Bible of British Taste
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  • December31st

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    Flanking the chimney in Malplaquet House – the home of Tim Knox and Todd Longstaffe Gowan – are shell candle sconces in the Baroque taste made by Belinda Eade almost 20 years ago.

    As a pupil at Marlborough School Belinda had helped to  restore the tumble down grotto in its grounds. In the 80s she studied jewellery at the Central School of Art and Design, and joined up with Diana Reynell and Simon Verity to restore the very elaborate shell grotto at Hampton Court House (built by the second Earl of Halifax for the Drury Lane actress who was  his mistress and designed by the Georgian architect Thomas Wright), and then to build a new one at Leeds Castle. ‘Grottoes are huge jewels,’ she said then. She has been designing and building shell encrusted rooms and grottoes ever since.

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    Belinda is also a stone carver ans sculptor, designer of gravestones and cutter of monumental letters.

    When we first met she was making stark, experimental metal candlesticks from old tractor parts and others cast with a small bronze bird, but to my continual regret I never bought one then.

    Belinda carving in a grotto that she designed and built in Spain.

    Belinda carving in a grotto that she designed and built in Spain. Her earliest grottoes were encrusted  with limpets, clams, oysters, mussels, and cockles and glittering black anthracite, gathered from the embankments of disused railway lines.

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    This is a gloriously Brutalist fireplace of slab and shuttered concrete that she built in a former studio about five years ago, modeled on those invented by the sculptor Lynn Chadwick for his manor house Lypiatt Park.

    Belinda has lived in an old stone house in Somersetshire now for about a decade

    Side door.

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    Belinda has lived with her husband and two children in an old stone hilltop house in Somerset for about 10 years now, set amongst fields and the gardens that they have created.

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    The scullery.

    Still life of kitchen sink with array of hanging pot and bottle scourers

    Still life of kitchen sink with array of hanging pot and bottle scourers

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    Log box.

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    Hearth in the long room, once the  principle room in the Elizabethan house, now mainly for dogs and ping pong.

    Ruby the rescue greyhound drowsing.

    Ruby the rescue greyhound drowsing.

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    Marble sculpture by Cornwall-based artist William Peers, exhibited at Rosie Pearson’s biennial Asthall Manor stone sculpture show

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    Paneled Drawing Room.

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    Biscuit coloured linen curtains.

    Biscuit coloured linen curtains.

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    Guest bedroom, the most comfortable bed

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    And hanging next to it her glorious shell pier glass with blue mussel shells and a limpit shell embellished table lamp

    Belinda in shell tiara, styled for a Vogue photo shoot in the 90s by the late Isabella Blow.

    Belinda in shell tiara, styled for a Vogue photo shoot in the 90s by the late Isabella Blow, from a tattered magazine cutting.

     

    William Morris Willow pattern in the second guest bedroom.

    William Morris Willow pattern in the second guest bedroom.

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    Telescopic feather duster in the spine corridor.

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    This is the ‘sister’ urn  of another that was one of four garden pieces carved with Virgilian texts, made by Belinda for Christopher Bradley-Hole’s ‘ Best in Show’ Gold Medal winning Chelsea Garden in 1997. The Latin inscription reads Inter peritura vivimus  (We live among things which will perish).

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    The topiary yew hedge sunk garden that Belinda and Patrick designed and laid out below the house. They are both very good gardeners.

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    The walled kitchen garden designed and built about eight years ago. Totem pole by artist and garden designer Tom Wood of Kalnoky Wood Garden Design. Tom’s other website is here.

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    December marigolds.

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    Galvanised zinc and corrugated iron corner of the kitchen garden.

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    Memorial stone carved by Belinda to her family pet killed by a fox, the rabbit ‘Curious Brown,’ d.2002.

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    The designs for a shell temple on Belinda’s desk.

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    Belinda in the grotto that she built over a year of Sundays, in the back garden of her west London house in c.1990, from The Sunday Telegraph, April 28, 1991. The materials  – fossilised limestone and thousands of shells supported on a wood and metal armature – had taken years to collect, and later the grotto-work was extended into the laundry room at the back of the house. In those days she collected all the shells herself, gleaning along the Devon coast for oysters and the east coast of Scotland for mussels and picking up grey and white flints in the fields of Hertfordshire. We all contributed too, giving her exotic Nautilus and spiky Murex lifted down from dusty bathroom shelves and bags of native specimens that we had picked up while beachcombing. The deep blue of mussels shells and the nacreous insides made some of the most beautiful shell work of all as well as good eating. The fly-speckled moon shells which made up the central arches of this grotto were served up to Belinda for lunch on a bicycle holiday in Normandy, and carried back, reeking of garlic.

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    The slate stone given to me by Belinda in memoriam for my Battersea dogs home cocker spaniel, buried at the foot of this wall in my back garden.

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    Above and below, two more of the Virgilian inscriptions carved for Christopher Bradley Hole’s 1997 Chelsea garden.

