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Counting down to Christmas with Lights4fun

This festive season, the facade of the House has been transformed into a magical, illuminated advent calendar with the help of our Christmas supporter Lights4fun. As we count down to Christmas, we take a look back at how the advent calendar was created.

‘We’ve dreamed of turning the façade of the House into an advent calendar for years, as it very conveniently has 24 windows and we’re delighted to have been able to create this beautiful advent calendar this year with the generous support from Lights4fun’ says Zoë Hughes, Artistic Producer at Harewood House Trust.

The journey began with a team of dedicated Harewood volunteers adding baubles to the Lights4fun garlands – there were over 100 to decorate and the overflow café area was soon overflowing with decorated garlands!

Once decorated, it was time to hand over to our facilities team, who created special frames which needed to be strong enough to withstand the Yorkshire winter, without damaging the historic house.

Of the construction process, Operations Manager Richard Smith comments:

“When initially asked by our creative team to look at carrying out the install, I wasn’t sure it could be done due to the historic nature of the building and its grade 1 listed status. However, after discussing with my team and the contractors responsible for the install, we were able to come up with a design for the frames and a system to fix them in place that would allow them to be installed safely and securely whilst also being non-invasive. The garlands supplied by Lights4fun were extremely easy to use and incredibly effective when lit up, which makes the front of the house look amazing and a real focal point for visitors”

 

A close up of the frame – the frames sat very carefully within the windows to not damage the House

Each window is lit up by a spotlight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once all 24 frames and garlands installed, it was time to add all the numbers in and a big light switch on and Harewood is delighted to finally see the advent calendar brought to life. Seeing the beautiful lit garlands and giant gold numbers has been an incredible moment, seeing the team’s creative designs become a reality.

Photo credit Oliver Perrott

 

Harewood’s Festive Season
Sat 12 Nov–Mon 2 Jan
Tickets available at harewood.org

Our sparkling Christmas supporter
Christmas at Harewood is generously supported by Harrogate-based Lights4fun, bringing even more sparkle to the twinkling grounds throughout the festive season.

The Gift of a Green Turtle

Whilst exploring Harewood’s Old Kitchen, visitors may notice an unusual decoration perched above one of its cooking ranges – a large shell belonging to a green sea turtle. In this article, Harewood’s volunteer researcher, Olivia Wyatt, and Curator, Beckie Burton, discuss the turtle shell’s wider significance and a recent discovery in the archive.

An intriguing letter, written by William Bishop to John Wood Nelson in the summer of 1800, was recently discovered in the Lascelles family’s West Indian archive held at the Borthwick Institute in York. It reads: 

“I send a very fine Green Turtle of 75 lbs weight, which, through you, I beg may be forwarded in my name for Lord Harewood’s acceptance and […] another very fine Green Turtle of nearly 50 lbs weight which I must request you will do me the kind favour of placing on your own table.”

The letter raises many questions. Who was William Bishop? Why did he send several sea turtles halfway across the world from Barbados to Britain? And why might the recipients want to ‘place them on their table’? The answers reveal the historic cultural and social significance of the Caribbean green sea turtle, as well as help us to understand the ways in which the Lascelles family managed their West Indian plantations.

 

Turtle for the table

Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are native to tropical and subtropical waters around the world, including the Caribbean region. During the eighteenth century turtles were an important source of food for island inhabitants, providing the native, free and enslaved populations with meat, eggs and oil. Turtle meat was also used to ‘revive’ famished Africans arriving on slaving ships. European colonists learned about the nutritional benefits of the green sea turtle from the indigenous Miskitu people of eastern Nicaragua and Honduras, and many Europeans initially believed turtles possessed magical medicinal qualities.

The culinary reputation of the sea turtle inevitably spread via colonial trade networks to Europe, with live turtles shipped across the Atlantic in large tubs of seawater to ensure their ‘freshness’ upon arrival. Dishes such as turtle soup were created, which involved boiling and baking turtle meat with varying combinations of vegetables and spices; the bestselling eighteenth-century cookery book The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse contained several turtle recipes, such as how to prepare it ‘the West India Way’. Turtles were rare commodities in Europe, and as such its meat came to be considered a delicacy. Turtle dishes developed a reputation as high-status cuisine, available only to those with access to global trade and its closed systems of communication, transport and finance. Accordingly, serving a dish containing turtle at the dinner table implied a level of status and wealth, and became a way for hosts to show off and impress guests.


