful domed light well, you notice the elaborate designs above the entrance.

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Walking around the museum and the Science Theatre made me think just how amazing the Royal Victoria Hall could be with a little investment. The RVH was recently photographed to support an application for listing as a Local Heritage Asset, here are some of the highlights. See if you think there are any similarities…

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If you are keen to view more images from the Royal Victoria Hall, Southborough News features them here.

So as we wait to hear if Tunbridge Wells Planning will agree to designate the RVH as a Local Heritage Asset, fingers crossed; it will go some way to convincing the local powers- that-be to think twice about demolishing Sir David’s gift to the people of Southborough.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/southborough-deserves-better-reject-the-hub-plans

Colin De’Ath-Traditional Bespoke Tailor

I had my first encounter with Mr Colin De’Ath a few years ago when I took along a much-loved vintage dress  which had developed a hole near the waistband, to see if it was worth mending. Slightly embarrassed, I said ‘I know it’s just a polyester dress…but I really love it’ to which he replied ‘No Madam, not at all. It is of the finest silk!’.

At that point, I thought, this man knows how to treat a lady! (and all of his customers so it seems!)

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Fast forward three years later and it’s the morning of my wedding. My sister, to be my maid of honour, tried on her dress for the first time as she had flown in from Australia for the wedding. When she went to take it off before her hair appointment, the zip broke. Straight away, I sent her to see Colin and in a huge stroke of luck, they had one long, white zip left. Colin and his colleague fixed the zip while my sister had her hair done, then returned to the tailors and she was stitched into the dress. Saved!

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I had heard Colin was soon to retire and wanted to know more about the man behind the immaculate shopfront of the Traditional Bespoke Tailors. Anyone who passes through Southborough would notice the eye catching window displays and flower baskets on the footpath setting the tone of the High Street.

Colin recounted about how he had got in to tailoring ‘I was one of these silly people never went to school, used to skip school quite a bit…I lived in Essex, we used to go over the fields and far away and have a nice day out rather than school. I had a five miles cycle ride so it was easier to skip school. Fortunately for me my mother had two brothers who were in tailoring, there was no question of careers advice or anything like that. It was ‘On Monday you have an interview at Saville Row’. I was 15 and I just went up there and signed up as an apprentice, I didn’t know any different, it seemed to have worked, I haven’t looked back at all’.

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Colin specialised as a coat maker, but after years of study at the London College of Fashion he broadened his skills to include cutting and fitting of trousers, waistcoats and jackets. When he got fed up with commuting from Essex to London, he moved to Kent and got a job working as a tailor and workshop manager in Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells.

Up until recently Tunbridge Wells was able to support eight separate tailors in the town, now Colin De’Ath is the only one left.

Before Colin’s arrival the shop was already an established tailoring business that had moved out from Tunbridge Wells when the rates and rent became unaffordable ‘I didn’t know the man but I knew of him, I came in and told him how wonderful I was and he couldn’t do without me, and I ended up buying the shop. That was in February, 1990′.

Prior to the existing tailoring business at the site it was sweet shop, A. Card Confectioners. Colin told me there had been a fire at the shop and when it was taken over by the tailor it needed a lot of work, so much so that only half of the original floor underneath exists. The woman in the photograph remains unidentified, but if you know anything about her, I’d love to know!

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Benefiting from the affluent surrounding areas like Sevenoaks, East Grinstead, Canterbury and Brighton, Colin has had his busiest year yet, confiding ‘you’d be amazed what people spend…Some customers have their whole wardrobe made here’.

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I was interested to hear if he had a fashion icon or a particular style he aligns his personal look to? ‘I’m West End. I’m traditional. End of story. It’s as simple as that. I see nothing wrong with it, I have built my business on it. You can say it’s old fashioned if you want to, but there is nothing wrong with it. You see even the white shirt and the black tie it looks really smart, you could go anywhere in that’.

He shares my disdain for the current fashion trend of jeans, trainers and a jacket. ‘You see the youngsters of today, a young man, he’s got trainers, jeans and a t-shirt and as far as he is concerned he is dressed. End of story. Don’t get me on my high horse. My biggest gripe is Saturday night television when they have a star or celeb on and he walks on stage in a nice jacket and a pair of jeans. I could scream!’

