Posted by: marymarthatours | February 13, 2015

My William Morris Quilt is Complete

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I’m feeling very happy with the completion of this two year project. In 2012 Barbara Brackman, a renown quilt historian and quilt pattern creator, had a bock-of-the-month series on one of her websites. I participated in the 49 week series which commemorates “The Fight for Women’s Rights”. I decided to use only William Morris fabrics for this quilting project. See my July 18, 2013 posting for more about William Morris.

I started to build my fabric pallet for this quilt with just the few bits of Morris fabrics from my stash. Next, I purchased a great assortment of large pieces of Rose and Hubble (a London fabric line) Morris prints via an on-line auction. Then I added over a dozen more Morris prints purchased in England on two different trips from shops in Scarborough, Hendley on Thames, Penrith, and at the market in York. My English quilt pal, Jan, gifted me with a large scale Morris print that is the major piece for the backing. I even added a few lighter tone prints from a current Barbara Brackman fabric line sold at a local quilt shop. In all, there must be over 40 different William Morris print fabrics in this quilt. It turns out the colors are perfect for our living room.

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Every print is busy with designs and details. The key to making the whole array of prints work together is, contrast. There needs to be a good tone and color difference between adjacent pieces so everything does not just mush together, then the pattern of the piece work will be lost in a jumble of like colors. I followed this principle when I added a border around each quilt patch block. I wanted to extend the size of the quilt at the top and bottom, so I added two strips of flying geese.

I am not thrilled with some of the block patterns. But then, they were Barbara’s blocks and I was faithful to use all her block patterns and not substitute. Some patterns where quite intricate and challenging to make, others were a whiz to piece. I kept up with making a block each week. It was fun deciding which fabrics to use in each block.

Linda Rech, a local long arm machine quilter, did the quilting and created a very custom masterpiece. I say that the final creation is a 50-50 joint project. I made the top and she stitched the quilting. Photos do not show the detail of her stitching. Each block’s quilting is different and the borders have foliage and vines. She has enhanced the patchwork top in amazing ways.

I named this quilt, “William Meets Barbara” for the two people it commemorates. The year long journey learning about the women who worked to establish freedoms we enjoy today and my journey of acquiring William Morris fabrics are both treasures for me now reflected in the end product.

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Posted by: marymarthatours | January 28, 2015

My Barbara B. Snyder Lancaster Quilt

Last November, we went to Pennsylvania to visit family. We spent several days in the Lancaster area. I would have loved visiting the Lancaster Quilt Museum again but sadly it has closed. My husband and I were there in December of 2010. Check out the blog posting of March 11, 2011.

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On that 2011 visit, I fell in love with the 1880 Barbara Bucher Snyder quilt which is the center quilt in the photo of the three small block sampler quilts. I later learned that there is a pattern available for this quilt of 73, 4 ½ inch blocks set on point with two saw tooth borders. I purchased the pattern called, A Mother’s Gift, from Sentimental Stitches on line (www.sentimentalstitches.com). It is made using the paper piecing technique which I very must enjoy. Below is the quilt I made –

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Six ladies joined me in a small group to make the blocks for this quilt. I was the only one with the goal of replicating the original quilt. I purchased the main fabrics for my quilt in Lancaster County. It was difficult to find reproduction yellow fabrics, so many of the yellow prints in my quilt are actual antique fabrics. Linda Rech, my favorite long arm quilter, replicated the hand quilting in machine quilting and now I own a replica of the quilt I fell in love with in 2010. I never would have imagined as I viewed the original quilt in December 2010 that I would one day make and own this beautiful quilt.

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Last summer the judges at our county fair had some interesting comments about my quilt: “the binding does not have mitered corners and the colors are too jarring”. The binding on my quilt is done as it would have been constructed in 1880 not 2014, and the colors match the original. What did they not understand about “replica”.

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I have recently discovered that Ann Parsons Holte has created patterns for the diamond sample quilt (www.annholtequilting.com). Her book, Making The Lancaster Diamond Sampler, is very well written, starting with the easiest blocks and progressing to the most difficult. I have the book. Will I make this one? I now say, “maybe a few blocks”, but don’t be surprised if you see it done in a couple years.

