Nov 20, 2014



Our second stop in England this fall took us to Cambridge. Here we include just a sampling of the libraries and homes we visited there.

One of our first stops, and certainly a most breathtaking one, was King’s College Chapel (shown at left and above) where we took in the magnificent vaulted ceiling, the largest fan vault in the world. The Gothic Chapel at the college founded in 1441 by King Henry VI was completed in 1515 by John Wastell. The stained glass windows date from the first half of the 16th century.

We also visited Trinity College and the Wren Library. The photo at right shows members of the Trust gathered outside of Trinity College.

The Wren Library at Trinity College was another building designed by Christopher Wren whose work we first observed in Oxford as mentioned here. Completed in 1695, the library currently houses manuscripts and printed books that were in the library prior to 1820. In addition, the library is home to special collections, including 1250 medieval manuscripts, the Capell collection of early Shakespeare editions, many books from Sir Isaac Newton’s library and his personal notebook, the Rothschild collection of 18th century English literature, an autographed collection of poems by John Milton, and A.A. Milne’s manuscripts of Winnie-the-Pooh and The house at Pooh Corner.

The library, the interior of which is shown at left, was one of the first to include large windows that would allow for plenty of reading light. The interior also features limewood carvings by Grinling Gibbons and plaster cast busts of notable writers. In addition, there are marble busts, most of which were carved by Louis-Francois Roubiliac.

That same day we toured the Fitzwilliam Museum and had the pleasure of a private look at the storage and furniture collections.

The museum was designed by George Basevi and built in 1837 by C.R. Cockrell in the neo-classical style. Upon the death of Viscount Fitzwilliam in 1816, his library and art collection was bequeathed to Cambridge University, and the collection is now housed in this museum. Included in the slideshow below are photos of the museum itself as well as some of the objects we saw. The first is an Italian chest from the 17th century and possibly from Venice or Crete. It is made of Cypress and decorated with biblical subjects that were first drawn with a reed pen and then revealed by cutting the background away. The cabinet shown is Flemish, from Antwerp ca. 1640, and is made of ebony and oak panels and painted in oils with ivory and mirror glass. The two doors and underside of the lid show episodes from the story of The Prodigal Son, possibly by Frans de Momper (1603-1660). Behind the central door lies a “perspective,” which was an illusion created by a chequered floor and mirrors, a feature common to 17th century Antwerp cabinets.

Our first day in Cambridge would not have been complete without a trip down the River Cam to take in the Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s College and was topped off with dinner at Peterhouse College.

Bridge Peterhouse

Left: The Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s College
Right: Peterhouse College

While staying in Cambridge, we also headed northeast to visit Blickling Estate, one of England’s great Jacobean houses. The house was built in 1612-24 by Robert Lyminge for Sir Henry Hobart. Lyminge also designed Hatfield. Before Lord Lothian left Blickling Estate to the National Trust’s care, the manor had been home to the Boleyns, to Sir Henry Hobart, 1st Baronet, Lord Chief Justice to James I, and to Lord and Lady Suffield. The estate also houses the RAF Oulton Museum.

Home to a wonderful collection of furniture and paintings, the house also features a Pre-Raphaelite frieze painted by J.H. Pollen in 1850 above the bookcases in the Long Gallery, which was converted into a library in 1745 (shown at left). The library collection is known for the famous Blickling Homilies, one of the earliest extant examples of English vernacular writings, as well as the Lothian Psalter, an 8th-century illuminated psalter.

Not far from Blickling Estate, we visited Holkham Hall, an active family home of the Earl of Leicester and his wife and four young children. At Holkham Hall we received a tour that included the library and state rooms with Dr. Suzanne Reynolds.

This Palladian style home was designed by William Kent and Lord Burlington and has not been altered much since its completion in 1762. The Great Hall includes marble pillars and alabaster and classical sculpture. Art in the house includes works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Poussin, Claude, and Gainsborough. The Long Library, which was designed by William Kent, is 54ft long and 18ft wide.

Before settling into our last destination in Tetbury, which we will cover in our final post about the England Study Trip Abroad, we visited Claydon House and Blenheim Palace. We had the pleasure of seeing the lavish 18th century interiors of Claydon House, home to the Verney family for more than 550 years. Most interesting was the Chinese room, which features imported wallpapers and textiles, porcelain, and screens and lacquered furniture. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the house, so we have only exterior photos to share.

Our last stop while staying in Cambridge was Blenheim Palace. Presented to the first Duke of Marlborough after he defeated Louis XIV in 1704, the palace was built by Sir John Vanbrugh from 1705-1722, and consists of two high baroque stories built around a vast courtyard. Among the items housed inside are mementoes of Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim Palace.

About The Decorative Arts Trust Bulletin

Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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