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Year

2021

A Photographic Tour of the West Indies

an old photograph of the Barbados Coast

Barbados

In 1906, the Lascelles family set sail in their yacht, the Dolores, for a several month-long holiday to the Caribbean. Accompanied by domestic staff and a crew of 14 men, the family visited at least six West Indian islands on their island-hopping tour: Barbados; Trinidad; Grenada; Martinique; Dominica and Jamaica. 

Photograph of The Dolores Boat

The Dolores

Photograph of the Crew of the Dolores

The Dolores Crew

 

 

Unusually, the trip is known to us only through photographs – those taken by Florence, the 5th Countess of Harewood – who was a keen amateur photographer, and who compiled and annotated her photographs in albums. The photographs that document the family’s West Indian trip show that they often visited popular tourist destinations, though the family also visited several of their estates in Barbados. 

 

Two centuries earlier, Edwin Lascelles, builder of Harewood House, had been born on the island of Barbados. This country became the epicentre of the Lascelles family’s business interests in the West Indian sugar trade, a trade that thrived on the systematic and brutal exploitation of trafficked Africans. At its peak, Edwin owned or managed a total of 24 West Indian sugar plantations, which included over 3000 enslaved individuals. These individuals were considered chattels (property that was not land), having been stripped of their rights and identities, and forced to work under brutal conditions. 

 

Following the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, many of the Lascelles family’s remaining estates were sold off, though by 1906, the Lascelles family still had possession of four plantations in Barbados – Fortescue, Thicket, Mount and Belle. The 5th Countess took a small number of photographs of Mount and Belle, capturing some of the individuals who most likely lived and worked there during the 20th century. Further research is needed to understand more about the plantation’s workforce and management during this period. 

The Mount Estate, Barbados (Owned by the Lascelles family from 1780 – 1974).

View of Bridgetown, Barbados

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During their stay in Barbados, the family also visited its capital, Bridgetown, which had, during the 17th and 18th centuries, been a British trading port for sugar and enslaved Africans. Henry Lascelles – father of Edwin – had once been the town’s Collector of Customs, which had enabled him to invest in every aspect of the 18th century sugar and slave trades. The family also visited a number of nearby landmarks, such as Cole’s Cave. During the 19th and early 20th century, Cole’s Cave was (and remains to this day) a popular destination for tourists, known for its underground rivers and geological features. The cave was also known to have been a refuge for escaped enslaved individuals during the 18th century.

Photographs taken whilst on an excursion to Cole’s Cave, Barbados.

Photographs taken whilst on an excursion to Cole’s Cave, Barbados.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Barbados, the family travelled south to Trinidad, then back north to the Windward Islands. During this part of the journey, the Dolores navigated past St Vincent – an island with a territory smaller than the size of Leeds. This was a deliberate route that enabled them to return George ‘Bertie’ Robinson – the Lascelles family’s footman, who had been brought to Harewood by the 5th Earl and Countess following one of their previous trips to the West Indies – to his country of birth. Bertie had accompanied the family on their trip, presumably fulfilling his role as footman until disembarking for St Vincent. One of the 5th Countess’ annotated photographs identifies Bertie (and a large trunk) being rowed to shore in a small boat. The intention was probably to drop Bertie off on St Vincent where he would remain, however archival records document that he made his way back to Harewood independently. Find out more about Bertie Robinson’s story here. 

“Bertie landing, St Vincent”.

Finally, the family headed westwards to Jamaica. Jamaica was one of the leading sugar producers in the world during the 18th and early 19th centuries. It was also the location of 8 of the Lascelles family’s historic estates, which together had a total acreage of over 20,000. The 5th Countess’ photographs show that the family took a ride on the now abandoned rail line between the town of Bog Walk in the Parish of St Catherine and Port Antonio on the northeast coast of Jamaica. The rail line was built in the late 19th century to enable the easy transportation of goods, such as bananas and citrus fruits, for shipping. The rail line passed through the town of ‘Harewood’ (which had its own station – ‘Harewood Halt’) that took its name from the nearby Williamsfield plantation. Williamsfield had been one of the largest former Lascelles sugar plantations, which had been worked by almost 300 enslaved individuals. No doubt the Lascelles family stopped off during their sojourn along the line to visit the Jamaican town that had taken (or perhaps been given) their name – whether they understood the full and lasting impact of their family’s business interests on the island and its inhabitants beyond historic place names is unlikely. 

