Wednesday 26 October 2016

Colefax and Fowler and the Yellow Room

For those who know it, the Yellow Room at 39 Brook Street/22 Avery Row is one of the most iconic interiors in London. It was first leased by John Fowler in 1944. I was first taken to see the room when I was very young by my father, who has always admired the room - and tried to imitate in various houses over the years. The room was further brought to life for me by a friend of mine, the interior decorator Elizabeth Winn, whose aunt was Nancy Lancaster. Mrs Lancaster would let Elizabeth use the room for soirees when she was a young lady in London. Elizabeth used to speak with delight of the candlelit interior and the string quartets she would get to play for the evening. All this in a room Mrs Lancaster called her 'bed-sit'!

                          The Yellow Room in the late 80s

Now to the room itself. It was, firstly, the creation of Jeffry Wyattville and, latterly, of Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler. It is fourteen metres long, though seems larger thanks to Fowler's clever use of mirrors, which are set into blind arches surrounding the door architraves. There are also mirrors set into the backs of the window shutters which, at night with the shutters closed, give the room another fantastic dimension. The yellow of the walls was probably intended by Fowler to shock - gloss paint at the time was viewed as out of fashion and rather non-U. The colour was supposed to have been suggested to Nancy by Paul Phipps. Long thought to have been painted by Fowler himself, the swags above the cornice at either end of the room were actually the work of George Oakes.

The Yellow Room in the late 80s

The Yellow Room in October 2016

The curtains in the Yellow Room - the outer curtains, which are made of unlined yellow silk taffeta, are held by bows from which hang two-toned ropes and tassels, in bronze and amber yellow.

I went into the Yellow Room for the last time, in its present incarnation, two weeks ago. By good fortune I met there the inimitable archivist Barry McIntyre. He knew Mrs Lancaster, as well as Elizabeth Winn. He told me about Fowler's pink wall in the courtyard, which Mrs Lancaster hated so much that she didn't speak to him for a whole week. He said that Mrs Lancaster was also a great tease, and poor old John Fowler would take the bait and get frightfully put-out. All this going on while the 'bed-sit' was one of the smartest salons in London. Laughter, teasing, gossip, brilliance and good taste - all in one wonderful room over so many years. God bless Colefax and Fowler and the seventy-two glorious years they have had at Brook Street. Let us all hope that the new custodians of this precious chamber know how lucky they are!

Barry McIntyre in the Yellow Room - October 2016

Thursday 20 October 2016

The Young Georgians

2008 trip to Bellamont House and Poundbury, Dorset - Ben Pentreath far left next to Oliver Gerrish

I re-founded The Young Georgians in 2002. In its last incarnation it had been led by Ben Pentreath, Orlando Rock and others. I had missed my grades to study History of Art at Cambridge, so was due to start my vocal studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I was very sad that I would no longer be studying my great passion - architectural history. John Cornforth, who was a dear friend of my family, came up with the idea of my contacting the Georgian Group. So, with excitement in my heart, I wrote to the Chairman, Lady Nutting. I was then sent to meet Robert Bargery, who had just started as Secretary. I was then given the honour of setting up The Young Georgians, which was kicked-off by a party with speeches by me (nervously) and Professor John Wilton-Ely. Then followed a great number of visits and events for fourteen years, ending with a wonderful event with the Historic Houses Association at The Mall Galleries in summer 2016.

Radburne Hall

The first Young Georgian trip took place on a cold October day in 2002 to Radburne and Ogston Halls, both in Derbyshire. Fifteen of my friends supported me and braved the frost. 
Ogston is, on the face, extremely un-Georgian. A scratch or two below the Victorian surface reveals a neat Georgian villa by Derbyshire's own Robert Adam (and often confused with him!!) -  Joseph Pickford of Derby. Radburne, which has even home to the same family for nearly a millennium, is acknowledged to be one of the finest mid Georgian country houses in England. Jill Chandos-Pole, the inimitable chatelaine of Radburne, showed the house with the energy of someone a third of her age (she was then in her mid-nineties). She had really saved the house in the 1950s when she managed to secure a deal with Nestle for some outlying land on the estate. She then brought in John Fowler, whose work she preserved in deep respect beneath numerous blue and white gingham throws. On another occasion when I took the YGs to Radburne she showed the kitchen (converted from the old formal dining room) cupboards with their sloping tops with glee - 'girls, look at these - so sensible and so much easier to dust'...!
I took the Georgian Group to Radburne on three occasions - twice with the YGs and once with the American Friends, the Derbyshire trip I helped to plan in 2003.