The turtle shell hanging in the Old Kitchen at Harewood today almost certainly belonged to a turtle that was consumed in the House or possibly at an external event hosted by the family; for instance, Edwin Lascelles, the builder of Harewood House, is recorded as having provided a ‘Turtle-feast’ to the ‘gentlemen of [his] neighbourhood’ in ‘Chapel-Town’ in 1767. In fact, the presence of several turtle shells in Harewood’s wider collection reveals an eager consumption of this high-status commodity by the Lascelles family. The shells themselves were kept for decorative purposes, a culinary trophy that continued to hold prestige and intrigue even after the turtle itself was gone.

The gift of a green turtle, then, was one of cultural capital, offering prestige and status to its new eighteenth-century owners. It is also representative of the broader context of exploration, conquest and enslavement that defined British colonialism. William Bishop’s turtles would have been shipped alongside other desirable Caribbean products such as sugar and rum, their production enabled by the systematic trade and exploitation of enslaved African Caribbean people. This was a trade that the Lascelles family dominated, and were amongst its most successful beneficiaries. 

But who were the individuals involved in this particular transaction of turtles and what was their relationship?

 

A transaction of turtles 

By 1800, the Lascelles family managed a network of 24 Caribbean plantations located across several Caribbean islands: Barbados; Jamaica; Trinidad; and Grenada. However, their business interests were administered from Britain, relying on a hierarchy of managers to carry out day-to-day operations on both sides of the Atlantic. Both William Bishop and John Wood Nelson (the second recipient of a turtle after ‘Lord Harewood’, later 1st Earl of Harewood) were a part of this system.  

Nelson was a senior partner in the Laselles family’s London commission house, a business established to sell products (such as sugar) shipped over from Lascelles family plantations. Bishop was Nelson’s counterpart in Barbados, appointed to oversee the running of family estates on the island. Men based in the Caribbean such as Bishop were known as ‘attorneys’ and were responsible for reporting back to the commission house; it took approximately two months for letters to arrive by ship from the Caribbean to London, so it was essential for the Lascelles family to hire powerful and trustworthy individuals to deal with immediate problems on plantations, such as uprisings. In the mid-1790s, William Bishop was selected as an attorney because he had been born in Barbados and belonged to a prominent family with pre-existing connections to the Lascelles family; he had also already served as interim governor of Barbados from 1793-94. By 1800 – the date of this gift of turtles – Bishop had risen to the prestigious position of President of the Barbados Council.

Close up of a letter between William Bishop and John Wood Nelson showing a date stamp

Bishop’s letter is dated 18 July, but the red stamp on the envelope, dated 26 September, indicates that it was received by Nelson over two months later. (Photograph by Olivia Wyatt)

This hierarchical management structure explains why Bishop wrote a letter to Nelson to request that his gift of a turtle was “forwarded in [his] name for Lord Harewood’s acceptance”. As Lord Harewood’s main contact, Bishop needed Nelson to physically present the turtle, though he was keen to ensure he received due credit as the sender. Interestingly, Bishop was also obliged to send Nelson himself a turtle, understanding the importance of impressing both Lord Harewood and a senior partner within a bureaucratic management system. In fact, the dismissal of Bishop’s predecessor, John Prettyjohn, for incompetence may have increased his desire to make a good impression. Nevertheless, the not-so-subtle size difference between the two turtle gifts – Lord Harewood’s being 25 lbs larger – demonstrates Bishop’s acknowledgement of the difference in status and authority between the two recipients.  

In this context, then, the gift of a green turtle can also be seen as a calculated act of professional point-scoring. It is unknown whether Lord Harewood or Nelson acknowledged their extravagant gifts, though it is certain they would have been gladly received.

 

Olivia Wyatt and Beckie Burton, 2022.  

Personal, surprising and optimistic: what you can expect from Radical Acts, with curator Hugo Macdonald and Trust Director Jane Marriott

Two people central to Radical Acts are Jane Marriott, the Director of Harewood House Trust, and Hugo Macdonald, the exhibition curator.

We sat down for a chat with Jane and Hugo, to look back on the evolution of Radical Acts and find out what visitors can expect.

