Arundel

Nick and I had originally been slightly over ambitious planning to visit Petworth House with a quick detour through Arundel on the way. A very slow moving tractor on the journey meant that Petworth House had to be jettisoned and we spent the afternoon in Arundel instead.

We really knew little about Arundel prior to our visit except that poem by Philip Larkin and its reputation for inspirational (if not affordable) antique shops. And a rather grand castle.

How lovely is Arundel? A real working high street, lined with bunting and full of independent traders, a riverside arts festival and good food. Kim’s Bookshop is particularly worthy of a visit. With stacks of mid-century titles heavy on illustration and graphic design and, to my personal delight, a wide range of cookery and photography books. We grabbed some lunch at Pallant of Arundel and devoured it sitting on a park bench in front of the castle gate. Then set about searching for treasure.

Which is how we spent most of the day, with our last visit being to the magnificent Spencer Swaffer Antiques. If you had the money you could spend a small fortune in this shop – I never knew how badly I wanted a collection of French enamel jugs, 19th century carpet bowls and a marble glazed ceramic canister!

The space is rather disorientating with objects, furniture, artwork and mirrors adorning every square inch of each room, stairwell and landing. At the rear of the shop is a walled garden that was bathed in sunshine. You step out into a sunken courtyard with plants of towering height Phormium, Miscanthus, Euportorium and Rudbeckia and then a series of smaller former spaces with box hedging, rose adorned arches and legions of dark stemmed dahlias.

Plenty of ideas to take back to our embryonic garden (albeit on a more modest scale)…

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Postcards from Perth (Part 1)

I have been back in my home town this month spending time with family and catching up with friends. Winter in Perth is usually much like summer in England, sunny and not too cold, although this year it has been hotter in the UK and Perth has had one of its wettest winters in thirty years.

Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world and after living in the UK for seven years now it really feels like it! Although, the solitary feeling when wandering in the landscape is a good thing, I have missed the newspapers, the BBC and being able to walk to the cornershop when you run out of milk.

A place I love to visit is Bells Rapids, about a ten minute drive from my sister’s place. The wet winter it has meant the Avon river is much more rapid than usual.

Bells Rapids flows west from the Avon River in the Avon Valley and winds through National Parks to the east. Just before Bells (as the locals refer to it) the river becomes the Swan River, which continues all the way past Perth’s CBD and then flows in to the Indian Ocean at Fremantle. Every year it is used for a white water rafting race, the Avon Descent, which brings in hundreds of competitors in canoes and kayaks to complete the 124 kilometre race.

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The quality of the light is so changeable at this time of year, it can go from a brooding sky to the brightest blue within minutes. The photographs above and below were taken within less than half an hour of each other.

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The softness of the fountain grass, pennisetum setaceum, contrasts with the harsh landscape and they become illuminated when the sun hits them at the right angle.

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The stump of a native grass tree (xanthorrhoea pressii, or balga; its Indigenous name) and the bark of an old dead jarrah tree (eucalyptus marginata).

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My niece enthusiastically encouraged me to jump over the mud and rock pools to get closer the edge of the water, only slightly twisting my ankle several times.

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Pennisetum sataceum with a scrambling annual herb (fumaria capreolata) in flower.

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I used to think the west Australian landscape was not very attractive; harsh, dry and drained of colour but I recently have started to see it differently. Particularly at dusk, the soft light transforms the landscape and the colour palette changes completely, from burnt oranges, browns and deep azure blue skies to muted grey, brown, mauve and cream.

The landscape back home in Kent is so predominantly green, coming back to Perth has made me appreciate the colour differences and has heightened my awareness of smaller details. Looking more carefully you start to notice examples of the unique flora, like the burnt reddish black tips of native herb flowers and the masses of tiny, bright orange orchid like flowers amongst the grasses.