An extract from The Georgian from 2003

Oliver Gerrish with the American Friends of The Georgian Group at Radburne Hall, Derbyshire - 2003

Self and Jill Chandos-Pole in 2008

The Young Georgians have visited a huge variety of buildings, and even a boat! The smallest field barn in the Peak District can tell us just as much about the Georgians as the most stylish cosmopolitan villa. The Bonsall Field Barn Project, which is based in the little upland village, won a prize at the 2010 Georgian Group Awards - it was a thrill to see a picture of one little barn quickly followed by the enormous newly-cleaned west front of St Paul's!

The Young Georgians outside a field barn in Bonsall, Derbyshire. 2008

From vernacular to very grand - one of the earlier YG trips was to Chicheley Hall, which is a marvellous house thought to have been built by Thomas Archer, but now attributed to that Midland's powerhouse - Francis Smith of Warwick. Lady Nutting was an extremely attentive and good Chairman of The Georgian Group for nearly fifteen years. She and John Nutting were always a great support to the YGs - on this occasion we were given a delicious lunch and were let on to the roof!
From Chicheley we went to an even earlier incarnation of English Classical architecture - Stoke Bruerne Park. Alexander Chancellor showed us the extraordinary pavilions - mini palaces of the most delectable kind!
The Young Georgians at Chicheley Hall, the home of the Chairman Lady Nutting (centre with self)

Young Georgian trip to Shotover and Rousham in 2006 - Sir John Miller, who died later that year, took this young invasion in good spirits!

At Shotover and Rousham, which was a day planned alongside Young Irish Georgian (and YG stalwart) Michael Parsons, we saw two grand landscapes along with the houses themselves. Sir John Miller welcomed us to the grand Pimlico-like house. He inadvertently made a lot of us laugh by brandishing a large and rather phallic blue glass object and asking us what it turned out to be something to put your rings on!
Rousham, the brilliantly imaginative masterpiece of William Kent, is a mini-world of architectural follies. I must go back!

Young Georgians in a temple at Rousham

Godmanchester is an amazing little place - a treasure-trove of architectural delights. At one end of the village is Island Hall and, at t'other end, Farm Hall. Both are wonderful in their unique ways - Island Hall is a vibrant jewel box of colours put together by Christopher Vane Tempest, while Farm Hall is cool, calm and stately. We had a delicious lunch at Island and then went on to meet Professor Marcial Echenique. Farm Hall is surrounded by its own little park - how these two houses must have vied for attention in the past!!

Island Hall - 2010

Lunch at Island Hall

With Marcial Echenique at Farm Hall - 2010

A rainy day at Farm Hall

Young Georgians at Carnfeld Hall

In 2008 I planned the first full weekend visit for the YGs. This was to Derbyshire, and took in Carnfield, Ashford and Casterne Halls, as well as the field barns of Bonsall.
Carnfield was home to the historian and collector, James Cartland. James has the wonderful ability to bring history to life - he also seems to have an enormous amount of random objects. One YG asked about an old pipe on a dusty table - 'oh', James said, 'I have five hundred of those in the attic'. Carnfield has several ghosts - I once stayed there and was, until I finally fell asleep, acutely aware that a footman had been murdered in a closet at one end of the room two hundred years before! 

Amidst the marvelous clutter at Carnfield

Here we are at Ashford Hall

Ashford was home to the Oliviers, who were very kind to us and showed us around this mid-Georgian masterpiece with patience and aplomb. The house is one of Joseph Pickford of Derby's neatest and most stately houses - but, in this case, the house is outdone by the nearby gardener's cottage, which masquerades as a fully-fledged Temple of the Winds.

The evening after Ashford was spent singing Kareoke (mostly Britney Spears) at the King's Head, Bonsall. A week later the Prince of Wales asked me about the YGs at a do at the Ritz for the Georgian Group's measured-drawing prize - I told him about the karaoke - Lady Nutting looked horrified - the Prince laughted and said 'much like what mine get up to'.

Young Georgians do kareoke - the King's Head, Bonsall - 2008

Self with HRH at The Ritz in 2008

On the way into a field barn in Bonsall

After the rather grand and rambling houses the field barns of Bonsall were a fascinating contrast. The field barns aided agriculture and lead mining - some were also once frame-knitters' workshops. It can be quite realistically stated that these little, unassuming buildings were the power behind even mighty Arkwright's endeavours down the hill at Cromford.