Thank you both for finding the time to chat, especially in these busy two weeks before Radical Acts opens! Where did the idea for the Biennial come from?

Jane Marriott: Harewood House Trust is a charity and a museum, and it’s been set up as such since 1986. Our purpose is to conserve the House, the gardens and the wonderful collections. But more than that, we want to create exhibitions that excite our visitors, introducing them to new things, new artists, new ideas.

And so back in 2018 we decided that we wanted to do an exhibition about craft. It’s really interesting how many people have become interested in craft, in thinking about materials and in showing their support of local makers and artists. And of course, Harewood House, built in the late 1700s, has the most incredible craftsmanship from Chippendale furniture, to Robert Adam interiors. to John Carr architecture. So we thought Harewood is the perfect place to continue that great tradition of craftsmanship. When we started talking about the exhibition, we got brilliant feedback from people in the field, saying that makers and crafts in this country need that platform.

How did Hugo become involved?

Jane: What was really refreshing in the first conversation I had with Hugo was that, because his background is in writing, he puts craft within the context of how we live today. From that first conversation, I knew that he wasn’t just a wonderful curator, just picking beautiful objects; we’d be working with someone who would really take a step back and challenge us to think about craft in a different way. And so that’s when we invited Hugo to do the first Biennial, Useful/Beautiful, which was shown in 2019.

Hugo, can you tell us what you thought of Harewood when you first arrived and what inspires you about Harewood?

Hugo Macdonald: On my first visit I was overwhelmed, just like a lot of people probably are when they first come to a property of such magnificence. Every time I visit, I feel like I learn something new. There are so many layers not just to what you see, but also what you discover about people who have lived and worked in the House. The craftsmanship has been added to over decades and generations, centuries even. That’s where I find the challenge in curating the Biennial צ how do you introduce a contemporary layer that makes sense for what exists there already, but also brings something of today into the mix? How can we help people understand Harewood’s historic stories, but also put them in the context of contemporary life? How do we keep Harewood feeling alive?

How did you decide what to do for the second Biennial?

Jane: It’s not a case of saying, here’s what we want, Hugo, can you please do that? It’s a series of conversations. For the first Biennial, we invited multiple makers to respond to the House; we agreed that the format worked, but that this time we wanted to focus on a smaller number of really special makers. We also decided to exhibit pieces outdoors as well as indoors.

Our discussions began pre-Covid, thinking about the environmental crisis and what the role of these great estates can be in helping with that; to give this platform to great makers to talk about how craft can make a difference with sustainability, regenerative design, those sorts of topics. And then, of course, Covid came along and whilst we didn’t shift from those themes, we created a more nuanced response, which Hugo is very well placed to talk about more.

Hugo: The world was changing quite quickly, and our Biennial was an opportunity to address other connected subject matters that were coming to the surface. For example, how we think about well-being on a personal but also social and environmental level; and Black Lives Matter. The murder of George Floyd was a catalyst for many more conversations about racial and social injustice and given Harewood’s origins, we really wanted to include that as part of our exhibition. A lot of these subjects are things that craft deals with in a very open way, and craft can help ask important questions.

With that in mind, we decided to highlight people and projects who are engaged with asking questions about climate change and about society: how we relate to ourselves, the environment, each other. We called it Radical Acts because the word radical comes from the Latin word radix, which means roots; and each of the projects in the Biennial explores how things from the past can be a way of understanding the present. We have some very big names in the world of craft and we have some graduate students; it’s important to us that we are a platform that celebrates people at the top of their game, but also emerging interesting voices too.

Jane, what has surprised you about how Radical Acts has come together?

Jane: Probably how the makers bring such a wide variety of stories – very personal stories.

For example. we spent several hours speaking to Fernando Laposse, who talks about this incredible cooperative that he’s worked with in a village in Mexico, which is where he was born. He works with women who use the waste material from growing heritage corn to make these incredible luxury objects which are sold all around the world. His passion for the story and the women and this incredible cooperative really struck a nerve with me.

Then there’s Eunhye Ko, who is working with us as a younger maker coming into her career, with objects such as hair dryers and everyday electrical items. And you think, well, how on earth is that going to fit into a Biennial? Why will anyone be interested in that? But she works with them in in a very personal, creative way to challenge perceptions of things that we would throw away or replace much more quickly, like hairdryers or hoovers or everyday electrical items.

