Bible of British Taste
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  • March22nd

    This is the house that Prue Piper and her husband Edward found in the 1960s. Built from the local oolite limestone, It was once the laundry for a large country house. a place where not only washing but also drying was accomplished in a high-ceilinged space inside with three long windows, or out on the windy slope it stands above. Food is growing now where linen sheets once flapped and tugged at their pegs. Prue Piper and her sculptor son Henry, his wife Janine who is also a ceramicist and their young children all live and work here. They are self-sufficient in sheep, wind-power and fruit and vegetables.

    The Old Laundry in Somerset. This is the house that Prue Piper and her husband Edward found in the 1960s. Built from the local oolite limestone, it was once the laundry for a large country house. a place where not only washing but also drying was accomplished in a high-ceilinged space inside with three long windows, or out on the windy slope it stands above. Food is growing now where linen sheets once flapped and tugged at their pegs. Prue Piper and her sculptor son Henry, his wife Janine who is also a ceramicist and their young children all live and work here. They are self-sufficient in sheep, wind-power and fruit and vegetables.

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    This is a corner of Prue’s ceramics studio.

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    Prue’s late husband Edward Piper was born in 1938, the eldest son of the artist John Piper (one of the greatest neo-Romantic painters of the C20th) and his wife the critic and librettist Myfanwy Piper. He and Prudence MacKillop were married in 1961 soon after he graduated from the Slade School of Art, and just as she was embarking on her Ph.D as a research chemist. They bought this house for £4050 at the end of  a long search for a place with land that they could afford, using the legacy left to Edward by a godparent; Edward died at home here in 1990. The living and work spaces here have evolved gradually to suit all their changing needs. Now it is a combination of the simple, practical and very beautiful. This is the kitchen and dining room, the principle downstairs space.

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    The dresser is stacked with a mixture of the French crockery and the ceramics that Prue has been making here for thirty years.Above is a continuous frieze of female nudes painted on rice paper by Edward and his photograph of a medieval gargoyle.

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    Prue with her Mermaid jug.

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    Corner of the kitchen-and-living room, note the two-tier ceramic snow drop ‘theatre’ by Prue on the table.

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    Kitchen-cum-living room, rear wall with paintings by Edward Piper and a ceramic mask by Prue.

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    Edward Piper made his name as a painter and a photographer. As well as the highly distinctive and idiosyncratic black and white landscape and architectural images taken for the Shell County Guides he made hundreds of paintings and photographs of the female nude, of which more later.

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    Garden-gargolyle, Henry’s squirrel-proof bird feeder behind..

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    A C17th carved wooden figure of a bare-breasted woman from Stokesay Castle gatehouse and a pair of ‘Normans’ around the stone font in the church at Armitage in Staffordshire, both by Edward Piper, photographed for the still unsurpassed Shell County Guides that he worked on with his father John Piper, and that Piper had begun with John Betjeman.

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    Sources for Prue Piper’s meticulous sketches towards ideas for new ceramic forms.The Beano is  lurking somewhere at the bottom of the pile.

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    2009 Green Man birthday card painted for his mother Prue by her elder son the artist Luke Piper, and redolent of John Piper’s Foliate Heads prints  and tapestries that also referenced the ‘Green Men’ found in the architecture of medieval church buildings.

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    Prue’s studio in the bleachingly bright Januuary sun, contrived from two small stores for the coal that fueled the Victorian laundry here once, and that were first used as the Piper children’s bedrooms.

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    A turquoise-glazed Madeline Toby Jug amongst other pieces on an upper shelf. Being highly practical, with a doctorate in biochemistry, Prue learned to pot at classes in Frome and then taught herself the rest. Equipped with the kiln from John Piper’s Fawley Bottom studio, she invented Staffordshire-style figurines of the Celtic deity Cernunnos and these Green Man plates and jugs, impressing haloes of oak leaves into their wet clay which are burnt off in the first firing.

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    A Green Man plate just seen on a lower shelf.

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    Adam and Eve, a pair of Green Man jugs and a ‘Bearded King’ jug.

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    An army of ceramic frogs ( available to buy individually from Prue).

