Charleston Farmhouse : An Artists’ Home and Garden

Welcome to CF shop

Welcome to Charleston Farmhouse Shop

In some ways very different from Monks House but in other ways similar; on the Friday of our stay we headed to Charleston Farmhouse just a few miles from Laughton Place. It’s a rather more slick presentation in that tickets are sold and one is booked on one of the timed tours which take place at twenty minute intervals throughout the opening hours (just Wednesday to Sunday during the season). No photography is allowed in the house. But like Monks House there is colour inside and out and the garden is relaxed and colourful and again reflected the atmosphere of the house itself.


Charleston Farmhouse

“Charleston is a property associated with the Bloomsbury group. It was the country home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and is an example of their decorative style within a domestic context, representing the fruition of over sixty years of artistic creativity.

In 1916 the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant moved to Sussex with their unconventional household. Over the following half century it became the country meeting place for the group of artists, writers and intellectuals known as Bloomsbury. Clive Bell, David Garnett and Maynard Keynes lived at Charleston for considerable periods; Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry were frequent visitors. Inspired by Italian fresco painting and the Post-Impressionists, the artists decorated the walls, doors and furniture at Charleston. The walled garden was redesigned in a style reminiscent of southern Europe, with mosaics, box hedges, gravel pathways and ponds, but with a touch of Bloomsbury humour in the placing of the statuary.


… humour in the placing of the statuary

“It’s most lovely, very solid and simple, with … perfectly flat windows and wonderful tiled roofs. The pond is most beautiful, with a willow at one side and a stone or flint wall edging it all round the garden part, and a little lawn sloping down to it, with formal bushes on it.” — Vanessa Bell

Charleston Pond

The pond is beautiful

The rooms on show form a complete example of the decorative art of the Bloomsbury artists: murals, painted furniture, ceramics, objects from the Omega Workshops, paintings and textiles. The collection includes work by Auguste Renoir, Picasso, Derain, Matthew Smith, Sickert and Eugène Delacroix.” [Adapted from here]

We arrived by 12 noon, when tickets go on sale, and our tour was booked for 1.20pm. In the meantime there was a delicious shop to mooch around and a video to watch. There is a cafe but it’s very limited in what it serves.

Our House Tour with Meg focused on A Day in the Life of Charleston, taking us on a journey of daily life in the house which included the Charleston kitchen not normally visited on other days. In fact the gardener actually lives in the house and it is his private kitchen.

From Charleston we headed for the nearby village of Berwick where we had lunch at Cricketers Arms and afterwards visited the Church of St Michael and All Angels where Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell decorated the walls with murals. The church itself had a rather unusual feel not just because of the famous murals but because in contrast to so many churches the windows are plain glass.

All the scenes are set in the local Sussex countryside and they were painted, for the most part, during the Second World War and they used members of their families and their Bloomsbury circle as models.


The Nativity by Vanessa Bell

A Sussex trug

The Nativity Close-up : A Sussex Trug


Christ in Majesty by Duncan Grant


The Annunciation by Vanessa Bell




Just Walkin’ the Dog in Belsize Park and Blue Plaque Land

Until Saturday the weather had been atrocious and we have been walking out in the wet and wind which is not conducive to photo-taking. But then the weather changed. The sun came out and the sky turned blue and I have managed to capture some local landmarks here in the Swiss Cottage/Belsize Park area of northwest London.

belsize Village

Belsize Village Square

Here is the local “Banksy” but it isn’t a Banksy – read all about it here.


Make Tea not War in Belsize Village

Fire Station

Even the local Fire Station is an Arts and Crafts building. It closed down last year. I expect it will be converted into apartments.

Primrose Hill

Then along with the world and his wife we headed for Primrose Hill summit to study the view, watch the kites and rub noses with other dogs (the dog, not me!).

Primrose Hill view

It’s a pretty impressive view when you get up there.

Regents Park Road

Regents Park Road

One of my favourite streets in London Regents Park Road has everything : bookshop, dress shop, cafes and restaurants, interiors and fabrics shops, bread and patisserie shops and delis. I also heard a lot of French being spoken so seems to be popular with French families.

Engels House

Friedrich Engels [1820-1895], political philosopher, lived here (122 Regents Park Road) from 1870 to 1894

St Mark's Crescent

Two neighbouring plaques in St Mark’s Crescent

On the right, number  11, (pale yellow house) lived Arthur Hugh Clough [1819-1861], poet and author of Persephone Books reprint “Amours de Voyages” from 1854-1859. And in the pale blue painted house with the plaque lived the historian and broadcaster A.J.P. Taylor [1906-1990] from 1955 to 1978. Next door, at the dark grey painted house number 14, is the plaque commemorating William Roberts [1895-1980], artist, who lived, worked and died here 1946-1980.

Regents Canal 2

The Regents Canal

Regents Canal 1

The Regents Canal

23 Fitzroy Road

23 Fitzroy Road, the green painted house near the middle of this row, was the home of W.B. Yeats [1865-1939] Irish dramatist and poet. It was also the house where, on 11 February 1963, the American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath [1932-1963] apparently took her own life. There is no plaque to explain this. Her plaque is attached to the nearby house at 3, Chalcot Square where she had lived from 1960 to 1961.