Images taken from the Bog Walk to Port Antonio railway

 

 

Images taken from the Bog Walk to Port Antonio railway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5th Countess’ photographic record of the Lascelles family’s 1906 Caribbean tour offers a rare visual glimpse into the life and landscapes of the West Indies in the early 20th century, however it is one that is undeniably nuanced and idiosyncratic. Florence’s images are framed by her perspective as a wealthy White British tourist and landowner, one that was both aristocratic and female, and who also had a family history that was intertwined with that of the region and its people. 

 

View the full album of photographs and explore more about the Lascelles family’s 1906 trip to the West Indies here.

Arboriculture in Action

If you’ve visited Harewood this week, you’ll have seen that part of the Lakeside Walk is closed as some arboricultural work is done on a beautiful beech tree on the path.

Arboriculture – or the cultivation, management and study of trees and shrubs – is a constant feature of life at Harewood, with thousands of trees within the grounds that need careful attention for the tree’s health and for visitor safety. This beech is rotting, so it’s being reduced by 40% to keep it standing and alive for many more years.

The beech from the other side of the lake – the tallest tree in the centre of the image.

Examining the beech tree

This particular tree is a beech, Fagus sylvatica, approximately 300 – 350 years old. Toadstools (which are the fruiting bodies) of the fungus Pholiotus, ‘Shaggy parasol’, which grows on rotten wood, began to appear on the tree, which prompted us to look deeper into the tree’s physical state.

PiCUS tomography measures sound waves as they travel through the tree. The solidity of the wood dictates how fast they travel, allowing us to see a cross section through the stem.

The brown on this tomograph shows good healthy wood; green is wood in transition; and purple & blue shows rotten/dead wood. A tree can still be very stable if it has at least 70% brown around the outside, but as we can see, our beech has gone beyond this point.

This is a resistograph, showing the results of drilling into the root buttresses with a very fine, long drill. The amount of resistance the drill encounters gives an idea of how solid the wood is, up to a metre’s depth.

A further proof of the tree’s internal rooting is the Ganoderma fungus, ‘Beech heart-rot’ – this has just started to show on the surface, and has caused the dead wood inside.

Reducing the tree

We were advised to reduce the height of the beech by 40%. This reduces the weight that needs to be borne by the rotting stem, as well as mitigating the ‘wind sail’ effect. The smaller tree should stand for many more years; without the reduction, we might have seen the tree fall across the path within one or two years.

Arborists who have taken care of Harewood’s trees for many years are on site this week. They have rigged up an ‘English Reeve’, a rope system, between our beech and a large tree a few metres down the path (requiring around 500m of rope!). This will allow them to move the cut branches at canopy level, then drop them onto a clear section of path, to avoid damaging any smaller trees under the beech.

The beech with its rigging

The view across the lake may look slightly different, but we’re glad that this work will keep a beautiful tree standing for years to come.

Harewood House Shortlisted for Historic Houses Garden of the Year Award

Terrace Garden. Harewood House,Yorkshire, UK. Early Autumn, September 2015.

 

The beautiful and diverse gardens of Harewood House have been shortlisted for the prestigious Garden of the Year Award from Historic Houses, sponsored by world-famous auction house Christie’s.””

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Decided by a public vote, the Award recognises the importance of some of the country’s most spectacular gardens with outstanding horticultural and public appeal. The 100 acres of gardens at Harewood include the formal, intricately designed Italian parterre on the Terrace; the Himalayan Garden that takes visitors to mountains on the other side of the world; the naturalistic planting of the lakeside woodlands; and the inviting Walled Garden, used now to grow produce and for innovative, immersive exhibitions.