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    Studio shelf, more gargoyle photographs, a Pig and Acorn lidded jug or creamer, and another ceramic mask. Some of her patterns come from Owen Jones’s Victorian Grammar of Ornament, some are smothered in a livery of cross-hatched and dotted pattern raised in multi-coloured slip, bright as the boiled sweets in a confectioner’s shop.

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    The courtyard.

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    Henry Piper’s ‘Daffodil’ outdoor light blooms in the hedge.

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    A wind mobile and garden sculpture by Henry Piper, temporarily flattened by winter gales. I hope to show you a picture of it upright again soon, in a future piece about his work.

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    Looking at Henry Piper’s wind mobile and Moon sculpture. in the field by the lake which they dug out decades earlier.

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    In 2000 Prue published a book of her late husband’s experimental art photography, Nudes by Edward Piper, in a limited edition of only 1000 copies, price £19.95. (My copy is numbered 378, and there are still a few available for sale : contact Prue Piper : pruepiper@btinternet.com ) Prue was his favourite model, the right-hand image show her partly submerged in seaweedy Pembrokeshire seas like an upside-down Ophelia; others were ‘friends of ours, or local girls who liked to show off.’

    Edward and Prue in the 1970s

    Edward and Prue in the 1970s

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    Prue exhibits with Messums. Her ceramics are unshackled by rules of taste or design, free to be as funny, archaic or kitsch as she wants them to be.

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    With many thanks to Prue and Henry Piper. Contact details for Prue Piper : pruepiper@btinternet.com . All images copyright Prue Piper and/or bibleofbritishtaste. Full and accurate links and references to this site and authorship/copyright must be supplied when excerpts are used.

     

     

  • February28th

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    Glynn Boyd Harte was born in Rochdale in 1948. He met his wife Caroline Bullock (herself an artist and historian) in the foyer of  the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1968, when he was a 21 year old student at St. Martin’s : she was wearing a crinoline, he fell in love with her at first sight. They married in 1971 (and later had two sons, Lucian and Caspar); after this they were very good at everything they turned their hands to, and didn’t bother at all with anything they did not care about. Above all, Glynn’s object was always to have fun, to amuse and to be amused, and in this he generally excelled.

    An Eric Ravilious 'Alphabet' mug, in a lithograph which will be sold by Neil Jennings in a mixed sale of artwork to be held at the Artworkers Guild, 6 Queens Square London WC1 N3AT, from March 3rd 2015. [For more information contact Neil Jennings, neil@jenningsfineart.co.uk   07812 994558].

    An Eric Ravilious ‘Alphabet’ mug by GBH, in a lithograph which will be sold by Neil Jennings in a mixed sale of artwork to be held at the Artworkers Guild, 6 Queens Square London WC1 N3AT, from March 3rd 2015. [For more information contact Neil Jennings, neil@jenningsfineart.co.uk 07812 994558].

    They were part of the Young Fogey gang of coevals who moved into and restored derelict eighteenth housing stock in formerly slummy parts of London that included Gavin Stamp and Alexandra Artley and Dan Cruickshank, described by Robinson and Artley in the Young Georgian Handbook, published by Harpers and Queen in 1985.

    The Boyd Harte’s as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Soanie’, described by Alexandra Artley and John Martin Robinson in Harpers and Queen’s  New Georgian Handbook published in 1985. ‘Like all British thinkers, they run for months on ginger nuts and tea.’ A tiny Ravilious Alphabet mug is in everyday use on the floorboards. The GBH’s were part of the Young Fogey gang of coevals who moved into and restored derelict eighteenth housing stock in formerly slummy parts of London, that included the architectural historian Gavin Stamp, his first wife Alexandra Artley and Dan Cruikshank among others.

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    GBH illustrated many books, but the very best were those that he conceived of and wrote himself. These is the title page from his very first publication, ‘Murderer’s Cottages,’ (Warren Editions 1976), published by that fellow perfectionist Jonathan Gili and now a rare item. Note the Pop Art lettertype. It is in chapbook style measuring approximately 3 x 5 inches, each plate depicting a Staffordshire china souvenir of  a notorious murderer’s cottage. Peter Blake, GBH’s tutor at the RCA, would have appreciated it. Only 500 copies were printed. Glynn’s friend and collaborator as one of the Freres Perverts, Ian Beck, has published all the other plates here.

