Bible of British Taste
  • Houses
  • 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 obelisks 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 steep 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.

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