At Cromford Mill in 2014

YGs at Houghton Hall, Norfolk - 2004

YGs at Shropham Hall, Norfolk - 2004

At Shropham Hall

YGs at Combermere Abbey, Cheshire - 2005

YGs at Keele Hall, Staffordshire - 2005

YGs at Cholmondeley Castle, Cheshire - 2005

YGs at Ingestre Hall, Staffordshire - 2005

YGs at Ingrestre Hall

YGs at Chillington Hall, Staffordshire - 2005

YGs at Tixall, Staffordshire - 2004

The Georgian in 2004

YGs at Chatsworth, Derbyshire - 2006

At Shilstone, Devon, in 2010 - this is largely a completely new house. It is a tremendously imaginative house, with a potted ready-made history to match

Young Georgian on the lawn at Puslinch, Devon - 2010

At The Vyne (Hampshire), in the rain, in 2010 - I led a combined visit for the older members and the YGs

Me spouting about The Vyne

Chillington Hall, Staffordshire - 2011

YGs about to speed off down the avenue at Chillington

YGs at Bishton Hall, Staffordshire - 2011

A large gathering of YGs at Bishton

YGs at Chiswick House with David Jacques - 2012

In the Octagon at Chiswick House

YGs at the House of St Barnabas - 2013

YGs in the Cesspit at 68 Dean Street - 2013

Alec Cobbe plays one of the many instruments to the YGs - Hatchlands, Surrey - 2014


Mirehouse, Cumbria, in 2014

Tea at Mirehouse

Dalemain, Cumbria - 2014

Kit Martin gives a tour at Gunton Park - 2013

Renishaw, Derbyshire - 2013

At Iford Manor, Wiltshire - 2014

Shugborough, Staffordshire - 2014

On 'Unicorn' at Haywood Junction - 2014

YGs on water - on the way to Tixall Lock - 2014

YG lock mistress

The boat ran out of fuel - I had to pull it - yes, I did love my work for the Georgian Group - but pulling a very heavy narrow boat tested my mettle!

YGs at Peterhouse with Professor David Watkin - 2015

YGs in the Drawing Room of William Wilkins' Master's Lodge, Corpus Christi - 2015

Ofcourse - to get younger people involved with heritage and historic architecture there needs to be a social element. There have been umpteen YG parties - Royalists and Ararchists, Nabobs, Chinoiserie and, our main YG fundraiser (which raised £4000 for the work of the Group) a grand Hanoverian Tercentenary Ball at Queen Anne's Gate in 2014. This was mostly a success due to the brilliant YG committee headed by Zuleika Parkin (now my wife - thank you the YGs for bringing us together). I also started a series of concerts of Georgian Music, the first of which was dedicated to the wonderful martin Andrews - a stalwart supporter of the Group's work. My final series of events for the YGs and The Georgian Group was a new group of 'Lectures with Wine' - the first was on Wilton House restored (Dr John Martin Robinson), the second was by Patrick Baty on paint in the London townhouse, and the third was by Amy Boyington on female patronage of country house architecture in eighteenth century England - I am glad that this got Amy involved with the Group, and she is now one of the three new chairmen of the YGs.

Georgian Ball - 2007

YG Christmas Party - 2013

YG Christmas Party - 2013

YG Chinoiserie Ball - 2014

YG Fairytale Ball - 2014. Author Jodi Picoult was our special guest

YGs in Fitzroy Square - 2013

Countertenors at The Georgian Group - self and Raffaele Pe, and the band. 2013

Georgian music at Christimas - Fitzroy Square - 2013

Concert in aid of The Georgian Group by Chelsea Concerts - Holy Trinity, Sloane Square. I organised this to celebrate the Georgian Group's 75th Birthday. It raised £1000 for the work of the Group. I think it helped that we dressed-up. It was vert hot in those wigs!!

The YGs teamed up with the British Library for 'Georgians Revealed' to host the 'Late' - 2014. Sophie Edmonds of Lady Greys was a brilliant driving force behind these initiatives.

Self and a relatively un-Georgian-looking Dan Cruickshank - The British Library - 2014

Self at Zuleika Parkin, who headed the committee of the YG Hanoverian Tercentenary Ball, which raised £4000 for the work of the Group. 2014

Self with Georgian Group Trustees Drs Wolf Burchard and Melanie Doderer-Winkler

Ever-Young Georgian - Nicky Haslam at the YG Hanoverian Ball - 2014

YG Mad Hatter's Summer Party - 2015

Chairman of The Georgian Group,Christopher Boyle QC, and artist Francesca Sanders - YG Summer party 2015

YGs at Syon House - 2013

YGs at Bishton Hall, Staffordshire - 2011

YGs at Chillington Hall, Staffordshire - 2011

YGs at Chatsworth - 2008. The Dowager Duchess, Debo, met us and thought the YGs were a jolly good bunch

2010 - Self at the Collectors' Club, NYC, addressing the American Friends of the Georgian Group to thank them for their support. I also established the American Young Georgians at this time - thanks to Maggie Moore and Korin Mediate