 

 

 

 

Rye in the sunshine…

Rye is one of my favourite places to visit on a day trip. Originally an important Cinque Port but left marooned on the Marsh when the sea suddenly disappeared sometime in the 13th century, never to return again. It’s picture postcard perfect; beloved of a BBC filming crew, winding cobbled streets, a good mix of Georgian, Victorian and Medieval architecture and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

We went for a final catch up with my in-laws before I fly out to Australia on Sunday. I was keen to soak up the Englishness and get some gifts for my family.

There are a few shops I like to frequent – it’s always good for kitchenalia and cookery ephemera. The vintage and antique shops are well curated with a good understanding of what’s currently in demand – but priced accordingly for the tourists who flock down to Rye on the E F Benson trail. No bargains today!

Here are some pictures from the day.

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Admiring the flash of India Yellow in their sitting room.

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I have got my eye on this house!

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This is where I like to get my stationary from.

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Inside Rye Pottery studio.

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This shop has a bit of a A.G. Hendy’s Homestore in Hastings feel about it. It had a huge selection of antique french confit pots. Van Gogh painted his sunflowers in these pots.

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Sunflowers, 1888, National Gallery

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These are the two we took away.

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A detail of the Italian stationary we bought.

The next post will be from Perth, Western Australia. Nick is staying at home and getting on with the renovation so I will be excited to see what will have changed. He has been told go easy on the Netflix.

 

A short history lesson…

Before writing about the renovation of 18 Pennington Road, Southborough, it only seems right to share what we subsequently discovered about the history of the property first.

Pennington Road owes its name to a Dr Robert Rainey Pennington (b. 1766 d.1849) a surgeon practicing in London who had acquired land in the area.

The terrace was built somewhere between 1820 to 1830. Although the original title deeds were lost somewhere along the way, we have collected a number of documents and photographs which fill in some of the history of the house and the road.

These are some albumen prints of Pennington Road and nearby London Road from about that time. Most of the terrace was shops and small businesses – indeed I have been told that it looked much like this up to the 1970’s.

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Our house is the second last house on the terrace towards St Thomas’ Church

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The end of Pennington Road where it meets London Road. The Imperial Public House is not much changed. The lake has since disappeared along with the Wesleyan Church that was built in 1871.

In the 1881 census, Philadelphia Hubbard and her spinster daughter, Mary lived at the property, which at that time was actually number 9 Pennington Road. Mary Hubbard was a dressmaker which explains the hundreds of pins we found underneath the floorboards in what later became our bathroom on the first floor.

We know a man named Richard William Dance, a retired harness maker and sadler lived at our property from the 1870’s; he died in 1918, followed by his wife, Jane, in 1925. The property was then bequeathed to their daughter, Mrs Florence Jane Ravilious.

This would explain the brick built outbuilding at the rear of the property, probably used as his workshop; it is the only house in the terrace with an outbuilding that was built at the same time as the house.

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A conveyance document dated 31st March, 1930, tells us Mrs Florence Jane Ravilious was married to Thomas William Ravilious, a coach builder of ‘Fairlight’, Portman Park, Tonbridge. It was Mrs Ravilious who then sold the property on to Mr William Edward Sheepwash, a ‘motor-car proprietor’ of number 14 Pennington Road.

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Sheepwash’s offices were nearby at number 14 Pennington Road and his carriages and stables were directly behind Pennington Road in what was Castle Street Mews. The carriage works later became a car mechanic’s workshop which were then demolished in 2011 to make way for four terrace houses.

The wall of the old carriage works and stables was our back wall in the garden and despite our objections to the planning authority, it too was demolished. Part of the original wall can be seen still behind the house on the corner of Pennington and Castle Street.

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An Edwardian postcard of Pennington Road which would have been taken at the same time Sheepwash was resident on the terrace. Our house is next to ‘Martin’s Bootmakers’. 

After doing some digging around I found a few interesting cuttings about Mr Sheepwash including a wedding mishap and a thwarted burglary. I can’t believe anyone would be cheeky enough to not only set alight his barn, break in to his house, steal money, but also take buns and cakes too. They were naughty boys.