What am I working on now along with the six others in the MVP’s (Monday Vintage Piecers)? I used to say, “I will never make a Dear Jane quilt with all those little, fussy blocks.” Ha, I am making 111 of the 169 square Dear Jane blocks for a twin bed size quilt. I am avoiding both the hardest and easiest blocks. After the Snyder quilt, the Dear Jane 4 ½ inch blocks are very manageable and loads of fun to make. Read more about the Dear Jane Quilt here.

Posted by: marymarthatours | January 13, 2015

The Glass Museum Passau, Germany

My husband and I recently spent three weeks in Europe enjoying a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. It is a bit strange to be a traveler on a “guided tour” rather than one of the leaders. The difference between a complex river boat tour with coach excursions and local guides at the various cities for 180 travelers and a Mary-Martha tour of 20-30 participants traveling via one coach is like comparing living in a functioning castle residence to a tiny cottage abode.

As I think back over all the great experiences, many, many stand out. I did some research ahead to learn about sites and museums that we would especially like to see in various cities where we had time to explore on our own. On this trip there was one museum that was a total surprise and that I knew nothing about before the tour. It would have been a tragedy to not use our free time in Passau, Germany to visit The Glass Museum (Glasmuseum Passau).

This is the private collection of one man. It’s numbers over 30,000 pieces of European glass from 1630 to 1950. It is housed in a four storied historic building, part of which is a functioning hotel.

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I especially wanted to see the items from about 1890 through the 1930’s which is the time period for Art Nouveau (style in France) or Jungendstil (style in Germany), Art Deco, Vienna Secession, and The Wiener Werkstatte. When we entered we where directed to the fourth floor to begin our museum viewing with the oldest pieces first. But instead, we started at the bottom to be sure to see what interested us most. Good thing, in over one hour with quick viewings of the cases, we covered only two floors. I want to go back for a two day visit!!

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The rooms were full of show cases and the cases packed with pristine, gorgeous glass items. Most museums show a few items in a case, here there were dozens on each shelf.

It as mind blowing. Not just one beautiful Art Nouveau vase, vast quantities of them.

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We played our game: “on this shelf, which one do you want to take home?” I did find the piece I would most like to call mine. It was in the Wiener Werkstatte room. I fell in love with it: a delicate, tall stemmed art piece with soft colors with a flower form that looked like a thistle. There were also several hundred other pieces that I won my personal approval.

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And not only was the glass fabulous, the rooms we walked through were beautiful as well. There was a variety of moldings, ceiling treatments, floorings, panelings, etc. It was a maze of rooms, halls, passageways each full of cases, full of gorgeous glass art. And this is all one man’s collection. Truly, amazing. Thank you, sir, for sharing your treasures with the world.

www.wilder-mann.com

www.glasmuseum.de

(by Martha)

Posted by: marymarthatours | December 23, 2014

The Marvelous Mouse Mansion – Amsterdam

If I were a miniaturist, I would go to Amsterdam just to see this incredible doll’s house in person. Even though I’m not a miniaturist, I did make a point of getting to the Amsterdam Library to see this most amazing doll house while I was there as part of my October cruise travels.

When I did some pre trip Amsterdam research looking for places to eat near our hotel, I discovered the Amsterdam Central Library (Openbare Biblitheek). The pictures on the Trip Advisor site enticed me to put this on our “to see list” for several reasons: new architecture, interior art work, enchanting children’s area, top floor buffet restaurant with great view of central Amsterdam and the Mouse Mansion. There were few tourists here when we visited for a couple hours for exploring and dinner. They were probably standing in the long lines at the “popular” attractions.

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The Mouse Mansion was built by Karina Schaapman, the author of The Mouse Mansion children’s books. There must be over a hundred rooms in this ten foot tall, four sided, whimsical, tilted building. Karina uses photographs of some of the rooms in the series of books about the adventures of Sam and Julia, a brother and sister pair of mice, who live in this house. The size of the house stopped growing when Karina reached the maximum size that would fit the room in which she was building. The mansion was moved to the new library so that children of all ages could see and enjoy the house where Sam and Julia live.

The Mouse Museum

The photos I took of the entire structure didn’t take very well because of the reflection off the glass/plexi cover. Close up pictures of various rooms show some of the details. I love the sewing room and the dining room where you can figure out the religion of the mouse owners. See what clues you can spot.