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    The house in which George Frederick Manning helped his wife Marie de Roux to murder her lover in 1839, and then to bury his body in quicklime under the kitchen flagstones. Both were hanged for their crime. Charles Dickens would later model the character of Hortense in his novel Bleak House on Marie Manning, and Marie appeared as a waxwork in Madame Tussard’s Chamber of Horrors. The murder was remembered as the ‘Bermondsey Horror,’ and so the Mannings’ house was immortalised in glazed ceramic for the popular Victorian market.

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    GBH played the piano soulfully and set the Poet Laureate John Betjeman’s prose poem  script for the television programme Metro-land to music;  Glynn, a cast of his friends and the poet performed it together with cardboard megaphones and train noises in two locations, sometimes forgetting their lines. This is taken from his deluxe artist’s book of 1977. His lithographs were and still are reproduced by the Curwen Press.

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    Glynn and Carrie dressed beautifully and fantastically, she in print dresses and tea gowns and he in ‘bags,’ waistcoats and two-tone, co-respondent shoes. But despite his rather fin de siecle good looks he enjoyed telling a joke against himself in which a third party, possibly the late James Lees-Milne,  had referred to him as ‘rather plain.’ A fulsome thank you letter from the 1990s describing sybaritic holidays in Cornwall and France –  lobsters eaten, glorious sunsets, church crawls and ‘Proust’s bedroom at the Carnavalet’ –  ended with the plaint, ‘The question is, had I been less plain, would I have been able to enjoy myself so much?’  Another anecdote involved being spotted by a member of the public buying his little sons an ice cream, taken for a child-molester and detained by the police. It ended with a car chase through the streets of Bloomsbury as the uncertain coppers drove him hither and tither, doubting that he was the marrying kind but searching at his insistence  for the woman whom he claimed was his wife, and whom he had helpfully described to them as, ‘a Bloomsbury bat in a Fauvist frock, Officer!’

    Glynn's father was a commercial artist and art teacher and his grandfather owned a lithographic printing works. The front garden path of his childhood home was paved with old litho stones. At the RCA, Bawden and Ravilious were his artistic heroes long before they came back into vogue, but his earliest works  also shared traits with those of his near contemporary David Hockney. His first works were in crayon but in the early 1980s he changed medium for watercolour, and later, egg tempera, without ever falling below his own self-imposed standard of perfection. He was a genius at depicting the perfectly arranged tablescape, sometimes as the illustration to a cookery book or newspaper column in the Times or Telegraph, sometimes for his own delectation. This is my favourite amongst those that were translated into lithograph, "Mr Dodd's Auricula' (1979). Barbara Jones's  genius King Penguin Guide to the Isle of Wight can be seen in the top right corner. Mr Dodd's house has featured on the bobt here and here.

    Glynn’s father was a commercial artist and art teacher and his grandfather owned a lithographic printing works. The front garden path of his childhood home was paved with old litho stones. At the RCA, Bawden – who taught him – and Ravilious were his artistic heroes long before they came back into vogue, but his earliest works also shared traits with those of his near contemporary David Hockney. His first works were in crayon but in the early 1980s he changed medium for watercolour, and later, egg tempera, without ever falling below his own self-imposed standard of perfection. He was a genius at depicting the perfectly arranged tablescape, sometimes as the illustration to a cookery book or newspaper column in the Times or Telegraph, sometimes for his own delectation. This is my favourite amongst those that were translated into lithograph, “Mr Dodd’s Auricula’ (1979). Barbara Jones’s genius King Penguin Guide to the Isle of Wight can be seen in the top right corner. Mr Dodd’s house has featured on the bobt here and here.

    Table-scape at Charlecote House in Warwickshire.

    Table-scape at Charlecote House in Warwickshire.

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    GBH in the the Georgian house at no 29, Percy Street, to which they moved in the mid 80s, where the wallpapers were either meticulously hand painted or designed by him and some were reproduced for for his Dolphin Studio design company. Cynthia Kee described her first meeting, finding him up a ladder painting wallpaper on to the bare plaster there, ‘ the stripes were uncompromisingly in period, magenta, with a thinner line alongside and another of gold dots. Glynn was working on the dots.’ This clipping and the following one from The Times, October 1990.

