+44 (0)113 218 1010

[javascript protected email address]

Category

In Focus

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

Menagerie: An experience, by Kate MccGwire

Kate_MccGwire_Harewood_HouseJust over four weeks ago, my team and I were walking out of Harewood House, having just finished installing my latest exhibition, Menagerie. We knew then that the exhibition was unlikely to open as planned, but we had no idea quite what we’d be walking into.

We’d spent the last five days in an 18th century architectural bubble, the ideal place to unintentionally self-isolate. The house was shut to the public and operating a skeleton staff – as is usual for the early months of the year – so we were arguably in the safest place in Yorkshire. The install experience was unique and surreal, not just because of the stunning location, but because COVID-19 was unfolding outside the grounds and across the world as we worked.

We tuned into BBC News and listened to the updates echo around the vast rooms, wondering what would be on the other side when we finished. It felt like the beginning of a film: the air was ominous and full of tension, but the plot was yet to unfold. Day by day things seemed to escalate; we spoke to loved ones on the phone and tried to stock our cupboards remotely, but the gravitas of the situation and our surroundings made it seem dreamlike.

Harewood_House_Kate_MccGwireThe exhibition had been years in the making; there was months of planning, of collecting materials and fabrication – all supported by a team of Harewood House volunteers who had meticulously prepared thousands of feathers. I’d borrowed works from collectors, experimented with new techniques and created new work in the studio. It was a great communal effort, and then…

On 17th March we finished placing my new installation, Cavort, it’s a vast sitespecific pheasant feather piece that now lays dormant in the Yellow Drawing Room. I walked around the empty house, passing Anima and Stifle in the Dining Room, Viscera, Turmoil and Quandary in the Gallery and my earlier installation, Discharge, specially adapted for the Main Library. Behind me, security guards closed the shutters, switched on alarms and prepared for a full lockdown.

I was left wondering if it had actually happened, or if the whole thing was an illusion. My work, so often described as uncanny, was the most normal part of this experience. For me, it was the familiar that was made strange.

Menagerie can be visited at Harewood once the House reopens to the public. For more information on the exhibition, read more here and visit Kate MccGwire’s website, www.katemccgwire.com

Harewood_House_Kate_MccGwire

Reviving the Art of Letter Writing

Harewood_House_PrincessMary_LettersHow to keep in touch when you can’t physically see each other? In this world of hyperconnectivity, are people picking up their pens again and writing letters?

Rebecca Burton, curator and archivist, looks at a more romantic method of communication: handwritten letters.

Preparing for the new exhibition in the House, Becoming the Yorkshire Princess, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with a series of heartwarming letters written by HRH Princess Mary and some of her closest family members.

Princess Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary of York (1897-1965) was the only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V and Queen Mary. During Mary’s childhood, her parents were often away from home touring what was then the British Empire, in their roles as the Prince and Princess of Wales. They wrote frequently to one another, often enclosing personal mementos with their letters, such as photographs, pressed flowers and postcards (which Mary collected and compiled in large albums, encouraged by her father).

“Many thanks for your dear letter and the nice piece of white heather which I shall keep…..I hope you have put all the postcards I sent you in your book, I thought they were very pretty.”
Prince of Wales (later King George V) to Princess Mary, 1903

Harewood_House_Letters_PrincessMary
Mary’s childhood letters – written in both English and French, give us a window into the daily routine of a royal child (which included lessons, riding and plenty of outdoor activities) and illustrate a rich picture of family life at Sandringham. Whilst Queen Mary’s distinctive joined-up handwriting can at times be hard to decipher, her letters to her daughter offer a personal, vivid and often amusing account of her and her husband’s travels abroad.

“Here we are in Cairo which is a most interesting place with many different things to see….Today we saw the Colossus of Ramesses II, a huge statue which unluckily has been broken and now lies on its back – we also saw some wonderful tombs. Only think, I actually rode a camel and rather liked it.”
Letter from the Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary) to Princess Mary, 1906

Mary’s father’s notes tend to respond more directly to Mary’s own correspondence, reflecting on her hobbies as well as encouraging academic progress. His writing is often succinct but his language personable and cheerful in tone, inscribed in a script that is more cautious and much less conspicuous than his wife’s.

“I was delighted to get your letter this morning…Your French is beautiful and your writing much improved. I am also pleased to hear that Mademoiselle is quite satisfied with you and that you are getting on well with your lessons…I am sure you could easily beat me at golf now as you have been playing so much lately.”
Letter from the Prince of Wales (later King George V) to Princess Mary, 1905

Throughout all the correspondance, there is a real sense of warmth and affection on both sides and we get access to emotion that is rarely observed in Royal sources (or any other kind of object for that matter).

“I hope you are quite well dear Mama, we shall be so pleased when you come home, we are going to hang our flags out of the house windows the day you come home. I send you and Papa a bear hug and a fat kiss.”
Princess Mary to the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary), 1901

Despite this family’s extraordinary position within society, it would be hard to tell that this correspondence was written by a princess and a future king and queen; their words such that could be written by any daughter, mother or father, and their themes universal.

“Thank you very much for the postcards you sent me. I have got a lot now…Georgie sends you and Papa a kiss, we are all quite well, with lots of love and kisses, from Mary.”
Princess Mary to the Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary), 1906

What Mary’s letters offer also is a contrasting perspective to traditional historical narratives. Mary’s father in particular, who has often been described as a strict and undemonstrative parent, is shown in quite a different light.

