Sunday, 21 February 2010

Warren Hastings and Daylesford.

Daylesford Barn. organic produce and clothes
Ages ago, I read about this wonderful classic Georgian house, the home of Warrren Hastings in 18th C., in Country Life magazine. Lord Rothermere (great newspaper tycoon) had bought it and he got Colefax and Fowler to restore and decorate it. The walls were scraped to find the original colours, furniture known to have belonged to Warren Hastings was bought up, mostly beautiful and costly ebony furniture with ivory inlay from India, and magnificent silk curtains made in classical style for the morning room and the evening room. There was a story about the wonderful drawing room curtains which had patterns in hand-sewn sequins in exotic oriental style and these were eventually found bundled up in the attics and so could be copied afresh. I kept the magazine for many years as I thought it was all so beautiful and could not understand how Lady R. left her husband and this wonderful house which seemed like part of heaven to me! It is, of course, now in the capable hands of Lady Bamford who is herself a very dynamic and artistic chatelaine and it is good to know it is all flourishing under her care. It was writing about the lace table cloth in a previous post, A really special piece of lace, from Hasting's family, that reminded me of one of my pin-up houses, and as a second-hand curtain dealer, how I would love to see those ravishing curtains! Where are they now?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A really special bit of Lace

I furnished my first village house largely from auction room buys. The best fun was to go to an old country house where the back quarters, servants' rooms, potting sheds and old larders were stripped and the motley family belongings of several generations were rapidly sold in a marquee on the lawn - and the catalogues were brief and not always very accurate. There was often no 'in the style of',' description, you were on your own against the dealers, pictures were unlabelled and porcelain and glass were knocked down at silly prices, in mixed lots. If you stayed till the end, the auctioneer rushed through some unlisted numbers, filling in as he saw the porters wearily carry stuff into the tent or yard, and you could sometimes get a great bargain (or buy yourself a 'pup').
I went to one, a remote country house in Cambs. which had belonged to two lady descendants of the famous Warren Hastings, who helped to bring India into the British Empire, while he was the first Governor General there. I spied 2 useful lots - one was the contents of a little glasstopped sewing table and was full of delightful little ivory and boxwood boxes, with screwtop lids, for pills and snuff - real 18th C. personal accessories, possibly souvenirs of Warren ? and the other was a little pile of linen with some nice 'embroidery' which I hesitated to open in case there were other needlework enthusiasts around - both were knocked down to me with my first bids and inside the little pile I found a remarkable Bedfordshire lace tablecloth.It measured 5' square, was solid linen lace, with no cloth borders and absolutely perfect, I still
have it and would like to find a lace collector. A real treasure!
I was told that the snake-like pattern round the edges was inspired by the River Ouse which winds through Bedfordshire in endless wavey loops through the fields. Maltese lace is rather similar to this Beds. lace and it was introduced by an Englishwoman to give employment to the poor people of Malta, and they added the Maltese Cross to identify it.