So I think the surprise for me is the variety, how personal those stories are and how we can relate to them. And I think people will really, really enjoy these 16 different stories from makers and feel a lot of empathy with them.

Hugo, how do you want people to feel when they visit Radical Acts?

Hugo: It has always been very important to us that we create a positive exhibition, an optimistic exhibition that feels entertaining and interesting, and that makes people feel like we can all do small things that join together to make a big difference to help address some of these challenges that we face in life. It is, like Jane says, a surprising exhibition, but we’re not telling people what to do. We are inviting people to come and see how these crafts-people are working in different ways to think about possible futures. And each of the exhibitors has a simple message behind their work that we hope will connect with visitors to Harewood, that visitors will take these ideas back home and think about how they relate to their own lives.

So, for example, Good Foundations International says water is precious. We mustn’t take it for granted. Good Foundations International go into communities who don’t have fresh water and help them to discover local sources, then build skills and businesses in the community to make ceramic water filters, which is an ancient technology for cleaning dirty water. Good Foundations International see firsthand what the impact is on people’s lives when they don’t have access to fresh water, and they alert privileged people to the fact that it’s a resource that should not be taken for granted. That’s one example of a simple message that we hope will connect with people because most of us switch on a tap without even thinking about it.

Hopefully people will reflect on the exhibition for a long time afterwards, and it might influence the small choices we make every day.

Hugo: Absolutely. I feel like exhibitions should be starting points rather than something that begins and ends. I want to open people’s eyes and minds to think about things slightly differently, or to understand how things connect; and to always feel included in that discussion. Never to feel like they are being lectured at or told. We really want to use the Biennial as a way of inviting people into Harewood and making them feel as welcome as possible. And like I said before, to introduce stories into this environment that are surprising, but also very relevant.

What would you say to each visitor as they view the exhibition?

Jane: I encourage you to experience the exhibition as a set of very personal stories, that will talk about that person or that studio’s approach to craft and what’s important to them. What you will hear is those makers saying it in their own voice. I suspect it will surprise a lot of people. I hope some of the choices seem quite bold and some will be quite poignant and quite thoughtful, like Mac Collins and his very personal response to the house and his own history and heritage. But there are also moments of just sheer joy and beautiful objects that are a window into it that particular maker and their achievements.

If I saw the visitor afterwards, I’d remind them that we’ve also got several podcasts and films with the makers – so you can return to those craftspeople who really stuck in your mind and inspired you to do something.

Hugo: One of my favourite things in the exhibition is actually not an exhibit. We have built a blank wall in the Servants’ Hall where we ask the question, What is your radical act? We hope this will encourage visitors to think about what they do in their day to day lives, and that could be something as simple as having a reusable shopping bag or reducing car journeys. That’s what I hope people will be thinking about as they move around the exhibition.

One thing people might be inspired to do is get hands-on with craft-making, and for that they can look forward to our Make it Harewood weekend in July. There will be workshops, music and food, all to show that everybody can be involved in craft and everybody can benefit in some way. It’s a wonderful recurring theme throughout the show, that working with your hands makes you feel happy. It improves your well-being mentally, physically, psychologically and Make it Harewood is a wonderful opportunity for people to have a go. So visit the website for more details on when that will be and who will be involved.

Thank you both!

 

 

In memory of Dame Fanny Waterman

Dame Fanny Waterman 1920–2020

Harewood is deeply saddened to hear of the news of the passing of Dame Fanny Waterman, who died peacefully in December having reached the age of 100. Dame Fanny leaves an incredible legacy, she was a true ‘force of nature’ in the world of classical music. Through the Leeds International Piano Competition, which she launched in 1961 with her husband Dr Geoffrey de Keyser and Marion Thorpe CBE (then Countess of Harewood), affectionately known worldwide as ‘The Leeds’, she helped launch the careers of many of the most talented pianists of our time.

David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, remembers her fondly:

‘I’ve known Fanny Waterman, Dame Fanny, since I was a boy. She and my mother were close friends, they wrote highly successful piano tutor books together and Fanny was always very generous in acknowledging her central role in the early days of the Leeds International Piano Competition, ‘The Leeds’.

