Archive | May 2014

Pleased to meet you …

Big animals in aquaria and small people looking at them  …

Genny, a 4,000 pound hippopotamus, at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey, US.

Genny, a 4,000 pound hippopotamus, at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey, US.

A dugong and a little girl.

A dugong and a little girl.

More to come once I’ve google searched – there must be a treasury of them out there!

Filming locations: Montacute House

The news that the National Trust’s Montacute House and Barrington Court, both in Somerset, will be closed over the next month or so for the filming of a BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall has given me an idea for a series of posts here on my blog: local places that have been used as filming locations for movies and television programmes.

Montacute House, the east front.

Barrington Court.

Barrington Court.

Montacute House is a stunning Elizabethan house and estate near Yeovil in Somerset, not too far from us and always a favourite to visit. I remember going there a few years ago with Chap and a friend from Canada who was staying with us. We went in April, I think it was—the first day it was open for the season, after its winter closure. The stewards (all of whom seemed to be middle-aged ladies) were all of a tizzy: it turned out that The Libertine had only just finished filming there in the previous few days, and the highlight for the stewards, who were preparing the house for its opening alongside the filming, was seeing the film’s star Johnny Depp. And even better than that, said one, was seeing him wandering around in the nude. I think he made a lot of ladies there very happy!

While walking in the grounds on that visit we noticed a small sign next to the trunk of a large spreading tree. We went over to see what it said—the tree species, maybe?—and as it was so small we had to get right up to the sign to read it. And so, standing almost under the centre of the canopy, we were amused to read something along the lines of  ‘Please do not stand under this tree as it may shed its branches suddenly’. Priceless!

Montacute House was also used in the 1995 film of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, standing in for Cleveland House, the country estate of Mr and Mrs Palmer.  (I was lucky enough to witness some of the filming for Sense and Sensibility at Mompesson House in Salisbury – but that’s for another blog post!)

I’m looking forward to Wolf Hall very much – I thought the books on which it is based (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies) were terrific, and it has a cracking cast, including Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, Joanne Whalley, David Bradley, Jessica Raine, Mark Gatiss, Claire Foy, Jonathan Pryce, Anton Lesser and Saskia Reeves, among others.

If you were planning a visit, Montacute House is closed until 11 June and Barrington Court from 18 June – 2 July. More details on the National Trust website pages: Montacute Estate; Barrington Court.

A World War I graffito on a beech tree

In the woods near our village is a large beech tree with an interesting graffito cut into the bark of the trunk. (Click on all photos to enlarge).

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The graffito. 

Underneath a noose hanging from a gallows is a man wearing a spiked helmet, wearing a uniform with a belt and buttons down the front.  He might have a moustache (possibly upturning) on his face, but this is less clear. By the figure is written ‘THE KAISER.’, and underneath is written ‘YOU ARE A BUGER.’ ‘Buger’ seems likely to be a mis-spelling of ‘bugger’.

Detail of the figure with his spiked helmet, belt and buttons.

Detail of the figure with his spiked helmet, belt and buttons. 

We assume this refers to Kaiser Wilhelm II and was carved into the beech tree sometime during World War I (1914-1918), perhaps by someone who had lost a family member who was serving in the Armed Forces during the war. It could be that ‘The Kaiser’ was the nickname of a local character from our village or the surrounding area and this was carved by someone who was disgruntled with him. I don’t suppose we will ever know for certain, but it is interesting to speculate.

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Spot the similarity? I think with the eye of faith I can even see an upturning moustache on it ...

Spot the similarity? I think with the eye of faith I can even see a moustache on him … 

I have contacted Chantal Summerfield, whose PhD at Bristol University is on the graffiti carved into trees by soldiers during World Wars I and II, a lot of it on Salisbury Plain Training Area, and she has expressed an interest in our example, so I hope we might get a chance to show it to her at some point.

We were first shown it by a friend about 20 years ago. We have been keeping an eye on it since then, stripping the encroaching ivy off it at every visit. It is on the very edge of the wood (managed woodland for timber) and so we hope it won’t get chopped down—or that even if it is marked for felling, it might be spared because of the graffito. It used to have holly bushes growing near it and these have recently been cleared, making access easier (and less painful!)

