The Pursuit of Love and More
Well, if it was good enough for Marianne Faithfull…
The Pursuit of Love and More
Well, if it was good enough for Marianne Faithfull…
A Day at the Face Track
Amidst the pandemonium that is the fashion show backstage, it’s impossible not to every so often glimpse the beautifully suffused light seeping through the stained glass windows, like a carpet of crushed blue sapphires. For one day a year, Freemason’s Hall in Covent Garden becomes a Cathedral of Couture. Later as the sun goes down, all eyes are on the catwalk, not on a skylight twinkling high above like a yellow sapphire encrusted in the ceiling.
A Fantasia of Art
Louise Harpman, architect, urban designer and Professor of Architecture, Urban Design and Sustainability at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualised Study: “I love your flat, and it seems that we both share a fascination with designers who strive for a sense of Gesamtkunstwerk. I wonder if you have deep plum coloured smoking jackets for your guests?!”
The late Min Hogg, Founding Editor of The World of Interiors and member of the Irish Georgian Society London: “I think your flat looks lovely. The rooms are nice and tall. Purple is just not used enough – I adore it!”
“My wife Karine has the eye for colour,” says John Baker gazing round the chocolate brown ground floor lounge bar. “We met in Luxembourg. Having lived on the Continent for around 20 years, we are looking to bring the food dishes that we loved over to the British Isles. We want to establish the sort of place we would love to come to! St Ives is lovely but very touristy. Our ethos is we want to be part of the community, to be local. That’s why we’ve chosen Truro.”
Moules frites arrive in a newspaper made of china. Quirkiness is a feature of the interior from a tailor’s dummy to an outsized print of Sir Winston Churchill. Strategically placed jewellery and giftware are for sale. Upstairs are six dining rooms of varying sizes and aspects holding up to 50 guests. It’s all very cosily elegant and elegantly cosy. They had a good canvas to work with though. JAKS occupies a particularly attractive 1830s end of terrace villa with a south facing garden.
Named Castle Lodge, it is one of many houses in Truro designed by the deaf and dumb architect Philip Sambell for the developer Josephus Ferris. Walsingham Place, a curved street close to Truro Cathedral, is the architect’s best known residential work. Castle Lodge belongs to a group of terraces lining the River Kenwyn. Mostly stuccoed, they have interesting and sometimes idiosyncratic features such as double height pilasters and elaborate glazing patterns. The architect’s trademark is a niche. Indoors, there’s plenty of decorative plasterwork in the main rooms.
“Karine is from Metz in northeastern France,” John relates. “We’ve created a menu that is Continental with a local twist. There’s tarte flambée which is like a very very thin pizza topped with caramelised onions, lardons and cream. And there’s Cornish mussels!” Two of the most adventurous sounding puddings originate from Karine’s part of the world: poire belle Hélène (poached pear with ice cream and hot chocolate sauce) and coupe colonel (lemon sorbet in vodka).
Reverend Andy Rider of Christ Church Spitalfields says, “God’s presence is thicker in ancient churches, through thousands of years of prayers. Step into it.” Truro is Cornwall’s only city and Truro Cathedral is Cornwall’s only cathedral and one of only three cathedrals in the UK with three spires. Designed by John Loughborough Pearson and his son Frank, Truro Cathedral is a turn of the 21st century swansong to Gothic Revivalism. The Old Cathedral School by the same architects, recently converted into an arts centre by Koho Architects, adds to the quadrangular collegiate ambience of the place.
Cream of the Crop
Regally Regency even on a rainy day.
And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time | Washaway on a Rainy Day
The setting of Pencarrow House – the south elevation overlooks a formally laid out garden around a fountain all in a vast green basin – is reminiscent of Curraghmore in County Waterford. It’s an unflowered rationalised greenscape. Coloured planting is reserved for the immediate surrounds of the house. The entrance front is such a classic three storey Palladian design (albeit a late rendition): two bays on either side of a central three bay pedimented breakfront. It found favour throughout the British Isles. Irish Georgian houses featuring this seven bay frontage include Abbey Leix, County Laois | Castle Ward, County Down | Leslie Hill, County Antrim | Stackallan House, County Meath.
