Bible of British Taste
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  • April14th

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    Hunt supporters don’t carry umbrellas. On March 16th under lead-grey skies and needle-sharp rain the West Street Tickham hunt met for the last time on the gravel in front of Doddington Place in Kent.  Lachrymal weather and these rain-blotched pictures set the scene.

    Tickham country ran from Whitstable and the Swale through Doddington to the ridge of the north downs. It has been hunted for almost 250 years. In 1990 the Tickham amalgamated with the West Street which had started out as  a private Harrier pack.

    The West Street Tickham’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed with those of their immediate neighbours. Now they join with the Ashford Valley, giving up part of their old territory to the East Kent Hunt. ‘The Ashford Valley are changing their name to the Ashford Valley Tickham and the East Kent are talking about becoming the ‘East Kent with West Street’, so the names don’t get lost,’  hunt secretary Sarah Leggatt said. Loss of country, motorways, railways and urban sprawl are the cause.

    Their ‘cracking’  Huntsman Paul Saunders was Whipper In for the East Sussex and Romney Marsh, before he joined them.

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    Soon after 10 am a huge field  began to assemble.

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    Everyone was immaculately turned out, despite the foul conditions.

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    The hounds arrive from their kennels at Wren’s Hill, built in 1877.

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    Richard and Amicia Oldfield were their hosts at Doddington Place.

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    This picture courtesy of Pauline Klewin.

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    Sausages and lashings of port in plastic cups were served to riders and followers,

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    Terrier men and a non-working terrier

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    A final rally from the roof, political blogger Edward Oldfield ( http://twitter.com/OLDFE1  ) looked on from the battlements like Hamlet at Elsinore.

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    The West Street Tickham’s collars are green and the Ashford are in yellow

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    Their faces wet with rain and  tears, the faithful listened patiently,

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    the hounds reformed into their pack and waited.

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    At last the West Street Tickham hunt streamed out along the drive for the last time,

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    foot followers dashed after them, the rest made off home,

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    leaving only the terrier men confabulating in the lee of the wind,

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    & then off  to mount their quads, like warriors on the field of Agincourt.

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    Which brings us inside and to the publication of Twentieth Century Castles in Britain earlier that week. Pictured above, its author Amicia de Moubray lives at Doddington with her husband Richard Oldfield and their family.

    how castle-building continued as a serious architectural thread not just in the 19th but throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. The British love of castles is deeply rooted in their psyche as an island race. Children learn to love them from fairy stories and Harry Potter. Castles are an emblem of Britain itself, an island surrounded by a moat. A castle is a place of refuge and safety where we can do what we wish. It has always been a grand symbol of status and success. It is also a two-fingered gesture to modern, bureaucratic, utilitarian society.

    It tells the story of how castle-building continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and on,  into the 21st. ‘The British love of castles is deeply rooted in their psyche as an island race,’ John Martin Robinson writes in his review published in The Spectator. ‘Children learn to love them from fairy stories and Harry Potter. Castles are an emblem of Britain itself, an island surrounded by a moat. A castle is a place of refuge and safety where we can do what we wish. It has always been a grand symbol of status and success. It is also a two-fingered gesture to modern, bureaucratic, utilitarian society.’ 

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    When she is not writing Amicia is mainly in the garden. The grounds here have been open in aid of the National Garden Scheme for more than 50 years: http://www.doddingtonplacegardens.co.uk Doddington’s glorious spring tulip-fest was created and planted with garden designer Kirsty Knight-Bruce, Amicia replanted the Victorian Sunk Garden to a new design. Here she is in fetching Vita Sackville-West-style duds with Winston the lurcher.

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    Doddington has a romantic,  baronial entrance hall paneled long ago with woodwork salvaged from other, older houses. All over Kent in the last century and a half , castles and houses like this one were being invented, reinvented and domesticated.In Twentieth Century Castles in Britain, Amicia writes about Saltwood and Allington, Hever, Lympne and Leeds Castles with panache and the fluency born of local knowledge.

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    She describes the plutocrats and dreamers who poured their millions into the task of re-roofing ruined keeps, laying causeways and plumbing, heating, decorating and rehabilitating these comfortless, unforgiving structures originally meant  to defend and repel. Some like Edwin Lutyens’ Castle Drogo in Devon were brand new, built from scratch. Even modern castles could prove hard to live in and many retired defeated or bankrupted. But the Clarks are at Saltwood still and hundreds of miles to the north, Annie and Lachlan Stewart have built up the sixteenth century ruin that was Ballone, a wild and rugged keep at a cliff’s edge above the Moray Firth. Annie is a designer of great style, Lachie is an architect and their company is ANTA. To sleep in one of Ballone’s thick-walled turret bedrooms during a filthy gale is as good as it gets.

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    Twentieth Century Castles in Britain by Amicia de Moubray : Ballone Castle in Ross-shire. Annie and Lachie Stewart persuaded the farmer who owned its ruins to sell to them within a day of setting eyes on it, although Lachie had first seen it at the age of seventeen.

    Corrour Lodge in Inverness-shire, a soaring dramatic structure built of granite and glass in 2003, has a castle-like plan around a Great  Hall.

    Britain’s latest castle: Corrour Lodge in Inverness-shire, a soaring  granite and glass structure built in 2003, with a castle-like plan around a Great Hall.   All images copyright bibleofbritishtaste/ A. de Moubray.

