|Edition Seventy Five|
A really exquisite French Sèvres butter dish and cover, exquisitely decorated with hand painted bouquets of colourful flowers. This charming butter dish is clearly marked on the underside of the base plate with interlaced 'L' of the famous Sèvres factory. Inside of the interlaced 'L's is the date letter 'M', equating to 1765.The circular butter tub, which is in the form of a butter 'piggin' with two raised side handles, is actually part of the base plate as one piece. Then there is a cover to the butter tub which has two cut outs for it to fit between the two handles, thus preventing it from slipping off.
On the underside of the base plate, on the inside of the foot rim, is the tiny blind hole, which is from where the plate was hung in the kiln during firing - a detail to be found on Sèvres manufacture.
This absolutely beautiful butter dish and cover is in excellent condition. What a lovely addition this would be to any tea table for serving butter for those scones, muffins or crumpets.
More details of this item and other tea related antiques can be found by visiting my web site at www.TeaAntiques.com.
Boughton House in Northamptonshire has been in the same family for approaching 500 years, evolving over time. At the end of the 17th century the Tudor origins of the house were totally transformed to what is very much a French Palace design. Indeed, Boughton House has earned the title of 'The English Versailles', just the sort of place where my Sèvres butter dish antique of the month would look at home. This comparison is easily recognisable in the white stone façade of the house, its window structure and arched open logia along the front elevation. Protruding wings at either end of the main block proclaim the symmetry of this elevation. The house contains, in this block, some very fine early French style rooms, one leading on from the next. Many of these rooms are wood panelled and have hanging some magnificent tapestries. Although the North front is symmetrical, this is not the case with the buildings that form the house behind it. It is a hotchpotch of different styles and periods, round which various additions have been included.
The heart of the house buildings date from the 16th century with parts added in the 1630s and the final French looking North front 1683-1705. One amazing thing about the North Front is that the protruding wing to the left was never finished inside. Going into this part of the house there are bare stone and brick walls and no floors, just an open space to the roof! Boughton remains very much a lived in family home, currently by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensbury. They are direct descendants of the Montagus who first started living in the Manor house here in 1528. This early house grew, to include internal open courtyards and adapting to meet the needs of its owners and the styles of the period. So why was one wing of the grand house design never completed? It was begun as a project by Ralph, the 1st Duke, but his son, John, the 2nd Duke preferred to spend his time and money developing a formal garden. This does at least leave us with a valuable insight into how these houses were constructed. After John died in 1749, the house was inherited by his daughter Mary. She married a neighbour, the Earl of Cardigan. From then there were various marriage connections bringing wealth and other houses and estates into the family's ownership. Boughton was no longer the family's main house and went into a quiet slumber throughout the Victorian period. Thus it retains much of its decoration and furnishings from the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
The open seven bay colonnade along the front of the house contains a fine set of carved wood benches from the eighteenth century in the style of William Kent, but are actually the work of George Nix, and made in 1728. Above these on wall brackets are a set of stone busts of Roman emperors. The house is built from local ashlar stone from Weldon, which is about 5 miles North of the site. The house is entered not through the central door within the colonnade, but through a door to the side wing which gives a grander entrance, as the central door leads into a dark corridor before leading into the Great Hall.
The Staircase Hall has a grand stone cantilever staircase with ornate iron railings. The walls are beautifully painted with trompe l'oeil columns and niches with statues in them. On the half landing is a most magnificent French clock on its original free standing plinth. This fine clock is by Balthazar Martinot of Paris and dated c1740. The gilt bronze case in which the clock is housed is the work of Jacques Caffieri. Off the main staircase are a few small ante-rooms and the High Pavilion Bedroom. However, it is to the main line of State rooms along the front of the house, that this staircase would lead the guests. Standing at the top landing of the stairs, you are able to look directly through the state rooms, as a line of doors link one to the other. Thus with all of the room doors open, this open view is to beheld. When King William III came to Boughton, not all the state rooms had been completed. Indeed, the bed in which the King slept was not of a new design built specially, as Ralph would have desired, but a hastily constructed bed from an old French frame. The procession of state rooms begins with the King's Dining room which then leads on through to the Withdrawing room, State Bed Chamber and then a more private Sitting Room. All these rooms retain their original ambiance, with very little in the way of added electric lighting, they are rather dark, grand, but to our modern eye, rather dreary. The floor of the King's Dining room and all the other Great Apartments are of parquet de Varsailles. The geometric shapes of the interlaced blocks provided a beautiful surface that would not have needed to be covered by rugs. The wood panelling of the rooms is painted in what is known as 'Boughton Drab', a dull soft brown colour. The idea of such a drab colour was to show off the brilliance of the painting in their gilded frames and also the brightly coloured finely worked tapestries that adorn these apartments.
