The animals went in two by two, hurrah, hurrah!

The story of Noah’s ark is one that has long captured the imagination of adults and children alike for centuries. Stain glass windows, paintings, songs and films are just some of the ways in which the story has been communicated and expressed through the ages. And it is easy to see why the tale has been passed down with such success. It is a story containing adventure, destruction, hope and redemption – a terrifying account as to the dangers of indulging in sin:

And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth… 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man.[1]

Although the story is full of warning and caution, the beautiful imagery of the animals ascending onto the ark in pairs is one that lingers in the mind. It is perhaps unsurprising that this iconic scene was made into a children’s toy, a religious plaything to pass on Christian values to the younger generation.

Noah's ark

Exhibited in a display case on the staircase at Scotney Castle, sits such an example.

Made in the 1830s, the Hussey’s Noah’s ark is of German origin. Most Noah’s ark toys were made in the Erzgebirge region of Germany during the nineteenth century and it was largely a cottage industry run by families.[2] Such toy arks can be traced back as early as the seventeenth century, but seem to have reached their peak in the Victorian era. This may be explained by the rapid commercialisation of the toy industry, with as many as eight hundred toymakers recorded in London by the 1850s.[3] Indeed, it is claimed that nearly all children in the late nineteenth century had one or two toys, with children from all classes forming an intense relationship with their toys, as they do today.[4]

However, Noah’s ark toys would have only been common in wealthy nurseries, due to the intricacies of the design. These toy arks were varied, but can generally be divided into three styles – flat bottom, rounded bottom and boat bottom. Early arks had detachable roofs, but as these were often misplaced, hinges were added to later models. The Hussey’s Noah’s ark has a boat bottom design, which was the most decorative and expensive.[5] It is complete with a sliding side section that opens up to a big interior for the animals to squeeze into. Although the ark is of notable size, there is not enough room for all of the animals in the Hussey collection to fit in, as there are just over one hundred pairs of animals! The Hussey’s ark set is therefore a fantastic example of an extensive and varied nineteenth century collection.

At the very least ark sets contained a boat, Noah and his wife, a few pairs of animals and a dove. The dove is extremely important to the story of Noah’s ark, as it represented God’s reconciliation with mankind after the flood:

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made…8 … he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground… 11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off, so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth…[6]

Dove

On the Hussey’s ark, the dove is painted on its roof with a bright green olive branch held in its beak [see photograph]. Placed in the middle of the roof, the dove is given central importance – a constant reminder of God’s salvation to those who have faith. Clear lessons were to be learnt from toy arks and their religious symbolism meant that they were often the only toys children were allowed to play with on Sundays.

It is also interesting that there are five figures recorded in the Hussey collection – Noah, his wife, two females and a male.

NoahWifemisc.boywife brother 2wife brother

          Noah              Noah’s Wife           Misc. Man           Misc. Woman           Misc. Woman

More extensive sets included Noah’s children and their wives and it is possible that the miscellaneous male figure may be one of Noah’s offspring – Ham, Shem or Japheth – with the other two toy brothers lost or misplaced long ago. With this in mind, the two females could be two of the brothers’ wives – Sedeqetelebab, Ne’elatama’uk or Adataneses – although this is just speculation.

What I find particularly fascinating is the diversity and variety of the animals in the collection. To name some examples there are spiders, anteaters, guinea pigs, grasshoppers, moles, polar bears, otters, camels, hares, stags, rats, monkeys and panthers. These animals were made by families in cottage industries who had limited or no knowledge of exotic creatures. As a consequence, there are some very unusual looking animals of varying colours and sizes!

Weird animalstrnage aBNIMAL 2

These two miscellaneous creatures are my personal favourites, as it shows the creativity and imagination of the individual who made them.

It is evident that this ark was much loved and played with during its glory days, as it was passed down from generation to generation. The ark has an unsigned and undated note:

‘Noah’s Ark pertaining to Mary (Hussey) and Winifred Herbert / And to their Mother (Sykes)’.

Christopher Hussey was the last to receive the ark and it is fantastic that the boat, and its vast collection, still resides at Scotney Castle. I like to think that the ark was of some significance to the family, a happy reminder of a childhood spent playing. The powerful connection between toy arks and children can be seen explored in popular literature of the time. Charles Dickens mentions a toy ark in his book Our Mutual Friend (1884) in which a sick child turned in a hospital bed ‘to fortify himself with a view of the ark and fell asleep’.[7] Noah’s ark toys were evidently well received by adults and children alike, and the variety available by the end of the nineteenth century suggests a social acceptance of such playthings for children.