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The tree and graffito a few years ago (2009). 

The tree in 2014. 

Whatever the story behind it, it is a wonderfully evocative voice from the past.

Bernard Instone: Arts and Crafts jeweller

Bernard Instone (1891—1987) is a highly regarded and very collectable jeweller, designer and silversmith of the later British Arts and Crafts movement. I am delighted and very fortunate to have a rare Bernard Instone ring for sale in my Etsy shop.

Instone was born in Kings Norton in Birmingham, and his artistic talent was apparent from a very early age. He was only twelve years old when he won a scholarship to the Birmingham School of Jewellery at Vittoria Street, part of the Birmingham School of Art, where he studied under renowned Arts and Crafts jeweller Arthur Gaskin and learned silversmithing from 1904—1912.

Bernard Instone. Arts and Crafts brooch. Silver, amethyst and citrine. Diameter: 4.1 cm (1.6 in). English, c. 1930. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Bernard Instone. Arts and Crafts brooch. Silver, amethyst and citrine. Diameter: 4.1 cm (1.6 in). English, c. 1930. Sold by Tadema Gallery. Note the hand-tooled narrow silver leaves, so characteristic of his work.

After leaving the School, Instone worked for a while for another renowned jeweller and craftsman, John Paul Cooper, in his Westerham studio, and then studied in Berlin under Emil Lettre, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Court goldsmith. In October 1913 he was back in England, and began part-time teaching at Vittoria Street. As well as making pieces for the Gaskins and Bernard Cuzner and other teachers at the school, he also made his first commissions at this time. In 1920 he set up his own jewellers and silversmith works—Langstone Silver Works—in Digbeth in Birmingham. The company worked from there until 1954 when it moved to Lode Lane in Solihull.

Silver and moonstone earrings by Bernard Instone, sold by Tadema Gallery.

Silver and moonstone earrings by Bernard Instone c. 1930, sold by Tadema Gallery.

As well as making his own designs, Instone produced jewellery for other jewellers, such as Sibyl Dunlop: a family website about Instone records “he visited [Dunlop] every Friday at her shop in Kensington, supplying her with made up designs already marked up with the SD mark ready for the retail market and [in the] 1940s Liberty became a customer after 25 years of trying to sell to them.”  His two sons came to work in the business, and Instone retired in 1963 to the Cotswolds, where he died in 1987.

Instone was strongly inspired by nature, and floral themes occur in most of his pieces. His jewellery can be roughly divided into two types: that with enamel, and that without.

Citrine and silver necklace by Bernard Instone. For sale at Tadema Gallery.

His finest and showiest pieces belong to the latter category: fantastic brooches, rings, necklaces, bracelets, dress clips and earrings with semi-precious stones and sometimes pearls in intricate silver mounts, often with detailed hand-tooled foliage and scrolls. One of his trademark designs are long, fine handmade silver leaves with hand-tooled veins. His favourite stones to use were citrines and amethysts.

Silver, amethyst and peridot bracelet by Bernard Instone. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

The enamel pieces commonly have a floral theme, with leaves and multicoloured flowers often in sugary pastel colours, all picked out in enamel and sometime embellished with marcasites.

Bernard Instone enamel brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Bernard Instone enamel brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Another Bernard Instone enamel brooch in a different colourway. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on link for details.

Another Bernard Instone enamel brooch in a different colourway. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on link for details.

Enamel floral brooch by Bernard Instone, in the collections of the V&A Museum.

Enamel floral brooch by Bernard Instone, in the collections of the V&A Museum.

Instone sometimes signed his work ‘BI’ and ‘SILVER’, but just as often did not sign his work at all. His style is so distinctive it is easy to spot an Instone once you have got your eye in, though! (I recently saw a fabulous Instone silver and amethyst crescent brooch on eBay which was described by the seller as Victorian. It positively screams Instone! Sadly my pockets weren’t deep enough to buy it.)