Ben Cowell, Historic Houses Director General, comments:

“We are a nation of garden lovers. The experience of lockdown has only made us appreciate the wonders of the garden even more. This is true whether we are lucky enough to tend a garden of our own, or simply enjoy visiting professionally maintained gardens to appreciate the work of talented gardening teams.

“Every year, we hold a vote in a competition to find the UK’s greatest garden. The eight gardens in our shortlist represent the very finest gardens open to the public across the country.

We are proud to have run the Garden of the Year award annually since 1984 with the support of Christie’s. Every year the race to the title is hard-fought, and this year’s shortlist is no exception. Please do cast your vote, and show your support for these wonderful gardens and the talented gardeners who brought them to life.”

In 2020 Harewood’s gardens became even more important, providing a vital source of respite for local communities during the coronavirus restrictions.

Jane Marriott, Harewood House Trust Director comments:

“Visitors enthusiastically returned when the gardens were re-opened in July 2020, with the wide open spaces allowing families and friends to meet safely, and the beauty of the surroundings promoting peace and wellbeing for all. It brought a lot of joy for us at Harewood, to be able to provide a space for people to come together during such difficult times. We do hope that our wonderful gardens brought some relief, and that visitors will vote for us for Garden of the Year.”

“Harewood’s gardens nod to the past whilst looking to the future. The Archery Border takes inspiration from the Victorian obsession with exotic planting, since it lies beneath the Terrace built by Sir Charles Barry in the 1840s. The Himalayan Garden grew around Princess Mary’s 1930s rock garden, with planting informed by her correspondence with the Royal Botanic Gardens; and the Walled Garden, once a kitchen garden to support the House’s role as a hospital during the First World War, now again has fruits and vegetables planted in neat allotments. However, the methods for growing are changing with Harewood’s environmental concerns.”

Head Gardener Trevor Nicholson, who has been at Harewood for over 25 years, comments:

“Our vegetable plots have been converted to a ‘no-dig’ cultivation system to conserve soil ecology, save water and reduce the carbon footprint. Plants for pollinators are interspersed among organically-grown crops, to enrich the biodiversity of the garden, and plant material is recycled into compost, used throughout the gardens as mulch and soil conditioner.”

Anyone who appreciates and values the stunning Harewood House gardens can vote for Harewood to win the Garden of the Year Award here.

Voting closes on Thursday 30 September and the winner will be announced in November.

Chris Day: White Wash

Whitewash Wall

A guest blog commissioned by Harewood from Chris Day, to mark UNESCO’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Have British black artists found their voice in today’s art world when it comes to equality and race?

Are British black artists visible in today’s art world or have the historical entrenched imbalance of equality towards black artists still an issue.

Throughout history, the legacy of the 1800s’ transatlantic slave trade and colonial rule has been depicted in one form or another in art, and not always in a positive manner. The painting by François Biard (Proclamation de la liberté des Noirs aux Colonies [Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies]) was criticised by another painter of the time, Nicolas Auguste Galimard, who remarked that, ‘Negroes will always show up badly as principal figures in a picture’.

With racial and dehumanising images, black people have had to endure an assault on their identity, equality and social status. Whilst visually portraying them as inferior to the rest of society, other artists like J M W Turner (The Slave Ship) and Richard Ansdell (The Hunted Slaves) captured barbaric acts of the transatlantic slave trade and the suffering of Africans and somehow tried to instil in the audience a sense of pity and injustice, or even, perhaps, tried to make a political statement with art.

This points to one of the reasons why western art of the early 1800s mainly shows black people in subservient and inferior roles and, with no television or internet these paintings were the window onto social life of the time. In the years following, both black and white people have been shown images that portray black people as inferior.

Such issues continue to haunt black communities and the rise of an intolerance to anything that is foreign is only fuelling the fire of inequality.

Black culture and identity did not begin with the transatlantic slave trade and yet, in school history lessons, slavery is amongst the first thing you are taught about black people and how famous white men protested to free the enslaved. Thus, even at an early stage of education, the seed of black people being inferior is planted.

Black history and culture are rich and colourful and should be celebrated. This sense of worth has influenced a multitude of black artists to take up arms to depict not only the transatlantic slave trade but also promote black culture and history in a positive light.