I think it is great that the Hussey’s ark is on display for all to see at Scotney Castle. Although it is not possible to show more of the ark’s impressive collection of animals, it’s mere presence gives the house a light-hearted atmosphere. Despite the sombre Christian message the ark symbolises, it was a child’s plaything – a toy to be loved and played with. The intricate make up of the ark and the ingenuity of the toy animals, suggests that this was an ark designed to encourage adventurous stories. It is an interesting example of Victorian eccentricity and it is wonderful to think that the Hussey family were a part of it.

Conservation Assistant, Scotney Castle

Becca Carter


Bibliography

Fletcher. A, Growing Up in England: The Experience of Childhood, 1600-1914 (New Haven, 2008)

Frost. G, Victorian Childhoods (Westport, 2009)

(ed.) Johnson. R; Dickens. C, Our Mutual Friend (New York, 1884)

Genesis 7:15-22; Genesis 8:8-12, New King James Version

‘Noah’s Ark’, http://www.oldwoodtoys.com/old_ark_catalog.htm

Footnotes

[1] Genesis 7:15-22, New King James Version

[2] ‘Noah’s Ark’, http://www.oldwoodtoys.com/old_ark_catalog.htm

[3] A. Fletcher, Growing Up in England: The Experience of Childhood, 1600-1914 (New Haven, 2008) p.xvii

[4] G. Frost, Victorian Childhoods (Westport, 2009) pp. 76-77

[5] ‘Noah’s Ark’, http://www.oldwoodtoys.com/old_ark_catalog.htm

[6] Genesis 8:8-12, New King James Version

[7] (ed.) R. Johnson; C. Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (New York, 1884) p.135

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Scotney to the Rescue!

This is my first ever post and as such I feel that I should introduce myself. I have recently joined the National Trust at Scotney Castle as a Conservation Assistant and it has been a fascinating first few weeks. In a short amount of time I have tried my hand at cleaning a variety of textiles, met a number of knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers and overcome my fear of leggy insects…

As one of the perks of the role, I get to blog once a month about an object that I find particularly interesting and which I feel should be given special attention. As I roamed the hallways of Scotney Castle in search of inspiration, I stumbled across a photograph of pupils from King’s School Rochester posing in front of the Victorian mansion. As an Old Roffensian of the school, I was immediately intrigued by the prospect of having a more personal association to Scotney Castle and was determined to explore the connection further.

 School photo

Taken in 1939, the photograph depicts boys from the lower years of the Junior school (1s, 2s and lower 3rds) who were evacuated to Scotney Castle at the onset of the Second World War. Although the school was later evacuated to Taunton, pupils boarded and were taught lessons in the house between September 1939 and the Spring of 1940.

A recent oral history provided by Edward Bates, an Old Roffensian, describes his experiences at Scotney Castle during the evacuation [See Recording of Edward Bates below]. Born in Chatham in 1930, Bates was nine years old when he was evacuated as a pupil from King’s School Rochester. He describes his initial reaction to the Victorian mansion as one of excitement and remarks that not much has changed to the interior of the House since his evacuation days, seventy years later [9:38]. Bates recalls that lessons were taught in the Hall and Library and that the Old Castle was essentially ‘theirs’ – that is until the ‘Kilndown’ kids came along! [4:30] Although Bates was one of two boys to be later housed in Lamberhurst, he initially shared a dormitory with five other boys in the Servant’s quarters. He fondly remembers dorm feasts brought up in paper bags in which they later dined ‘alfresco’ on the roof [12:45]… and it is easy to imagine the sense of adventure this would have been for the young boys.

Also pictured in the photograph are Edward Windsor and Rosamund Hussey who are stoically posed in the centre of the composition. It is clear that the family were proud to open their home to the school at a time of crisis and it is a testament to their generosity that they did so. Indeed, Bates recalls that a nephew of the Hussey’s taught him how to play chess and it is evident that his experience of the evacuation to Scotney Castle is one that he fondly remembers – “We had a lot of fun” [3:38]. It is curious to see that the school’s uniform has not changed much since the photograph was taken and the layout for school photographs is exactly the same!

school crestDisplayed below the photograph is a commemorative plaque depicting the school’s crest, which thanks the Hussey family for their hospitality. There is also a separate coloured sketch depicting the layout of the school on the opposite wall and it is fun to see the various buildings I was taught in at school whilst at work.