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Karina used a variety of materials and “found objects” to create furnishings. It is a huge project. It took her a year to work out a mouse pattern and there are masses of them throughout the mansion.

I asked a librarian if the children’s books have been translated into English. Yes, just recently, so you miniaturists and lovers of whimsy can purchase and read them. She gave me an English language booklet about the creation of the mansion and an extra one for my miniaturist sister. I expressed how thrilled I was and she gave me a small Golden Book, Het Muizenhuis, with the story in Dutch about the feast to celebrate the coronation of the new king of The Netherlands.

The Central Library may not be on many tourist’s list of places to visit, but it is on my list of “return for another visit”.

(by Martha)

Posted by: marymarthatours | December 8, 2014

A Nordic Christmas at the American Swedish Institute

We are re-posting this blog article from 2 years ago – we hope you enjoy it:

It had been quite some time since I last visited the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis at holiday time, but this year I went twice. We took Martha and Collie there while they were in Minnesota at Thanksgiving time, and I thought it was so spectacular that I talked my mini club, the Sue’s Day Girls, into going there for a “road trip”.

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American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis

The American Swedish Institute, an early 20th century fairy-tale mansion just south of downtown Minneapolis, and it’s newly constructed companion building, the Nelson Cultural Center, are the setting for the ASI’s annual holiday tradition, A Nordic Christmas. Five different rooms on two floor of the mansion are decorated for the Christmas season in the traditions of the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. This year the overall theme is “A Royal Christmas” and each room honors that country’s royalty or head of state.

Before you even get to the rooms, you are stunned by the absolutely gorgeous mansion entry hall. Two stories tall, the entry hall is dominated by a carved mahogany fireplace surround that goes to the ceiling and a wide stairway leading to the second floor.

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Also on the ground floor are the richly carved music room, the Rococo Revival salon, a den (now used to show a video of mansion owner Swan Turnblad’s story), and the dining room, the first of the country-themed Christmas rooms, the Sweden room.

I didn’t know where to look first in the dining room — at the elegantly set table, ready for the King and Queen of Sweden – the gorgeous Christmas tree with tiny, white, ball-shaped lights that I had not seen before – or just the room itself with its amazing sideboard and fireplace. After this feast for the eyes, it was fun to explore the shelves displaying ornately folded napkins.

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The Norway room on the second floor is actually 2 spaces, the former library and reading room. The library has a lovely table set for the holiday with a centerpiece that I intend to copy. The adjoining reading room features children’s toys and lots of nissen (A nisse or tomte is a Norwegian farm-elf or gnome).

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I was surprised to find a much more modern take on Christmas in the Finland room, but I liked it very much, especially the Christmas tree decorated with gingerbread cookie ornaments. Martha even found one of a fox, very special for her since her surname, Liska, means ‘fox’ in Slovakian.

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The Iceland room was a return to traditional holiday decorations, but the Denmark room was again more modern with its table set with beautiful Bing & Grondahl holiday plates.

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There was more to see on the third floor, but I will let you find that for yourself on a visit to the American Swedish Museum. Check out the Museum’s website for directions and hours. Be sure to stop at the FIKA coffee shop for a delicious treat and the holiday gift shop to purchase a nisse or two for your own house.

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Martha checking out the gift shop

(by Mary)

All photos by Mary or Collie. The ASI allows photography if it is done without flash.

Posted by: marymarthatours | November 18, 2014

What Goes Around … A Story

Cornelia Simon

Martha’s and my mom, Cornelia Simon Weiler, always said that she wanted to trace her family’s genealogy “when she got old”.  It was something that she and I looked forward to doing together.  Unfortunately, mom never “got old”, dying much too young at age 67.  After she died, I decided to take up the task as a way to remember and honor her.  It’s been great fun for almost 40 years, and I think mom would be amazed at what I’ve learned along the way. 