The next room, the Withdrawing room, has two monumental tapestries hung on the walls, one at either end of the room. One tapestry shows 'The death of Ananais', the other 'The sacrifice of Lystra, (similar to the tapestries illustrated above from Belvoir Castle). A fine set of contemporary walnut chairs are arranged around the room against the walls. They still retain their original red silk upholstery. A French pier glass, torcheres and marquetry side table are amongst the furniture in this room. Next, the State Bed Chamber, the most impressive room in this procession of rooms, like the others is hung with massive and beautifully coloured tapestries. The original State Bed stands proudly against the back wall, hung round with rich red damask curtains, valance and covers, it has four feathered plumes at each corner made from silvered Ostrich feathers. A matching set of open armed chairs, covered in red silk, are set around the walls of the room. The fourth state room is the formal, private, Withdrawing room. An early house inventory refers to this room as the 'Blue Room', because of its blue damask and gold tassels used for the curtains and wall hangings. However, for many years this room has had the drab panelling on which has hung some French tapestries c1650-60 depicting the story of 'Gombaut and Macee'. A very handsome clock by Boulle, c1690-1695 is among the fine pieces of furniture in this room. A set of seat furniture that includes a settee and some open arm chairs are from the William and Mary period and are covered in a very striking pattern called 'flame-stitch', a sort of 'zigzag' design. The fifth and final state room was originally not designed as a state room but as part of a staircase hall leading up to the upper suite in the East Pavilion. Thus it does not have the same rich parquet flooring of the other state rooms, but a plain wood floor. More fine tapestries adorn the room and some comfortable looking seat furniture. The corner fireplace has on its mantle a set of Blanc de Chine lions, the hard white porcelain of which is contrasted nicely against the drab of the wall panelling.
Making your way back downstairs by a Lime staircase, not as ornate as the Grand Staircase, you wend your way through corridors into a room which houses an enormous collection of armouries and also into the unfinished wing. Within this wing is kept a most unusual metal garden pavilion, the 'Chinese Pavilion', circular in shape with a low domed roof the top of which is perched a dragon. The inside of the pavilion contained seating. Originally, this pavilion stood on the banks of the River Thames in London, in the grounds of the second Montegu house in Whitehall. It can be seen in a Caneletto painting of London, the original of which is in Goodwood House West Sussex, home of the Duke of Richmond, the painting is a view from his London house next to the Montegu's house. Making your way back through the narrow corridors leads in to one of the most impressive rooms of the house, the Great Hall. It is certainly the largest room in Boughton and dates from the early Tudor period of the 16th century. The barrel vaulted ceiling was added in about 1705 by Ralph Montagu, this beautifully painted depicting the 'Apotheosis of Hercules'. At one end he also added a ducal coat of arms proclaiming his position in the aristocracy. Around the walls are a selection of early family portraits, including Sir Edward who first purchased Boughton in 1528. Above these portraits are four more monumental tapestries, c1699. There are four of them in this set and depict the four elements - fire, air, water and earth. Although on first inspection they look like French tapestries, but they are English and the work of John Vanderbank in the style of Charles Le Brun, décor overseer at Versailles. John Vanderbank was the Yeoman Arras-maker at Hampton Court. In this set of tapestries is woven the shield and initials of Ralph Montagu together with his Earl's coronet. Through the tall windows of the Great Hall you look out into 'Fish Court', a courtyard garden with pond and fountain, enclosed by other parts of the house. The garden had been well planted out in white flowers creating a cool space. The Great Hall would certainly have been a place for lavish entertaining, whereas the next room, the 'Egyptian Hall' was actually once the family dining room for more intimate gatherings. The room gets its Egyptian title as it was a room in which a club called the 'Egyptian Society', an antiquities club, met and dined. The club was formed in the 1740s and chaired by Lord Sandwich, a cousin of the 2nd Duke of Montagu.
Next comes a very long 84 foot room called the 'Audit room' and possibly where tenants of the Boughton estate would come to pay their rent and may also have been entertained. Housed in some display cabinets are some fine pieces of Sèvres and Vincennes porcelain from a collection amassed by Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch. The Sèvres dinner service has a light blue ground colour and each piece beautifully painted with colourful floral bouquets and very fine rich gilt decoration. This must have been an impressive service to have seen laid out on a huge dining table. In the centre of the room an extremely long table, this a shovel-board games table where pewter plates would be slid along its length. This table dates from 1702-3 and there exists the account for it, the princely sum of £3. 17s. 4d. The 'South passage' then leads you across the other side of 'Fish Court' to the 'Rainbow room'. It is worth noting as you pass through the South passage, a painting by Samuel Scott showing a view of the River Thames at Whitehall in which is Montegu House, the house where the Chinese Pavilion once stood.