An earlier house was mostly rebuilt by the 4th and 5th Baronets in the 1760s and 1770s. The architect of the elegantly symmetric south and east elevations was the illusive Robert Allanson of York. His low profile may be explained in part by him dying aged 38 in 1773. Pencarrow is his legacy. The charmingly asymmetric west (rough slate stone) and north (rougher stone rubble) elevations are clearly older – the Molesworths have been in Cornwall for 600 years or so. There’s lots of fenestration fun on the north elevation with Serliana, blind and false windows. An 1824 engraving of the (smooth stuccoed stone) south and east elevations shows no dentils on the cornice and no pediments over the windows. These were added in 1844 by the 8th Baronet using the Plymouth architect George Wightwick. The interiors date from these periods plus an Edwardian makeover in some quarters by the prolific Kent architect Ernest Newton.
Iona Lady Molesworth-St Aubyn, 15th Baroness, lives at Pencarrow with her second son James and his wife Gillian. Her elder son, Sir William Molesworth-St Aubyn, 16th Baronet, lives at Tetcott Manor in Holsworthy, Devon, a minor – relatively (no pun) speaking – family seat. She says, “The family are hands on with the everyday running of the estate, and together with a great team we keep Pencarrow thriving in the 21st century. You approach Pencarrow House by an impressive mile long woodland drive, passing an ancient fortified encampment and through banks of vibrant rhododendrons, camellias and hydrangeas.”
Lady Molesworth-St Aubyn records, “In 1959 my in-laws, Sir John, 14th Baronet, and his wife Celia Molesworth-St Aubyn moved to a nearby farmhouse and Pencarrow became empty for some 16 years. After much discussion about what to do with the house, including giving it to the National Trust, the only viable option left was to open it to visitors. A decision which, whilst challenging at times, we have never regretted. My husband Arscott left the army in 1969 and soon afterwards we started to make one part of the house habitable again; this included rewiring and replumbing. Due to the enormous cost, this took over five years, and the remainder of the house is, I am afraid, still an ongoing project.”
The gardens cover about 20 hectares of the 600 hectare estate. “The Italian Garden, Rock Garden and main drive were kept tidy, but the rest of the gardens had become an impenetrable jungle and the lake was barely visible,” her Ladyship remembers. “After many long months of clearing by my husband, friends, family and anyone willing to help, it was finally possible to walk all around the American Gardens and across to the Iron Age Fort. The Walled Garden and greenhouses, which during my father-in-law’s time were used to grow tomatoes and chrysanthemums, were turned over to self pick strawberries and raspberries. Nowadays this area has become an excellent location for wedding receptions and other functions.”
She thinks, “Pencarrow’s gardens are extensive and varied. They were designed and laid out by our radical statesman, Sir William Molesworth. He began in 1831 and continued during the intervals of his Parliamentary sessions until his early death in 1855. The green fingered Sir William started by converting the rather dull lawn in front of the house into the beautifully proportioned sunken Italian Garden centring around our fountain.”
Family archivist David Donaldson adds, “Much of the layout of the gardens as we know them today still bear Sir William’s imprint and, thanks to the meticulous records to be found in his Garden Book (still preserved at Pencarrow) we know not only what he landscaped, but also what he planted and where he planted.” An 1832 engraving of the Italian Garden is very recognisable except for shrubs planted in the parterre. A 1908 photograph shows heavier shrubbery and trees in the parterre.
“The house opened its doors to the public for the first time in 1975,” completes Lady Molesworth-St Aubyn, “initially for only two days a week. However, very quickly it proved to be extremely popular and we are now open five days a week and have a shop in the stables. As you wander into the courtyard at the rear of the house you can see three 17th century cottages, one of which we have converted into the Peacock Café.” It’s aptly named: peacocks perch proudly (and nosily) on various first floor windowsills around the house. Banoffee and cream tea chocolate bars are top sellers in the shop.