She always claimed that she was descended from Peregrine White, the first child born to Mayflower Pilgrims in the new world.  This seemed an unlikely claim, as at the time, there was no suggestion of anyone named “White” in her family.  Now, although I haven’t found any link or proof back to Peregrine, I do know that there was an ancestor named Roxanne White, a person my mom didn’t even know existed.  It just shows that the potential of “family stories” shouldn’t be ignored.  And although there are some kinks in the line leading back to John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, mom now has a verified Mayflower ancestor in George Soule.

dinefwr6 2000 mwMom would have loved hearing the stories of the distant ancestors that I’ve uncovered over the years.  I’ll bet that she would have laughed at Martha and me referring to Dinefwr Castle in Wales as “our castle” because one of our Welsh ancestors built it in about 1175 c.e.  She would have enjoyed the fact that one of her middle-school grandsons studied medieval European history on his own in an attempt to count how many kings he descends from.  Another grandson used old family letters to create a story about settlers on the Oregon trail.  And a great grandson used the 1840’s diary of one of mom’s great grandmothers, Emeline LaBar, to win a statewide contest on family history.

But the story I think she would enjoy the most is much closer to home.  It started in the little community of Fountain City, Wisconsin, on the Mississippi River, just over an hour’s drive from my home in Rochester, MN.  Fountain City was home to many German immigrants who arrived in this country in the mid 19th century.   Two of those settlers, memorialized on the wall of the Buffalo County courthouse in Alma, Wisconsin, were August Simon and Michael Pistorius, my mom’s German great grandfathers.

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Michael Pistorius appears to have had a colorful life.  He arrived in Fountain City in 1855 and listed his occupation as “carpenter” in the 1860 census. His first wife, our ancestor, died in 1857, and around 1865 Michael married Maria Erhart, widow of Xaver Erhart who had at one time owned the Eagle Brewery in Fountain City.   Maria (Erhart) Pistorius is also found among a list of people who were owners of the Eagle Brewery.  Whether Michael took over the Brewery from his wife is unknown, but in the 1870 census his occupation is listed as “brewer”.  Things appear to have gone downhill from there.  In the 1880 census, his occupation was “keeper of baths” and his wife was no longer living with him.  He died in 1887.

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Eagle Brewery late 1800’s and Eagle Brewery Bar & Dance Hall circa 1900

My mom would not have been happy with the story of Michael’s decline, but it’s “the rest of the story” that she would have found fascinating.  In 2013 our youngest granddaughter started college at Winona State University in Winona, MN.  Because housing was expensive in Winona, she choose to rent an apartment in an old building in Fountain City, Wisconsin, just a short drive away.  The rental agent mentioned that the two story brick building facing the river had once been a brewery.  That set my husband and me into motion.  We visited the Fountain City Historical Society and learned that yes, indeed, our granddaughter was living in a building that had once been the Eagle Brewery in the late 1800’s and then around 1900 became the Eagle Brewery Bar and Dance Hall.  She is living in the building where her 4-greats grandfather once worked.  How cool is that!

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(by Mary) 

   

Posted by: marymarthatours | November 8, 2014

Gorgeous Wisteria at Iford Manor

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Little did we know when we scheduled our visit to Iford Manor during our 2014 Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour that we would be there at the height of the display of the estate’s beautiful Wisteria.  We had seen wisteria in bloom in other gardens on our tour, but nowhere was it more glorious that at Iford Manor.  The estate lies in the Frome River Valley not far from Bath, England.

DSCN6809Upon arrival we were greeted by William Cartwright-Hignett, whose family has owned and lived at Iford Manor since 1995.  William pointed out the Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) growing along the front of the house and gave a brief review of the garden’s history and his family’s restoration of that garden to honor the intentions of its creator, Harold Peto.  Harold Peto, a well-known garden architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, loved the Italianate style and collected statuary and architectural pieces on his frequent visits to Italy, France, and Spain.  In 1899, he purchased Iford Manor and began creating a garden incorporating not only his architectural and horticultural expertise but his collection of garden accessories as well.  It is that unique combination that brings visitors to the garden at Iford Manor.

The Peto Garden is set along a hillside running beside and behind the house.  Because of the hill, the garden is built on a series of terraces linked by beautiful stairways softened with sweeps of low plantings. 

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Throughout the garden, Peto added structures in the Italian fashion – a loggia (seen in the photo at the top of the blog), a pavilion known as the Casita, and a courtyard surrounded by an arcade known as the Cloisters.  The 100-seat Cloisters has become the intimate setting for a summer music series of opera and concerts.  The colonnaded central walkway is the heart of the garden.

