Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Restoration of Tennyson's Farringford Continues

Tennyson lived at Farringford, near Freshwater, with his wife, Emily, and their sons, Hallam and Lionel, from 1853 to his death in 1892. (Lionel died in 1886; Emily and Hallam outlived Alfred.) Shown at left: Alfred and Emily Tennyson with their sons Lionel, left, and Hallam, right, in the garden at Farringford, May 1863; photograph by Oscar Gustave Rejlander.

Among the writers, artists, politicians, and philosophers who visited Tennyson there were Prince Albert, Edward Lear, Charles Dodgson, Frederic Denison Maurice, William Allingham, Helen Allingham, Thoby Prinsep, Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Bram Stoker, George Frederic Watts, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Julia Margaret Cameron (whose own home, Dimbola Lodge, was nearby) and many, many others.

Major restoration work on Farringford began last October and is expected to continue for the next year to 18 months, according to Rebecca FitzGerald, who with Martin Beisly, international director of Victorian & Impressionist Pictures at Christie's, bought the property four years ago.

“Our intention is to return the house as much as practically possible to how it was when Tennyson lived here. The library was the first room to be fully restored. Farringford has been a hotel since the mid 1940s and was in a state of considerable disrepair when we took it on in January 2006.

"However, to our delight we have uncovered original flagstones, working shutters, and plastered-over staircases and bookshelves fitted in the original study on the top floor. We are carefully stripping back layers of wallpaper and paint and discovering the original paint colour beneath, and we have a fair idea of how the house was furnished and the furniture arranged.” (Shown below: Tennyson's library at Farringford in 1892, with dog, writing desk, and other furniture; drawing by W. Binscombe Gardner.) 

The house will be closed to all but a few private functions until completion, although 23 self-catering cottages on the property are available to rent with a minimum stay of two nights. Nine have full central heating. Five also have wood burning stoves and therefore can be rented throughout the year. The new Garden Restaurant serves both guests and visitors all year, using local and seasonal produce including vegetables from the kitchen garden. A wood-fired oven is a beautiful feature in the dining room.

"Guests staying in our self-catering accommodation have full use of the grounds within the estate and enjoy direct access to Tennyson Down, which Tennyson walked daily with his dogs, and which so inspired his best-loved poems,” says FitzGerald. To book a cottage, call 01983 752500 or 01983 752700 or e-mail contact@farringford.co.uk. More information is available online at www.farringford.co.uk.

Once opened the house will no longer be a hotel but an exclusive wedding venue that can also be reserved for private functions, conferences, and workshops, as well as weekend courses and retreats with an emphasis on the creative arts.

“The house will have four principal beautifully restored bedrooms where the bride, groom, and respective parents can stay, these being Alfred and Emily’s rooms and the two original guest rooms. We will take additional private bookings in the house for those looking for an exclusive, private country house experience, but principally for those with a keen interest in Tennyson. Our intention is to mount regular exhibitions, host concerts and poetry readings, and give regular tours.”

Tennyson at Farringford, a beautifully produced catalogue of the 2009 exhibition edited by the curator Veronica Franklin Gould with an introduction by Leonée Ormond, is also available. It can be ordered online here, by e-mail at contact@farringford.co.uk, or by calling 01983 752500 or 01983 752700.

The exterior of the house today:

And the library before restoration:


Farringford: Home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lewis Carroll and Xie

This charming photograph is one of three albumen print portraits of Alexandra ("Xie") Rhoda Kitchin (Wiki bio here) by Lewis Carroll that were sold recently by Bonhams for £24,000.

Alexandra (1864-1925) was the daughter of Rev. George William Kitchin, who for 15 years held a theological position at the University of Oxford, where Carroll, a fellow of Christ Church, lectured on mathematics. Kitchin later became Dean of Winchester and Dean of Durham. Alexandra was named for her godmother Alexandra, Princess of Wales, wife of Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII). 

The three photos show Alexandra in Danish and Oriental costumes. They were given to her by Carroll’s brother, William, on the occasion of her marriage to Arthur Cardew in 1890, along with a copy of The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll, in which two of the photographs are reproduced.


Helmut Gernsheim, Lewis Carroll, Photographer (Dover Publications, 1969) 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Victorian London" on Facebook!

Hello Peepers:

I hope you'll be as excited as I am about "Victorian London," the new Facebook counterpart to this blog. While "The Victorian Peeper" will continue to focus on a full range of topics in British cultural history during the reign of Queen Victoria, my Facebook page will narrow the focus to one city: the boisterous, tumultuous, industrious, maddening metropolis that was imperial London in the nineteenth century.

Do you see the "Find Me on Facebook" box in the right sidebar? Just click on "Victorian London" to check it out, or, better yet, click on "Like" to receive regular updates on your Facebook Wall.

Feel free to join in the first discussion topic, which is "Victorian Traces in Modern London." Where can you go in London to get a sense of what it might have been like to live there during the Victorian era? There are such places, and we'll explore some of them together in the coming weeks. 

I'm also expanding my presence on Twitter. You can follow me there at http://twitter.com/Tetens.

As always, I welcome your feedback and suggestions. Please let me know how I can make both this blog and the new Facebook page more useful and enjoyable for you.

Shown above: Henry Dawson, St. Paul's from the River Thames, 1877.
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