Self with Maggie Moore and Korin Mediate

One of my very proudest moments - being a judge for the Georgian Group Awards - 2013. From left to right; Charlie Cator, Crispin Holborow, Professor David Watkin,Dr John Martin Robinson, self, Lady Nutting and the Marquess of Salisbury 

Dr John Martin Robinson speaks to the YGs about Wilton House - 2015

YGs with JMR - 2015

Amy Boyington's lecture - 2016

Alex Bowring (left) at Amy's lecture - he is one of the three new Chairmen of the new and improved YGs

YG Summer Party - 2015

Self after heaving a harpsichord upstairs at Fitzroy Square - 2014

I have enjoyed fourteen wonderful, fascinating and fulfilling years as Chairman of the Young Georgians. Now, at the grand old age of thirty four I step down and pass the baton on to the three new, and far more educated, Chairmen. I feel very grateful that John Cornforth put me in touch back in 2002. I have enjoyed working with Lady Nutting, Robert Bargery,the new Chairman, the trustees, the staff of The Georgian Group, but, most of all the many hundreds of YGs over the years who bothered to come along and support the events, the Group, and enthuse others about the magical phenominum that is Georgian architecture. In all its variety and gaiety - surely one of the greatest jewels Britain has given the world.

Long Live the Young Georgians!!!

...I wish I were young forever, but now it is someone else's turn ;)

I have kept a diary - I thought that some of the entries were vaguely entertaining.

Excerpts from the diary of the Chairman of The Young Georgians.

Saturday 21st April 2006

Up early and drove to Milton Keynes to pick up various YGs. Car broke down about a mile from Lady Nuttings, but it recovered and soldiered on admirably. At Chicheley Lady Nutting entertained us in a truly princely fashion and spoilt us very much. Afterwards to Stoke Bruerne and to see Alex Chancellor. He was fun, charming and laid back as ever. We arrived late as I'd not realised Stoke Park was up the 'Paint Ball' drive! Tea was very nice.

Break-down on the way to Chicheley

Saturday 9th June 2007

Ditchingham Hall tour - Lady Tamworth had her hand kissed by one Austrian YG and was bowed to by a Chinese member. To Raveningham Hall after - at which the first question to Nicholas Bacon was by Sam N-O; 'did your son go to Stowe?".

Ditchingham Hall

Raveningham Hall

16th July 2007

GG Ball at Christie's. King St. Charles Marsden-Smedley designed the scheme for the decoration. It all looked magnificent. Vauxhall Pleasure Grounds plonked indoors into 2007! The Dining Room had a marvellous buffet covered in silver. Hen and I got our costumes from Angel's. Mine v grand indeed and I found out what it is like to dress to be the centre of attention - Hen says he does it all the time! I led Princess Michael into dinner. One of the YGs stood on her train - she was very cross. Mahiki in full Georgian dress after the party was over.

Self with HRH Prince Micheal of Kent, Lady Nutting and Charlie Cator at Christie's - 2007

YGs in Mahiki post Georgian Ball - 2007

9th October 2007

Well tonight was extraordinary. I read at the GG's 70th anniversary service at St Giles in the Fields. Sat next to John Julius Norwich, Michael Hoare and Lady Nutting in the choir pews on the right. Read well and walked out in the procession behind P Michael of Kent and then was congratulated by the Bishop of London for reading well - who would've thought?!

Saturday 4th April 2008

YG Trip. Renishaw first, which was v sad as dear old Reresby died just a couple of days ago. Good tour and fun lunch. Over to Radburne. Jill C-P on amazing form and the tour was as fun as I'd expected and everyone loved it.


Friday 25th April 2008

Drove to Derbyshire with Orlando and then we broke down - also got exploded on by water filled with anti-freeze! Got there in the end, Katrin was already at the house. 6 hours on the M1!!

Saturday 26th April 2008

YG trip to Ribston and Thirsk Halls. Ribston first - Charlie Dent did a super tour. A grand lunch at General Tarlington then on to Thirsk to see John Bell - who is hilarious about the Gainsborough's of his ancestors.

Ribston Hall

Saturday 31st May 2008

Giles and I drove in his sports car to Pundbury, where Ben Pentreath did a talk and took us round. Ben's buildings are very good. The Crescent is marvellous. Some of the rest is quite interesting. One buiding with a tower looks like a German embassy or a Bavarian town hall. There were 26 in all on the tour. Lunch at the Poet Laureate and then on to Bellamont, Anthony and Harriet Sykes' house, which I loved for its sheer imagination. It is mostly built of breeze blocks.

YG Christmas Party, 6 Fitzroy Square - 2014