The Leeds Library Summer Day Out In The Lake District

How can you tell you’re on a summer day trip to the Lake District? Yes, it teems with rain all day long. Still, we were not deterred as we waited for our coach to pick us up at Bramhope Church bus stop. We hoped the rain would cease but unfortunately it didn’t. Never mind our main aims were not to climb  the peaks nor to stride out across the fells but to make indoor visits to The Armitt Library in Ambleside in the morning and to Blackwell near Bowness in the afternoon.


How true! How true!


The Armitt Library was founded by the will of Mary Louise Armitt and the wishes of her two sisters, “to create a collection of books of scientific, literary and antiquarian value” for the “student and book-lover”, and eventually a small museum. It was opened in 1912, and embodied the old 1828 Ambleside Book Society, of which William Wordsworth had been a member, and the Ambleside Ruskin Library, founded by Hardiwcke Rawnsley in 1882 with the active support of John Ruskin. The Library is now in a purpose-built home just north of Ambleside on the Rydal Road.

In 1934 Beatrix Potter gave many of her watercolours and drawings of fungi, mosses and fossils to the  Armitt Library some of which are on display. She had become a member on her marriage to William Heelis in 1913 who was the Library’s solictor since 1912.”

Potter's work

Admiring Potter’s drawings and watercolours

The Armitt Museum houses so much more than just the original core book collection. Alongside the story of Beatrix Potter and the Lake District is a large collection of her exquisite drawings, the library of The Fell and Rock Climbing Club and a gallery devoted to the work of German artist Kurt Schwitters.

Edith Thomas

Portrait of Edith Thomas by Kurt Schwitters

Born in Hanover in 1887, he studied art at Dresden, but it was not until the Dada movement of 1916 that he finally liberated himself from conventional art. Schwitters took from Dada the freedom to use what materials he wanted to in his pictorial compositions … In 1937 for a variety of compelling reasons Schwitters left Hanover for Norway, never to return to his home again. The Norwegian experience was mixed … and in 1940 Schwitters and his son fled to Britain where they were both interned on the Isle of Man. Afterwards Schwitters lived in London until the end of the war in 1945, when he moved to Ambleside where he remained until his death in poverty and obscurity in 1948. Schwitters never received the recognition in Britain he had enjoyed in Europe, and his art did not sell. However, in 1947 he was fortunate enough to start his third Merzbau in a barn in Elterwater. Regrettably only a fragment was completed before his death, and this small monument to his genius can now be seen in the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle.” [Armitt Museum website]

Fell and Rock Collection

Books on an Alpine theme

After lunch in Windermere we continued to Blackwell the Arts and Crafts House overlooking Lake Windermere. This was my second visit to the house, my first being in 2002 which was not long after the house was opened to the public.


When the architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (1865 – 1945) built a holiday home overlooking Windermere for his client Sir Edward Holt, a brewer from Manchester, he created Blackwell, a masterpiece of twentieth-century design; a perfect example of the Arts & Crafts Movement.

Enjoy a lovingly crafted day out at one of the most enchanting historic houses in the Lake District. When you visit you are invited to relax and immerse yourself in all the beauty and craftsmanship of Blackwell. We encourage you to sit and soak up the atmosphere in Blackwell’s fireplace inglenooks, which have fine examples of tiles by Arts & Crafts designer William de Morgan. The inviting window seats offer stunning views of the surrounding Lake District scenery. You can appreciate the house as it was originally intended, without roped-off areas.

Window 1

Stained glass window

Window 2

Another stained glass window

Window seat

Window Seat

Blackwell retains many of its original decorative features, including a rare hessian wall-hanging in the Dining Room, leaf-shaped door handles, curious window catches, spectacular plasterwork, stained glass and carved wooden panelling by Simpsons of Kendal. The rooms contain furniture and objects by many of the leading Arts & Crafts designers and studios – metalwork by WAS Benson, ceramics by Pilkingtons and Ruskin Pottery and furniture by Morris & Co., Stanley Webb Davies, Ernest Gimson and Baillie Scott himself.”

Fireplace 1


Fireplace 2

Another Fireplace (My Favourite)

For more and better pictures of Blackwell see here a fellow Blog Poster’s visit to the House earlier this year.



Farewell to Armitt, Blackwell and Windermere, but not, alas, to rain … it followed us home.



“William Kent : Designing Georgian Britain” at The Victoria and Albert Museum

Polymath Transforms Georgian England!