     

     

     

  • March15th

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    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For my taste, these twin cranes or derricks at Battersea Power Station are the only public art worth pausing for from here to Tate Modern. But they won’t be there much longer. The eighty something year old power station straddles a huge Thames-side site, acquired for redevelopment by a consortium including Malaysian company SP Setia.

    You can see their distopic vision for the site here with the wharf tidied up, empty and out to grass.

    These cranes were built to grab and lift thousands of tons of Welsh coal that arrived here by barge.

    These cranes were built to grab and lift thousands of tons of Welsh coal that arrived here by barge.

    More edgy than anything by Hepworth or predictable Henry Moore, the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of public sculpture who hogged the field then and ever afterwards, the Battersea cranes stand in for the missing monuments by outside talent that the Festival of Britain couldn't afford to commission, and London never got.

    More edgy than anything by Hepworth or predictable Henry Moore, the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of public sculpture who hogged the field then and ever afterwards, the Battersea cranes stand in for the missing monuments by outside talent that the Festival of Britain couldn’t afford to commission, and London never got.

    This is the kind of thing, the final maquette for The Unknown Political Prisoner, 1951-2, by Reg Butler, (1913-81), probably the best of the lot,

    This is the kind of thing, the final maquette for The Unknown Political Prisoner, 1951-2, by Reg Butler, (1913-81), probably the best of the lot,

    or the American David Smith (1906-1965), Sentinel 1, 1956.

    or the American David Smith (1906-1965), Sentinel 1, 1956.

    Or maquette 1 for Moon of Alabama II, 1957-8, a Soviet Sputnik space-pod by home grown talent Lynn Chadwick ( 1914-2003), who won the international sculpture prize at the Venice Biennale in 1956.

    Or Moon of Alabama II, 1957-8, a Soviet Sputnik space-pod by home grown talent Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003), who won the international sculpture prize at the Venice Biennale in 1956.

     

    Outside London on the Isle of Grain where land values are so much lower, totemic power station clutter stays up until it rots, long after decommissioning. Is this a plutonium sump?

    Outside London on the Isle of Grain where land values are so much lower, totemic power station clutter stays up until it rots, long after decommissioning. Is this a plutonium sump?

    And once you have your eye in, there are unconsidered installations everywhere. This is mine, on a pull-in by the road where I stopped and looked inside the cave-like motel bedrooms. The litter, dereliction and graffiti were all fairly standard stuff.

    And once you have your eye in, there are unconsidered installations everywhere. This is mine, on a pull-in by the road where the bedrooms of this 70s motel for troglodytes are open to the elements. The litter, dereliction and graffiti were all fairly standard stuff.

     

     

     

    But what stopped me was this  motel sign, trespassing on the  little patch of herbage belonging to a  much older milestone. The footprint of horsepower and the two stroke engine straddles a relic of the cart age.  But the last time I flashed past in my car I think that the motel sign had vanished and the milestone was asserting its rights over the  patch of grass again.    [all images copyright bibleof britishtaste.com]

    But what stopped me was this motel sign, trespassing on the little patch of herbage belonging to a much older milestone. The footprint of horsepower and the two stroke engine straddles a relic of the cart age. But the last time I flashed past in my car I think that it had vanished and the milestone was asserting its rights over the patch of grass again.                     [all images copyright bibleof britishtaste.com]

     

     

     

    Postscript :

    Battersea Power Station dies by degrees

    Battersea Power Station dies by degrees, November 2014

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    The dismantled cranes are now a pile of scrap metal, loaded onto this barged to be cleared from the site as it is gradually sanitised.

  • January14th

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    Have you ever been to Walton on the Naze? Like its sister resort of Clacton on Sea it has a long (790 metre) pier with fairground amusements and fishermen casting lines fruitlessly into the grey-green swell. But Walton on the Naze is tiny by comparison and almost genteel, without a single shop selling seaside rock moulded into ‘TINY TITTIES’ –  little pink sugar lollipop breasts that are a best-seller in Clacton and Hastings. Its pier amusements are undercover and under-peopled, off-season the Ghost Train man gave us 3 free rides, just for the company.

    The roundabout is one of those repro fibreglass ones, with British flags – the Cross of St.George, Welsh dragon, St. Piran’s flag –  the Standard of Cornwall, and so on, suspended  from the roof, and there are ‘Speak Your Weight’ weighing machines everywhere you look.

    Win a dwarf and another weighing machine.

    Some toddlers were being spun centrifugally in this chair swing.

    Her daddy operates the Hardrock Waltzer.

    ‘YOU’RE BANG OUT OF ORDER !’

    ‘Hook a Duck,’ and weighing machine no.3.

    The sinister Easter Island-style head on this aeroplane-ride seems to be modeled on my favourite actor Terry Thomas in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), playing the diabolical cad Sir Percy Ware-Armitage who ships his bi-plane across the Channel by boat,  or perhaps in his later incarnation as Dick Dastardly in Dastardly and Muttley and Wacky Races from Hannah-Barbara productions.

    We exceeded the height limit and so weren’t allowed to fly.

    The public lavatories are Arts and Crafts and in much better nick than the hording.

    ‘Welcome to Walton on the Naze – England’s Friendliest Resort!’

    A local shop,

    Walton Pier has been providing a great day out for Londoners for over a century. There wasn’t time to try the Singing Kettle Restaurant, or to get to the  fossil-strew Naze promontory and its marshland and wild birds. That’s why we’re going back in a month or two.

    [All images : copyright bibleofbritishtaste.com ]

    WALTON PIER – FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY !   www.waltonpier.co.uk/