Instone’s pieces were very popular during his lifetime and have become increasingly collectable. His work is held in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and is sold by London galleries such as Van Den Bosch and Tadema Gallery: the Instone jewellery in the archive sections of their websites is well worth a look.

I am so happy to be able to offer a rare Bernard Instone moonstone and silver ring in my Etsy shop. A near-identical ring was sold by Tadema Gallery (photos here, scroll down a bit and here, in high resolution). The ring has Instone’s famous handmade silver leaves on either side of the stone. It dates from c. 1930.

Bernard Instone moonstone and silver ring, for sale at my Etsy shop.

Bernard Instone moonstone and silver ring, for sale at my Etsy shop. (NOW SOLD).

Click on the following photos to enlarge:

Rare antique Bernard Instone ring Sterling silver and moonstone ring 6

Rare antique Bernard Instone ring Sterling silver and moonstone ring 7

Rare antique Bernard Instone ring Sterling silver and moonstone ring 8

Rare antique Bernard Instone ring Sterling silver and moonstone ring 9

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Okay I went a bit mad with the photos, but Etsy only allows you five and it is so pretty I wanted to show it off properly!

Update February 2015: The ring has now sold. Sorry!

UPDATE July 2016: I briefly had a rare early Bernard Instone brooch for sale in my Etsy shop, but it sold in under 24 hours. Sorry!

Early Bernard Instone brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Early Bernard Instone brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Tuna Turner

And while we’re on the subject of Turners, bless The Grauniad and its typos, the cutting of one of which graces the pinboard in our kitchen:

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Miss Tuna Turner.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Miss Tuna Turner.

In the 70s The Guardian was notorious for the number of typos it contained in pretty much every edition. The satirical magazine Private Eye took the piss out of this mercilessly, calling the paper The Grauniad then and still doing so to this day. Three and a bit years on from when we first saw it, this typo still makes us laugh. Tuna Turner it is, every time.

Tiny, tinier, tiniest

I’m not quite sure how or why this happened, but recently I seem to have been accumulating tiny pieces of jewellery in my Etsy shop. First up was a pretty Edwardian brooch with Persian turquoises, which is a squitchy 23 mm (9/10 inch) across its widest point.

Tiny Edwardian Persian turquoise and silver brooch.

Tiny Edwardian Persian turquoise and silver brooch. (NOW SOLD).

Just recently I bought an even tinier brooch: a pretty little sterling silver pin with an Art Nouveau design of leaves and a daisy-like flower. It measures 18 mm (7/10 inch) across by 12 mm (just under 1/2 inch) high. (Update: a kind lady on Etsy has since told me it’s a letter ‘C’ brooch – which of course it is! I wondered why it had that strange cut-off ‘top’ edge ….  Turn it through 90 degrees and suddenly it makes sense. As Homer Simpson would say, ‘Doh!’. She also thinks it’s by Ortak, the jewellery makers up in the Orkney Isles in the far north of Scotland.)

Vintage tiny William Morris design sterling silver brooch forming a letter ‘C’, and made by Ortak in the 1970s. (NOW SOLD).

But the titchiest of all are the sweet little Hroar Prydz enamel and silver butterfly earrings I bought a few weeks ago. These little Norwegian beauties are so wee: each butterfly measures just 15 mm (6/10 inch) across at its widest part. Considering their size, the level of detailing in them is amazing.

Hroar Prydz enamel and silver butterfly earrings.

Hroar Prydz enamel and silver butterfly earrings. (NOW SOLD).

I wonder if it’s something to do with having watched the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage the other day? I love that film!

Mr Turner

Massive congratulations to one of my favourite actors, Timothy Spall, who has just won the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of one of my favourite artists, J M W Turner (c.1775—1851), in the film Mr Turner. I can’t wait to see this film. It’s directed by Mike Leigh, and will be released here in the UK on 31 October, and in the US on 19 December. It looks ravishing:

It’s had some great reviews, including this one in Variety, and this one in Vanity Fair. I could look at Spall’s rumpled, crumpled face for hours: to see him portray Turner is almost too exciting for words!