War Memorial Primrose Hill

War Memorial by St Mary’s R.C. Church, Primrose Hill

Swiss Cottage

And here is Ye Olde Swiss Cottage itself

The Old King’s Highway : Route 6A Cape Cod

The final nine nights of our September New England holiday were spent on Cape Cod at one of our very favourite places : The Lamb and Lion Inn at Barnstable. This year was our fourth visit but this shrank in insignificance when we met two couples who had been visiting for their 18th and 23rd times respectively.

The Lamb and Lion Inn right on the 6A

So, I was pretty familiar with the Old King’s Highway but have only on more recent visits realised the full historical significance of this road. When you cross the Sagamore Bridge you join Highway 6 the main dual carriageway that links the Sagamore with Provincetown 72 miles away. However, to reach the Lamb and Lion and follow a slower pace and drop down a gear or two you need to take the Route 6A to the north.

The 6A leaves the 6 at Sagamore and rejoins it just west of the town of Orleans and in total the OKH is 34 miles long and traverses seven towns and is just yards from the beach in some places. In fact it is hard to realise that you are so near the seaside as you drive along but turn left (north) down almost any lane as you drive from Sagamore to Orleans and you’ll find  sandy beaches hugging Cape Cod Bay or, nearest to us at the L&L, the lovely sheltered Barnstable Harbour.

Sunset at Barnstable Harbor Beach

When we stay on Cape Cod we have a very limited “comfort zone” so the part of The Old King’s Highway that I’m going to tell you about is just that between Barnstable and Dennis. I just checked on Mapquest and it’s a distance of about 11 miles.

I have tried to find out exactly which “Old King” the highway is named for but it’s not mentioned in the bits of literature that I have collected and no sign on “Google” either. I assumed King George III but it’s much older than that – a late 17th century extension of the King’s Highway from Plimouth. The whole of it is designated a Regional Historic District and is the largest such district in America. It is also one of America’s most scenic highways.

This 34 mile roadway winds through 7 cape towns, past hundreds of historic sites and landscapes, including farmsteads, cranberry bogs, salt marshes, sea captain’s homes, and village greens.”

In addition there’s America’s oldest library (The Sturgis Library), a famous artist’s home (Edward Gorey), a Coastguard Museum, a unique secondhand bookshop (Parnassus Books), an Historic New England property (The Winslow Crocker House), great eateries and interesting, one-of-a-kind shops and galleries, roadside fruit and veg. stalls (we recommend the heritage tomatoes), shipyards and churches and cemeteries and all of those just within our 11 mile zone.

Historic House plaque – one of very many along the 6A

Deacon John Hinckley House (one of many historic properties along 6A)

Thomas Hinckley Lived Near Here – such signs abound on the 6A!

Inside The Sturgis Library, Barnstable

The Trayser Coastguard Museum, Barnstable

Hallet’s Soda Fountain

My ice cream soda is ready!

Parnassus Books (so much more inside!)

The Winslow Crocker House

(Sea) Captain Bang’s Hallet House

Edward Gorey House

Sesuit Harbor Cafe

Sesuit Harbor

Leighton House in Kensington.

Today I met up with my sister and friend and visited Leighton House in Kensington. It was a beautiful day – unseasonably warm – and we met at Holland Park Tube Station. It’s short walk from there to Holland Park itself. Once inside the park you could be miles away from the busy metropolis that is central London. It was easy to forget that we were only just in Zone 2!

There’s a modern cafe in the middle of the park and it was here that we stopped for coffee (or, in my case, tea) and a chat before heading to the house.

Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830 – 1896), was born in Scarborough, my favourite Yorkshire seaside resort. His father was a doctor and so was his grandfather. In fact his grandfather was primary physician to the Russian royal family in St Petersburg. He amassed a large fortune and because of this Leighton was cushioned for the rest of his life. Although his parents were unhappy with his choice of career they agreed to it and expected him to become “eminent in art”. His successes were many – not least that Queen Victoria bought his first major painting and in 1878 he was appointed President of the Royal Academy. On his death his sisters ensured that the house was left to the nation, or at least to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

As usual no photography is allowed in the house. You enter a huge staircase hall, narcissus hall and the fabulous Arab hall. Leighton was a consummate collector of things Middle Eastern – tiles, textiles, ceramics, woodwork and other crafts collected on his travels – and art – from paintings by  Corot and Tintoretto to his contemporaries G. F. Watts, John Everett Millais and William de Morgan. Despite all the oriental artefacts the house struck me as rather spare and un-Victorian. There’s a lovely big garden at the back but it’s closed in winter. I noticed that they also plan some entertaining events. There’s an Operatic Evening and a Carol Singing evening coming up in December.

For lunch we headed down High Street Kensington to Whole Foods Market where Thanksgiving was in full swing!