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 After leisurely wandering through Peto’s beautiful and tranquil early 20th century Italianate garden, we crossed the road to the estate’s old walled garden, where the creative whimsy of Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett has added a whole new element of contemporary fun to a visit to Iford Manor.  We chuckled at the boxwood seating arrangement in the topiary garden, marveled at the intricate mosaics in the summer house, and appreciated the poetry inset into the checkerboard garden.

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Every part of the lovely gardens at Iford Manor is worth a visit.  I’m sure it is magnificent in every season.  In the end, however, it will be the Wisteria in early May that I remember most about Iford Manor.

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(by Mary)

Photo credits:  all photos copyright by Mary Wallace and Martha Liska, May 2014.

    

Posted by: marymarthatours | October 28, 2014

A West Country Cream Tea Trivia Question

Liyster, CC-BY-3.0

One of our favorite activities while on our tours is the morning Trivia game.  This game is fun, provides opportunities for interaction with local people, and gives us a chance to dispense information on a wide variety of UK-related topics, such as architecture, history, sport, food, customs, etc.

Here is how the game works:

  • on the coach in the morning, we ask a question
  • travelers write their answers on slips of paper and deposit them in the answer bag
  • we tally the answers and the next morning on the coach, we award a small prize to the person with the first correct answer.
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Martha & Collie enjoying a Cream Tea at the Duchy of Cornwall Garden Centre

The questions often relate specifically to the focus of the particular tour.  For example, on our Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour, Martha asked “What is the proper way to serve a West Country Cream Tea – jam on top of the clotted cream or clotted cream on top of the jam on the scone?”

It was a trick question.  The correct answer is BOTH.

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Cornwall and Devon both agree on the essential elements of a Cream Tea.  There’s the tea, of course, the stronger the better.  Then there are the scones, preferably plain without currents or icing.  The last two ingredients are the clotted cream and the jam.  Clotted cream, a thick, silky, yellow cream, originated in the southwest of England.  It is made by heating unpasturized cow’s milk which is then left in a shallow pan until the cream rises to the top and clots.  The jam is traditionally strawberry, but there are those who suggest that something tarter, such as raspberry, blackcurrant, or even rhubarb, would be acceptable.

The big disagreement comes when you ask people from Cornwall and Devon about the order in which the jam and clotted cream are applied to the scone.  Those from Cornwall declare that the jam goes on the scone first and the cream is piled on top of the jam.  People from Devon are just as adamant that the cream goes on first and then the jam.

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Cornish style and Devonshire style Cream Teas

Nick Rodda, of Rodda’s Clotted Cream in Cornwall, says (with tongue firmly in cheek), “We always put our cream on the top because we are proud of it; Devonians are slightly ashamed of theirs so the cover it up with their jam.”

“But”, argue the Devonians, “Devon style keeps the cream off your nose, and it’s just common sense – does anyone put jam on their bread and then butter on top?”

I tend to agree with Paul from Cornwall who said, “Jam on Top?  How do you spread jam on top of cream?”  However, I will admit that with a “proper” thick clotted cream, putting the jam on top wouldn’t be all that difficult.  So which way do you construct you Cream Tea – clotted cream or jam on the top?

Here is one solution to this thorny inter-county conflict:

Foowee, CCASA3.0

(by Mary)

 

photo credits: title photo-copyright Liyster and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons CC-BY-3.0 license; Martha & Collie-copyright Mary Wallace; cream tea ingredients-copyright Alpha and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons CC ASA 2.0 license; Devonshire cream tea-copyright Tuxraider and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0 license; jam top & bottom-copyright Foowee and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons CC ASA 3.0 license.

Posted by: marymarthatours | October 18, 2014

Lanhydrock

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Cornwall’s Lanhydrock House was the second of the stately homes on our 2014 Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon tour that I really loved.  (The other house, Coleton Fishacre, was described in the previous blog).

When we needed to make a substitution in our itinerary, we added a stop at Lanhydrock primarily because it has an extensive woodland garden behind the house and a formal Victorian parterre garden, both of which look great in the spring. 

