Bible of British Taste
  • Featured 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.]

     

  • October26th

    x

    A family of aesthetes live here, in Thames-side Isleworth to the west of London.

    x

    These are some clues to their identity. The hanging mugs feature monochrome woodblock  vignettes of the Dorset countryside by the artist, engraver  and typographer Reynolds Stone (1909-1979), and the three coffee cans below have motifs taken from his graphic designs  ( winter is coming in now, so we switched on the electric lights).

    x

    On the top row are Eric Ravilious’s Garden Implement mugs, designed for Wedgwood in its glory days.

    x

    Which brings me to my subject, another artist, author and designer, Ian Archie Beck, who is married to Stone’s youngest daughter Emma. Here is the 40th Anniversary special edition of the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which he designed for Elton John in 1973 when he was twenty-six years old, over the course of a long weekend. Rocket, Elton’s record company asked him to include a piano and teddy bear. You can read more about it here.

    x

    And here is their rescued greyhound, a fine ex-racer who ran at Hove dog track, named Gracie.

    x

    On the shelves behind her, what looks like a full set of mid twentieth century books with jackets designed by Barnett Freedman are lined up.

    x

    And above the book case a small leather suitcase is plastered with enigmatic luggage labels including one which reads, ‘Les Freres Perverts…’


    x

    Les Freres Perverts is the performance or cabaret group invented by Ian and his friend and fellow artist the late  Glynn Boyd Harte, of whom there is much more to say later.

    Glynn B H Celia Stothard Ian Beck May 1st 1975

    Glynn Boyd Harte,  Celia Stothard and Ian Beck, ‘Les Freres Perverts’ on May 1st, 1975.

    GBH

    GBH (as he was known) went for the total immersion experience. Here is the record of his enthusiasm, his ?crayon drawing of the sheet music which provided their songs and inspiration, much of it sourced for them by their friend and fan, Patrick O’Connor, critic and music hall enthusiast.

    Carte Postale

    For me, the climax of their performances was the moment when they became seedy sellers of dirty postcards in an unspecified Egyptian location, dressed in white cotton gloves and solar topees, Ian displaying his wares to the audience with throaty cries of, ‘Carte Postale, Carte Postale,’ Glynn seated at the piano and craning over his shoulder at us.  This is what Ian was holding, very kindly ‘dug out’ from his archives.

    Here is the window sill in the dacha where Ian works, and below is his latest production, his illustrated volume of poetry, Behind the Dusty Glass, published in a limited edition.

    Here is the window sill in the dacha in the garden, where Ian works.

    x

    And on the drawing board below, copies of his latest work, a limited edition illustrated volume of poems, that was three years in the making. It is seen here with a vintage unredeemed, book token designed by Barnett Freedman and a copy of that small, extremely rare publication, Murderer’s Cottages, by Glynn Boyd Harte (1976), a chap book-style publication that gave him the opportunity to draw Staffordshire china souvenirs of notorious murderers’ cottages on every double page. Ian has been writing these poems ever since Glynn died, in 2003. The first one came to him when he spotted Jude Law in Camden, and thought, ‘he looked so handsome, he looked like a god!’

    x

    x

    Each plate in each volume is currently being hand coloured by Ian. Each book takes around four hours to complete and they are all subtly different. The page describing its publisher and editions is below.

    x

    x

    x

    A wedding present, John Piper’s screen print from his 1972 designs for Benjamen Britten’s opera,  Death in Venice, hangs on the back wall. Below are works by David Jones and a sketch by Denton Welch, one that Ian inherited from Patrick O’Conner ( ‘rather touchingly, he had written my name on them,’ says Ian),

    x

    next to a poster by Barnett Freedman from 1956  for the London Underground, reprinted in 1965

    x

    and a framed sample of Eric Ravilious’s Garden Implements design, printed by Edinburgh Weavers in the 1950s.

    x

    Here is the dacha in which they hang, where Ian works each day,

    x

    and here is the naif still life painted by Ian’s mother in her old age with a paint box which he had discarded, hanging in the kitchen. She was annoyed by it, unable to make the perspective correct as she would have liked, and so slightly ashamed of it and cross with her son, for taking it away and liking it.

    x

    Ian Beck’s limited edition and hand-coloured book is published and sold by Neil Jennings Fine Art , contact him at : neil@jenningsfine art.co.uk. All images copyright Ian Beck and  bibleofbritishtaste.