Unfortunate Sequel to a Wedding: Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser, 5th December, 1901. 

Tonbridge – Naughty Boys: The Courier, 9th of January, 1913.

Sheepwash was also the President of the R.A.O.B. in Southborough. The what? you say. The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, a fraternal charitable organisation that was founded in 1822. Their meetings were held at the Imperial Hotel. Here is another cutting from the Kent and Sussex Courier dated 27th February, 1925.

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William Edward Sheepwash died in 1945 and the house was bequeathed to his widow Hetty Madge Sheepwash (who later re-married and became Hetty Madge Barnes). It was sold to Charles Frederick Alexander in 1966.

And it was Charles wife, Ivy, who was the last resident before Nick bought the house in 2007.

This is what the house looked like when it was purchased.

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That is Nick’s Dad holding his torch, looking up at the roof. Little did he know just how much work he and Nick would be doing over the next year(s)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southborough boot fair treasures

We don’t often get to our local boot fair at Mabledon, actually, we have only been once before. Last time, there was a chap selling new old stock Bakelite switches and doorknobs. This would be ideal for us now as we have recently moved in to a 1930’s house with all the original Bakelite door handles and locks and it would be nice to have matching light switches. No such luck.

We admired the houses on the way…

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For the most part people were selling old clothes and toys but we did find a few interesting pieces for a bargain price.

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The above left was the postcard collection which we bought from. I got some old postcards of Southborough high street from each end and we bought a whole album each that had some great images inside.

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Below are some images of our finds taken in our 2nd bedroom on the mantle of the thirties fireplace. Nick has scraped back the paint to reveal greens and pale pinks and the distressed look is providing some interesting texture to photograph with, I will be sad to see it go. Although he is creating many other areas of the house with that look at the moment.

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1930’s collectible cigarette silks.

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Always fond of a kitsch postcard.

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I love these postcards printed in Berlin with this quite harsh coloured tint.

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Aside from the graphic design, I like the sentiment as my family and friends are in Australia.

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People used to pin prick the windows to make the light shine through them.

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Novelty pop out postcard of Wales. Why don’t these still exist?

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1840’s blue and white platter with pretty crazing.

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Ceramic jug made in England, bargain price of 50p. Would look pretty with cut flowers from the garden.

This has got to be the best way to shop! Out in the sunshine buying antiques for less than what it would cost you new (and it would never be as nice).

 

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

 

 

A garden in the English summer

Yesterday we visited Perch Hill cuttings garden, the garden of Sarah Raven in Brightling, East Sussex. Sarah Raven has written several books on gardening and cooking and runs courses at Perch Hill in a beautiful barn overlooking the hillside (which you can see later in the post). Raven uses bold and bright colour combinations in her gardens which in theory sound discordant but in reality work well and give the garden a sense of energy.

Following an intense drive down winding one track roads with high hedgerows, we arrived without having to reverse up-hill to let other motorists past. Crisis over.

Earlier in the year I had sown seed and planted dahlia tubers from Sarah Raven, which are now in flower, but not as impressive as the blooms at Perch Hill.

The garden is only open to the public on 7 occasions this year, so I was quite excited to experience it and get some ideas for plant combinations for our garden.

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The garden has several gardens (cuttings garden, kitchen garden, ornamental kitchen garden, rose and herb garden, meadow…you get the idea) but it felt more intimate than most National Trust Gardens. I liked the height and how you feel like you could be lost in the garden.

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IMG_8059I was expecting the dahlias to be impressive and they did not disappoint. The dahlias I planted are roughly one third of the height of the ones here and I have only had 2 flowers! Next year, I need to hone my dahlia rearing skills in the garden.

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I loved this grass panicum elegans ‘frosted explosion’ and how it softly floats around the dahlias. This is on my list for our garden.