 

sketch of school

The school’s rather ominous motto ‘Disce aut discede’ (learn or leave) depicted beneath the school’s crest, however, sits at odds with the message of the plaque. Although the school had to leave Rochester, Scotney Castle provided the boys with a place to learn.

It gives me a warm feeling every time I walk past the photograph, as it reminds me of the huge generosity Edward Windsor and Rosamund had in opening their home to my old school. It has spurred me on to help preserve the family’s collection for future generations and perhaps give a little something back to the family who provided shelter to these boys at a time of great uncertainty.

Recording of Edward Bates

Rebecca Carter

Conservation Assistant

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SASSOON: The Mystery in Arthur Hussey’s Diaries

Sasson pic 2

When I had the privilege to be involved in the transcription of Arthur Hussey’s World War I Diaries during 2014, the name of “Sassoon” encountered on the Western Front immediately raised intrigue.

One of the idiosyncrasies of Arthur’s diary entries are that he refers to people only by their surname and almost never giving a first name or even an initial. Thus much research was required to confirm the correct identities of the many people mentioned. And so it was with Sassoon.

The first well-known person of that name to come to mind was, of course, Siegfried Sassoon, the writer and poet. After all, Siegfried had lived nearby at Matfield; his mother, Theresa Sassoon, was well known at Scotney, being a friend and acquaintance of Mrs Rosamond Hussey; and, he had had an illustrious career during the Great War. However, the very first attempts to confirm the identity of whom Arthur referred to as ‘Sassoon’ revealed that it could not have been Siegfried Sassoon.

The two references to Sassoon in the diary were from early November 1914. Firstly, on 7 November when Arthur went to Merville “in a big Rolls Royce belonging to Sassoon”; and, two days later, when he “. . . went off with Amery in Sassoon’s new car to Hinges”. The Sassoon name never appears again in any of the eleven diaries.

Rolls Royce 2

At this time, Siegfried Sassoon was still in England; having enlisted into the Sussex Yeomanry on 31 July 1914, just a few days before War was declared. Whilst undergoing training and being encamped near Canterbury, Kent, around 5 October he was asked to exercise the farrier-major’s horse. He attempted to jump a hedge but did not see the single strand of wire which tripped the horse causing it to somersault, unseat its rider, and roll over on him badly breaking his right arm. The break was slow to heal, later requiring the insertion of a silver plate. This was removed in January 1915 and was followed by a long period of recuperation back home at Matfield. The result was that Siegfried was not finally commissioned into the Army, as a 2nd Lieutenant, until 29 May 1915, and did not arrive onto the Western Front until November 1915 – a whole year after the references in Arthur’s diary.

Although descended from the immensely wealthy Jewish Sassoon family, Siegfried’s father Ezra had married out of the faith. His mother, Theresa Thornycroft, was Catholic and Ezra was immediately disinherited. Although the couple separated some years later, Theresa continued to bring up her three sons at Matfield, albeit in modest style. It is therefore highly unlikely that Siegfried would have been in a position to purchase a Rolls Royce.

So, if it wasn’t Siegfried Sassoon then who was it? I decided to reconstruct his family tree to find a suitable contender.

Little is known of Siegfried’s elder brother Michael, although he does not appear to have had any war service. His younger brother Hamo was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, but does not appear to have served on the Western Front, and died from wounds in Gallipoli on 1 November 1915. So it wasn’t them. However . . . .

. . . . enter Sir Philip Albert Gustave David Sassoon, MP., 3rd Baronet of Kensington Gore.

Philip, just two years younger, was a second cousin to Siegfried. They both shared the same great-grandfather, but not the same grand-mother. David Sassoon (1792-1864) was a member of a rich Jewish trading family, and was the treasurer of Baghdad, when it was part of Iraq, between 1817 and 1829. When the Turkish regime ushered the Jewish community out of Iraq he emigrated to Bombay (now Mumbai) via Persia, and with his sons built a trading and banking empire between Bombay, Hong Kong and Shanghai. They competed in the established triangular trade of Indian yarn and opium to China, Chinese goods to England, and Lancashire cotton goods to the Far East. David Sassoon used his fortune towards considerable philanthropy in many communities, a tradition that was continued through the family.