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Another area of beautiful spring flowers is the bluebell woods along the walk from the coach parking lot to the house.

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After walking past the bluebells, we reached the gorgeous 17th century gatehouse.  The house dates from around the same time, but demolition work in the 18th century and a 19th century fire destroyed much of the original structure.  Only the Long Gallery has survived in tact from the early period.

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Most of the current building actually dates from the late Victorian era, and the interiors reflect the decorating, furnishings, and life style of that period.  The house tour is one of the longest of any National Trust house, but it includes areas that one rarely sees in such depth in other houses.  These include the extensive kitchens (prep rooms, bakery, meat storage area, pantries) which I loved because they are set up to reflect the same time frame as my Downton Abbey Kitchen mini room.

 

 

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Another area of the house that I really enjoyed was the day nursery with its wonderful Victorian dollhouse, the night nursery, and the nanny’s room.  Martha especially appreciated the showy quilt on Nanny’s bed.  The old christening gown on the bed reminded us of our family’s baptismal gown, created from our great grandmother’s wedding dress and used for our own children’s baptisms.

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The rest of the house, the areas for the “grown-ups”, is just as impressive.  We loved the many rooms featuring William Morris wallpapers and the beautiful wood carving throughout.  I generally don’t care for the clutter and ostentatiousness of the Victorian era, but Lanhydrock certainly changed my mind.  And while I would rather live at Coleton Fishacre, I would love to have good friends living at Lanhydrock so that I could visit there often.

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(click on photos to see enlarged images)

(by Mary)

Photo credits:  All photos copyright by Mary Wallace and Martha Liska, May 2014.

Posted by: marymarthatours | October 8, 2014

Coleton Fishacre, Art Deco Treasure

While the focus of the May 2014 Spring Gardens of Cornwall and Devon Tour was the fabulous gardens of SW England, we also stopped at other special and fun locations.  Martha has shared her stories of visiting the amazing Cathedrals at Wells and Salisbury and the Abbey at Bath.  And I’ve written about Babbacombe Model Village and the Malvern Flower Show.  (Scroll back or go to the search box to find any of these former blogs.)

We also like to include stately and historic homes on our tours.  For the May 2014 tour we made sure that the homes on the itinerary also had beautiful gardens.  I thought that I’d spend all my time in those gardens, but I was perfectly entranced by the interiors at two houses.

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One of these was Coleton Fishacre, a National Trust Site in Devon.  Most of the historic homes that we have visited over the years are from the Elizabethan (Little Moreton Hall), Stuart (Castle Howard), Georgian (Dalemain), or Victorian (Highclere Castle) eras, but Coleton Fishacre is a “modern” house, historically speaking.  It was designed in the mid 1920’s by Oswald Milne, a student of Edwin Lutyens, for the hotelier and theatre impresario, Sir Rupert D’Oyly Carte and his wife Lady Dorothy.  The exterior of the house exemplifies the principles of the Arts & Crafts Movement – simplicity of design, local materials, and quality workmanship. 

To me the most striking feature of Coleton Fishacre is not its gorgeous Arts & Crafts exterior, but the interior rooms which are furnished in the Art Deco fashion of the 1930’s.  Martha and I loved it, but I did hear a number of other visitors (mostly our age or older) muttering that they didn’t much like the style and certainly preferred the “old” houses.  However, for me, Coleton Fishacre is a home that I could easily live in.  And because the National Trust now allows photography at many of its properties, I’m able to share some of its beautiful rooms with you. 

Here are the main living room and the cozy library.        

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And here are the formal dining room with its blue stone table, and my favorite room, the yellow den.

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I especially loved the collection of Arts & Crafts pottery and the beautiful table setting on the dining room table.

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And, oh yes, there is indeed a wonderful garden at Coleton Fishacre.  From the formal terrace and the Rill Garden, the garden follows a stream down a exuberantly planted valley to a secluded cove on the sea coast.  Lady Dorothy planted the original garden with rare and exotic plants collected from her journeys abroad.  Spring was the perfect time to see it. 

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Next time I’ll share my impressions of the other stately home that I really enjoyed, Lanhydrock.

(by Mary)

photo credits:  All photos copyright Mary Wallace, May 2014

 

 

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