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    Here in Fitzrovia GBH felt entirely spiritually at home, in a house so dilapidated when he found it that the electrical wiring had been gnawed by rats. No matter, for in his imagination the Vorticists were still in the Eiffel Tower restaurant a stone’s throw away, ‘being very avant-garde and angular in black and magenta, Augustus John swishing his coat and beard, Ronald Firbank manfully grappling with a pea. Nina Hamnett, of course – always the perfect lady – was being sick into her handbag over the road at the Fitzroy Tavern.’ What is missing here, is a proper photographic record of  the exquisite rooms that Glynn and Carrie contrived here and earlier, at Cloudesley Square. Glynn’s  lithograph below goes some way to supply this.

    Chimmneypiece at Cloudesley Square.

    Chimmneypiece at Percy Street.

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    GBH at Cloudesley Square, Islington, the Boyd Harte’s first marital home in the 1970s . The architectural historian John Martin Robinson described meeting Glynn and Carrie for the first time, being asked to supper and then  arriving at an ‘uninhabitable Georgian wreck’ where they removed a bit of rusty corrugated iron, climbed in and then ate a picnic together off the floor.Its finished interiors featured period decorative treatments and especially wood-graining, about which the GBH’s were evangelical in an age of universally stripped pine. They had often rushed into a junk dealer’s workshop to rescue some sweetly grained bedroom chest of drawers from the stripper’s chemical tank.

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    Ravilious bowl, lithograph. The Eric Ravilious ‘Boatrace’ bowl for Wedgwood, standing on a burr walnut table in Cloudesley Square..

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    Foodie books. A labour of love. In 1986 GBH illustrated The Entertaining Book co-authored by Teresa and Auberon Waugh – she provided the seasonal recipes, he wrote about the best wine to drink with them. Glynn went down to Combe Florey House in Somerset, where Bron’s father the celebrated author Evelyn Waugh had lived before him, and drew the kitchen table set with their lunch  as the book’s cover design, ate it, and then drew the table with dirty plates, empty glasses and chairs pushed back afterwards as the back cover.

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    For Teresa’s  introduction he chose to illustrate the sentence, ‘My children’s generation has been brought up on a mixture of Camembert, junk food and avocado pears – such things would have been unheard of in a post-war nursery,’ ( as the daughter of the 6th earl of Onslow, Teresa’s childhood was passed at Clandon Park, their country seat). She was fascinated when he drew these objects just as they were including the 1980s Tesco price tag, executed with great verisimilitude.

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    Asparagus watercolour. Glynn was particularly fond of the grid, trellis or graph pattern as a background matrix.

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    Carnations and brushes lithograph.

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    The album of five musical compositions which he composed, illustrated and dedicated to his wife Carrie.

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    ‘Tea at Farringdon,’ Lord Berners, Penelope Betjeman and her Arab mare, Moti. For the original watercolour, featured in an earlier post, see here.

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    The plangent musical score. ‘The?  Lait?  One-Lump-or-Two? Un Cheval ! Un Cheval Rose !! Encore du The?’

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    ‘The Pyramids.’ Also utilised as the ‘Carte Postale,’ in a dramatic routine performed by les Freres Perverts.

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    ‘Les Mains de Ravel.’

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    GBH as artist in residence during the rebuilding of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

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    The Pansy fabric designed by GBH for Dolphin Studios.

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    GBH’s watercolour, ‘Johnnie Scraping his boot,’ (2000), painted at Charlecote,  the Warwickshire country house of his art school coeval and old friend, Sir Edmund Fairfax Lucy.

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    A.N. Wilson and ex-Battersea Dogs Home cocker spaniel ‘Percy,’ in an infamous incident recorded by GBH in strip-cartoon narrative in memoriam, after Percy died prematurely.

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    Early sketch towards an unrealised painting that was to have been titled, ‘Mr and Mrs. Wilson and Percy,’ after Hockney’s semi-eponymous double portrait of Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell in the Tate. Glynn was an obelisk fetishist with an admirable collection; ‘poor man’s obelisks’ referred to my less desirable shelf full of minature lighthouses manufactured from Cornish Serpentine on the Lizard peninsula.

