Thursday, 28 July 2016

Items of Appeal

I've discovered that I can look at a lot of things and no longer 'need' - or even strongly wish - to own them, if I simply take a photo. I have an odd feeling that if the image is in my camera the thing is 'mine'. Crackers, I know.

Before we leave the house to visit Cragside's garden, I thought I would share some of the items that really grabbed me.

This unusual table is oak and it can be expanded by replacing the long straight pieces with wider ones.

It sits in front of an enormous Inglenook fireplace in which there are four stained glass windows, representing the seasons, designed by William Morris himself.

What to love best? 

The ornate screen, the wooden lounge chair, the crystal decanter or the silver cigarette box? Or how about just the fact of having a sauna in the basement of your house?

I'm not generally that fussed about china, but I thought this was exquisite. 

A butler's tray,  easily acquired at many antique shops. 

Then I'd have a use for Bill's mother's many tray cloths.

Down in the kitchen, a whole row of ceramic hot water bottles! 

And a row of copper watering cans. Can you imagine what these might cost these days? I'll settle for my large, functional green plastic 'can's. Bonus: they don't need polishing!

Floor to ceiling cupboards. With nice little dust-catching details, but I don't care, I think they are lovely.

In the butler's pantry, a tray for carrying wine bottles. First I've seen of this design.

A dressing table. 

Love how the curtain 'puddles' on the floor. You see that a lot in National Trust houses. I'm sure it is one of those 'conspicuous consumption' things.

The cheval mirror, the lovely shaped chair with lush embroidered fabric, the funny bay window in the alcove.

Another dressing table, in the window but not right next to it. I hate seeing the back of furniture in people's windows. The incredible hexagon patchwork quilt, a shallow couch just the width of the bed.

Oh, this desk and its accessories! 

The leather inlay, an embroidered folder for 'Telegrams', the scales to calculate postage, pens, ink bottles and blotter. The sweet little book case, a holder for notepaper and, best of all, the letter holder that reminds me of the opening credits of Downton Abbey. My grandmother had something similar at one time and if I ever find one like it, I shall make a purchase!

 And of course, a crystal vase (not vAs, like I say it, but vahz) with flowers.

Not to forget, illumination provided by a brass standard lamp with long silky fringe.

Is it a sign of mental illness that the details of these little stairs lift my heart? The neat cream paint, the simplicity of design, and especially the bottom step wrapping around just does me in.

Bill and I both snapped photos of this beautiful screen, silk fabric below and exquisite woodwork and glass above.

I'm not expert enough to tell if this bedspread is machine or hand embroidered, though being in an Arts and Crafts house, the latter is quite likely.

Being a book lover I guess I'm allowed a passion for book cases. You see these around and I'm always charmed. Can't say whether they are a less or more efficient use of space/just a different shape perhaps. Probably a terrible temptation for small boys to swing on.

Another leather inlay desk and bookcase, but this one has brocade folders for letters. How sumptuous is that?

Well, I enjoyed going back through my photos and remembering the day. I've been several times to Cragside and yet I forget how lovely it is.

If you'd like to see more of the collections held by the National Trust, you can view them online here

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Cragside Walls

I found myself snapping photos of wall coverings at Cragside. Many of the wallpapers were of William Morris design. 

I can never decide about his designs or about the Arts and Crafts movement either. I tend to think they are lovely to look at but I'd never want to live with them.

Perhaps my house just isn't large enough?

Or is it because it is all just so bright and busy?

I really do think you can have too much of a good thing.

Bill couldn't believe I liked the tiles. 

Well, I did and I didn't. I liked the colours and the patterns, but tiles on a hall wall seemed rather cold, particularly in a house built of stone.

I think I looked at them and saw counted cross-stitch, which I used to love doing; or maybe my next granny square project? I would wear some of these patterns, say on a blouse or even a jacket.

I found it quite exotic, different to my painted walls at home. 

I've just realized I've posted a wallpaper sampler!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Cragside Continued

Decent photos inside Cragside were mostly impossible owing to the dim lighting. That said, the place was lighter and brighter than I remembered it from our last visit. 

As though they had cleaned a layer of grunge off the whole place.  It wasn't sunshine, since it was overcast outside. No idea how that happened.

I'm obviously sharing some of the lousy photos anyhow. You'll get sort of an idea of how the place looks.

I generally gasp over the architecture of the National Trust places, and certainly I loved a lot of this about Cragside. However, I'm never going to own anything one-millionth as grand, so why long for it? I can certainly aim for smaller bits, like lamps.

Mind, I'd think long and hard about selecting some of these. I loved the idea of the hanging lamps with long fringe, but it does suggest you know exactly where your furniture will be placed for the next 100 years.

Rip some pages from a book, stitch to a frame. Done!

I like to keep my options a bit more open.

Some looked like a potential craft project and others just were lovely to look at.

