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Victorian Harewood

How the Victorian era influenced Harewood Bird Garden

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a bird garden and farm

This year, Harewood House and grounds are taking a closer look at the Victorian era inspired by ITV’s period drama Victoria, which used Harewood as a major location. Although when the young Princess Victoria visited Harewood in 1835, the Bird Garden had not yet been built, (opening some 135 years later!), the era still had a major influence on the zoo you can see today.

It was during this period that animal collections and scientific study of the natural world began to develop. Zoological collections in Britain were beginning to evolve with menageries of species kept for display and travelling circuses full of dangerous and exotic animals becoming more common place.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) was founded in 1826, shortly before Victoria’s coronation (1837 – 1901). As a leader in the field, ZSL’s aim was to promote the study of animals and their ecology, an ambition which remains at the heart of zoological collections today. London Zoo officially opened its gates to the public in 1828, giving people the opportunity see animals from across the world and learn more about exotic species.

The Victorians were pioneering in promoting research, discovery and conservation of the natural world and organisations founded at the time are still of great importance and relevance today. In the later part of Victoria’s reign, the Plumage League was founded (1889) by Emily Williamson, to combat the killing of birds to use their feathers as fashion accessories. She later joined forces with the Fur and Feather League (1891) to create the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), now a leading light in avian conservation across the world.

The era saw unparalleled developments in our understanding of the natural world with great naturalists such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace making discoveries that would fundamentally change how we perceive the world around us.

Since 1970, the Bird Garden at Harewood has promoted an understanding of birds and their environment through conservation, preservation and education, very much as the pioneering zoologists of the Victorian times had done. Today, we host a number of research projects each year with students coming from Askham Bryan College, Leeds Beckett University and University of Leeds among others. Studies on the Chilean flamingos, Humboldt penguins and our wide range of pheasants are either published in journals, ongoing, or in the process of being completed. These projects are all focussed towards improving the husbandry and welfare of the animals in our care. We often receive correspondence from other universities and zoos asking us to assist with projects, the results of which could be put towards the protection of birds and their natural habitats.

Visit the zoo at Harewood House in Yorkshire to see rare birds

We recently welcomed a pair of Omei Shan Liocichla, a small Chinese songbird, to the Bird Garden. This species is listed being vulnerable to extinction in their native habitat and have been incorporated into a European Studbook which will help their ongoing survival.

With this addition, Harewood Bird Garden now partakes in 12 coordinated breeding programmes and species monitors, with 16 of the species kept in the Bird Garden classified as threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species. These can be seen living with another Chinese species, the silver pheasant in the aviaries below the crane paddocks.

Go to the zoo at Harewood House in Leeds to see rare birds

In the neighbouring aviary we have two new red billed blue magpies from Nepal. These are striking blue birds with long striped tails. They have settled in very well and are currently nesting, with two eggs as I write this.

Visit Harewood House near Harrogate to see palm cockatoos

Another of our European Breeding Programme species is the palm cockatoos. These charismatic black birds with their bright pink cheeks have laid an egg again this year, the third year in succession making them the one of only two breeding pairs in the UK. The last two eggs have been successfully reared and we hope for a repeated performance again this year from our confident young family.

For those of you who want to know more about the Bird Garden and to support our ongoing conservation work, there are great opportunities you can access. From Bird Adoption to penguin feeding or our brand new Junior Keeper Experience launched this season, your support helps us to continue our charitable work, maintain and developing Harewood for the public benefit.

Thank you.

Dining in Style – Victorian service in the State Dining Room

Visit Harewood to see a milliefiori service

Visitors to Harewood House this spring bank holiday (14th April – 17th April 2017) will be treated to a fantastic table display in the State Dining Room. Emulating a Victorian dinner service, the stunning table is decorated with beautiful millefiori glassware service and silver candelabra.

Daily throughout the spring bank holiday, our guides will be giving a free, introductory talk at 11:30 on food and drink for visitors in the State Floor.

About the Millefiori Service

Baccarat enamelled and gilt glass service in the Venetian-style with flower-sprays (millefiori) inset and gilt foliage. Cut star on plates, white foliage on wine glasses. Dated pre-1864 (as recorded in Hamilton Palace inventory).

The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words “mille” (thousand) and “fiori” (flowers) used to describe a distinctive glass pattern. This flower like pattern is produced by heating a bundle of thin glass rods of different colours until the rods fuse together.  It is a term that came into common usage in the Victorian period and was included in the Oxford English Dictionary from 1849.

Visit Yorkshire to see porcelain and glassware at Harewood

This millefiori service at Harewood consists of 242 pieces: two tier centre pieces, vases and covers, tazzas, bowl, bowls on feet, small and medium plates, dishes, finger bowls, wine glasses, liqueur glasses, tumblers, water jugs and decanters.