    All missives, programmes, envelopes and invitations were opportunities for more jokes, wildly embellished gossip and running jokes of long-standing. During his final illness, a friend described a dinner at her house at which GBH and another friend who was a dress designer laughed themselves silly as they discussed couture shrouds - 'a shroud to die for.' After he collapsed in a hospital waiting room his jacket, ripped by the resuscitation team, was exhibited like a toreador's cloak to visitors at  his house in Gower Street.

    All missives, programmes, envelopes and invitations were opportunities for more jokes, wildly embellished gossip and ancient running jokes of long-standing. During his final illness, a friend described a dinner at her house at which GBH and another dinner guest who was a dress designer laughed themselves silly as they discussed couture shrouds – ‘a shroud to die for.’ After he collapsed in a hospital waiting room his jacket, ripped by the resuscitation team, was exhibited like a toreador’s cloak to visitors at his house in Gower Street.

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    Glynn, Lucian, Caspar and Carrie Boyd Harte drawn by an ailing GBH shortly before his death. As Carrie points out, ‘He got all the shoes exactly right.’ GBH is remembered as an enthusiastic Brother and Past Master (in 1996) of the Art Worker’s Guild. When the Guild ‘Revels’ were revived he directed several full-dress pantomimes, which oscillated between ‘farcical under-rehearsal and total professionalism’ ( as one of his collaborators, Alan Powers, recalled in his obituary for the Independent) and were performed to sell-out audiences. As Powers also wrote, ‘The listing of individual achievements fails to convey the totality of Glynn Boyd Harte’s life, which, like Oscar Wilde’s, was the vehicle of genius. It extended to his taste in decoration and collecting, his circles of friends and enemies ( irreversibly and often unreasonably transferred from the first category into the second) and not least, the warmth of the family life that surrounded him.’
    To say that his achievements should be better known would be quite true, to say that he is greatly missed is an understatement.
    All images copyright bibleofbritishtaste / the estate of Glynn Boyd Harte.
    Excerpts and links can be used providing that full and clear credit to bibleofbritishtaste is given along with direction back to the original content.

     

  • February22nd

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    The postcard advertises Bannerman’s Bar in  Cowgate, Edinburgh Old Town,  Julian Bannerman’s legendary first venture in 1979,  the place where he met his wife Isabel Eustace (it is still there). This is a tour of the house and garden which they recently took on in 84 pictures, beginning with the garden, then the house. The pictures are large so that you can see the detail. If you don’t like gardens, fast forward now, but you will be missing the best bit.

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    In 2012 the Bannermans left Hanham Court (one of my first and favourite posts here) the house they had restored and the garden they had created near Bath, for Trematon Castle on the eastern edge of Cornwall.  Here they live in  a long low Regency house built by a practical naval man who was also a follower of Sir John Soane.

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    The entrance front, with olive trees donated from a client’s garden and the Victorian planters that they found in a  salvage yard two years ago and rebuilt. Light bounces off the water and shines straight through the house from front to back.

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    I’ve stayed at Trematon half a dozen times and watched the house transformed with new colour schemes and dozens of their pictures unpacked and hung. This was the front drive at the end of winter in 2014.

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    There was no garden as such before they came. But by last summer the nine acres of castle grounds in which the house stands had been utterly re-made.

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    This is the double border planted and designed by Isabel in the curving contour of the bailey wall. It is what the Bannermans are justly famous for  as I and J Bannerman, Garden Designers and Builders, gardeners by appointment to the Prince of Wales. They have been working together since 1983.

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    The green oak obelisk are  a Bannerman speciality.

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    This is the border in 2014. This year it will be even bigger, bursting and overflowing from its beds.

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    Trematon Castle was built to command the mouth of the River Tamar over the water from the naval base of Plymouth. This is its gatehouse with a handsome upper chamber in which the Black Prince spent a night in the fourteenth century.The castle belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall, it fell into the hands of the Duke of Cornwall soon after the Norman Conquest. When Sir Francis Drake sailed back to Plymouth after his circumnavigation of the globe in 1580, he waited at anchor, then came ashore to store the treasure he had gathered up for his monarch Queen Elizabeth  – gold, silver and emeralds pirated from Spanish ships around the coasts of South America – in safety at Trematon.

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    Here is the garden ‘in the green,’ in early spring.

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    And again,  a couple of months further on.

