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New Bird Game to Download and Play

Harewood_House_PeckingOrderBirdGameIn the countdown to what would have been the Half Term Holidays The Pecking Order is an activity pack of 56 playful bird statistic, free to download online.

The colourful cards represent the 56 different species of birds in the Harewood Bird Garden and the ‘Top Trumps’ style game has been created to celebrate the 50th anniversary this year – just one of many online initiatives to entertain families and children, stay connected whilst they cannot be at Harewood, and also to raise awareness for the Bird Appeal.

Nick Dowling, Bird Garden Manager, said; “We’re really excited to be sharing our bird collection with the public in such a year. Birds have been a part of Harewood’s heritage dating as far back as the 4th Earl in the 19th century and when the 7th Earl George Lascelles and his wife Patricia set up the Harewood Bird Garden in 1970, it was not only to provide an opportunity for people to see some incredible species up close, it was with the hope that visitors would learn about and care for the conservation of the birds, something that remains at the core of the charity’s work today.”

The majority of Harewood’s 300+ birds are endangered in the wild, with several species critically endangered and some believed to be extinct.

Playing an active role in 17 international breeding projects, Harewood is also a holding venue for confiscated birds from the illegal customs trade and a rehabilitation facility for injured Red Kites.

Whilst the gates are closed to the House and visitor attraction, work behind the scenes to care for the birds must continue in spite of no visitor income, which is the reason why the Trust has an ambition to raise £35,000 at this time – the amount it costs to take care of our birds for 12 weeks.

Four cards will be available to download daily from Sunday 17 May. These will be uploaded to the Harewood website and shared across social media @HarewoodHouse on Facebook and Instagram. The ‘wow’ factor is scored across size, weight, intelligence, lifespan and risk of extinction.

A weekend of birthday celebrations will go ahead as planned on the last weekend of the Half Term, 30 & 31 May, but with activities online. These include creative sessions with Aardman Animations model maker Jim Parkyn and Leeds-based bird illustrator, Matt Sewell, in addition to a virtual party online.

With just six weeks to go, the Bird Appeal is calling out for those passionate about birds and engaged in the work Harewood is doing to support if they can.

VE Day – A Double Celebration for Harewood

Harewood_House_VE_day75 years ago today, the Allied Nations celebrated Victory in Europe Day, signaling the end of the Second World War.

For the village of Harewood, VE day was a double celebration, as it celebrated the return of George Viscount Lascelles, future 7th Earl of Harewood, arriving home following his imprisonment as a Prisoner of War. The village welcomed him back to Harewood with flags and ‘welcome home’ bunting. A newspaper reported the scene:

“The sun came out for his homecoming. The chestnuts were in flower. Every cottage window had it’s Union Jack; small ones fluttered from crannies in the stone walls. Children, some carrying prayer books as well as flags, began to hop about outside the gates almost an hour before Lord Lascelles and the Princess Royal were due…Eight year old Susanna FitzRoy (Queen Mary’s god-daughter) sat her pony like a little queen and threw her velvet red riding cap in the air when the car passed…. Estate workers and tenantry, many of whom had known [George] since he was a child and whom shared his parents’ anxiety, were delighted to hear him repeat that he felt very well…. It was a fitting climax to Harewood’s VE day”

George joined the Grenadier Guards in 1942 at the age of 19. On the battlefields of Italy he was shot and wounded on 18th June 1944 and captured by the Nazis. He was imprisoned in Oflag IV-C, better known as Colditz Castle, alongside other “Prominentes” or ‘celebrities’ as Hitler tagged them – all prisoners with illustrious Allied connections, that were earmarked as powerful bargaining chips.

In March 1945, Hitler signed George’s death warrant and SS commander Gottlob Berger was ordered to execute the Prominente. But realising the war was lost, Berger failed to carry out the sentence and released his prisoners to the Swiss.

In his memoirs, The Tongs and the Bones (1981), George writes about his experiences as a Prisoner of War, which involved a thwarted escape attempt, and describes the moment he was told of his release:

“General Berger told us that he thought the war was within a day or two of coming to its end; he disbelieved in keeping prisoners pointlessly, although it was his duty to tell us that he had received orders to shoot us. He was going to disobey those orders because he thought them futile and indeed criminal, and had made arrangements to hand us over to the Swiss, who were coming immediately to take us through the German lines and deliver us into Allied hands…Leaving in the mid-afternoon of the 4 May with a feeling of total exhilaration – like a child going to its first party – we somehow assumed we should go fast and be in Allied hands in a couple of hours. But it was not like that…. We motored on through the night until at first light the German troops by the side of the road told him they thought there were no more Germans in front. We put a Swiss flag on the front of the car and drove very slowly into no-man’s land…For perhaps a few miles we saw absolutely nothing. We were going very slowly and eventually we arrived at the American front line, with no fuss, and that was that.”

Watch this short conversation with Assistant Curator, Rebecca Burton, to see a different side to Harewood during wartime.

Botanical Sketches Inspire Contemporary Products

Harewood_House_isabella _crathorneHow sketches of botanical plants by Isabella Crathorne have inspired an entire range called the Bloom Collection in the Harewood Shop.