This spring bank holiday you will see one third of the service laid out on the State Dining Room table.  The ‘service à la française’ was a style of dining popular in the Victorian period where various dishes for a meal are served at the same time, contrary to ‘service à la russe’, where dishes were brought to each guest by a footman.

On the State Dining Room table this spring you will also see sugared almonds, fruits and flavoured jellies, all common sweet treats served at a Victorian dinner party.

Below Stairs, you can see copper moulds used for jellies by 19th century chefs in the Old Kitchen.

A Unique Provenance

Tracing the provenance of items such as this service can be challenging. We found a reference in the Chesterfield House Inventory from 1920, (the London home of the 6th Earl of Harewood) as ‘coming from Hamilton Palace’.

From recent discussions with the Museum of Scotland, we know the service was originally purchased by the 11th Duke and Duchess of Hamilton for their new London townhouse before it was taken to Hamilton Palace in Scotland sometime between 1866 and 1870.

Hamilton Palace, located 10 miles from Glasgow, was seat of the Duke of Hamilton from 1642. The superb Hamilton Palace collection consisted of furniture, antiquities, fine and decorative art, and was so grand it rivaled the royal collection.

During the mid-19th century, much of the collection had to be sold due to debts of £1.5 million with the first major sale taking place in 1882.

In 1895, the 13th Duke of Hamilton, Lieutenant Alfred Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, inherited the dukedom, property and debts. These debts led to a final sale and auction which marked the ultimate dispersal of the Hamilton Palace collection in 1919.

The story doesn’t end there; the Palace itself was demolished in 1927 due to subsidence caused by coals mines owned by the Hamilton family.

Visit Leeds to see porcelain and glassware at Harewood House

This bank holiday (14th – 17th April 2017) the service is displayed as part of our year-long focus on Harewood’s Victorian history. See this service for a limited time only and enjoy all the Victorian Harewood displays throughout the House.

Best Season yet at Harewood House

Harewood House Trust Director Jane Marriott

2017 promises to be the most exciting season at Harewood House to date. Many people know Harewood for its wonderful 18th century Adam interiors, wonderful Chippendale furniture and Capability Brown landscapes and yet the Victorian story of Harewood is far less well known.

Queen Victoria came to Harewood House in 1835 as a 17 year old Princess, staying overnight in the State Bedroom and dining in the wonderful Gallery. It is therefore with great pleasure that we welcomed ITV to film their ‘Victoria’ series at Harewood last year. The series chronicles the life of Queen Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman and has been seen by over 7 million people. The House was used as a set, to recreate Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, including the wonderful Below Stairs storyline in our kitchens.

Visit Leeds to see locations used in ITV's Victoria series

After Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria’s reign was characterised by rather formidable images of her in black, but the young Queen understood the importance of dress as an outward expression of her status. Very little remains of the Queen’s original dress, so the costume designers had to work with paintings and historical documents to recreate the final pieces. Set in Harewood’s beautiful Cinnamon Drawing Room and Gallery, costumes worn by Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria and her Ladies’ in Waiting are on display. These include the dress she wore when she proposed to Prince Albert, the beautiful green shot silk dress from the opening sequence and the sumptuous Coronation Gown.

Harewood’s Victorian history is shaped by 3 other influential ladies of the time. Lady Louisa, the 3rd Countess of Harewood arrived in 1841 with a growing family of 13 children. She set about creating her vision of Harewood to make it more comfortable, efficient and fashionable using the most celebrated architect of the time, Sir Charles Barry, who had recently designed the Houses of Parliament.  Most notable of Lady Louisa’s renovations was the Terrace and as the season develops, please do come and see how the planting in the parterre creates a wonderful tapestry of colour.

Visit Leeds to see paintings of Osborne House at Harewood

Charlotte, Lady Canning, another of Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, was a renowned watercolourist, painting scenes from her travels and giving Queen Victoria lessons in watercolour painting. Harewood House owns 80 albums of her watercolours and we are delighted to have the opportunity to change this display to reflect her time in India after 1856. This will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Independence of India, a theme which we will reflect in Gavin Fernandes’ contemporary photographs.

See rare photography at Harewood House in Yorkshire

The 5th Countess, Florence Bridgeman, arrived at Harewood towards the latter half of the Victorian period and developed a passion of photography. The notion of the snapshot was developed at the turn of the century by Kodak, as as photography was now accessible to everyone. Our wonderful collection of informal photographs capture life at Harewood, as friends and family are snapped sledging, sword fighting with sticks and balancing glasses of water on their heads whilst out on the lawn!

As the season develops, we will also spend the summer celebrating one of Queen Victoria’s favourite authors, Lewis Carroll, displaying our first edition of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and taking this as inspiration for a summer packed full of family fun activities.

I am delighted to have joined as Director, as Harewood House is clearly held very dearly in people’s hearts. As a charity it would not be possible to preserve the house, collections and grounds and tell the stories of our history, without our visitors and member’s support. We greatly appreciate that and look forward to welcoming you throughout 2017.