 William Kent (1685 – 17480) [source]

What a man! William Kent was hugely influential within Georgian English aristocratic circles. His designs spanned the widest spectrum of English upper class design from art to architecture and from furniture to gardens. Kent’s patrons included Lord and Lady Burlington, the Cokes of Leicester, the Walpoles of Houghton. Influenced by his early visits to Italy it’s surprising that William Kent is not far better known. This exhibition at the V&A tells his story with rich illustrations and varied artefacts. Go yourself and ponder why William Kent is not more familiar to us today.

I wrote that little appreciation/review for the ticket agent that supplied our tickets for the show last Friday afternoon.

The Georgians are big business as 2014 marks 300 years since the accession of George I thus beginning a succession of Hanoverian Kings of England which lasted until 1830.

The season started well with the British Library’s overview The Georgians Revealed that covered many aspects of life in 18th and early 19th century Britain. There are significant exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery : The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714-1760 and at The Historic Royal Palaces (Kensington Palace; Kew Palace and Hampton Court Palace) : The Glorious Georges. And BBC television is currently broadcasting a month-long Georgian season.

William Kent Paintings

Slideshow of William Kent Paintings

William Kent was born in Bridlington, North Yorkshire, the son of a carpenter. From 1709 to 1719 he studied in Rome, copying Old Master paintings and learning the techniques of etching and engraving. Here in Italy he was to meet Lord Burlington who, with his wife, became patron and good friend to Kent. Burlington gave him his first commissions back in England and helped to set Kent off on his course designing for many of the great English landowners.


 A Kent-designed chair from Holkham Hall

Kent designed the interiors of many stately homes including Houghton Hall, home of the Walpoles, in Norfolk.

Houghton Hall

 Exterior of Houghton Hall, Norfolk


Stowe Landscape Garden with Gothic Temple and Palladian Bridge

Most of all Kent is best-known to me as the designer of landscape gardens.


Kent’s landscape designs confirm his status as the artistic genius of the era, a father of the English landscape garden. In contrast with the French and Dutch fashions for formal gardens, Kent took his inspiration from the ideal landscapes of pastoral literature and painting. His design drawings are not detailed plans, but poetic evocations of the landscape effects he was attempting to achieve.

Kent’s gardens could be places of activity and good fellowship, or places of reflection and solitude. Carefully crafted vistas lead the eye out beyond the garden into the surrounding countryside. He designed over fifty garden buildings which were positioned to act as picturesque focal points for views and also as places from which to contemplate the garden. His buildings vary from sober copies of ancient buildings to wild flights of fancy, from pyramids, triumphal arches and Chinese kiosks to grottoes and artificial ruins.” [V&A website]


Museum Plantin-Moretus : a UNESCO World Heritage Museum in Antwerp

In the early afternoon after our walking tour in outer Antwerp our coach dropped us off at the car park by the River Scheldt from where we made our way to the Grote Markt and the Cathedral.

Grote Markt

The Grote Markt, Antwerp


Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Kathedraal, Antwerp

From here we dispersed to find lunch. The plan then was to reassemble at the Cathedral in about an hour in order to tour the Rubens paintings which hang there, currently. However, with no persuasion from me, my friend and I decided we would rather visit the Plantin-Moretus Museum and arranged to meet the group back at the coach at 5pm.

Chocolate Box

Wrapping my purchases at The Chocolate Box

So, after a tasty pub lunch and making some chocolate purchases, we soon found the museum and were very happy with our choice. This is the only museum listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Plantin Moretus

The Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp

Inner courtyard

The Elegant Interior Garden

This is one of the most interesting museums in Antwerp. It is housed in the mansion of Christophe Plantin, who set up as a printer in 1555, one of the first industrial printers in history. In the workshop, the equipment, which includes one of the oldest surviving printing presses, has been left as it was when operations ceased in the early 19th century. There is much else to see here besides, including the family home, a sumptuous patrician home with an elegant interior garden, tapestries, vellum Bible, woodcuts, copper plates, and works by Rubens. The museum’s archives, more than 100 years old, have been placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.” [Source : My LV City Guide to Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Zurich, 2012]


The Original Bookshop : books sold here from 1700

The Proofreader

The Proofreader

Christoph Plantin

Christoph Plantin

In The Great Library

In the Great Library

Great Library

In the Great Library/Chapel

The Moretuses’ own private book collection (1640) is an example of a humanist library. The volumes are shelved by size. By 1655 the Library was used as a Chapel.

Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day Three

Day 3 : A full day’s excursion today to the historic Belgian City of Antwerp (about 1.5 hours from Lille) famed as the birthplace of Rubens with a strong artistic heritage in its fine museums and churches. This heritage was reflected too in the city’s enthusiastic embracing of the Art Nouveau movement with an entire district, known as the Golden Triangle of some 170 Art Nouveau houses as well as the famed “Five Continents” house and the Reunion exhibition in the Cathedral of Our Lady. Evening free.”

There are so many Art Nouveau houses in Antwerp’s Golden Triangle that it is impossible I’m afraid to give the addresses of each but here are some examples from those 3 streets – Waterloostraat, Transvaalstraat and Cogels Osylei. Quite amazing! According to Mike at one time threatened with demolition this now an area of prime real estate.

AN on Waterloost

Waterloostraat, Antwerp crammed with Art Nouveau houses

With more than 100 Art Nouveau buildings, Antwerp is the second town of Belgium (after Brussels) and one of the two most important ports in Europe.

Zurenborg – Cogels Osylei quarter

This is the Art Nouveau “golden triangle”, a quarter defined by three streets (Cogels Osylei, Waterloo straat and Transvaal straat) that was built mainly between 1890 and 1906. The urban planning of Zurenborg and the Cogels Osylei dates from 1894 (and half of the area was built in 1895, which became an important place for Art Nouveau which began around 1897 in Antwerp). An incredible number of Art Nouveau buildings are still preserved for your pleasure. It is often presented as the most important Art Nouveau quarter in Europe and in the world.” [Source]

So, here are some of those buildings preserved “for your pleasure”.


Den Tijd, Waterloostraat

Close up Den Tijd

Close-up of Den Tijd


On Waterloo Straat

Waterloo St

Also on Waterloostraat

4 seasons 1

One of the Four Seasons Houses at a cross roads, Waterloostraat

[“De Vier Seizoenen” villas built by Joseph Bascourt in 1899 : the 4 symetrical villas corner a cross roads. Each corner is decorated by a fresco dedicated to a season.]

4 seasons spring

Four Seasons – Spring

4 seasons summer

Four Seasons – Summer

4 seasons autumn

Four Seasons – Autumn

4 seasons winter

Four Seasons – Winter


There are the peacock’s eyes!


Plain – but with peacock eye balcony

Art Nouveau triangle

Art Nouveau in the Golden Triangle


Over The Top in the Golden Triangle

Cogels Osylei

Cogels Osylei

Grander House on Cogels Osylei

Grander house on Cogels Osylei

On Cogels Osylei

Also on Cogels Osylei

I probably have another 50 photos but that is enough for now.

Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day Two

Day 2 : Morning walking tour of the Art Nouveau houses of Lille, including the exterior of the beautiful Maison Coilliot,  followed by the hidden gem that is La Piscine Museum at the former textile town of Roubaix. Afternoon tour to Tournai and its Musée des Beaux Arts. Lecture “Art Nouveau and Belgium” followed by dinner at the Brasserie de la Paix.”

… so, another full day.

Our second day dawned overcast but brightened up considerably as we began our walk through the streets of Lille. Ignore the shop fronts and look up and a whole new world appears. Interspersed between plain dull shop fronts and ordinary apartment exteriors are a multitude of different, often colourful, Art Nouveau and Art Deco façades.

Here are some of the style features of Art Nouveau which developed during the 1890s and continued until the outbreak of the First World War :

  • sinuous, elongated, curvy lines
  • the whiplash line*
  • vertical lines and height
  • stylised flowers, leaves, roots, buds and seedpods

* Definition of the whiplash line from the V&A website : ‘This is a decorative line that seems to have a life of its own. It writhes and coils with dynamic force, as if trying to break free of the forces holding it in place. It is everywhere in the early Art Nouveau works. Architectural ironwork, decorative borders, textile patterns and the flowing hair of the poster girls all seethe with an excess of feverish energy. The whiplash form can be seen as a metaphor. It displays in graphic form the radical drive to break away from the constraints of tradition.’

In the UK we have Charles Rennie Macintosh and in France Hector Guimard and in Belgium Victor Horta. In Lille the buildings are tall and thin and squeezed in between other buildings.

Another architectural feature are the ‘peacocks’ eyes’. At first I thought I had never been near enough to a peacock to look at its eyes but soon realised that the eyes are in the peacock’s tail feathers.

Spot the eyes and lines and stylised flowers and roots and leaves in this small sample of buildings above the shopping streets of Lille.