Irrespective of their authors, handwritten letters are physical remnants of personal relationships and human connections. And as such they are undoubtedly some of the most rewarding historical material that I am lucky enough to work with. Despite the fact that Mary’s letters, both sent and received, were often unceremoniously and incongruously stashed away in old, used envelopes by their recipients, for me they are amongst some of Harewood’s most precious objects. I am reminded often, through a private joke or a doodle in the margin, of their intensely personal nature and the responsibility that comes with caring for and studying them.

Becoming the Yorkshire Princess a new exhibition about Princess Mary, will remain in the House this year and available to view as soon as Harewood is able to open. Read more about the exhibition here.  

Princess Mary: A re-imagined Wedding Dress

Over the past few months, our Collections & Engagement teams have been working on something very special, to bring a little piece of Harewood’s Royal history to life.

HRH Princess Mary was the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She lived at Harewood House from 1930 – 1965, following her marriage into the Lascelles family in 1922. Princess Mary sparks much interest with our visitors; commonly known as the ‘Yorkshire Princess’, she was a much loved royal figure both locally and nationally.

Today, Harewood House Trust cares for her archive, which includes a lifetime’s worth of letters, diaries and personal papers, as well as some of her outfits, including her beautiful wedding dress. Whilst the dress is now too fragile to be put out on display, the Harewood team has been working over the last few months to find a new way for the dress to be seen.

Princess Mary’s Wedding Dress: An Introduction

Princess Mary’s wedding dress was made by the English fashion house, Reville of London. It consisted of an underdress woven with silver thread that was covered by a sheer silk marquisette embellished with a rose-trellis design in crystal beads and seed pearls. The long silk train was woven using white and silver thread at Braintree silk mills, Essex. It was embroidered with a pattern of emblematic flowers of the British Empire, including the English rose, the Welsh daffodil, the Canadian maple and the New Zealand fern, enhanced by Indian lotus flowers embroidered in silver and gold metal thread.

The train was originally edged with Honiton lace, a gift from Queen Mary that was later removed for use by other royal brides.

Due to the fragile condition of the fabric, it is sadly now no longer possible to keep the wedding dress on display. So instead, we have brought the dress back to life, through the art of costume design, working with TV and film costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt, who has worked on productions such as Victoria and Downton Abbey.

A re-imagined dress

Approaching the project in much the same way that she would produce period costume for TV or film, Rosalind began the process of creating her interpretation of Mary’s dress with research. Working alongside the Collections Team, Rosalind looked in great detail at its original design, inspecting both the real dress as well as reviewing photographs and historic descriptions; it was important to determine the original cut, size and the types of fabrics used, in addition to their original colours.

Rosalind then worked with dressmaker Amanda Brennan to finalise a design that incorporated her research, as well as source appropriate fabric and embellishments. Once found, the dress was then assembled, with Amanda working straight onto a mannequin.

The fabric hunt commences

Rosalind and Amanda worked together to match the patterns and fabric to the real wedding dress

The dress design is sketched out

The dress begins to take shape

Great attention to detail was taken throughout project

Careful consideration was given to sourcing intricate pieces to create the headdress and jewellery

The finished gown captures the elegant design and visual splendour of the historic original, offering a glimpse into what Mary’s dress might have looked like in 1922.


The completed dress: re-imagined from the original wedding dress worn by Princess Mary in 1922.

You will be able to see this beautiful recreation in the Servant’s Hall, Below Stairs at Harewood, just as soon as we are re-opened to the public.

With special thanks to:

Rosalind Ebbutt, Costume Designer
Amanda Brennan, Dressmaker
James Hare, for the provision of the satin to create the train for this dress

 

Reflecting on the roots of Harewood’s history – Black History Month

Borthwick_Archive

At this time of reflection, it’s important to know that the ground that Harewood House was built on was bought by Henry Lascelles in 1738, using money from the West Indian sugar trade.

This is where the Lascelles family accrued aditional wealth and considerable sums of money from all different parts of the trade, from owning plantations to shipping and storage and money lending too.

Most of our knowledge about Henry Lascelles’ story is based on research undertaken by the University of York during 2007, the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade and a significant year when Harewood House Trust aimed to heighten awareness of Harewood’s past, particularly with the presentation of the grand scale dramatic production of Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah. The Borthwick Institute for Archives is the specialist archive service of the University of York and is one of the biggest archive repositories outside London. It is here where the Lascelles Slavery Archive is held.

It is thanks to the Borthwick that Harewood House Trust and indeed the Lascelles family, have a better understanding of history. A vast process of conserving and digitising many of the papers dealing with the business affairs of Henry and his partners has been undertaken, so that these can be accessible by the public online and available for research.

Most of the documents in the archive relate to business transactions linked to the slave trade, such as foreclosures on mortgages, acquisitions of property, wills, bonds and expenditures such as shipping of sugar and other cargoes and they are a valuable resource of knowledge into the  wider economic history of the West Indies also. They are also accessible through the University of the West Indies in Barbados and the Barbados Museum.

The Lascelles Slavery Archive documents part of the history of slavery in the Caribbean throughout the 18th century. Black History Month is a poignant moment to look again at Harewood’s history and to continue to talk openly about this moment in time.

Harewood House Trust has an ongoing relationship with the Borthwick Institute and its students and is continues to look at the ways in which the charity tells visitors about the origins of its own story.

Find out more about the Borthwick Institute and follow @HarewoodHouse to keep up to date on stories and more.