Philip was descended from David’s first marriage and Siegfried from the second.

Philip’s father, Sir Edward Albert Sassoon, was elected Liberal Unionist Party Member of Parliament for Hythe in March 1899 and had succeeded to the baronetcy of Kensington Gore in 1896. In 1887 he had married Aline de Rothschild, a member of the Paris banking family.

On the death of his father in 1912, Philip was also elected MP for Hythe, and with his considerable inherited fortune set about purchasing the Port Lympne Estate near Hythe, employing the architect Herbert Baker to design an extravagantly opulent new mansion. In 1923 Philip Tilden largely rebuilt another mansion for Sir Philip at Trent Park, Cockfosters, in a more reserved English style. Indeed, Christopher Hussey himself wrote an article in Country Life (17 January 1931 issue, pp. 66-7) most appreciative of the contrast in style.

Sir Philip built a reputation as one of the greatest hosts in Britain, sumptuously entertaining members of British high society with “a dream of another world – the white-coated footmen serving endless courses of rich but delicious food, the Duke of York coming in from golf… Winston Churchill arguing over the teacups with George Bernard Shaw, Lord Balfour dozing in an armchair, Rex Whistler absorbed in his painting… while Philip himself flitted from group to group, an alert, watchful, influential but unobtrusive stage director – all set against a background of mingled luxury, simplicity and informality, brilliantly contrived…” One frequent guest was Lawrence of Arabia.

It was also said he had a fleet of Rolls Royce cars . . . .

Sir Philip became an enthusiastic airman. At Port Lympne, Philip Tilden added a bachelor wing to accommodate young airmen from the local Romney Marsh flying field. He later became Secretary of State for Air, and was Honorary Commanding Officer of 601 (County of London) Squadron – known as ‘The Millionaire’s Squadron’, having six millionaire members. He died on 3 June 1939, aged 50, of complications from influenza.

However, it is his career during the Great War that interests us here.

Sir Philip was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the East Kent Yeomanry, but was soon to serve as private secretary to Field Marshal Haig throughout the war.

Following on from Arthur’s ‘Sassoon’ diary entries early in November 1914, a few weeks later on 1st December he describes being invited to the Headquarters of General Henry Rawlinson, Chateau Demont, Merville, for a visit by King George V at which President Poincarré of France unexpectedly turned up together with General Joffre. His Majesty was accompanied by Haig, and it is known that Sir Philip was also present, his social contacts and skills having proved useful. We cannot be certain that Arthur Hussey actually met Sir Philip Sassoon but it seems most likely that they would at least have brushed shoulders.

The famous meeting was some two years later the subject of a painting by the British artist Herbert Arnould Olivier. The painting “Merville, 1 December 1914, the Meeting of King George V and President Poincaré of France at the British Head Quarters at Merville, France on 1 December 1914”, now in the Government Art Collection.

Arthur mentions later being requested to provide a photo of him by the artist, and it is not too fanciful to suppose that there is a subaltern in the background that is Sir Philip Sassoon.

(c) Jasper Olivier; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

John Davies

House Volunteer

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Tria Juncto in Uno

box

In the Attic, in a black metal container, the volunteers at Scotney Castle discovered what can only be described as ‘an exhibition in a box’. The box contained the First World War diaries of Brigadier General Arthur Hussey, who was third son of Edward Hussey III. Along with his diaries dating from 1914-1919, the box also contained letters, photos and medals, which have all been put on display in the exhibition ‘Arthur’s War’.

On Sunday 21th February 1915, Arthur Hussey wrote in his war diaries that he had “heard about my C.B.”, that he would receive the honour of becoming a Companion of The Order of the Bath. Later in the year, on Monday 12th July 1915 he went to Buckingham Palace and was invested with the C.B. by His Majesty”.

order of the bath

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath was established by George I on the 18th May 1725 as a military order. This was a revived version of an older custom dating back to medieval times when part of the ceremony of knighthood included a ritual bath, with the earliest official document of the bathing and creation of a knight dating back to 1128. The revived order consisted of the Sovereign, a Great Master and 36 Knights Companions. In 1815 the Order was then enlarged to include three classes of knights: the Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander and Companions. Further changes included the addition of a civil section of Knights Commander and Companions in 1847 as well women being admitted to the Order in 1971.