    .

     

     

     

  • September14th

    Richard and Patricia Hewlings live in the Fens, the district known as the Holy land of England. Their house is a flat-fronted, red brick farmhouse with a pretty Georgian doorcase, and an older wing jettying out into what was once the farmyard at the rear. It’s known locally as ‘Big Old House.’  There’s a dairy and some barns at one corner, and a Quaker meeting house terraced onto the other, with its burial yard behind; the bones of some more honest Quakers lie under its floor. Richard (who is a former Inspector of Ancient Monuments, and works for English Heritage), discovered and then reburied them there, in the course of repairing these dilapidated and derelict buildings. Tricia has planted a rare and imaginative series of garden compartments and painstakingly restored old floorboards and interior paintwork. Richard has hauled back joinery and furniture, the by-product of a lifetime’s curiosity for old things and buildings. Here, in the 1980s and 90s, their six children grew up.

    x

    The hall.

    x

    When Richard and Tricia bought the Old House it was empty and derelict, divided into flats for the workers who ran a tractor-tyre retreading factory from its yards. The house had been empty for six years and most of its chimney pieces and joinery had been stripped out. Now it is the portrait of a marriage, and a family. Here is the hall, with Easter palm crosses.

    x

    The staircase hall, hung with prints, edge to edge.

    x

    Richard designed this handsome, immodest fireplace, the largest in the house, around the two end pilasters that he found in a Bury St. Edmunds antique shop for £25.

    x

    x

    x

    x

    This cushion stitched with badges from military uniforms was made by their daughter.

    x

    The Wedgwood teapot with a crocodile finial celebrates the Egyptomania that marked  Nelson’s victory in Egypt at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 . ‘When I met Trish, she was the only person I knew who liked porcelain, and I was the only person she knew who liked porcelain,’ Richard says.’ She had a collection of little cups.’

    x

    The dining chairs belonged to Oxford aesthete Dadie Rylands, a fellow of Kings College, Cambridge : Richard found them in a local country auction. His college rooms were decorated by the Bloomsbury artist Dora Carrington, and immortalised by Virginia Wolf in A Room of One’s Own.

    x

    Propped on an easel is the finest portrait in the house of the powerfully built John Davenport, Tricia’s first father-in-law, writer, fund-raiser for Dylan Thomas, boxer, pianist and poet.

    x

    The wallpaper was deigned by Edward Bawden in 1935, and supplied by Coles of London. The floors were exactingly hand sanded by Tricia and bleached with lye.  The chimneypiece was created from salvage, bought at a local country house sale. When I last visited in the late 1980s, the room was decommissioned, with a gaping hole in the ceiling;  I could not have imagined how beautiful this room would look when it was finished.

    x

    The art pottery and glass is Tricia’s, and the big pottery jug was fished out of the River Ouse when a lock was being drained there.

    x

    Tricia found the hand painted hound place-card holders  that run along the chimmneypiece moulding, and she is waiting for her daughter Maud to paint some huntsmen and horses to run with them. You can see them a bit more clearly in the picture below.

    x

    x

    The small, enigmatic oil painting was a student work by their son, Arthur Hewlings.

    x

    The bedroom, with poltergeist curtain activity.

    x

    x

    A sweet disorder. Shoes and shells lie distributed over the carpet, and wind-blown billets-doux flutter to the floor.

    x

    Still life with upright vacuum cleaner.

    x

    The children’s toys and books make a museum in the bedroom corridor

    x

    x

    Bedroom picture, an early C20th fairground scene by Clodagh Sparrow.

    x

    The much-admired kitchen, hand built, partly by Richard, with a new (in 2014) lead splash-back designed by Tricia. Better than Plain English.

    x

    Saturday lunch in preparation. Not a museum, everything is for use, and in use.

    x

    Probably the nicest kitchen in East Anglia.

    x

    x

    ‘This is our ‘dirt’ room, its the scullery, it has a sink.’

    x

    The third of their kitchen dressers

    x

    The lower garden, where food is grown. The land was reclaimed from beneath rafts of concrete which covered the farmyards here for fifty years.

    x

    More food in bountiful profusion

    x

    Arcadia. Compost heap and nature rampant.

    All images : copyright bibleofbritishtaste