A La Cloche

A La Cloche d’Or, rue Saint Nicolas, Lille

43 Rue du Faubourg de Béthune

43 Rue du Faubourg de Béthune, Lille

71 Rue de Béthune

71, rue de Béthune, Lille

Rue Nicolas Leblanc

Rue Nicolas Leblanc

Ceramique Colliot

Maison Ceramique Coilliot by Hector Guimard

Art Deco of the 1920s on the other hand is characterised by clean lines and strong curves and by

  • geometric and angular shapes
  • chrome, glass, mirrors and mirror tiles
  • stylised images of aeroplanes, cars, cruise liners, skyscrapers
  • nature motifs – shells, sunrises, flowers
  • theatrical contrasts – highly polished wood and glossy black lacquer

The fonts or typescripts are sans serif – no added curlicues or decoration.

Spot the art deco style features and sans serif scripts on the buildings on our morning walk in Lille :

AD near hotel

Art Deco near The Hotel Mercure, Lille Centre

Maison Gilbert Lille

Maison Gilbert, Lille

Shoe shop

Former shop or factory?

45 rue de Béthune

Above hat maker, Benjamin, 45, rue de Béthune

Also r de Béthune

Also on the rue de Béthune

rue de Bethune

Another on the rue de Béthune

Place de Béthune

At the Place de Béthune

After the Maison Ceramique Coilliot by Hector Guimard we joined our coach for the next stages of the day’s tour.

The City that Built Chicago : The Hackley and Hume Houses in Muskegon, MI

On Saturday 7th September as we drove into Muskegon, a city of 38,000 in the State of Michigan more or less opposite Milwaukee on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, and drew to a stop outside the Hackley and Hume Houses I thought I had arrived in pre-revolutionary Russia!

The Hackley House

The Hackley House

Hume House

The Hume House

Look at the pictures and you will see what I mean. But I could get no satisfactory answer from the tour guide as to why the houses were built in this particular style. But otherwise we had a most interesting tour of both houses and were able to compare and contrast the house styles and the lives of their former inhabitants.

Our guide referred to Muskegon as the city that built Chicago due to its huge influence and reliance on the lumber (timber) trade.  Needless to say that was what Charles Hackley and Thomas Hume were involved in.

Hunts' Guide

Victorian love of ornament may have reached a new height in the 1888 home of Muskegon’s great benefactor and richest lumber baron, Charles Hackley. Together with the house of his partner next door and the elaborate, prominent carriage house they share, it forms a remarkable urban ensemble, almost Oriental (we thought it Russian) in its turretted silhouette and rich colors and textures. Houses of this size and splendor were usually made of brick or stone, but Hackley and Thomas Hume, his friend and business partner since 1875, built with the material that made their fortunes. It is said to have taken years for German woodcarvers to finish the Hackley House’s fanciful, fascinating carvings of birds, dragons, bats and a portrait of Hackley himself.”

Taken from Hunt’s Guide to West Michigan (above).

Carriage House

The Prominent Carriage House

Charles Hackley

Charles H. Hackley carved in wood

Bat carving

Bat Carving

Hackley Fireplace

The Hackley Carved Fireplace

Ornate Room

Ornate walls, ceiling and door in the Hackley House

Hackley Stairs

Staircase at The Hackley House

Wedding preparations

The Hume House was being Prepared to Show a Wedding Party

Charles Hackley was a generous benefactor to the city of Muskegon and many buildings and sites still survive today as evidence of this. We visited the park, the library and the art museum, all very near the houses, but there’s also a hospital, a school and other philanthropic institutions.

Hackley Library

The Hackley Library

Library poster

Welcome to The Hackley Library – the Hackley Park is behind

Hackley Library 1

Hackley Library 2

Inside The Hackley Library Today

Glass Floor

The first floor mezzanine has a glass floor to allow as much natural light into the building as possible.

Art Museum

The Muskegon Museum of Art

Oak Park : Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds

The Chicago suburb of Oak Park is probably best known for its connections with Frank Lloyd Wright. I mentioned his Home and Studio are here in a previous post and also a large number of fine examples of his work. Twentieth century novelist Ernest Hemingway was born on Oak Park Avenue in 1899 so I decided to visit his home and museum to find out more about ‘Papa’. He left Oak Park as a teenager for a world of adventure and I’m not sure he ever came back.  My Michelin Chicago Guide says “He later derided the conservative suburb for its ‘wide lawns and narrow minds'”.

North Oak Park Ave

North Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park

Hemingway Museum

The Hemingway Museum

To get to Oak Park I took the bus down Michigan Avenue to the Loop business district and then the Green Line El Train to Oak Park Avenue. Straight up from the station, on Oak Park Avenue itself, and just a few minutes walk from it, is the Hemingway Museum. This is the place to find out all about the novelist and his life but for the tour of his birthplace you need to book a ticket in advance. Luckily I was able to join the next tour.