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    The nineteenth century builder of the new house here hit upon the plan of bashing out sections of the curtain wall at strategic viewpoints, bringing in great gusts of bright effulgent light.

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    The ancient Motte stands on a steeph tump like an upturned pudding basin. Julian sprayed the winter heliotrope that was rampant here choking out all other growth, and now the long dormant seeds of  thyme, Valerian, native orchids and wild fennel have burst back into life.

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    There is a narrow grassy walk along the rampart under the wall that makes a path between Motte and Gatehouse.

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    Here is the garden front, with little wooden dummy cannons made by the Bannermans, trained on Plymouth.

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    The house with its castellated garden front stands on the elevated plateau where the original castle dwelling hall and chapel was once.

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    Young and ancient apple trees and Gunnera in a protected meadow cum orchard between the walls.

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    The ‘Hindoo’ swimming pool installed by previous tenants, where a few newts were swimming around the steps.

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    Stables on the back drive.

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    And at last, the house. The Staircase and Entrance Hall, decorated for the World of Interiors shoot last year (for which the photographer was the excellent Christopher Simon Sykes, who is also David Hockey’s biographer ) and (just) published in March 2015.

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    Isabel’s garden flowers taken as she was arranging them for the shoot on the kitchen table.

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    Binoculars for scanning Her Majesty’s fleet or any other shipping anchored in Plymouth Sound.

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    The Dining Room which often doubles as Isabel’s office.

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    I like this room so much, I’ve taken its picture six or seven times.

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    Isabel getting on with it.

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    Topographical prints and watercolours of antiquarian scenes.

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    A flotilla of warships.

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    Beyond the dining room is s Morning Room or parlour with the TV.

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    All the fireplaces here are original, of the same Regency date as the house.

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    And I am proud that Isabel has added the two little Cornish Serpentine lighthouses from the Lizard peninsula that I  gave her to the mantlepiece.

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    In 2014 she made stripey covers for the chairs.

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    But I like the room in deshabille too, here we watched the Downton Abbey Xmas special in 2012 by the roaring fire, the one when Matthew Crawley dies horribly in a car smash.

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    The huge copper sphere is an ancient finial from Christopher Wren’s Tom Tower in Oxford, taken down during restoration in the 1960s.

    Trematon Castle : Avoid culture all day & night at Bannermans.

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    View of the long border from the Drawing Room window.

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    Blissful Drawing Room.

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    Isabel’s mantlepiece arrangement are matchless, the dynamic opposites of the ‘tablescapes’ contrived by that careful decorator, David Hicks. The shell design sofa cover fabric is by that talented designer Linda Bruce, who lives and works in David Hockney’s old west London studio.

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    This picture hang which I like hugely includes a poster for Graham Sutherland and a Paul Nash-like gouache by David Vickery.

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    Upstairs.

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    Master bedroom with the bed made up from lengths of carved Gothick pelmet.

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    More gouaches from their David Vickery collection.

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    A profile silhouette of Julian tucked behind the looking glass frame.

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    Spare room. Isabel’s botanical photographs.

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    These pictures were taken soon after they moved in.

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    A year later the daybed had been re-webbed and the room was looking a lot swankier.

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    Ismay’s bedroom.

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    Early morning. View from my bedroom.

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    My bed, facing out to sea.

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    Isabel and Julian’s bathroom is the nicest I have ever seen.

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    Isabel’s sewing room.

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    Some of her document textiles.

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    And one that puzzles her, she has no idea what it was woven for.

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    That evening we went up onto the rampart walk,

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    turned left at the gatehouse with its plaque commemorating the Black Prince’s visit,

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    where the fireplace held a bundle of bunting,

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    (the recalcitrant pug is their son Bertie’s dog)

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    then up the steep castle mound,

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    and via a vertiginous iron ladder, to the precarious ledge fifty feet up, where Isabel hauled up a new Union Jack in place of the old one, shattered by winter storms.

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    Cannons still trained on Plymouth. This photograph c.Isabel Bannerman. The gardens at Trematon are open to the public, more information here. Isabel’s botanical photographs are with  jonathancooper.co.uk . Probably one of the most beautiful places in Britain. Thanks to the Bannermans.

    All images except this one, copyright bibleofbritishtaste. 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.