This leads me to probe him if he ever pops out to the corner shop on a weekend in comfortable tracksuit. Unsurprisingly – he doesn’t. Tracksuits have no place in the De’Ath wardrobe and has only recently softened his stance on wearing jeans. ‘I usually wear cotton trousers rather than jeans, I haven’t got a pair of trainers. I don’t wear trainers, I wear nice soft suede shoes…If I go out with friends, they know I invariably dress up, clean my shoes, I always put cufflinks in’.

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Colin proudly showed me a photograph of his son who has continued in the family line of business and is currently working in Saville Row for Dege and Skinner. To Colin’s disbelief, he tells me he has seen him ‘come out of work without a tie which I was horrified!…He dresses down, tight jeans, incredible…terrible…awful!’ Everything is said with his lovely, kind, dry sense of humour.

What is next for Colin De’Ath? Definitely a break. Holidays, possibly a cruise down the Panama Canal. Asked what attire would he chose for the holiday? “I will be definitely sporting some tailored shorts!”. I would expect nothing less. End of story.

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Colin De’ Ath Bespoke Tailors, Hardman & Hemming
116 London Road,
Southborough,
Royal Tunbridge Wells,
Kent
TN4 0PN Telephone: +44 (0)1892 526 051

http://www.bespoke-tailors.co.uk/

http://hardmanandhemming.co.uk/

All text and photographs are copyright by Castles on the Ground, 2016.

Postcards from Perth (Part 2)

I caught up with my friend Laura, set designer and illustrator (see her beautiful hand painted stationary here) during my stay in Perth. Laura’s illustrations recently feature botanical motifs so I invited her to come along with me to view some of the earliest illustrations of native flora in Kings Park held at the State Library.

I was searching for the earliest illustrations in the collection and came across three albums by Albert John Hall, an amateur botanical artist who first came to Western Australia from England in 1895. The illustrations were made over the period from 1918 to 1930 and are presented in Victorian postcard albums with accompanying notes detailing the specimen’s name, location and date.

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The Kangaroo Paw, a native species to the south-west, is featured in the West Australian coat of arms, flanking the royal crown.

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Looking through the volumes of illustrations, the style and level of detail fluctuated, it left me wondering if other artists had contributed to the albums.

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Kings Park, is located on Mt Eliza which overlooks the Swan River and the city centre which is less than a mile away. Not many cities have their botanical park in such close proximity to the CBD; it is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, home to high numbers of unique species of native flora over a 400 hectare site. That is 1.5 square miles for those who are imperially minded.

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A week after photographing the illustrations and maps at the library with Laura, my family and I went to Kings Park for our final get together before returning to the U.K. These are the views from the edge of the park towards the city and Swan River leading out towards Fremantle…

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For thousands of years Kings Park was known to the Indigenous people as Mooro Katta or Kaarta Gar-up and was, and is, an important ceremonial and cultural site. In 1831 it was set aside for ‘public purposes’, initially it had been called ‘Perth Park’ but in 1901 it became ‘Kings Park’ to mark the accession of King Edward VII to the British throne.

In my childhood, we would picnic as a family in the park on birthdays or other celebrations (our crammed limousine took us there on prom night). On the day I visited, despite being winter, the park was heaving with tourists, or perhaps avid Pokémon-Go fans. Perth’s characteristic sunshine and blue skies lit up the more ethereal elements of the landscape like these native paper daisies.

paperdaisy-dipbode8256img_9136-editYou can just make out the charred looking silhouette of a black Kangaroo’s Paw (Macropidia fuliginosa) angling out of the drift of paper daisies in the image above.

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Sadly I didn’t have enough time to fully explore the park, concentrating mainly on the periphery before heading back to my sister’s to pack and fly out that evening. Even within this small area there is a massive contrast between the representative landscapes of different West Australian regions that are planted out sympathetically at the park.

The Giant Boab tree below was gifted to the park in 2008 by the Gija people, the traditional land owners in the Kimberley region where the trees grow. It made an epic journey of almost 2000 miles to arrive at its new home.

