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In Focus

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.

“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.

 

A Change in Planting Schemes on the Terrace

The Terrace at Harewood - hedges and planted lavender

In the latest blog, Head Gardener Trevor Nicholson explains new planting schemes on the Terrace and how they tie in to Harewood’s Sustainability & Biodiversity Agenda.

Committing to our Sustainability & Biodiversity Agenda has meant we’ve had to make some pretty bold decisions lately. We are implementing a reduced tillage (‘no-dig’) policy in the Walled Garden, reviving our green waste composting system and moving towards becoming a completely ‘peat free’ garden as well as making many more other adjustments, such as weed control using cardboard re-purposed as a mulch etc.

Every year for the past 25 years we have planted two schemes, a spring-flowering scheme in autumn and a summer-flowering scheme in late spring.

All this has come with a lot of hard work and there is much work still to do as we continue to experiment and adjust to new ways of working. In the gardens, the most visible change made for environmental reasons is the U-turn away from the planting of annual bedding plants in the parterre. Every year for the past 25 years we have planted two schemes, a spring-flowering scheme in autumn and a summer-flowering scheme in late spring.

As well as costing thousands of pounds every year, planting the twice-annual bedding schemes were incredibly demanding on our small team as well as on some of our natural resources, especially water in the summer months. Our carbon footprint was also a consideration as consignments of bulbs were being shipped from Holland each year and 15,000 bedding plants packed onto trolleys were being transported from a nursery outside York. And with all of this came the twice-yearly mountain of plastic plant pots and plastic trays.

There were also questions: how were all the plants and bulbs we were buying in each year being grown? Sustainably? Organically? Peat free? And what does the carbon footprint actually look like all the way along the supply chain? The growers we have used for decades to supply the plants and bulbs for our bedding schemes are good growers who care for the environment and who have their own environmental policies. And of course, we want to support growers, especially local businesses. However, we needed a circuit-break, some ‘time out’ to review our own environmental policy and plan for the future.

Lockdown : An opportunity for gardening reflection

The opportunity to pause came during the first lockdown when we had to decide whether to spend thousands of pounds on summer bedding plants that possibly no-one would see or whether we should take the plunge and leave the parterre fallow for a season. Given the situation regarding the pandemic at that time, the fact that we were without our volunteers and with garden staff on furlough leave, we couldn’t risk the former, so we took the tough decision to cancel our order of summer bedding plants for 2020.

Over the past year we have been thinking about alternatives to using spring and summer bedding in the parterre. For ecological, environmental and biodiversity reasons we decided to ‘go perennial’. In the end we opted for lavender as the main planting, accompanied by a flash of variegated sage. This was for a variety of reasons: Lavender not only originates from the Mediterranean regions and is therefore perfectly adapted to the aspect and conditions on the terrace, it was an obvious choice as a garden plant for an Italian-style garden such as the parterre – sun-loving, drought resistant and tough, whilst also being an evergreen, highly-scented, popular, useful and beautiful herb. On top of all that, lavender ticks another important ‘eco’ box: Biodiversity. Lavender is a magnet to bees and one of the best plants for pollinators, providing a rich source of nectar both to bumblebees and honey bees, as well as butterflies at an important time in the foraging season.

 

With the lavender and sage all now planted, we will be keenly observing what a difference the planting of these evergreens will make. How long before they grow woody and leggy? How long will it take to clip all the lavender each year? Can we use the dried lavender flowers and clippings for essential oils or in pillows? It’s a new venture for Harewood and there are a few unknowns. It sees the first use of perennial planting on the parterre since the Arts & Crafts era of the early 20th century, when the parterre looked very different to what it does today. Both the lavender and the sage will require less water, and when fully grown will provide the structural infill to the box scrolls that will give the Terrace a real Italianate feel, standing up to the terrace stonework and the imposing south façade of the House.

Even in these early days, it feels like the right fit for Harewood today. As our aspirations in the gardens and grounds around sustainability and biodiversity begin to gain momentum, we see long grass regimes around our veteran trees becoming more established, allowing grassland soil micro-organisms to flourish. Alongside new policies for preserving deadwood habitats, the preservation and care of our soil ecosystem, as in the Walled Garden, is an inherent objective. For the first time in a generation the soil in the parterre can rest undisturbed for a while to enable roots, mycorrhizae and soil invertebrates to thrive and coexist symbiotically. And who knows what benefits this will bring to the health and wellbeing of the garden.

Open History at Harewood

As we prepare to launch our inaugural Craft Spotlight this Saturday 26 June 2021, Hannah Obee, Director of Collections, Programming and Learning, takes us through why Craft Spotlight was created,  our Open History programme and Harewood’s commitment to being open and honest about its past.