The Order of Bath is mainly awarded to officers in the Armed Services, with numbers being increased in times of war or for recognition of services in military events. Brigadier General Arthur Hussey was awarded the position of Companion, which is for ranked officers who have been mentioned in despatches for distinction in a command position in a combat situation.

The military badge consists of a gold Maltese Cross, enamelled in white. Each of the eight points is decorated with a small gold ball, with a figure of a lion in between each arm of the cross. In the centre of the cross are three crowns which refers to the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland which is again emphasised on the obverse with the representation of a rose, a thistle and a shamrock issuing from a sceptre. The crowns and the symbols of these three countries are also highlighted in the motto written around the red circular ring: Tria Juncta in Uno-‘Three joined in One’.

As well as having Arthur’s Order of the Bath on display in the exhibition, we also have his miniature medals. Arthur Hussey was a seasoned soldier entering the First World War at the age of 51, his miniatures therefore show his previous military awards from various countries as well as those received for his efforts in the First World War.

From left to right we have: The Order of Bath; Order of St Michael and St George; South Africa Campaign Medal 1902; 1914 Star; British War Medal 1914-1920; Allied Victory Medal 1914-1919; Coronation Medal King George V 1911; Order of Prince Danilo I (Montenegro); and the Order of St Maurice and St Lazerus (Italy).

minatures medal

The exhibition Arthur’s War which shows a very personal viewpoint of one man’s experience of the First World War is running until the 22nd March 2015, and with more letters having only recently been discovered Brigadier General Arthur Hussey is sure to make reappearance at Scotney Castle. The exhibition like the motto on the medal Tria Juncto in Uno ‘Three joined in One’ has three perspectives to offer: the everyday factual diary of events from Arthur’s tour of duty; the personal letters written to his sister Gertrude and finally what is revealed about Arthur Hussey as a person- a distinguished soldier and loving brother.

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Look down, look down, show mercy if you can

Scraped floor 2

You may have seen signs saying ‘Don’t walk on the grass’ or maybe the National Trust favourite of placing pinecones on furniture as a discreet warning not to sit on the collection but you never see a sign saying ‘Don’t walk on the floor’- perhaps you should…

Of all the objects in the collection, an historic floor is the most used and abused. The floors suffer the weight of heavy furniture, thousands of pairs of feet, as well as abrasion and soiling caused by grit and mud being brought in on the soles of people’s shoes. The floors of any National Trust property are also part of the collection and have to be maintained, protected and conserved just like any painting, textile or ceramic.

The wooden floors on the ground floor of the New House at Scotney Castle are parquet flooring, made from square blocks laid out in a geometric design. The parquet floor in the Hall, Garden Lobby and Dining Room are original to the House, installed in the 1840s. This wooden flooring, supplied from Germany, was recommended to the Edward Hussey III by Lord De La Warr. The parquet floors in the adjoining Study and Library date to 1904 and were installed by Howard and Sons, London. The floors therefore are highly significant, from the original parquet flooring from the design of the House, to any subsequent changes by family members adding to the story of the building and possible changes in the purposes of the rooms. So what precautions do we put in place to help look after these historic floors?

Scotney Castle has approximately 90,000 visitors coming around the New House every year, that’s a lot of pairs of feet bringing in mud, grit and causing general abrasion to the floors. There are a few preventative measures that can be used to stop some of the dirt coming into the house, starting outside the front door.

Front door

Historic fixtures such as boot scrapers and brushes were put outside the doors of properties to clean people’s shoes, an historic fixture which is still in use today. Next in the line of defence is a coconut mat, another historic housekeeping fixture to take the grit off of shoes.

Once inside the House, we have strips of protective carpets known as druggets, which are long strips of matting which provides protection for the floor as well as indicating a visitor route. We also have what we call sacrificial carpets, which are possible reproductions or have been brought in with the idea that they can be replaced when needed. Research carried out for the National Trust has shown that it takes approximately up to 3 metres of carpet to remove grit from the bottom of visitor’s shoes! However, from personal experience, this seems to be a bit on the conservative side as on a daily basis the House team have to hoover bits of stone up from all over the ground floor and even up the staircase.