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These vignettes of the plants of the Mulga region show the Australian landscape can be ethereal, romantic and delicate and at the same time equipped to withstand the harsh environment and poor conditions.

If you are lucky enough to visit the botanical park, allow yourself at least a couple of days to do it justice. The park shows the beauty of our native flora; slowly I think people are starting to use these plants in their gardens now they can experience them in all their splendour here at Kings Park.

 

Sad to say goodbye

Nick purchased the house in November, 2007. It had most of its original features still intact which ticked all the boxes.

Here are some images of the house that Nick took when he was waiting to hear if his offer had been accepted. The previous owner had lived there for most of her life, the house having been last modernised sometime in the 1950’s, most evident in the pastel pink and blue kitchen and bathroom.

You can see from the images it needed a lot of work including new mains sewerage, treatment for rising damp and woodworm infestation. The top floor of the house had no electricity. The workshop in the back garden was original to the house but had large holes in the roof.

The carpets were ripped up to reveal wide, almost untouched 6″ floorboards, the original doors and cupboards were hidden under layers of plywood. Beneath the accumulation of wallpaper and thick varnish was the original match boarding in the dining room.

No photographs were taken of the sitting room, once the room had been skimmed and decorated which looked like this…

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Then this…

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The fire surround propped up was an ebay find (we buy A LOT from ebay), we bought this and another one from a similar property in Sevenoaks for £20 and a smaller one f0r 99p.

At this point we had no car so we carried them on the train and then walked up from High Brooms station with them on our backs, it was a bit like being in stocks, I am sure we looked quite odd!

This was the sitting room in its final state.

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The dining room went from having 1950’s patterned carpet, boarded over doors and cupboards and layers of yellowed white gloss paint…

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The view from the dining room and kitchen started to change as new fencing and garden was added and the brick shed transformed into a studio space. The outside courtyard had  concrete paths which we replaced with gravel and eventually painted the new fence a dark drainpipe grey.

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The render outside of the kitchen was blown, so it was chipped off and re-rendered.

The shed originally had one door on the side, but we added two wooden casement windows to let in more light, a Velux in the ceiling and then opened it up at the front with some glazed pitch pine hospital doors salvaged from a hospital in Yorkshire, (eBay again).

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At the end of the garden you can see the other fire place surround we bought that I mentioned earlier. Later we planted more climbers to the side fence and a Boston Ivy to disguise the huge wall that was built after the original brick wall was demolished to build a row of terraces on Castle Street.

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View from the end of the garden towards the house.

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The original kitchen and bathroom were removed and the dropped ceiling removed to reveal two more ceilings underneath. After these were taken down it exposed a higher ceiling which made our kitchen seem more spacious.

Here is how the kitchen looked post renovation…unfortunately there are no images of it as a work in progress. Two new wooden casements were installed and new floor boards to match the rest of the house, and completely re-plastered and probably one of the smallest Plain English kitchens ever made! The worktops are iroko and cupboards were painted in Farrow and Ball ‘Blue Gray’. 

The kitchen was the one thing we splashed out on, knowing it would be where we spent most of our time.

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The main bedroom looked out towards Pennington Park and was again stripped back completely before decorating. In both second floor bedrooms the fireplaces had lost their mantle and were boarded up, so we uncovered them and made mantles for both. The fireplaces had lovely patterned detailed around the edges. So from this…

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To this…

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The bed is French, turn of the century, chest of drawers from a local charity shop and green resin lamp from Marianna Kennedy. After a few different colours we settled on walls  in ‘French Gray’.

The bedroom opposite became the bathroom. The centrepiece being the roll top bath framed by the sash window. The bath was luxury! I am definitely missing it now, you could really sink in to it and on any moonlit evenings or when it was snowing I loved having the window open and being in a hot bath. From this…

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To this…

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The tiny front garden was planted out with ferns, gillenia, epimediums, geraniums, woodland sedges and astrantias. Climbing up the house was Mme. Alfred Carriere and white wisteria. Later we added to the planting some ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas, their huge pom-pom flower heads got quite a few comments from passersby.

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The house was finally finished and then we decided to move. A house nearby with a bigger garden came up and two weeks later our terrace house had sold and we were moving…