Bible of British Taste
  • Featured Content
  • January25th

    Tanya Harrod published  ‘The Real Thing, essays on making in the modern world,’ this week. Its essays are about art, craft and design, and the shifts and spaces in between them.These are subjects she has been thinking and writing about for 30 years. In this book you can read about the taxonomy of the rubbish dump, Barbara Hepworth’s missing archives, Eric Gill, Folk nationalism and reviving ‘peasant art ‘ in Britain, and on page 86, ‘Why don’t we hate Etsy?’

    x

    Cutting a dash as a research student at Oxford.

    x

    x

    She grew up in this Modern Movement house in Surrey, and still describes herself as a Modernist.

    x

    The house which she shares with her husband Henry Harrod  in west London is a palimpsest, containing the belongings and decorative finishes from three generations. Henry’s  paternal grandmother Frances Forbes Robertson made her home here in the 1930s, the portraits that she painted hang together in the staircase and hall. Next came her son the economist Sir Henry Roy Forbes Harrod and his energetic and strong minded wife Wilhelmina Cresswell (always known as Billa), aesthete and historian who was briefly engaged to the poet John Betjeman, complied the Shell Guide to Norfolk for him, founded the Norfolk Churches Trust and made her last home in the Old Rectory, Holt, in that interesting county. She died in 2005. On the Biedermier tallboy is a  ceramic Madonna and Child by contemporary artist-craftsman Philip Eglin, of whom Tanya writes in The Real Thing, ‘Studying my Madonna and Child reminds me of how learned good artists invariably are.’

    x

    The overmantle picture is by the St.Ives School modernist Terry Frost.

    x

    ‘Beasties’ Wallpaper by Peggy Angus (1904-1983), designer, teacher and painter, of whom Tanya wrote this obituary when she died in 1993. The painted plate is by Philip Eglin. (You can buy Angus’s papers once again now, from Anne Dubbs at the wonderful Blithfield and Company.)

    x

    The oil painting on the left is by Tanya’s mother Maria Sax, who painted her own mother on horseback galloping away from her two small, distraught children.

    x

    x

    Large jars by Richard Batterham.

    x

    A Zimmerlinde, a large leaved Austrian Linden or Lime tree cultivated as an indoor plant. Lucian Freud had one of these, it appears in his ‘Large Interior, Paddington‘ 1968-9, and several of his drawings.

    x

    x

    ‘Billa’s table.’ Her country house was anatomised and photographed for Alvilde Lees-Milne’s book,’The Englishwoman’s House’ in 1984.

    x

    Small ornaments that she arranged on its hardstone top . ‘We all liked her table so much, so we decided to recreate it.’

    x

    Tanya’s first subject was John Ruskin and the Arundel Society, the fons et origo of all her writings since on the arts and the crafts. Some of the nineteenth century prints of Italian Renaissance paintings published by the Society and collected by her as a postgraduate student hang in the hall, against crimson ‘Suns’ wallpaper designed by Peggy Angus and hand printed using lino-cut blocks and household emulsion in her Camden Town studio.Tanya’s essays on ‘Peggy Angus and flat pattern’ and ‘William Morris in our time,’ are published in her new book, The Real Thing.

    x

    Hanging higher up the stairs beneath Tanya’s ancestors, are portraits of the young Roy Harrod painted by his adoring mother,  some of them returned again to London from the Old Rectory in Holt.

    x

    The best bedroom with Omega-ish walls hand painted by Joao Penalva.

    x

    A painting by Stella Cardew, first wife to the composer Cornelius Cardew. Tanya’s biography of his potter father Michael, is ‘The Last Sane Man,‘ published in 2013. A. S. Byatt described her as ‘the perfect biographer for such a complex and gifted man,’ you can read her review here.

    x

    Spare bedroom with Billa Harrod’s Victorian shell flowers under a dome.

