Monday, 16 November 2015

The Full Monty

First, a very heartfelt thank you to all those who flew in on Friday night to help me bring English Allsorts out to an unsuspecting public. It was so good to see old friends and indeed make new ones. Thank you all, particularly to Beverley and Chris at Quinns who made it happen and who so uncomplainingly tidied up after us. 

And so to Sunday night, and The Secret History of the British Garden. What a relief to see a beautifully put together programme presented by someone who actually knew what they were talking about. Not a Stephen Fry or Sue Perkins to be seen, just the calming and knowledgeable presence of Monty Don and other real experts. Concentrating this week on the seventeenth century, Monty very soon turned his Land Rover into the lane leading up to the remarkable Lyveden New Bield in East Northamptonshire. This garden pavilion isn't a ruin, but a building that was never completed. Recusant Catholic Sir Thomas Tresham intended it to be an expression of his faith with mathematical codes and devices, but on his death in 1605, and after his son was well and truly implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, the workmen downed tools and melted away into the surrounding woodland.

Lyveden was virtually our neighbour when we lived down the road, and we continually came up here for family birthday parties or just to sit and contemplate. Very memorably I drove the venerated old school gamekeeper Harry Churchill around the surrounding acres in a Land Rover to watch a pheasant shoot in cold snowy weather. A rare treat. So it all came back to me last night as Monty talked to Mark 'Chopper' Bradshaw, a property manager for the National Trust who in our time was the custodian. He recalled a Luftwaffe photograph of the area coming to light that, with the right light and time of the year, revealed the circles of a lost labyrinth.
Of course Lyveden New Bield had to feature on one of our Christmas cards from that time (top), and the aerial view was perfect for a record card I did for the local shoot (above). It's worth a visit at any time, and if you do, remember this: In the Civil War a Major Butler was here and told his men to cut off the wooden floor beams that were still extant, and take them down to Oundle where he was building a house. Copthorne House on the High Street is a very rare example of Commonwealth architecture, but more remarkable is the fact that the time and weather shrunken remains of the original timbers can still be seen in their holes in the walls of the New Bield. (The Old Bield is the house down on the lane below that runs from near Oundle to Brigstock.)


Dickie Straker said...

He's a good calming sort is Monty, must catch that one as I missed it. Have you ever read his book The Prickoty Bush? Heartily recommend it. A similar story of downed tools at Woodchester mansion on the edge of the Cotswolds, fascinating place. I Have put your book on my Christmas list Peter! Think of me Tunnocks tea cake in hand on Christmas morning engrossed in English Allsorts!! All the best, Dickie

Philip Wilkinson said...

Pleased the launch of English Allsorts went well and sorry not to have been there, being holed up in Somerset giving people the low-down on architectural ornament.

The New Bield is a prodigy and part of this indeed comes from its unfinished state; your Christmas card brought a fresh sense of wonder to the place. Dickie is right, by the way, about Woodchester. It's fascinating as an uncompleted Victorian time-capsule, a wonderful example of craftsmanship, and a very particular architectural vision.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Monty is certainly a most civilised presenter. Lyveden has been on the priority list for A Bit About Britain visit for sometime, but I haven't made it yet. Antonia Fraser's book on the the gunpowder plot is astonishingly good. Good luck with the book!

Peter Ashley said...

Thank you Dickie and Phil for reminding me about Woodchester. I really must get to see it. Mike too, thanks, and I really must get around to Antonia fraser's book.

Diplomate said...

Very good
Carry on
In the late '70s home made lsd was taken and the place took on a whole new atmosphere.
Orange, purple and titanium-bright light come to mind.
More Recreation !

Peter Ashley said...

Oh Diplo, that's a whole new view to take on historic buildings. Perhaps the National Trust should do a handbook: Bricked & Stoned: Our Properties As Seen Under the Influence of Hallucinatory Substances.

Stephen Barker said...

Peter. God to see you last Friday and I have enjoyed reading my copy of English Allsorts. I hope you were successful in your quest to purchase the Kit-Kat tin, double decker bus.

Lyveden is a wonderful place. When I first visited the canals were silted up, the NT is often criticised but at Lyveden they have done an excellent job. I remember Mark who was a wonderful and enthusiastic custodian.

Peter Ashley said...

Thank you Stephen, very good to see you too. And yes, Mark has worked wonders up at Lyveden. I particularly like the two mounds with spiral pathways.

Unknown said...

Ooh this is nice...gouache? And the pen and ink alternative is very nicely done too - what an incredibly expressive instrument the humble dip pen is. Super!

Peter Ashley said...

Thanks Jon. Yes, gouache. Just can't stop squeezing. The tubes that is.