Researching social, civil and racial differences that occurred in the 1960s and 1980s helped me to develop and understand the racial barriers that artists in this era had to face and how they dealt with it. Black British artists in the 1980s like Keith Piper, Sonia Boyce, Chila Burman and many more have had to fight to be recognised as equal in the art world; unfortunately many have not had the same exposure or recognition as their white counterparts.

Errol Lloyd, a founder-member of CAM (The Caribbean Artist Movement), had his first exhibition shut down by white controllers due to his black images – images that confronted social indifferences of the time the hostile approach in the 1960s to black people was not only in the streets of Britain but managed to infiltrate all establishments.

21st century artists like Kara Walker depict racism with provocative imagery that shouts out the brutal acts that happened in black people in history to the view. Today, galleries have embraced her art work instead of the opposition that Errol Lloyd had to face, although there is still an inherited imbalance of mainly white males who dominate not only the art scene but the galleries, museums and art schools that decide what and when it is suitable for artists’ material to be seen.

Have positive steps been taken to allow Black artists to gain more of an equal stance or has the committed work by collective groups – such as BAM (Black Arts Movement) and artists like Eddie Chambers, Keith Piper and Lubaina Himid – been eradicated? Who is promoting today’s black British artists and how are these artists addressing racial and equality difference in their art?

The development of people into the arts in recent times has had to start at a grass roots level. Workshops in the community have taken the lead in educating people in different areas of artistic expression and culture (due to the decreasing funding schools receive) and a change to the curriculum has forced a number of small workshops and galleries to set up to promote art and support black artists. Link at Brixton Hill and The Alexandra Gallery represent a few that embrace the development of British black art.

Has the perceived lack of black artists in the art sector made it a mainly white establishment by percentage? Visiting many of the galleries in Britain it is hard to find black artists’ work on the walls and in the cabinets.

If so, what are the reasons behind the lack of black faces in the arts and what is being done to address the matter? Examining the education system, social impacts, careers and role models I see how this has affected the way young black people perceive the arts.

Is this a sign of remorse from the art world or are they getting on the band wagon to make a quick buck? The state of play at this time seems to be in favour of all things black and as a result vast amounts of money are being invested into film, art and other media to promote these arrears.

Just like the transatlantic slave trade, we have rich white men investing their money to gain wealth at the cost of the black society. Let’s hope this time the money gained will find its way down to educate and empower and not keep the black race at a subservient level as history likes to depict issues that black artists have to face in today’s art world. Even the work done by fellow black art movements has not made it easier for black artists to be seen. The education system seems to be inherently flawed in its approach to how and what is taught, so even at this root level inequality already has a foothold.

Aspects of equality are apparently being implemented in all areas of social life including the arts. Unfortunately, with the rise of intolerance against ethnic groups in Britain and around the world, race and equality are still an issue and instead of disappearing into history they have re-emerged for the new generation of black artists to confront.

Chris Day is a glass and mixed media artist, who uses his art to engage audiences on issues that are hard to confront, helping to overcome some of the traumas that haunt society’s collective past. His current exhibition at Harewood House, Chris Day: Craft Spotlight, runs until Sunday 31 October 2021.

Previous posts marking International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade & its Abolition

Joe Williams: Memorialise those who sacrificed everything

Olivia Wyatt: Power. Whiteness. Resistance. Challenging the ‘facts’ of the archive