    x

    Peggy Angus bathroom wallpaper. As Tanya has written,

    ‘The beauty of her handblock papers has been recognised above all by artists; partly because unlike most wallpapers they form the ideal background to paintings. Over the years Angus invented an extraordinary range of patterns. Many were abstract but others convey a vivid pastoral mood, making subtle use of oak leaves, heraldic dogs and birds, grapes and vines, corn stooks, stylised suns and winds. They seem rooted in the natural world and in the visual arts of the British Isles, from Celtic pattern to heraldry to the art of bargees and gypsies.’

    x

    Sailor’s tokens and shell souvenirs collected by Billa Harrod hang above the bath.

    x

    Posters advertising Sir Roy Harrod’s lecture tour in Japan.

    x

    The kitchen overmnatle. Drawing by their little granddaughter, a bird plate made by Seth Cardew at Wenfordbridge Pottery and assorted ceramics amassed by earlier generations of Harrods.

    x

    ‘The Future is Handmade : the crafts in the new millennium,’ poster advertising Tanya’s lecture in Krakow.

    x

    Large bowl by Michael Cardew, two small apprentice pieces made by Tanya at the Wenfordbridge Pottery under the tuition of Seth Cardew, and her masterpiece biography of  his father Michael Cardew, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

    x

    Father and daughter. The Crafts in Britain in the 20th Century, her outstanding magnum opus published by Yale in 1999, and its beautiful offspring, The Real Thing now a 5 star read on Amazon.

    x

    Tanya possesses the visual objectivity and academic rigor of the architectural scholar Nicholas Pevsner, but this is overlaid with a sensibility and humanity that makes her writing so much more nuanced, rewarding and pleasurable to read.
    All images (3 portrait photographs excepted) c.bibleofbritishtaste.

  • January13th

    Lucy, Clea and Richard Turvill have been here now, in the house they built, for about 5 years. While they lived in London their countrified alter-egos had been well disguised. I thought they were truly metropolitan, but now I realise that they were sheep in wolves clothing, they are completely embedded here.

    x

    A corner of the Sitting Room. Print by David Hockney, cushion by Rose de Borman.

    x

    Bavent House sits on a derelict farmyard plot by the Suffolk coast, and its footprint is minimal. This is the facade that you see on first arrival, its interesting, jumbled silhouette is intentionally picturesque. Its architect is Anthony Hudson, who won an RIBA award for this design.

    Its robust, box-like structure has an engineered timber frame and black zinc and Iroko timber cladding that has already weathered grey. Its design was inspired by local vernacular buildings - timber framed barns and the old black tarred fishing shacks on Southwold Beach.

    Its robust, box-like structure has an engineered timber frame and black zinc and Iroko timber cladding that has already weathered grey. Its design was inspired by local vernacular buildings, timber framed barns and the old black tarred fishing shacks on Southwold Beach.

    x

    The core of this house wraps around three sides of a shallow, sheltered south-facing courtyard. Light travels straight through the central living space with its huge opposing windows.

    x

    The house sits on the top of a slight rise; carefully positioned picture windows of different sizes frame the views. This is the north side, with long sights across open country towards the Hen Reedbeds. The old brick built stables that house their horses belonged to the earlier farmyard here.

    x

    Corner of the Sitting Room.

    x

    Xmas jigsaw in progress.

    x

    The more formal seating area around the fireplace, the Cornish landscape is by Barbara Hepworth’s daughter, Rachel Nicholson.

    x

    The maximum of glazing in the centre of this house allows the light and wide landscape to come inside. The sofas were commissioned by Lucy’s interior designer sister Virginia White, whose London House was featured on bibleofbritishtaste here. She also advised on the look and styling of these rooms.

    x

    White-ish walls and wide Douglas Fir floorboards emphasise interior geometry. Brown furniture from their last home, a Georgian terraced house in north London, looks even better here.

    Decoy ducks under the window. The Georgian armchair is covered in a turquoise Ananas fabric pattern from Raoul.

