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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.

The Harewood Bees

In this month’s guest blog, Harewood Food and Drink Project take us through the important role that bees have to play in our ecosystem and creating a regenerative environment at Harewood, as well as introducing us to Beekeeper Martyn, who keeps bees on the Estate and produces Harewood honey, which features in many a HF&DP dish.

Why are bees important?

We have a number of schemes in place to encourage a strong presence of bees, which helps to create a healthy, rich ecosystem encouraging biodiversity and a balanced habitat where a wide range of species can thrive alongside one another. Creating incredible food experiences that work in harmony, or to the benefit of, the local environment, has always been one of the key cornerstones of HF & DP.

Bees play a vital role in our food chain, as they pollinate a significant proportion of the food crops that we consume. Many of our everyday favourite food and drink items rely on pollination by bees, including many ingredients that can be found on site at Harewood; tomatoes, strawberries, figs, blackberries, mulberries and raspberries to name a few, all rely on bee’s activity. Other global everyday favourites include avocados, coffee, chocolate, grapes, i.e. wine.

The Harewood Bees  

A couple of years ago we were approached by Martyn, after he’d attended one of our events. He asked if he could keep his hives on Estate land. In exchange, a couple of times a year, he’d drop a box of honey jars off to the estate office for us to use as we wish, usually around 50 jars. For HF & DP there’s nothing that inspires us more than meeting those who are masters of their craft. Martyn’s knowledge, dedication, care and love for his hives acts as a reminder of why we love what we do and how inspiring our surroundings are.

We sell the honey with 100% of proceeds being put towards buying wild flower seeds which we plant close to the hives. Planting a variety of bee friendly wild flowers helps to improve the health of the bee colony, enhances the flavour and yield of the honey and helps to create a richer, more balanced and biodiverse ecosystem here at Harewood.

We have a number of other schemes in place across the estate to encourage a thriving bee population; through the preservation of orchards, planting of 25 hectares of flower rich margins on our arable farms and we’ve adopted a 3-year hedge cutting regime to maximise flowers and blossom.

The Taste of Harewood

Since we set up HF & DP, we’ve been trying to answer the question “What does Harewood taste like?”. It’s possible that Martyn’s honey is the purest representation that we’ve found yet, or indeed, probably ever will.

A honey bee hive requires several hectares of flower rich habitat for it to thrive. The location of Martyn’s hives means that the bee colony will gather pollen from all over Harewood’s landscape, from a wide range of flowers, before returning to the hives.

When Martyn harvests his honey, we end up with 100% pure honey. This means that absolutely nothing is added, exactly as nature intended.

Each batch, even each hive, will have its own unique flavour, never to be replicated, dependent upon what’s flowering and in season and what crops are growing nearby. If you’re one of the lucky few who manage to get a jar, let us know what flavour profiles you can pick out, tell us, what does Harewood taste like?

Whenever a new batch of honey arrives, Josh and our kitchen team will eagerly start writing menus and dishes using Harewood honey, inspired by it’s incredible flavour and provenance.

A big thank you to Martyn for allowing us to tell his story and to Claire McClean for the photos.

Josh Whitehead’s Honeycomb Recipe

Honeycomb is a great addition to many different puddings, giving sweetness and crunchy texture. Break it up and use to garnish ice cream, cake or chocolate. It’s also delicious half dipped in melted chocolate and left to set as a homemade Crunchie bar!

Ingredients

  • 320g Caster Sugar
  • 130g Honey (Ideally Harewood Honey, but a good quality runny or wildflower honey will also be fine)
  • 360g Glucose Syrup
  • 80g Water
  • 50g Bicarbonate of Soda, Sifted

Begin by adding all of the ingredients, bar the bicarb, in to a heavy based tall saucepan with the honey, water and glucose on the base of the pan.

Lightly grease a metal container and put to one side.

Heat the mixture on a low heat, gently stirring with a whisk until combined, then increase to medium high. Cook the mixture until it reaches 148 degrees on a food thermometer.

Take of the heat and vigorously whisk in the bicarbonate of soda for two seconds to mix well, then, being very careful as the mixture will be very hot, pour into the greased container and leave to set. At this point it’s very important not to aggravate the honeycomb as it can collapse, leave it to set at room temperature for one hour, not shaking or moving the tray.

Now you have the perfect addition to enhance any dessert !

 

 

The doors may be closed, but the work continues in the House…

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes whilst the house is closed?

Winter is one of the busiest times of the year for the collections team. Every year when the house is closed to the public we undertake much of our annual deep clean. This year is no exception, as despite only being able to open the house for a short period in 2020, the collections and the house itself still require essential checking and cleaning. As an Accredited Museum with a designated collection we need to constantly monitor for any signs of damage or deterioration.

Each room is cleaned from top to bottom using conservation brushes and special vacuum cleaners; we even have our own scaffold tower so we can reach the ceilings. The collections care team are specially trained to use these and while they are cleaning they check for any signs of deterioration or pest activity. Some areas such as ceilings and curtain pelmets are done on a rolling programme as they don’t get as dusty as the areas lower down and we don’t want to cause damage by over-cleaning. We begin with the East Side of the house before Christmas and once the decorations come down it’s time to start in the rooms on the West Side.

 

The before and after… a half-cleaned mirror !

Each object in the room is also checked and cleaned using specialist equipment. Usually we would undertake this work with the help of a team of skilled volunteers but in order to ensure we are working within Covid guidelines we have had to stand them down this year and the staff are keeping socially distant.

This year we’ve also been undertaking an inventory audit and making sure that all the objects are marked with their own unique number. Each mark is made in a specific way so it doesn’t damage the object. It’s best to do this type of work at the same time as the cleaning so we only handle the object once, reducing the risk of accidental damage.

Here we have been cleaning a pelmet so have taken the opportunity to sew on a label at the same time.

During the lockdown we also need to be on site to keep an eye out for any leaks, monitor the environment and to regularly check for pests throughout the house including the attics.

There are a number insects which would enjoy munching their way through the collections if we let them, woodworm and carpet beetle are the most widespread across museums and historic houses. They like organic materials, particularly wood and textiles which make up most of the collections.