Black Lives Matter. We knew this, we agreed and we felt we were addressing this, promoting diversity and inclusion through our exhibition and learning programmes. Then on 25 May 2020, George Floyd was murdered on a street in Minneapolis. Suddenly the lens we looked at the world through fractured with a brutal reminder of the vast spectrum of challenges faced by Black people.

While Harewood has repeatedly been committed to addressing its past, opening debate into our roots in the Atlantic Slave Trade, culminating in a year-long programme of events to mark the Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery in 2007 and giving emerging artists a platform, by commissioning artists of diverse heritage, from Sonia Boyce to Rommi Smith; the momentum of the BLM movement last May stopped us in our tracks and made us reassess our contribution.

Artist Chris Day in his workshop

Craft Spotlight : Chris Day

During our 2019 Harewood Craft Biennial, I read a report that 96% of professional, full-time crafts people identified as White British. We had already decided this lack of diversity would be a key subject for discussion in the next Harewood Biennial. What we needed though was a consistent response to this lack of racial equality in the Craft world, so we developed Craft Spotlight. This provides funding and a platform for an emerging maker of diverse ethnicity to showcase their work, promoting Craft to people of diverse heritage and ensuring their voices are represented at Harewood. The inaugural display opens 26 June 2021 in All Saints Church at Harewood and features the work of emerging glassblower, Chris Day. His research into Black history and his personal experience made him want to create work that started challenging conversations around Black history including the Transatlantic Slave Trade. His aim is to inspire more Black glassblowers through his own work. Craft Spotlight will continue to be staged in the years between the Biennial.

Photograph of George Bertie Robinson

George ‘Bertie’ Robinson

This year we also begin an annual series that will celebrate and share the often-untold stories of people of African descent with Yorkshire connections throughout history. For 2021, we have teamed up with Leeds-based DSRG (the Diasporian Stories Research Group) to bring to life Bertie Robinson: The Footman from St Vincent (17 May – 31 October).  George ‘Bertie’ Robinson travelled with the 5th Earl and Countess from the West Indies to Leeds in 1893 aged 13. Harewood’s first black member of staff, his personal story is extraordinary and compelling. Yet it also lays bare the impact of colonialism in the West Indies post-slavery and attitudes to race in Britain in the early 20th century. These led to him losing his job after nearly 30 years of working for the Lascelles family. New discoveries made while researching the exhibition are included in the display on the State Floor. Our Assistant Curator and Archivist, Rebecca Burton, uncovered letters from his mother Amelia Robinson to the 5th Countess of Harewood while an email to DSRG answered some long-asked questions of what happened after Bertie was sacked. We are very grateful to the Wray family for allowing us to share their story.

 

Two actors in victorian costume reading and looking at books in a library

A Storm at Harewood with Heritage Corner

Finally for 2021, Heritage Corner brings its unique brand of insightful Black History Walks to Harewood in A Storm at Harewood on selected dates between 12 June and 14 August. Following the success of their regular events in Leeds City Centre, Joe Williams and Vanessa Mudd take Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal performance at Harewood in 1847 as a jumping off point to explore African and West Indian connections to Harewood in an imaginative, fun and family-friendly guided walk of the House and Grounds.  Exploring 2,000 years of African presence in Yorkshire, the walk will provide a greater understanding of Africa’s rich history and contribution to the region.

World Book Day – Sharing Stories from Harewood’s Libraries

This World Book Day, we wanted to share some stories from the books that call the libraries at Harewood their home. There are more than 10,000 books held within the 3 libraries – Main, Spanish and Old Library- at Harewood, collected by every generation of the Lascelles family and covering a range of different genres. From Classic Literature to Zoology, the libraries aren’t short of a story to tell ! 

 

Classic Literature – Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, 1869.

Vanity Fair is a novel by the English author William Makepeace Thackeray. Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, the story follows the inter-linked lives of two women – the quick-witted Becky Sharp and the naïve Emmy Sedley – who both attempt to make their way in British society.

The novel’s title, Vanity Fair, references a fictional town named ‘Vanity’ in John Bunyon’s Pilgrim’s Process, which hosted a never-ending fair representing the sin of materialistic attachment. Thackeray’s narrative is framed as a puppet show taking place at this fair.

Vanity Fair’s subtitle, A Novel without a Hero, reflects the novel’s flawed characters and its satirisation of British society.

Vanity Fair book on bookcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanity Fair was first published between 1847-1848 as a 19 volume serial – a popular method of publishing novels at the time. It was also illustrated with Thackeray’s own drawings.

The book was the first to be published under Thackeray’s real name, the author often choosing to use comic pseudonyms, such as George Savage Fitz-Boodle and Michael Angelo Titmarsh.

There are a number of Thackeray’s works in the libraries at Harewood, suggesting he was a popular author with the Lascelles family. This two-volume edition of Vanity Fair, published by Smith, Elder &Co. in 1869, belonged to the 5th Earl of Harewood.