Hemingway Birthplace

Ernest Hemingway Birthplace, 339 North Oak Park Avenue

The birthplace is just another 5 minutes walk along the same avenue of gracious homes and low-rise apartment buildings. The tour was as interesting to me for the guide (whose home it now is) as for what I found out about Hemingway. Still, he (the guide/owner) had managed to furnish the house with some original artefacts and furnishings and all the rest seemed very much in keeping with the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Breakfast Table

Breakfast with the Hemingways


The Room where ‘Papa’ was born

We learned that Ernest and some of his siblings were born in this house but that his family actually lived diagonally across the street and that this house was the home of his maternal grandparents.

Photographs around  the House and the Museum show Ernest and his elder sister looking remarkably alike.

Hemingway family photo

Ernest (left) and Marcelline (right) with their Grandfather

“The two were a year apart in age, and their mother early on decided to raise them as twins, even to having them photographed in matching gowns and bonnets in the style of the day. Whatever injury Ernest felt he had suffered from such embarrassments, it may have been Marcelline who made the greater sacrifice: she was kept out of school for a year so they would be in the same class, and, despite her own considerable talents, she seems to have willingly stood in his shadow a good deal of her early life.”

[Idaho Librarian book review]

I can’t say I’m very familiar with Hemingway’s work. I’ve read his “A Moveable Feast” and didn’t really warm to him. Recently I read “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain a novelised version of his life with Hadley Richardson, his first wife. Oh, and I saw him in the Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris

After the House Tour I made my way back to the Museum. There was lots to read and look at and time was getting on so I had skip through much of the Museum. Here are some pictures of the displays and film posters.

Nick Adams display

Ernest Hemingway’s early trips to Michigan made a big impression on him and he relates lots of his own adventures in The Nick Adams Stories. Nature had a huge influence on many of his works.

Family picture

Hemingway with his family

Film posters

In Love and War

Hemingway-related Cinema Posters

On my return to the train back to Chicago I diverted briefly to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple on Lake Street. It was already closed to visitors that day. Read about the Temple and the current restoration programme here.

Unity Temple

Unity Temple

Landmarking in North Devon : Anderton House

Staying at Anderton House in North Devon these last few days reminded me of visits that I have recently made to Modernist houses and also sleeping in the single study bedroom took me back to my student days at Hull University in the 1970s.

2 Willow Road

2, Willow Road, NW3, 1939 [National Trust]

Villa Savoye

The Villa Savoye, 1928-1931


High Cross House, 1932 [National Trust]


The Lawns, student residences, Cottingham near Hull [Source]

The Lawns was built in the 1960s and I lived there for two years between 1970 and 1972. The Villa Savoye, High Cross House and 2, Willow Road were both built in the 1930s and seemed way ahead of their time. Even more ahead of their time are the American houses designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, an influence on the architect of Anderton House, Peter Aldington.

Anderton House on arrival

Here is how the Landmark Trust introduce Anderton House (above) on their website and their justification (if any were needed) for adding this unusual property to their portfolio:

AH and Goodleigh sign

Anderton House appeals to anyone who enjoys modern architecture or wishes to be transported back to the 1970s. The integration of inside and outside spaces makes the open plan living area a grandstand for the changing lights on the Devon hills beyond. A large open plan kitchen, dining and sitting area are carefully planned on two levels with furnishings that evoke the period.

Anderton House Sitting room 3

AH sitting room

The Sitting Area

Anderton House dining area

Dining Area overlooked by the Kitchen

B and W pics Anderton House 2

Original black and white photos of Anderton House (reproduced in “Aldington, Craig and Collinge” by Alan Powers)

For all its modernity, Anderton House is as much at home in the rolling Devon landscape it overlooks as the longhouses that inspired its profile. It is an exceptional example of uncompromisingly modern design executed in simple materials. The roof appears to float cleverly over the spacious open plan living area with its sliding glass walls. The house retains all its contemporary materials and detailing and is furnished to match.

Anderton House the hall

The Hall linking ‘public’ with ‘private’ areas

Anderton House original photo of hall

Photo of the Hall from the Kitchen in “Aldington, Craig and Collinge”

Buildings of any age can find themselves at risk. As a building designed by a living architect, Anderton House was a new departure for us when we acquired it in 2000. We chose it for all the reasons we usually apply to older buildings and happily caught it before changing tastes had been allowed to blur its clean lines or site drainage problems to damage its fabric. It is listed Grade II*.”

Even before staying here I had always thought it an excellent choice.