More Than Many Sparrows
Multi award winning fashion designer Mary Martin took the capital by storm at this year’s Africa Fashion Week London. In a truly electrifying performance – for performance it was, combining art, design, choreography, fashion and music – she set Freemason’s Hall in Covent Garden alight. It may have been Mary’s inaugural men’s collection but the Queen of Couture couldn’t resist adding a showstopping feminine finale. Wrapped in a body stocking covered with one of Mary’s own prints, ‘Slaves in the Woods’, Aidia strutted her stuff to thunderous applause. The crowd went wild!
Only Mary would have her very own soundtrack. Music’s in the veins: her daughter Celetia is a singer songwriter (vocals for Groove Armada; lyrics for Janet Jackson). Freemasons’ Hall rocked hard to an Afrobeats hit by DeJavu. The song? ‘Mary Martin London‘. She acknowledges it’s been a lot of work designing and making her first ever menswear in the space of a few months. “Blood, sweat and tears!” The raunchy collection is dedicated to the 400 year anniversary of the first African slaves landing in America.
One of the designer’s favourite models Howey Ejegi closed the men’s show to yet more thunderous applause. The crowd went even wilder! Mary Martin Men, both on and off the catwalk, is brave, bold, brilliantly conceived. It somehow simultaneously captures movement and silhouette, definition and intangibility, light and shade. Just as she revolutionised the couture dress, so Mary has produced a collection that celebrates the male form through novel and exciting reinventions. The interplay is very very sexy.
Remember Us This Way
In the midst of the boldness and brilliance that is Africa Fashion Week London, Her Royal Highness Queen Diambi arrives peak afternoon with Her Royal Entourage. The African Queen graciously shares her wisdom: “It’s a beautiful day to be alive, to be in London. So I am a female king. I want to give the people of the world the type of entrepreneurship and creativity we have in Africa. The image of the woman in Africa has for too long been dictated by the western idea of beauty. We went into a path copying France and Italy thinking it is only acceptable to wear a suit to a business meeting. But we are very colourful. The time has come – we can be unapologetically African!”
“Africa is really the most ancient continent in the world, the start of civilisation and that includes fashion. Mathematics started in Africa. The fundamental principles of all types of science – architecture, urbanism – have their source in Africa. Check out the pyramids – they’re still standing! Africa is still to be discovered in so many ways. The world is playing catchup with Africa. We don’t have to play catchup – we can take the lead!”
“Today is a great time to be alive. A day of assessment. Now is the time to go back in time, to reclaim our wisdom throughout the centuries. To reclaim where we belong. To determine our own path. To redefine the parameter of our own development and prosperity. Our African image is of great value in terms of a development asset. If we are proud of who we are, wear our motifs and not fit in with the mainframe, then we can also sustain the fashion economy – we can make our own business prosperity.”
“If we are not promoting our own who are we promoting? How we look is a political choice. Experience is something they can never take away from you. They can take your things but not your history. We have to lead by example. We are really one African family – we have an obligation to tear those walls down. We have to start tearing the barriers down.”
“All these things and the fashion bring us together. We are all coming from the same home – my European brothers are not so far from Africa. Africans are not just dark skinned. Africa is the motherland for every being. Look after your mother to be blessed! We are one global economy – we need to be our brothers’ keepers to make it. Together we thrive. I am because you are.” And with that said, the drum rolls and Her Royal Highness Queen Diambi departs into the deep night with Her Royal Entourage.
It is one of the greatest flowerings of Greek Revival architecture in Europe. Yet it wasn’t purpose built: it’s a radical remodelling of an earlier building. This is the story of how a Restoration house in rural Hampshire became a Greek temple (make that two Greek temples: minor and major) and after a few additions and a few subtractions became a theatre and a theatrical backdrop for an opera festival.
“My father bought the estate in 1964,” recalls the Honourable Mark Baring on a private tour of the house (it’s not normally open to the public) accompanied by The Grange Festival’s Chief Operations Officer Michael Moody. “The Grange was out of Baring family ownership for 30 years. As a six year old I remember rooms with huge great pillars and bits of plaster in some disrepair. My father had a sale of contents which included the fireplaces. The stairs were sold and curiously they came back! My great grandfather had sold all the pictures.” In 1975 English Heritage took over the grey elephant that is The Grange. Mark has managed The Grange Estate, which his family own, since 2014.