A range of skincare products designed by Yorkshire-based maker Nathalie Bond is packaged in a gift box decorated with botanical sketches by Isabella Crathorne in 1787.

These delicate and detailed sketches come from a bound album of her work entitled Specimens of Botanical Plants held in Harewood’s libraries, containing 160 hand painted flower drawings. Complete with a full index, each entry is classified according to plant taxonomy and includes additional information, such as the location of the specimen and date of the find. Isabella did most of her collecting in North Yorkshire and occasionally Northumberland.

Botany emerged as a fashionable past-time in 18th century England, and was a science that women, in particular, had relatively easy access to: it was possible to collect plants, name them, draw and study them, all from the comfort of your own garden. Many women cultivated in-home herbariums and others, like Isabella, emerged as accomplished botanical illustrators.

Very little is known about Isabella, but her artistic skill was recognised in a portrait of her and her husband, Thomas Crathorne of Crathorne Hall in North Yorkshire, where she is depicted holding a pencil alongside an open sketchbook.

But how did Isabella’s album get to Harewood? Unfortunately the story here is not precise, however it is likely that there were familial links between Isabella and the Lascelles family. Isabella’s brothers, Henry and Edward Swinburne, as well as her nephew, Sir John Swinburne, were artists and patrons of contemporary art, commissioning individuals such as JMW Turner, Thomas Girtin and John Sell Cotman to paint their ancestral home. This is in much the same tradition as Edward ‘Beau’ Lascelles and the 1st Earl at Harewood, and as such the two families were moving in the same artistic circles. It is almost certain that they would have known each other and it is quite possible Isabella’s album came into the collection through their shared love of art, as well as botany.

Visit the Harewood Shop to see the collection. 

There are many fascinating gardener pictures to celebrate National Gardening Week on the  Harewood servants database

My Life in Books: Curator and critic Hugo Macdonald

Hugo Macdonald, curator of Harewood’s inaugural Craft Biennial, Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters, pulls together his Top 10 Reads and shares why they have influenced and inspired him.

1. A coffee table read you return to again and again
A Frame for Life by Ilse Crawford. A former boss, an ongoing mentor and an endless source of inspiration.

2. A book that has inspired you
Wilding by Isabella Tree. The story of how Knepp Farm in Sussex was given back to nature is gripping, powerful and uplifting.

3. A book you enjoy/have enjoyed reading to children
Anything by Roald Dahl. The humour and imagination is timeless.

4. A book that has related to your career or life path
Ways of Seeing by John Berger. This opened my eyes and my mind simultaneously.

5. A book you would take to a desert island
The World Beyond Your Head by Matthew Crawford. A handy guide to mastering your own mind. It might be helpful.

6. A book you didn’t think you would like, but it surprised you
Just Kids by Patti Smith. Every bit as good as everybody says it is (unlike Normal People).

7. A very English book / favourite book by an English author
The Death of Grass by John Christopher. A typically polite and terrifying post-war English dystopia about what happens when grass crops fail.

8. Favourite Shakespeare play
A Midsummer Night’s Dream or King Lear. I’m a sucker for magic and horror.

9. A book that in your opinion everyone should read
Modern Nature by Derek Jarman. A poetic masterpiece about the struggle of man and nature, life and death.

10. A book someone passed to you and you passed on.
Fewer Better Things by Glen Adamson. The perfect handbook for our times of underwhelming overconsumption.

Read more about the Harewood Biennial. Planning for next year’s Biennial is well under way, with more details to be released towards the end of the year.

Florence Bridgeman and snapshot photography of a Family

In my role as a curator at Harewood, I’m often asked: What is your favourite object in the collection?

This is always a really difficult question to answer as there are so many remarkable things to choose from. But a series of objects that I always really enjoy coming back to and revisiting are the photograph albums put together by Florence Bridgeman, 5th Countess of Harewood, which document life at Harewood during the late 19th and early 20th century. This was a time when ‘snapshot’ photography was just emerging, following the invention of much more portable and easy to use cameras; photographers were no longer bound by the rigidity and formality of studio portraiture, and women, in particular, seized the opportunity to photograph the world from their point of view.

Florence’s photographs capture all sorts of domestic scenes at Harewood which contrast the very formal depictions of the Lascelles family that we’re used to seeing hanging on the walls of the State Floor. Her photographs show her children – Harry, Madge and Eddy – having fun and playing games on the terrace, her dogs, skating on the lake, horse riding, picnics and trips with friends to local beauty spots, hockey and cricket matches, dressing up, bicycle rides and weekend parties.

Florence’s images were made for private consumption, produced to preserve her own personal memories. Not only do they give us a sense of what it was actually like to live at Harewood during this period, but they also capture informal and honest family moments, that, for me, tell us so much more about the personalities of the individuals involved than any commissioned portrait.

Though perhaps my favourite thing about Florence’s pictures is that they always put a smile on my face. She seems to have had a real talent for capturing playful situations – her friends and family sword fighting with sticks, switching clothes or balancing glasses of water on their heads, for example – but there are also many inadvertent shots that are entirely recognisable to modern photographers, such as the chaos of a group photograph, the blurry outline of a pet portrait, and even the photobomb. These pictures really help us relate to Florence as a photographer, but also to her family and the place they called home.

Find out more about the Collections