Some examples of Turner’s towering genius:

Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway by J M W Turner (1844)

‘Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway’, by J M W Turner, 1844.

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‘The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up’, by J M W Turner, 1838.

'Wreckers -- Coast of Northumberland, with a Steam-Boat Assisting a Ship off Shore', by J M W Turner, between 1833-4.

‘Wreckers — Coast of Northumberland, with a Steam-Boat Assisting a Ship off Shore’, by J M W Turner, between 1833-4.

and here he is in my neck of the woods:

‘Stonehenge’ by J M W Turner, c. 1827.

‘Fonthill Abbey from the south west’, by J M W Turner, 1799.

I love to think I have walked in Turner’s footsteps!

Sunday stroll: Fonthill Lake

Chap (my better half) and I went for a walk this afternoon around Fonthill Lake, in south Wiltshire, near the small village of Fonthill Bishop. Here the eccentric and phenomenally rich William Beckford (1760—1844) built his famous (or perhaps that should be infamous) Fonthill Abbey—while it still stood one of the great tourist attractions of the country. Construction on the Abbey, which despite its name was never a religious house, was started in 1796 and after its 300-foot high tower fell for the third time in 1825, the Abbey was demolished. The Fonthill Estate is now owned by Lord Margadale.

Fonthill Abbey, before it fell down. A modest little pile, wasn't it?

Fonthill Abbey, before it fell down. A modest little pile, wasn’t it?

As well as building the Abbey, Beckford landscaped the estate grounds.  He dammed a small stream to form the long, sinuous Fonthill Lake, and built an impressive gateway into his estate on the Fonthill Bishop to Hindon road. He scattered grottoes and statuary around the estate. Money was no object.

We parked up near the village cricket ground, where a match was in progress. Neither Chap nor I follow cricket so we had no idea what was going on. It looked very picturesque though.

Sunday cricket match at Fonthill Bishop.

Sunday cricket match at Fonthill Bishop.

We walked past sheep and lambs grazing on the lush green pastures to the gateway with its fabulous green men keystones—talk about making an entrance!

Fonthill Estate gateway near Fonthill Bishop

Fonthill Estate gateway near Fonthill Bishop

Green men on both sides of the two archway keystones.

Green men on both sides of the two archway keystones.

View from the other side. They look a bit grumpy, don't they?

View from the other side. They look a bit grumpy, don’t they?

The lake might look familiar—all the river scenes in the Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche film Chocolat were filmed here.

Fonthill Lake.

Fonthill Lake.

The estate parkland is beautifully planted, with some wonderful mature trees, including pink-flowered horse chestnuts. I love this time of year—the green of the grass is almost unreal it’s so zingy. May is definitely my favourite month.

Parkland in Fonthill Estate.

Parkland in Fonthill Estate.

The may blossom (hawthorn) is just starting to go over, and the cow parsley is too—together they make such a beautiful white froth of blossom.

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).

Looking northwards up the lake.

Looking northwards up the lake.

At the head of the lake by the dam is a hydropower unit installed in 2011 that generates enough electricity from the dam outflow to power 11 typical houses. Yay for green power!

Beyond the dam once stood a massive woollen mill, long-since demolished.

Beyond the dam once stood a massive woollen mill, long-since demolished.

Where the little building is now, in 1820 stood a 105-foot long, six storey woollen mill, powered by three water wheels and employing 200 people. It wasn’t a financial success and so was removed in 1830 by the new owner (Beckford had sold up by then) to restore the aesthetics of the lake.

Yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus)

Yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus)

Pretty yellow flag irises grow around the lake edge.

On the way back we saw a fresh, newly-hatched lacewing fluttering about, and it settled on Chap for a bit. They have the most beautiful coppery coloured eyes.

Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) on Chap's finger

Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) on Chap’s finger. (For the benefit of readers of a nervous disposition, I’ve cropped out his hairy knuckles!)