He relates, “My father the 7th Baron Ashburton bought back the house and park for £157,000. That was for 660 acres and a crumbling house. Big houses were impossible to live in then under taxation rules. The house now gives so much to the feel of the opera!” Michael agrees: “It’s all about the setting in the landscape.” The inaugural opera festival was held on the estate in 1998. Four years later the orangery cum picture gallery (minor Greek temple) was opened as a theatre. Studio E were the architects for the conversion. The conservation architect was John Redmill who cleverly advised reinstating the Robert Smirke façade. “This reconnects the two temples,” John explains, “and acts as a screen to hide the modern building behind.”
When Mark’s ancestor Alexander Baring bought the estate in 1817 he commissioned Robert Smirke to add a single storey west wing and Charles Robert Cockerell to terminate the wing with a conservatory cum dining room (which would later become the orangery cum picture gallery). Robert was a pupil of George Dance and a leading light in the Greek Revival craze. His younger brother Sydney, also an architect, designed several Italianate villas stuccoed to the nines in Kensington Palace Gardens, London.
The main block of The Grange (major Greek temple) – is the work of architect William Wilkins. In 1804 then owner Henry Drummond appointed the trailblazing Greek Revivalist to transform his Restoration house into a Greek temple. The Doric portico (which swallows up the entire east elevation) is based on the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. Michael explains, “This drastic transformation resulted in some windowless rooms!” The introduction of a high entablature meant the servants’ quarters in the attic lost their dormers. Form didn’t always follow function. Henry Drummond wasn’t impressed and sold up.
“The 1664 house was designed by William Samwell, one of Charles II’s three Court architects, for Sir Robert Henley,” says Michael. “It was all about very clever maths. The double height entrance hall was like the hall in the Queen’s House, Greenwich. It was a 27 foot cube. The bedrooms on either side were 18 feet square. The corner closets were nine feet square.” A Running Times Master Sheet is pinned to the wall of the basement kitchen cum dressing room, the last room on the private tour:
“My God is my foundation in whom I serve,” declares fashion designer Mary Martin. And what God given talent she possesses – in reams! Electrifying the catwalks, flooding the fashion spreads and raining down pure glamour on clients in recent years with her haute couture dresses, all that’s left is one small step for a woman, one giant leap for mankind. Yes, the long awaited much anticipated greatly hoped for men’s collection. Tah dah! Mary Martin Men is finally launching! And you saw copyrighted glimpses of it here first. The official landing will be at Africa Fashion Week London.
But first, it’s the Saturday morning Vernissage. Not your ordinary time for a Private View but this is no ordinary designer. The venue? Screw art galleries. Stuff museums. Why it’s Mary’s Victorian townhouse cum fashion house cum studio. A framed music award on the staircase winks at Mary’s past: she was a successful pop music manager. Rhythm is a dancer in the blood. Her brother is Technotronic’s MC Eric of ‘Pump Up the Jam’ fame. There are plenty more awards in the drawing room. More of them later. Lot’s more. A quick peak into the first floor kitchen confirms this is no ordinary house: check out the maquette mannequins and metallic cupboards.
Onwards and upwards to the top floor. Music is blasting, models are changing, agents are calling, photographers are facetiming, and somewhere in the midst of the mayhem Mary emerges, looking sublime and very summery in a wrap dress. The mercury has surpassed 30. Aidia, the Swiss top model and a Mary Martin London favourite, is on her way. The final fittings are next week. Like, hours away.
Time for the big reveal. The inaugural collection of Mary Martin Men commemorates the quadricentary of the first African slaves arriving in America. ‘Slaves in the Woods’ is her principle pattern. She has screen printed it onto vintage silk which itself has an Ancient Egyptian pattern. “Egypt was where it all began,” observes Mary. The joker pattern is used for lining. “I may be the Queen of the Catwalk,” she nods, ”but I like to have a laugh!” Another pattern she uses in the collection is ‘Mary Scissorhands’ featuring female heads as scissor handles.