Through the cutting garden to the track that leads to the herb and rose garden and the Barn…

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As we arrived the rain started…And I set about quickly photographing all the containers to collect ideas.

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When the rain got too heavy we had a tea break inside the barn. I liked the large wreath that was hung in the peak of the ceiling.

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The rain left me with a good opportunity to get a clear shot of the rose and herb garden. Then a quick wander through the ornamental garden then back through the cutting garden and the meadow and back home. I had to plant my dahlias out.

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

 

 

 

 

The more things change…

There has been a lot of change recently in Southborough and Tunbridge Wells, lots of old, interesting buildings being demolished to make way for housing and other developments. The old Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Dairy Crest site and the being two notable examples.

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Postcard from the 1930’s.

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Images of the Dairycrest site partially demolished recently. I never knew it had this pretty arsenic coloured tiling inside.

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But the closest example to me (personally and geographically) is the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough which is in a sorry state but by no means a lost cause.

The hall officially opened on the 17th January, 1900 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Local philanthropist Sir David Salomons donated £3000 of the total £5000 (with Southborough Urban District Council meeting the additional cost) and it became the first municipal theatre in England.

The Theatre Trust describes the aim of the hall ‘to provide theatrical and other rational amusements to people who could not afford to go to theatres in the adjoining towns‘.

The Trust describes the theatre in its original form…’A red brick, rectangular building with a low fly tower and, originally, a chapel-like facade set back from the road. A pretty cast iron porch was removed (and purchased by a Councillor who thought its removal regrettable) and replaced by ‘modern’ canopy. The auditorium was designed with a scenic stage, permanent seating in a straight-across end balcony (on two decorative columns) and a flat floor. Square reeded proscenium arch with decorative panels featuring swags and drops either side. Panelled dado with red flock wall paper above reaching to deep plain coving and decorative ventilation grilles’.

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Imagine the council offices restored to their former glory; trees out the front, people with a sense of civic pride…

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Determined to stop the closure in 2012, the Friends of the Royal Victoria Hall was formed and lead a concerted campaign to safeguard the future of the hall. A petition with over 11,000 signatures to save the hall and a sound business plan to keep it open was presented but then dismissed by Southborough Town Council at a packed out meeting, as loud cheers and horns honked outside to show the support for the RVH. Never before had the council had such a protest outside.

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Sadly, it all fell on deaf ears and unsurprisingly when 11,000 voices are ignored, that the turnout for the public consultation would be poor. That is a lot of people, me included, thinking ‘what is the point?’.

369 out of 11,000 residents in the town responded to the choice of two options; part-retain or new build in the public consultation in 2015. Of the 369 respondents 58% opted for the new build, so the 214 people of Southborough and High Brooms have spoken! *note the sarcasm here* The decision was made to go with the new build option which has been described by some as ‘cheap and nasty‘ and ‘like something from the planet Zanussi‘.

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I like how the above image shows a couple of perplexed members of the public staring up at their image reflected in the giant orange disc.

 

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Then then Mayor, Cllr Oakford scoffed at the business plan put together by the group at that meeting saying it would not meet standards he would expect in his previous career in the oil industry; strange as to date there is no business plan or financial projections at all for the Hub despite planning permission currently being submitted.

A local resident, Martin Webber, has published some excellent interviews with residents and Town Councillors on his detailed blog, Southborough News.

You may think this is an improvement on the original theatre, but I’m all for conserving the historical aspects of our town. It’s what gives us soul and makes us unique and attractive. 

Where I’m from (check out About) this would be considered a beautiful and valuable asset to a town worthy of respect and restoration. There are plenty of examples of where buildings have been restored and it has clearly added value to the street scene, like the recently opened One Warwick Park in Tunbridge Wells.

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Photograph from Times of Tunbridge Wells

Best case scenario is Southborough Town Council actually start listening to residents’ concerns and even it the Hub takes a few months longer to change the look of the building at least it could be something the town can be proud of.