 

Art and Design – The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, Thomas Chippendale, 1755.

The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, published in 1754 by the Yorkshire-born cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale, was the first comprehensive catalogue dedicated to the design and production of furniture. It contained 160 engraved designs for a range of household furniture in a variety of styles. It enabled clients to order straight from the book or mix and match ideas to create something new.

The Director had widespread appeal and was an instant success. Not only did the book launch Chippendale’s professional reputation and generate trade, but it also played a key role in securing Chippendale’s design legacy around the world, with copies reaching as far as Russia and America.

Harewood’s copy of the Director is a 2nd edition, published in 1755. It contains the bookplate of the 1st Earl of Harewood, though it’s possible it may have belonged to Edwin Lascelles, builder of Harewood House and patron of Chippendale’s most lucrative commission.
This copy was re-bound in the 20th century by the high-end book binding firm Riviere & Sons, decorated with tooled and gilt decoration on the spine.

 

Horticulture and Landscape Design – Botany for Ladies, Jane Loudon, 1842

Botany for Ladies was written by Jane Loudon, an English author who was a pioneer of both popular gardening manuals and science fiction.

Loudon’s first book, The Mummy, published anonymously in 1827, was a fictional account of living in Britain in the 22nd century and explored ideas around future technology. It caught the attention of John Claudius Loudon, a leading horticultural writer, whom Jane went on to marry.

After her marriage, Jane became fascinated with her husband’s field of horticulture, helping him with his research and publications. She realised that the highly technical language used in gardening manuals of the day was off-putting to women who might not have been taught much, if any, science as part of their education, and set about writing her own.

Becoming known as the ‘Mrs Beeton of the garden world’, Jane produced books that were precise and correct in content, written in an anecdotal style that was easy to follow.  The opening remark in Botany for Ladies (1842) reads: ‘The following pages are intended to enable my readers to acquire knowledge of Botany with as little trouble to themselves as possible.’

Her popular books helped thousands of women across the country to learn more about, and enjoy, gardening as a hobby. Jane was a self-taught artist and illustrated her own books.

There are a number of Jane Loudon’s gardening manuals in the libraries at Harewood, alongside works by her husband, though not, unfortunately, The Mummy.

 

Ornithology and Zoology – British Zoology, Thomas Pennant, 1776.

Thomas Pennant was a Welsh naturalist and travel writer. British Zoology was one of his first publications, forming a comprehensive study of animals across the British Isles.

It contained information on quadrupeds, birds, reptiles and fish, and was accompanied by over 100 colour illustrations. The work also included an appendix analysing and notating bird song.

British Zoology was first published in two volumes between 1766 and 1767 in folio form. Due to the inclusion of many expensive large-scale illustrations, the book was not a commercial success, however it was well received by fellow naturalists and earned Pennant a position as a fellow of the Royal Society.

 

Harewood’s copy of British Zoology is a later 4th edition, in a smaller ‘quarto’ format, which would have been less expensive to produce. It is still, however, very well illustrated with engravings. Thomas Pennant travelled around Britain with the artist Moses Griffiths, whose sketches were often used to accompany his observations.

Pennant was also a travel-writer and made notes about numerous tours taken across Britain, one of which included a visit to Harewood. Although he saw promise in Harewood’s landscape, the House was not to his taste, which was ‘fitted up with a profusion of expense and ornamental gilding…calculated for parade more than comfort’.

 

History and Geography – A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, Captain James Cook and Captain James King, 1784

Published five years after his death, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean gave an official account of Captain James Cook’s third and last voyage to the Pacific between 1776-1779.

On this voyage, it had been Cook’s mission to discover a shorter sea route for trade between Britain and the Pacific. It’s true purpose however, was concealed under the guise of returning the Polynesian, Omai, back to the island Raiatea, who had travelled with Cook to England two years. Omai had been presented to British society and even had his portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

As a Captain of the Royal Navy, Cook spent a total of 12 years exploring the Pacific on three separate voyages. He is credited with making the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian islands, as well as the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. Cook was killed in Hawaii in 1779 after attempting to kidnap the local ruler, Kalaniʻōpuʻu.

This book, based on Cook’s own journals, was so popular that the first edition sold out within three days. It contains several engraved plates and maps, illustrating the type of terrain encountered on his voyage as well as local individuals and animals.

 

The books within Harewood’s libraries are cared for by an independent charity. Whilst the house was forced to remain closed to visitors during the pandemic, our work to conserve these treasured objects never stopped. By Adopting a Book today you can help support the work of our Collections Care team, ensuring these books, and the many more items in our care, can continue to be shared when we are allowed to re-open, for the long-term benefit of the public.