    Decoy ducks under the window. The Georgian armchair is covered in a turquoise Ananas fabric pattern from Raoul.

    x

    Outside, live and shattered oaks in the middle ground, a December landscape by Graham Sutherland.

    x

    Looking through the centre of the house from the kitchen. Richard getting on with stuff.

    x

    Meissen serving dishes and Moomintroll cups, just before Sunday breakfast.

    x

    A corner of the small sitting room, equipped with wood burning stove, Labradors and TV.

    x

    Stone flagged Entrance Hall.

    x

    Staircase risers and two chairs designed by Lord Snowdon for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarvon Castle in 1969.  For another example, see here.

    x

    The Master Bedroom has long views over the reed beds. The blind and bolster fabric is Virginia White’s Forest Spring, designed by Rose de Borman.

    x

    Lucy very patiently and kindly waiting for me to get on with it.

    x

    x

    Wood panelled bathroom leading off Master bedroom. The portrait of Lucy is by her sister Philippa Kunisch, a jewellery designer who features on bibleofbritishtaste here.

    x

    One of two guest bedrooms, this one has the best view of the marshes. the cushions on the bed are in Virginia White’s 2014 Whippets fabric.

    Camp chair with more de Borman cushions. Table lamps converted from Scandanavian glass vases.

    Camp chair with more de Borman cushions. Table lamps converted from Scandinavian glass vases.

    x

    Corner of the best guest bedroom, with a very handsome wing chair. Lucy has a good eye for Georgian carcass furniture, spindly chairs and looking glasses.

    x

    The second guest bedroom, with junk shop Uccello  lampshade bought by Virginia from Paul’s Emporium in northern Camden Town.

    x

    Clea’s bedroom and her bathroom papered with Marthe Armitage’s Chinoserie paper (one of my three favourites). Marthe was the first artist maker to be featured in the bibleofbritishtaste, you can read about her here.

    x

    The house’s core is double height, with an office in the angle of the bridge running between its upstairs guest and household wings. The interior spaces here feel large and exhilarating to be in.

    x

    Looking down from the bridge. Advent calendars in the course of manufacture, cat n’ dog.

    x

    Light-box.

    x

    Spotty cat cleaning its paw in the entrance hall..

    x

    Wind, birds and meadow grazing for their sheep and horses to the north.

    x

    Lucy and Birdie.

    x

    All images copyright bibleofbritishtaste. Many thanks to the Turvills.

    Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to bibleofbritishtaste, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

  • November17th

    ‘Nothing much has happened to our house for about 20 years in terms of its look,’ says Christina Moore. ‘It’s not designed although I guess when we first put it together it was. We moved in here in 1984. Now it’s about managing the amount of stuff that we’ve got. I can’t bear taking things to charity shops that I care about, we’ve never successfully had a car boot a sale.I don’t know how to recycle things.

    That sofa came from my grandparents, they were living in a block of flats near here after the war, and there was a big bombsite, and various things came from there. We had it reupholstered. I imagine its English, it’s not particularly old.’

    x

    The painting is of an ancestor of Roger’s, who who is descended from distinguished soldiers on his  father’s side and the Pre Raphaelite painter  John Everett Millais via his mother’s family, He bought the gothic tabernacle on the right with an inheritance.

    x

    But their house was last photographed in the 80s for the World of Interiors, and then featured in Min Hogg’s ‘A Decoration Book’  in 1988. Min used this picture in the chapter entitled, ‘Simple,’ and wrote there, ‘the chintz on the seats of the three matching chairs (found for £1 each) has been dyed black, but its original pattern still shows through, giving an effect of expensive damask.’ ‘That was the front room when we first moved in,’ says Christina.

    x

    This is the Drawing Room, painted in Farrow and Ball’s Saxon Green. Or perhaps it is Cooking Apple Green? The Italian sofa came from Christina’s grandparents and they gave her the damask covered chair for her eighteenth birthday. The standard lamp comes from Roger’s family. Christina took the gold thread embroidery from another lamp shade and stuck it on this one.

    x

    Beyond is the modern extension, added 11 years ago. A friend who was an architect designed the kitchen.

    On a high shelf are dozens of china models of cenotaphs collected by Roger. Many of these are currently on loan to an exhibition in London's Wellington Arch Quadriga gallery, We Will Remember Them: London's Great War Memorials. As Dr. Roger Bowdler of English Heritage, he is the curator of this highly recommended exhibition, which runs until the end of November.The Wedgwood black Jasper ware was bought thirty years ago.