We stopped to investigate one of the grottoes—this one was built out of tufa blocks and had the most massive ivy plant (more like a tree, really) growing atop it. Someone had been having a fun evening there: there were the remains of a bonfire and an empty glass perched on the grotto (bonus points if you can spot it!)

One of the many grottoes at Fonthill Estate. This is a wee one compared to most of them!

One of the many grottoes at Fonthill Estate. This is a wee one compared to most of them!

As we walked back to the car the cricket match was finishing to the sound of clapping—and then tea and cakes in the pavilion, no doubt.

Danish daisy jewellery: decorative resistance

Enamel daisy brooch by the Royal Jeweller to the Danish court, Anton Michelsen. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

On 16 April 1940, Princess Margrethe of Denmark was born. She was born in troubled times. A mere seven days before her birth, her country had been invaded by Nazi Germany.

To celebrate the Princess’s birth, jewellers in Denmark produced daisy jewellery: ‘marguerit’ is the Danish for daisy, so this made a nice play on her name. Daisy jewellery was produced in various forms, including brooches, pendants, bracelets, earrings and necklaces, all in gold-washed sterling silver and white enamel. It became immediately popular, not just as a mark of respect for the monarchy but also, and perhaps more importantly, as a symbol of national resistance against the Nazis. To wear a piece of daisy jewellery was to give a tacit ‘up yours’ to the occupying forces.

Anton Michelsen daisy clip on earrings  For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Danish white enamel daisy ring. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Anton Michelsen daisy bar brooch, for sale at Inglenookery.

Anton Michelsen daisy bar brooch, rare, for sale at Inglenookery on Etsy. Perhaps one of the prettiest possible forms of passive resistance? (NOW SOLD).

The daisy jewellery was initially made by several firms of silversmiths in Denmark, with that of Anton Michelsen (1809-1877) being the most famous. The firm that bore Michelsen’s name was founded in 1841 and by 1848 Michelsen had become the Jeweller to the Royal Danish Court. The firm was based in Copenhagen. Other firms making daisy jewellery in the wartime period included Viggo Pedersen and Bernhard Hertz. Those making them shortly after the war included Hans Hansen and Aarre & Krogh Eftf.

Aarre Krogh & Eftf daisy clip on earrings, for sale at Inglenookery.

Aarre Krogh & Eftf daisy clip on earrings, for sale at Inglenookery on Etsy. (NOW SOLD).

The earliest daisy brooches fasten with a ‘C’ catch or a safety pin-type catch (rollover catches were used on the later brooches). The first pieces of jewellery were produced for domestic consumption only so were generally marked just with ‘925 S’ (referring to the silver purity of 925 parts per 1000, ie sterling silver), whereas the later ones also had ‘DENMARK’ and/or ‘STERLING’, indicating they were intended for the international as well as the domestic market.

Anton Michelsen three daisy brooch, sold by Inglenookery

Anton Michelsen three daisy brooch, sold by Inglenookery on Etsy. (NOW SOLD).

Large daisy clipon earrings by Anton Michelsen. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Daisy jewellery was so popular and struck such a chord with Danes that it was made through the postwar period and continues to be made to this day. The famous silversmith company of Georg Jensen later took over the firm of A. Michelsen, and continued to make daisy jewellery. Recently they have produced jewellery based on the earliest Michelsen designs.

Although Denmark does not have an official floral emblem, in 1980 the daisy won an unofficial competition and was voted the ‘unofficial official’ flower of Denmark, no doubt in part because of the fondness the Danes have towards this flower and all it represents.

And little Princess Margrethe, who was born as Nazi tanks rolled across her country? She ascended the Danish throne in 1972 and as Queen Margrethe II, still rules today as the sovereign of Denmark.

So to wear or own an item of Danish daisy jewellery is to possess not only a beautiful piece of personal adornment, but also a moving little piece of history.

Daisies (Bellis perennis) growing in Wiltshire, may 2013.

Daisies (Bellis perennis) growing in Wiltshire, May 2014.

Anton Michelsen daisy brooch, for sale at Inglenookery.

Anton Michelsen daisy brooch, for sale at Inglenookery on Etsy. (NOW SOLD).