Druggets

However, even with all these mats and druggets, not all the floors can be covered and there are exposed parts of floors especially at doorways that are in danger of damage. Another preventative method that can help create a layer of protection is waxing the floors. Wax is applied by hand at Scotney for these small areas, working in circular movements to cover the wood and protect the grain. We then leave the wax overnight and buff it in the morning, as the saying goes- wax on, wax off. We will then apply more wax when needed, particularly when we notice the wood getting dry and becoming worn.

Waxing floors

So the next time you walk into a National Trust property, before you become inspired and overwhelmed by amazing paintings and furniture, don’t forget to look down for a moment at what will be some original and fascinating floors with their own unique story to tell.

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KITCHEN SCENE – JOACHIM BEUCKELAER (1534-1574)

Kitchen scene

Since 1915, the buxom kitchen maid has looked pensively upon the Dining Room of Scotney Castle; is she daunted at the prospect of what to cook or is she wondering how to store this amazing produce? Art is never this simple and within Beuckelaer’s many works of kitchen and market scenes, there is a hidden world of messages and meanings to be picked out and understood.

Beuckelaer was born in Antwerp and honed his artistic skills under the mentorship of his uncle Peiter Aertsen. We have to take into account the context of Beuckelaer’s work; the political, economic and theological turmoil of the times in order to better understand what is going on in this painting. Prior to Beuckelaer’s era the majority of art was of a divine or religious genre. So, when Beuckelaer began producing kitchen scenes, experts of the time didn’t consider ‘still life’ to be art in the true sense of the word. However, things were changing at a rapid rate as the Renaissance period began to take hold and changes were afoot, particularly for Beuckelaer and the low countries of the Netherlands.

Spain ruled the Netherlands, however, by 1566 a revolt took place; Protestants began religious riots against Spanish Catholicism with the destruction of places of worship. Eventually, in 1574, William of Orange drove the Spanish from the Netherlands and the beginnings of the Dutch Republic began to emerge.  

So here we have a painting that bucks the trend of all previously acceptable notions of art. Beuckelaer’s food is so realistic that you could almost pick the fruit from the painting or peel a couple of carrots for dinner. His clever use of light shows glass tumblers (expensive items of the time) one of which has been tossed on its side indicating a fragility between the two messages within the work; the divine moral depiction alongside the temptation of everyday life. He draws our eye to the foreground where he has strategically placed a mere kitchen maid to be the prime focal point of our attention. In earlier art forms, working people were often caricatured but Beuckelaer takes the theme of everyday folk and gives them prominence and dignity. He shows a working girl, her sleeves rolled up ready to tackle the preparation and cooking of the venison joint. Next to this are several lemons, which at the time, were an exotic luxury and the maid is resting her hand on a large cabbage, why? According to some experts, the humble cabbage is thought to symbolise excessive luxury and expense. The food in the painting gives rise to thoughts of over indulgence or gluttony and when one considers that Beuckelaer’s work was commissioned by wealthy Italian merchants, it makes sense that they would wish to have their wealth and power on display.

Beuckelaer would make tracings of particular objects in paintings that enabled him to incorporate them into new works and thus increase production; he and his associates were able to flood the art market with works of this genre but he made very little money during his short life.

Scotney’s Kitchen Scene contains objects used by Beuckelaer in other commisions namely The Four Elements held at the National Gallery, London. A crucial factor within this painting is how the biblical message of Martha and Mary has been relegated to the background. Beuckelaer was among a growing band of Humanist painters but perhaps it might have been a step too far not to indulge his appreciative viewers with a divine or moral message, after all it was what society had been used to for centuries. Mary represents the Catholic contemplative aspect to life as she listens attentively to Jesus while Martha, who has been busy preparing dinner in the kitchen, gets fed up and complains to Jesus about Mary’s laziness; Martha represents action and salvation.

So, here we have a painting that reveals wealth and opulence against a backdrop of religious turmoil and economic change. The literary and cultural growth of a world where fish sellers, kitchen staff, grocers and merchant traders are beginning to have an influential role in the emergence of a new Europe, while the virgin worlds of the East and West Indies reveal new and desirable treasures to a growing global consumer market.

I like to think of Beuckelaer’s kitchen as a metaphor for living life to the full, our own mortality waiting just around the corner; as for Beuckelaer’s genius, the following inscription says it all:                       

C.74.d.6.(2.)