    On a high shelf are dozens of china models of cenotaphs collected by Roger. Many of these are currently on loan to an exhibition in London’s Wellington Arch Quadriga Gallery, We Will Remember Them: London’s Great War Memorials. As Dr. Roger Bowdler of English Heritage, historian and Director of Designation, he is the curator of this exhibition, which runs until the end of November and is highly recommended. Below is a shelf full of French apothecary jars.

    x

    The Wedgwood black basalt ware was bought thirty years ago. Did you always collect stuff, I asked? ‘Yes, my parents were always going to auctions,’ said Christina. ‘I used to go to jumble sales all the time, mainly clothes, fantastic fancy dress stuff.  In the 1970s we lived in a road that had the Plymouth Brethren, Jehovahs Witnesses and a church hall, all in the same street.’

    x

    The plaster on the kitchen wall is an effect known as faux Elephant skin.’It’s really easy. You colour the plaster, you stipple it when its wet, and when its almost going off, you smooth it over and put linseed oil on it.’

    x

    The print above the lamp commemorates the  ‘Loyal Order of Free Mechanics,’ fellows of a Masonic lodge.

    x

    Christina is an Art Director and Production Designer. For  the last few years she has worked on the series Game of Thrones, but she is also an  architect and graphic artist who teaches Film Studies. She redesigned the front of their eighteenth century terraced house, a former butcher’s shop that had been badly converted in the 1960s. ‘It was based on the shops in Flask Walk in Hampstead, and an old shop front that I was going to buy, but its timbers  turned out to be rotten. But the front door is old and once I got that, it it gave me the detail from which to copy and construct the rest.’

    x

    x

    Christina bought the painting from a junk stall in Flask Walk. Top shelf, Wedgwood commemorative mugs.

    x

    Roger is a former president of the Mausolea and Monuments Trust, with an ‘ongoing interest in ossuaries, skeletons and death’s heads on tombs, monuments, outdoor tombs and the inexhaustible pleasures of British churchyards.’ He framed up and hung this series of prints, a ‘Dance of Death’ by ?George Cruikshank, garnished with poppies for Remembrance Day.

    x

    Roger’s upstairs study, and his son’s electric guitar.

    x

     

    x

    When their son was a baby this became his night nursery, and Christina slipped the illustrated pages from a ‘Babar the Elephant’ book into these frames. Now George  Vertue’s prints of the Kings and Queens of England, around which this whole room was designed, are back on show.

    x

    This print of a London square is by Alan Sorell and was cut from a London Transport poster.

    x

    Bedroom.

    x

    x

    Some of  the house’s most  familiar landmarks have migrated to the basement, things that I have been looking at on my visits there for over twenty years.

    x

    This vitrine was made for displaying chocolates, now it holds Christina’s Cabinet of Curiosities, ‘ old architectural models that I made, beach finds, wax ex votos, plaster casts of members of the family’s teeth.’ The little deer hoof pegs are French and the model of a house is by their daughter Iris.’ The memorial picture is one of the first things I bought in Brick lane. It’s beautifully hand made but says, ‘In Lovnig Memory,’ rather than ‘Loving.’

    x

    x

    Min Hogg used this stupendous picture of their 1980s bedroom in her chapter called ‘Eccentric.’ She described Christina as ‘the owner of this domestic mausoleum … a robustly cheerful student of architecture who is amused by her own taste for the macabre.’

    x

    Roger and Christina, 1990s. ‘She had furs, it was very very rare to see a student wearing furs in Cambridge in the early 1980s,’ says Roger. ‘Double red fox, several layers of very long skirts and a big Sam Brown belt. Crucifixes.’  You were north of Pre Raphaelite?  ‘South of Chateaubriand’, says Roger.   All images: copyright Conran/World of Interiors/ bibleofbritishtaste.

     

    [François-René de Chateaubriand, Memoirs from beyond the Tomb, (1849/50), a book worth reading.]