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    To contact Belinda about a potential commission please send a message via the bobt – all messages will be promptly passed on.

    Thanks to Belinda and Patrick.

     

    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.

     

  • December31st

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    The Eynsham Morris, boy novices at the first stop on their local Boxing Day four-pub fixture. NB Green Man.

    Photo credit my sister Lizzie who was standing next to me.

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  • September6th

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    A dozen times a year I drive down the A303 to Cornwall. Just before Launceston, when I am thinking of stopping for a cup of tea, I flash past a brown tourist sign that reads ‘Dingles Fairground Attractions’  but I had never turned off. Then one day I wandered into Malcolm Glickstein’s junk shop in the diaspora around St Pancras Station. Minutes later, I was handing over the first down payment on a battered double-seater Victorian ‘galloper,’ My merry-go-round horse was made in Burton on Trent by the chief carver of the firm of Orton and Spooner, the veritable C.J. Spooner, and had been painted and repainted dozens of times during its working life. Michael specialised in these wonderful things, and it was from him that I first heard of Dingles Fairgound Heritage Centre (as it is now more tastefully called).

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    Next time I headed west, I turned off for Dingles and drove down a mile of minor country roads to find it, a cluster of former agricultural buildings and one modern industrial hangar . My first visit was on a bleak wintry day and I had the place entirely to myself. Nothing had prepared me for the bliss that followed. Were you ever taken to the fair for a special treat? Did you long to win a goldfish, were you allowed candyfloss, did you prefer the dodgems or the octopus, were you too scared for the ghost train and did you end up feeling terribly sick? I was always lucky with goldfish but rides on the merry-go-round were my personal ecstasy.

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    At Dingles there are two collections, this one of older fairground attractions in the museum shed  and a much larger hangar full of working fairground rides. My first pictures are taken in the museum, where the spinning crocodile-fish will tell your fortune. The noble horses under tarpaulins are from a huge merry go round known as Edwards Golden Gallopers built by Savages of Kings Lynn, a firm that was world famous for their galloping horse roundabouts. No less an artist than Barbara Jones made a point of drawing their workshop for the Second World War propaganda commission, ‘Recording Britain,’ and you will find an honourable mention of  her endeavours here.

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    The racing car drivers were painted by Edwin Hall for the fascia boards of a dodgem ride commissioned by Sam Crow in 1938. The ride passed from father to son and was traveled around the north-east of England until the 1970s.

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    The first fairground ride-upon that I coveted was a life-sized goat that hung for almost two years against the window in Malcolm Glickstein’s junk shop. Although I had left no deposit on it, I thought of it as already mine, until suddenly one day it was gone. The next time that I saw it was in Primrose Hill. It had joined the collection of that interesting artist Peter Blake and was on show with other toys, taxidermy and gee-gaws in the show that he had curated, the Museum of Eveything’s exhibition no. 3.

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    Entrance to the Hall of Mirrors, me.

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    This children’s roundabout dates from before the First World War. It was built in Sowerby Bridge In Yorkshire, and traveled by Arthur Swift who probably built the space rocket and the liner (named Queen Elizabeth) himself. Arthur and his ride retired in the 1970s.

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    The blissful thing about these dodgems built by Orton, Sons and Spooner, is that they are still running. For  modest fee you can go on all the rides in the big hangar. Each one plays a different hurdy-gurdy tune and the sweet throbbing cacophony of organ and wurlitzer when you arrive inside makes the hairs stand up beautifully on the back of your neck.

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    This is Edwards’ Supersonic Lightening Skid, one of the last ‘thrill’ rides built in the 1930s.

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    Sultry Material Girl, already consigned to the museum shed.

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    On my second visit a party of nostalgia-and-fun loving senior citizens were thrilling to the Super Chariot Racer, a white knuckle ride built over seventy years ago.

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    Dingles is almost entirely run by a knowledgeable band of volunteers, enthusiasts and trustees. The President of the Showmans Guild of Great Britain describes it as ‘ our life and our heritage,’ for the rides here were used and operated by ‘our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers.’ Together they spent years fundraising at rallies to buy, rebuild and restore everything here and to set up the educational trust that runs Dingles now.

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    A story printed in yesterdays Financial Times’ How to Spend It magazine describes fairground art as folk art that is now highly collectable. Baby bankers, hedge funders and their dealers are scrabbling to buy up the jolliest pieces to install in their drawing rooms as talking pieces; battered condition and flaky paintwork is ‘not a problem.’  Visit’ Dingles Fairground Attractions ! and give thanks for all those un-monied, non-mercenary enthusiasts who built and run this wonderful place. All images copyright bibleofbritishtaste.

    Thanks to everyone at Dingles and especially Roger Alford. Dingles is off the A30 in Devon, 35 miles west of Exeter, open 7 days a week, February to November. http://fairground-heritage.org.uk/

    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.