Thursday, 21 July 2016

Over The Wall


And so to Northumberland with Youngest Son. I'd always wanted to see the painting above, which is one of eight at Wallington Hall (west of Morpeth) and the start of a series commissioned by Pauline and Walter Trevelyan in 1856 to illustrate salient points in Northumberland's history. This one is of a group of workers on Hadrian's Wall being roundly chastised by a Roman commander. The artist's model for this soldier was John Clayton, Town Clerk of Newcastle, who was instrumental in saving stone from Hadrian's Wall being nicked by local farmers for buildings. It is, I think, my favourite Victorian narrative painting.
Thence to Bamburgh, where after a frightening experience in our hotel with what we thought were possibly onions in a steak sandwich, we fled to the beach where YS went fully-clothed into the sea whilst I waited for the sun to appear from behind a static mackerelly cloud to light the castle. One of the most impressive sights in England, this colossus is a quarter of a mile long and covers eight acres or so. I've always loved it since seeing it used as seventeenth century Loudun in an establishing shot in Ken Russell's The Devils (1971), complete with a foreground of a skeletal corpse tied to a cartwheel on top of a pole. Dear Ken, I do miss him.

After these disturbing thoughts we moved swiftly on to Holy Island the next morning. What a romantic place to spend time in, providing you've read the tide timetables coherently. The beaches with sea-washed bricks and tiles (always an Unmitigated Pleasure), the fishermen's huts made from upturned boats, (are they really, or did they just use boatbuilding skills?), a gaunt ruined abbey and of course the showstopper of Lindisfarne Castle. Built by Edwin Lutyens for his mate Edward Hudson (the founder of Country Life magazine) in 1902, this is the ultimate holiday home. Shades of Enid Blyton's Five on a Treasure Island perhaps, or Tintin's Black Island, this was a sixteenth century castle on an outstanding plug of rock, abandoned in the mid nineteenth century until Hudson discovered it.
This is a painting by John Moore, showing the original castle in 1877, complete with the nearby limekilns in action and the abbey in the distance. I too needed a memorable image, so got very excited in the tiny scullery when for only about two minutes the top of a tap was highlighted. As this was the hottest day of the year thus far it seemed somehow very refreshing. Although when I pointed this photo opportunity out to other castle gazers they quickly turned and went sniggering outside to look at seals through a telescope on the Upper Battery. Oh well.



Not wanting to find we were stuck out here until six o'clock we walked with long purposeful strides to the distant car park, our heads whirring with thoughts and stuck into big ice creams. We will return, next time maybe in the depths of winter with an easterly gale blowing, the threat of Northumberland snow in the bitter air and firelight in Lutyens' hearths lighting the herringboned-patterned brick floors.


Both Wallington Hall and Lindisfarne Castle are National Trust properties, and Moore's painting can be seen at the latter. Thank you NT.

5 comments:

Alan Godber said...

Well, if people would rather look at seals then that's their loss. Sounds and looks wonderful as everyone keeps telling me. Northumberland is one area we have never quite reached. Mrs G has been pressing for us to visit for some time so perhaps time to plan a foray north.

Peter Ashley said...

Thanks Alan. I was originally going to go to Cornwall until a mate in the pub (isn't it always?) said why not go to Northumberland. He's been trying to get up there all his life apparently. As I hadn't been for thirty odd years I thought why not? So we did, and was very surprised that from my home, in extreme south east Leicestershire, Bamburgh was nearer than going to Trevaunance Cove in Cornwall. Amazing, considering Holy Island next door is virtually in Scotland.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Those Trevelyans were a remarkable lot. Pauline attracted a whole galaxy of Preraphaelite stars to the house, many of whom helped with the decoration. Ruskin and Swinburne (who lived nearby) were also visitors.

uphilldowndale said...

It was the door latches, not the taps that captivated me...

Peter Ashley said...

Ah yes, admired those too. Very Lutyens touches, reminding me of the details of his contemporary Charles Voysey.