“It’s all about original ideas,” says Mary, “nothing old fashioned. I’ve taken the Haarlem trousers to another level!” The legging material around the thigh emphasises the male form. The fly is on the outside. “This is the new 2019 fly – on – the – side! It’s amazing!” A man bag in the detachable outsized coat collar is one of many other innovations. Injecting yet more urban chic into the collection is a retro bomber jacket. No show is complete without a Mary Martin London statement dress. Mary goes for it: “The lady is going to look naked! My Slaves in the Woods print will be on a body stocking looking like a tattoo! I’m going to do her hair like Medusa. I’m using my signature fluffy tulle to give her a surreal Afro! I see the visuals in my head. I dream I’m making the freedom woman!”
As always, Mary’s fashion is imbued with multiple meanings and enriched with multilayering. Take the dominant colours (or rather one colour and one lack of colour) of the collection. Mary relates, “I focussed on the art of design and print… it’s a very natural feeling. I researched the Himba Tribe in Namibia. I discovered a lot of orange face paint and hair mud. It was very exciting! Orange is for the vibrance of earth and black is for the unseen missing elements.” Later she will comment, “Orange represents the sun, the happiness outside.” It’s official. Orange and black are the new black.
Remember those awards in the drawing room? Well, what hasn’t Mary won? Numerous International Achievers Awards (Best Female Designer; Fashion Icon 2018, International Achiever 2017, Innovator of the Year 2016), two Fabulous Magazine Outstanding Contributions to Fashion Awards, Cancel Cancer Africa Recognition Award, Inspirational Fashion Couture Special Award 2018, Mercedes Benz African Fashion Festival Best Designer 2015 and Miss Jamaica UK Best Dress 2013. Her most recent prize recognises her growing worldwide status: Scotland’s International Awards Best Fashion Designer 2019.
“It’s been a whirlwind year!” exclaims Mary. “You should always have challenges in life!” As well as launching her first ever men’s collection, she graduated from the University of East London with a Fashion and Textiles BA. “Draw how you can draw,” advised her lecturer Emma Ceary adding, “you have a natural talent!” Another lecturer, Lesley Robertson, told her “I’m really proud of you and all of your achievements.” Dr Sian-Kate Mooney of the University said, “It was an honour to teach you Mary. You have worked hard and listened and learned and have given yourself the gift of knowledge.” Mary danced her way across the stage at the graduation ceremony.
“And that’s the show and that’s my excitement! Thank you Jesus!” praises Mary. She knows those who look to him are radiant. And really, radiance is key to Mary Martin Men. It’s a sumptuously rich collection. There’s more. Things have come full circle. These days Mary may be “styling high class singers” but she herself is the subject of an Afrobeats hit by Déjà Vu.
In another of life’s satisfyingly alliterative moments, we’re punch happy on the Pullman from Paddington to Penzance. Great Western Railway calls it “one of Britain’s best kept secrets”. This is the West Country’s very own Orient Express. Starched linen, silver service, tarted up, it’s quite simply the only way to travel to Cornwall in style. Our dinner arrives – drinks in Didcot, mains past Minehead, puddings through Plymouth:
Soulmates | Gyllyngvase
World class musicians violinist Lana Trotovšek and pianist Maria Canyigueral set the Wigmore Hall alight on Monday night. Such stunningly contained performances. Their recital opened and closed with Beethoven sonatas. A staggering volume of stamina was required to launch into Prokofiev’s demanding Violin Sonata Number 1 in F Minor Opus 80 straight after smashing the rediscovered work Intermezzo Romantique by the 20th century Slovenian composer Lucijan Marija Škerjanc. While Maria is Spanish Catalan, Lana was born in Slovenia but is London based. Afterwards she tells us, “Slovenia is beautiful but London is where it’s at!” The much called for encore was the well chosen Second Movement of Beethoven’s Spring Sonata. What a start to the week! Afterwards, the virtuosic pair arrived in the Wigmore restaurant to a standing ovation. Sitting next to us at the supper, Lana explained, “Wigmore Hall allows you to build up your own programme. I chose Prokofiev as a highlight. He’s very theatrical!” Food for the soul. American writer Marilynne Robinson believes: “the mind is what the brain does… Still, it is the soul that appraises what the mind integrates.” Our week concludes in soul stirring Falmouth, inspired by the roaring spirit of the sea.