“This Man painted for a meagre reward, while life remained (to him). But his pictures have no meagre glory, whose paintings and kitchens we honour after his death. Nor is this surprising. A learned kitchen pleases many.”

Lesley McCall

Conservation Assistant

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Hedge Laying

Whilst the house team tackles the world of mould, the complexities of the sandstone and celebrates a fantastic World War One feature, the estate rangers have tackled the world of blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel and celebrated a wonderful day with the South East England Hedge Laying Society (SEHLS).

Hedge Laying on the Scotney Castle Esate

Hedge Laying on the Scotney Castle , Tilers Field, Parkland Trail. SEHLS held a training day at Scotney Castle, and some of the Ranger team came along to learn.

What is hedge laying? – It is when an existing hedge line, having been allowed to grow for at least 12 years, is laid to rejuvenate the trees and shrubs in the hedge and reinstate it’s function as a stock boundary. Each individual living stem to partially severed (or pleached) with a range of hand (or sometimes power) tools, and placed up hill in the same direction.

Here is a volunteer, Tony, using tools to pleach the stems so that they can be laid up the hill. Enough is left attached to ensure the tree survives...

Here is a volunteer, Tony, using tools to pleach the stems so that they can be laid up the hill. Enough is left attached to ensure the tree survives…

Why hedge lay? – Across the country hedges are managed in different ways. Some are neglected, some are flailed with a tractor, some are grubbed out, whilst some are still laid in traditional ways. Laying is proven to be the best stock proof barrier as the stems are laid along the ground, then on top of each other, preventing any gaps in the line. To be extra secure the hedge is also staked every 18″ and binders are wrapped through the stakes to give the height back. It is in fact better than a wire fence because the thorns in the hedge deter stock from trying to break through.

Here you can compare a part of laid hedge, with a part that has only been flail cut over the years. Which one has less gaps and therefore a better stock barrier?

Here you can compare a part of laid hedge, with a part that has only been flail cut over the years. Which one has less gaps and therefore a better stock barrier?

Are there wildlife benefits of hedge-laying? – Yes there are many. Hedges are great wildlife corridors and sources of food for many insects, birds and mammals. The thicker the better, the thornier the better, the more shrub species the better as this provides great shelter for wildlife. Hedge laying encourages all of this. Dormice, Whitethroats, Brown Hairstreaks, Great Crested Newts and Stag beetles are just a few species that thrive in a hedgerow landscape. For more information go to http://www.hedgelink.org.uk/wildlife-and-hedgerows.htm.

A Whitethroat is a summer migrant that nests deep in thickets or hedgerows, but the male will sing and display on the top of the hedge during courtship.

A Whitethroat is a summer migrant that nests deep in thickets or hedgerows, but the male will sing and display on the top of the hedge during courtship.

SEHLS have there own website which (http://sehls.weebly.com/) where more can be found out about the history of the society and the benefits of hedge laying.

Here is more of the day in pictures:

A quick smile for the camera... Tony and Paul.

A quick smile for the camera… Tony and Paul.

SEHLS experts show the Scotney rangers what to do, we certainly learnt a lot that day...

SEHLS experts show the Scotney rangers what to do, we certainly learnt a lot that day…

Each trainee was given there own 'cant', a 10 yard section of hedge, to lay. If this was a competition event then points are scored for correct length of pleachers, correct angle of cut stakes and correct height of binders.

Each trainee was given there own ‘cant’, a 10 yard section of hedge, to lay. If this was a competition event then points are scored for correct length of pleachers, correct angle of cut stakes and correct height of binders.

Often a chainsaw is used to pleach larger stems, but traditionally tools such as a billhook and long handled axe would do all of the work.

Often a chainsaw is used to pleach larger stems, but traditionally tools such as a billhook and long handled axe would do all of the work.

Thanks to Martin for arranging the day, standing here by a very neat piece of laying...

Thanks to Martin for arranging the day, standing here by a very neat piece of laying…

We managed to pick up all the tools and equipment before lost in the dusk and mist...

We managed to pick up all the tools and equipment before lost in the dusk and mist…

If you want to see the work for yourself, you will find Tilers' field on the Parkland Trail, just follow the blue way-marker posts.

If you want to see the work for yourself, you will find Tilers’ field on the Parkland Trail, just follow the blue way-marker posts.

Thank you for reading.

The Scotney Castle Ranger Team.

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