‘I was, briefly, Fanny’s pupil, one of the worst she ever had she confided later, which I suppose is some sort of a backhanded compliment.

‘Fanny was 100 when she died – of course she was, her determination and extraordinary fighting spirit could have no other outcome. She was an extraordinary woman, a true embodiment of that over-used expression ‘a force of nature’.

‘It has been a privilege to know her and Diane and I and the rest of my family join together to send our condolences and warmest wishes to her sons Robert and Paul and the rest of her family.’

21 December 2020

Our condolences go out to Dame Fanny’s family, and to all those whose lives she influenced with great positivity, affection and acclaim.

A full tribute can be read on The Leeds International Piano Competition website >>

Photo courtesy of the Leeds International Piano Competition, pictured: Dame Fanny Waterman, Benjamin Britten (composer and close friend of George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood), and the then Countess of Harewood, musician Marion Thorpe.

My Books – By Lady Emily Shard

Harewood_House_booksEmily_ShardContinuing Harewood’s journey through the books that define the people who work with the Trust, Emily Shard, Trustee and daughter of the Earl of Harewood, shares some of the books she has loved.

A coffee table read you return to again and again. Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Wall. The British Ceramicist takes you on a Journey though generations and across Europe, following his family’s netsuke collection (miniature ceramic animals). A incredible reflection on both Art and Human history.

A book that has inspired you. So many books inspire me – Hopefully we take some kind of inspiration from lots of what we read, and that this is an ongoing process. Recently I read American Poet Ross Gays’ Book of Delights. Gay wrote a short piece every day for a year about something that has delighted him – his meditations on the sometimes tough world and unexpected places where delight can be found, are inspiring. He encourages us all to look carefully, take time and stake out space for joy.

A book you enjoyed reading to children. All of Oliver Jeffers’ books. We started with Lost and Found (The story of a lost Penguin) but they are all brilliant and the author and illustrator has humour and warmth that kids love. His stories often touch on more challenging themes than most children books.

A book that has related to your life path. The Lord of the Rings by J RR Tolkien – this classic was read to me by my dad as a child as my bedtime story. Dad cut out some of the more wordy, boring bits and the magic and characters of the Middle Earth World totally captivated me. I had the good fortune of working on the films in New Zealand, which was an amazing experience. My Children have recently started reading the series too.

A book you didn’t think you would like, but surprised you. The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver – a dystopian novel which uses dark humour to give us a terrifying vision of the future through one family experience, and an insight into what the human impact might be of changing global economics.

A book you would take to a desert island. Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. This story about love, identity, memory and guilt, can be read and reread with new meanings unearthed every time. Alternatively, I might take a recipe book. This might prove to be torture if there is no food on the island, but something like Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen shares traditional and long-forgotten recipes for making all kinds of food from scratch, and with very basic equipment.

A book that in your opinion everyone should read. Living Planet Report by WWF is released every two years and is a breakdown of global trends in species diversity and humanities pressure on important habitats. I have been working with WWF on a few projects in the last few years and the importance of placing ‘value’ on nature and world resources has become even more clear to me, and should be to everyone.

A very English bookThe Salt Path by Raynor Winn is a true story of the writer and her husband’s walk along the south west coast path, following the loss of their home, health and sense of purpose. She evokes the very British south coast land and seascape and makes you want to walk the path and connect with nature. There’s such a power of nature in creating wellbeing and a sense of self.

Favourite Shakespeare play – I love so many of them, Macbeth, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream but I prefer to watch them than read them.

A book someone passed to you and you passed on. Lift as you climb by Viv Groskop. The comedian, presenter and public speaker gives guidance about approaching personal progression and bringing others along with your success. It’s thought provoking, supportive and reassuring. My neighbour gave it to me and then I passed it on to a friend.

What are you reading next? – I am shortly going to start reading The Feather Thief: The Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson. It’s the true story of obsession that lead to an amazing and very weird theft. I heard a brilliant podcast about it and the story sound really bazaar and fascinating.

Emily is a film producer for Silverback Films, whose work includes the Netflix Our Planet series, Disneynatures Elephants, Penguins and Dolphin Reef as well as various programmes for the BBC. She cares passionately about the environment and lives in Bristol with her family.

Read more Book Blog podcasts on the Harewood blog.