Elaine Mitchener: Sweet Tooth

The Lascelles Slavery Archive

Bibliography

Bailey, A. D, Baucom, I. and Boyce, S. (2005) Shades of Black Assembling the 1980s. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Chambers, E. (2014) Black Artists in British Art a history since the 1950s. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd.
Chambers, E. (1988) The Arts Council Artpack. A history of black Artists in Britain. London: Haringey
Godfrey, M. and Whitley, Z. (2017) Souls of a Nation Art in the Age of Black Power. London: Tate Publishing Ltd.
Honour, H. (1989) The image of the Black in Western Art. London: Harvard University Press.
Ansdell, R. (1861) The Hunted Slaves [Oil on canvas]. International Slavery Museum, Liverpool.
Biard, F. (1849) Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies [Oil on canvas]. Palace of Versailles, France.
Turner, W. (1840) The Slave Ship [Oil on canvas]. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Roots (1977) ABC, 23 January
Black Panther (2018) Directed by R. Coogle [Film] Paramount Pictures.
12 years a Slave (2013) Directed by S. Queen [DVD] Fox Searchlight.
Tate (2017) Soul of a Nation. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/…/exhibition/soul-nation-art-age-black-power (Accessed:8 October 2018).

“Looking at the beautiful things around – trees, nature… it can all help to calm and ground you.” Graphic Artist Anthony Burrill on his latest installation Together We Are.

Anthony Burrill raising a flag on the roof of Harewood House

Photo credit Tom Arber

Anthony Burrill studied Graphic Design at Leeds Polytechnic and has since worked on a number of different projects and installations at Harewood and in Leeds. In our latest blog, he talks us through TOGETHER WE ARE, a new flag installation which creates a series of pausing points along a newly created circular walk at Harewood House, prompting moments of reflection and positivity, whilst marking the breath-taking views across the Harewood landscape.

 

 

When we first started talking about the installation, I started to think about my daily walks. I live in the countryside and every morning I head out with the dog for a walk and that feeling of being outside, surrounded by nature; I just find it all a calming influence, really. Looking at the beautiful things around – trees, nature… it can all help to calm and ground you. I’ve always enjoyed being outside and feel a real sense of peace, even more during the past year.

The idea for this installation formed really quickly. The brief was to create something for the outside, something that was going to be immersed in nature. And so, this idea of marking out a route around the grounds of the estate – picking out vantage points which look back towards the house itself as well as around it and marking these specific points with a flag, it just grew out of a simple conversation. Creating these flags with the text pieces are simply there to connect with, something to latch on to and something that hopefully puts an idea into your head which you can then reflect on when you’re on the walk. It’s almost like having a silent companion with you, planting these seeds of thoughts in your head, really. There’s also something incredibly calming about the movement of a flag in a breeze – it’s like the flicker of a candle or a sunset; all the natural stuff that we respond to in a real, primal way.

 

 

This installation is a guided walk around the estate which surrounds Harewood and the flags are positioned in such a way to mark particular views. They are positions which we thought would aid the enjoyment of the landscape, whilst creating these moments of reflection or stillness which, in turn, hopefully engenders some kind of feeling of wellness, reassurance or recovery. Each and every flag all connect to the main flag raised on the house which says “JOY”; it feels very relevant and real. At the moment, there’s so many feelings about getting back into the real world, some which have been tucked away during lockdown so this is a sign of reassurance and pointing to a hopeful future.

 

People have had ups and downs, people have endured traumatic events and this idea to make a walk which is intended to be calming and reassuring will hopefully help others in the process as we come out of lockdown.

 

Throughout the conversations which we had about the project, we were all keen to make a piece of work which spoke about our feelings. There’s been a huge pause in our lives due to the pandemic and we’ve had 12 months to reflect. People have had ups and downs, people have endured traumatic events and this idea to make a walk which is intended to be calming and reassuring will hopefully help others in the process as we come out of lockdown. I think it would be fair to say we had quite high ambitions to do something meaningful, as well as relatable and this walk could mark the beginning of a new moment – of the start of life after lockdown.

 

The words may prompt a nice memory or a nice association which just lightens their mood or simply gives them a lovely moment of reflection.

 

I’d like to think the installation will serve as an accompaniment to the rest of their experience at Harewood, really. It’s almost like the work is just there, doing it’s job in the background and enhancing the walk. The words may prompt a nice memory or a nice association which just lightens their mood or simply gives them a lovely moment of reflection. It’s about connecting with people through the simplicity of the words; something relatable to everyone but each and every one will have their own interpretation. It’s something that just feels human. It’s not there to challenge, just an occasional moment of reflection which connects with lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds. Everyone can enjoy their own journey.