Friday, 17 October 2014

A Visit To Kelmscott 2- The Actual Visit

It was originally Kathleen's idea. A weekend away, visiting the place we had both been learning about. Having made contact with a few people at Kelmscott Manor, it was now going to be even more interesting, because we had arranged to meet to compare notes on Miss Lobb.

It was a long, but fairly pleasant drive. We stopped in Rhayader for lunch. I managed to snap my photo for the day as we passed the sheep market.

We had a quick look in a small shop pretending to be an antique shop. In times past the items these places sold would be referred to as bric-a-brac and the shops named accordingly. These days they all call themselves antique shops despite the fact that so much of their stock is pretty much old tat! Don't get me wrong, I love old tat, I just get annoyed at the ridiculously high prices they place on such things.  I have to admit to being slightly tempted by a vintage fireman's jacket, but in the end I didn't even ask the price. How good am I?!

We made our way through the ever changing landscape, with the rolling hills and valleys of Wales slowly giving way to the flat expanses of the Cotswolds. There was some occasionally temperamental guidance from the navigation app on my phone, but it was supplemented by some good old fashioned navigation from The Lovely. By early evening we had arrived at Lechlade, then it was just a few minutes to reach Kelmscott. 

The Plough Inn is a very welcoming little place. We settled into our room, The William Morris Room no less, and then sat outside for a welcome couple of pints. It was still quite warm for the start of October, so we made the most of it before venturing into the dining room for some good wine and a rather fine, filling meal, including some duck, the like of which I had never tasted! Having been on a bit of a diet lately, the mini banquet we consumed, along with the wine, was quite a shock to the system resulting in slightly impaired motor functions. 

Next morning, the weather changed dramatically, the temperature had dropped and it was now raining profusely. Still, that wasn't going to spoil anything, especially as I had a full cooked breakfast to feast upon. Then it was a quick dash through the rain to the Manor. On our arrival we were approached by a volunteer asking if we had visited before. I said that I had come to meet Sarah, to which her eyes opened wide, " Ahh, you're errr..." She seemed to struggle to find the words, then blurted "You're the Welsh!". Well, I thought, not all of them! But I answered, "Yes, that's us."

We were shown to the offices housed in some of the converted outbuildings, and here I could put faces to those who had been just email addresses until now. Here was Sarah, Kathy, and students Sophie And Thomas. I gave them an outline of what was in the collection, they were extremely keen to know more about Miss Lobb and I was keen to see what they had. 

They had recently been sent some material that had been found in a skip years ago. It included some paperwork including receipts and invoices, an interesting postcard written by Miss Lobb, and some photos I hadn't seen. I won't go into all the details here, all will be revealed in time!  

After we had been shown the new discoveries we went around the house itself. Of course, the rooms are all clean and conservation friendly now. No damp corners and dusty attics, no smell of fires burning in the hearths or the clutter of everyday life, but you still get a feel for the place and how it influenced and inspired the people who had lived there. It wasn't too difficult to imagine Jane Morris sitting writing letters in her room overlooking the garden as the the young May and Jenny clattered up the stairs to play in the attic, or Rossetti working in the Tapestry Room. There is still continuity in the place, those tapestries have been there almost since the place was built, William Morris' ancient four poster bed which he brought to the Manor, was the one in which he was born, and in which he died.  Then there are the paintings and drawings. It was great seeing Rossetti's painting, Blue Silk Dress, in the flesh, as it were. I wish I could take photographs in the house. I would love to record some of the little details - things like the various ornate window fittings, the old graffiti scratched into the stone around some of the windows, and the way shadows form as the light flows into the different spaces. 

By the time we had finished seeing the inside of the house, the rain had been banished. Clear skies took over as we sat for an obligatory cream tea before exploring the garden. The grounds are not huge and rambling as such. What makes it special for me are the spaces defined by the high walls, hedges, trees and of course, the building itself, which stands, observing, like a smiling old man who sits on the side of the road watching the world go by. If only it could talk. 

To complete the weekend, we had planned to create a Pre-Raphaelite inspired image starring The Lovely, doing her best moody muse look. Although there was some photoshop work done on our return, the basic elements were all shot at Kelmscott. I think it worked quite well.

A few more photo's can be found on my FlickrPhotostream

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