One lamp in particular has become an iconic symbol for the place.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Making a Chain

Absurd post title, given this is about links I want to keep for myself and thought I'd share. I blame Bill, his sideways thinking has rubbed off on me. Not a fan of 'linky love' and the like. In the past I've added blogs to my bloglist but never found the specific posts I liked so much again. 

So trying a different approach. 

Six Ways to a Slow Summer

Edible Landscaping


My New Year Starts Anytime I Want

Visiting London Soon

Every post deserves a picture

Friday, 24 June 2016


I thought about calling this 'The Wages of War', given that Cragside was built by William Armstrong, owner of a large munitions factory that shaped the west end of Newcastle for decades. 

He was a lawyer with an engineering mind and Cragside was the first house in the world lit by hydro-electricity. 

Funny that 'wage' means both the payment for services and the action of engaging in... 

Armstrong engaged in supplying the tools of war and it paid exceedingly well.

Not only is there a grand house to tour, the gardens - stuffed with rhododendrons and conifers - attract thousands of visitors. 

A couple of years ago Vivien and I visited another WI and the speaker was a volunteer at Cragside. 

My notes said 'rhods best 1st wk Jun'; I put this on my calendar and forgot about it.

When Jane and Chris (Bill's sister and brother-in-law) were here last week we meant to visit Seaton Delaval Hall, but it wasn't open when they were here, so we went to Cragside instead. 

I'd been before, but forgotten how impressive it was. The tour seems to emphasize the engineering, hydro-electric features of the house and downplay the source of this man's money. 

One of the many volunteers said he looked upon his role as one of 'defense and deterrent'. 

I still wonder if his gardens are large enough to bury all the bodies resulting from his business. 

Fortunately that wasn't my leading thought while wandering around his house. I was just thinking of all the beautiful objects I saw.

Of course the house itself and the gardens are also stunning. Somehow this provokes me to obsessive photo snapping, as though if I take enough pictures I might somehow own some of this beauty.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Prudhoe Castle

Helen was up from Manchester one weekend and proposed we meet up at Prudhoe Castle. Apparently this was a favourite haunt in Bill's previous life, when his children were young. I'd never been.

Prudhoe Castle is part of English Heritage, which mainly manages ruins. I'm not generally as interested in ruins as I am in stately homes, which is why we belong to the National Trust instead.

Charlotte is growing by leaps and bounds, as children do. She seemed much more comfortable around us, not nearly as shy. 

I didn't read the sign that described the castle, I just snapped a photo. No idea if I took pictures of the pertinent bits mentioned.

"This 12th century stronghold of the D'Umfravilles and Percys was the seat of the barony of Prudhoe. It has a turbulent history and is famous as the only castle in the north never to be taken by the Scots.

It has moat, a fine gateway and a Georgian manor house built on the site of the medieval buildings. 

The chapel

The chapel above the gateway contains the earliest known oriel window in England.

Georgian manor house

Northumberland tenant yeomanry were based at the castle and ammunition kept there until 1814. 

Inside the chapel...nope I missed that oriel window!

During the Napoleonic wars the house was occupied by William Laws who was the southern commissioner for the Duke of Northumberland. 

I love stairs that go nowhere.

At about this time the house was rebuilt by the architect David Stephenson (teacher of the great Newcastle architect John Dobson) and became the Georgian Manor house you can see today.

The other end of the chapel

The road to your right leads you to an old bridge which has on one side a rounded arch and on the other side a pointed arch. 

Ahead of you lies Orchard Hill, for centuries the castle's orchard. In 1174 King William of Scotland invaded England and having failed to capture the castle wreaked vengeance by laying waste to the surrounding area and even stripping the bark from the apple trees.

In front of you are the ruins of the last mill building on this site, as depicted in the painting opposite. It has a date stone which reads 1752.

The old millhouse

Water powered the mill wheel, flowing in a controlled stream from the millpond to your right. Using a series of smaller wheels or gears, the power from the mill wheel was used to turn the mill stones which would grind grain to make flour. An example of a mill stone is propped up against the wall and is dated 1786.

The villagers of Prudhoe all used the castle mill to grind their grain and paid for the use with a portion of their flour. Mills were valuable to the owners of the castle. When the lord of Prudhoe, Gilbert Umfraville, died in 1303 he owned two watermills which brought in £5 each year. This compares to the income he received from his 120 acres (49 ha) of farmland which brought in £3 each year. 

Painting from the 18th century showing the roof of the mill to the right of the castle."

After touring all the corners of the castle and manor house, we followed the outside path which led to a wonderful view of Prudhoe's leading employer, a toilet paper factory. I'm serious. I've even been inside to see how it's done. They in fact use recycled paper; the day I was visiting there were stacks of unused paper bags that were supposed to have contained sugar, but this was their fate instead. I think something about the juxtaposition of TP factory and castle may be one of the reasons I'd never visited.

It was a very pleasant afternoon out and as we parted Helen surprised me with a card and a gift for my upcoming birthday. A lovely surprise indeed.