The 'Rainbow room' is hung with a set of tapestries that all depict wine making and are Flemish, dating from c1665. Within this room stands some important French furniture. In the centre of the room a bureau plat which is the work of Andre Charles Boulle himself. On this bureau stands a portrait of Louis XIV and also in the room is a portrait of Marie Antoinette, the very two you would expect to see in a house labelled as the 'English Versailles'. It is worth noting a pair of porcelain swans with ormolu stands made at the Meissen factory c1750, commissioned by Madame de Pompadour. Next to the 'Rainbow room' is the 'Morning room', hung like the Rainbow room with tapestries, but this time relating to the harvesting of various fruits, not just grapes. The harvest is being undertaken by playful cherubs and the set is known as 'The naked boys'. In one of the tapestries there is one rather naughty cherub, relieving himself from the top of a tree! A comfortable looking pair of sofas are in this room, so an ideal place in which to relax, as opposed to the other much more formal rooms. Above the fireplace hands a portrait of the children of Charles I. The 'Drawing room' is the penultimate room of the tour and in my mind the prettiest room in the house. Decorated in soft yellow tones it contains some delicate looking saloon type furniture, with gilt wood frames and delicate floral upholstery. There is a fantastic set of 40 grisaille portraits by Sir Anthony van Dyke, these painted in oils on oak panels.
Finally, the 'Little hall' which today forms the meeting place for guests and the family, it being a central hub of the house. In the stable block of the house, which was added in 1704 by Ralph, there is a horse drawn carriage from c1830, this belonging to the family and has on its doors the family's coat of arms with ducal coronet. Also housed in the stable is a collection of old gardening tools and implements and some very old fire extinguishers and fire insurance plaques.
The second half of the stable block houses a restaurant which serves some very good home-made cakes. I was informed by a friendly member of the staff, Marvin from Mauritius, that all the cakes were made by students at the 'Institute Training College' and very good they were too. I had a delicious scone and a slice of ginger cake before continuing a tour of the grounds. There is a lot of work obviously being undertaken to bring the gardens back to their former glory. The original garden that Ralph had designed at the beginning of the eighteenth century, naturally followed the formality of Versailles. Designed by a Dutchman, Van der Meulen, it had features including fountains, parterres, canals and water basins. Although much of this formal detail is lost, the outline structure is still visible and would be a fascinating project to have it reinstated. The old walled garden now houses a plant centre, where you may be able to find a plant to take away with you to remind you of your visit. Boughton is certainly and interesting house to visit. It is unusual in its French style in the heart of England. The guides in the house rooms are both very informative and friendly to the visitor, which always helps to make for an enjoyable and memorable visit.
It is worth taking a little look at the nearby village of Geddington, for in the centre of the village stands 'Eleanor Cross'. Eleanor of Castile was the wife of King Edward I of England (1239-1307). Eleanor died in 1290 in Nottinghamshire on 28th November. Her funeral cortege made its way to Westminster in London. At each overnight resting place her grieving husband had a memorial cross erected. Thus the cross in Geddington. There is a link with Boughton house in that the Montagu's were descendants of Edward I and Eleanor. This lineage is heralded in a few places within Boughton, including a huge stone fireplace in the 'Little Hall, on which are carved all the family coats of arms dating back to this time. A coat of arms is also to be seen within the pediment of the stable block archway.
Tel: +44 (0)1536 515731
Click here for Local Map
Map courtesy of www.streetmap.co.uk
On a visit to Kensington Palace, London in January, I took afternoon tea in a favourite place at the Palace 'The Orangery'. This beautiful red brick building was built in the beginning of the Eighteenth century for Queen Anne as her Orangery. Now it is a very light and delightful restaurant in which to savour the pleasures of an afternoon tea. As well as their fine range of delicious cakes and scones, I can now report that they are serving a range of 'Tregothnan' teas.
In 2006, I was fortunate to be shown round the Cornish Tregothnan tea growing estate, the first of its kind in England. It is good to see that it is now reaching some very good restaurants where the public can now try the first English grown teas for themselves.
If you find yourself visiting Kensington Palace, then I recommend taking afternoon tea in 'The Orangery' and trying some Tregothnan tea. I am sure that you will not be disappointed.The Orangery Kensington Palace Kensington Gardens London W8 4PX
To review past newsletters, just follow this link:
To subscribe to this free newsletter - Click here