I’ve Always Thought You Have A Lovely Face and I Never Praise Anyone Easily
Angelika Taschen scribed 17 years ago in London Hotels and More, “Walking into The Gore is like visiting a loopy uncle’s house. The walls of the chandeliered reception are covered in gilt framed artwork. There are pictures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, of children in buckled shoes and paintings of farm animals. It would all be overkill if it wasn’t so whimsical and delightful. The hotel’s busy restaurant, 190 Queen’s Gate, serves food sourced from UK farms. The Gore’s clientele is as eclectic as the décor. Supermodels and their rock star boyfriends hide out here when press intrusion gets too much. At the same time, you’ll find businessmen tapping away at their laptops, or you could come across an elegant woman, lashed in diamonds, mysteriously accompanied by a three tonne bodyguard. The rooms at The Gore are quirky and eccentrically furnished with an amazing collection of English and French antiques. The deluxe Venus Room has a huge antique bed, topped with raw silk swag and tails, which apparently belonged to Judy Garland.”
The Gore’s clientele is especially eclectic today. Although not a loopy uncle in sight. We’re lunching in the hotel’s 190 Bar surrounded by photos of the Rolling Stones hanging on the dark wooden panelling: they launched their album Beggars’ Banquet here in 1958. The last time we darkened the doors of The Gore was for the departure of Queen Elizabeth II. This time it is for the arrival of the Queen of Fashion. The Union Jack is flying proudly from the portico. A tricoloured reminder of Mary’s epic Union Jack Dress. Mary Martin is looking just a little rock n’ roll herself. Sometime somebody somewhere said architecture is the only art you can’t avoid. Tosh. It’s fashion. And Mary is out to make sure that’s the case. She’s all on for a bit of press intrusion. Where’s our three tonne bodyguard?
First off this month she is premièring a new collection in Brasília at the invitation of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the brilliant Brazilian President. “My new collection is all about nature. The dresses feature butterflies which are an expression of freedom, transformation, change, joy!” she explains. “I’ve used very earthy colours, gold and cream.” Hot on the (high) heels of this showcase she flies back to London for ‘A Fashion Experience with Mary Martin London and Friends’.
This momentous event in Soukra restaurant at The O2 in Greenwich celebrates her life and work as the English capital’s leading fashion artist. Mary will talk with TV presenter Brenda Emmanus and broadcaster Andrew Eborn about the stories behind her designs. Lights! Cameras! Action! The catwalk show will be highlights from her most recent collections. “Top American models are flying in specially for my show,” she relates, “to join leading European models. Angelic, Antonia, Bubu Jasmine, Hillary, Jessica, Kiki, Sue, Zavinta … It’s gonna be a truly international runway from Ukraine to the UK!”
Welsh singer and musician Noah Francis Johnson rings. He sings Everything’s Going to Be Ok down the phone so beautifully. “I am releasing my new hit record Immortal featuring Prodigal Sunn,” he says. “It’s a prayer to God; I studied as a priest.” Noah is a true polymath with a career stretching from being a professional mixed martial artist to becoming the World Freestyle Dance Champion. After supper, DJ Biggy C will get the crowd dancing. Singer songwriter Pauline Henry and poet Dr Lady Waynett Peters are just some of the other performers. “Because I’m a Christian,” Mary modestly says, “All praise is to my heavenly Father.” International star Heather Small is another of Mary’s music coterie and frequently wears her fashion art. Professional ballerina Sue Omozefe calls mid skiing on the Swiss Alps: “It’s madness on the slopes!” Photographer Adil Oliver Sharif is next on dial. All afternoon her phone buzzes with so many exciting people as to make Angelika Taschen’s description pale in comparison. Watch these spaces.
After fish goujons main course London’s best Bar Manager Sebastian Guesdon arrives with Eton Mess. He’s from Versailles so knows all about serving queens. “This dessert was originally invented when a meringue was dropped on the floor. This one was specially made and didn’t drop on the floor!” Sebastian teases. “We are relaunching Bar 190. It’s going to be even more about rock n’ roll with an Abbey Road theme. We’ll be hosting live music. And we are opening a new restaurant in our hotel in June led by Head Chef Frederick Forster. He has worked with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Michel Roux Junior at Le Gavroche.”
What MattersHappiness is… Saturday afternoons spent on the dreamscape that is Rothschild Boulevard. Happiness extended is… Saturday evenings spent on the moonscape that is Rothschild Boulevard. In the middle of the road is a wide stretch of land for sunbathing, drinking, eating, gossiping, playing bowls, political demonstrating and this being Tel Aviv, racing motorbikes.
“Welcome to the Hôtel du Petit Moulin! We would like to thank you for your confidence and for choosing our hotel during your visit in Paris. Le Marais is full of history, wonderful shops, galleries, museums and restaurants. In fact, the building in which the hotel is set was originally the first Parisian bakery. This is where Victor Hugo would come to buy his baguette! Today, the original shop frontage remains, reminding guests of its former past as a ‘boulangerie’, protected under French Heritage. Make yourself at home, relax and enjoy a quiet drink at the honesty bar open from noon to midnight or head to the spa of our sister hotel, the Pavillon de la Reine, situated in Place des Vosges, just a 10 minute walk away from her and available to all our guests. Have a lovely stay with us.” Luc Guillo Lohan, The Manager.
Heaven’s in the detail and the Hôtel du Petit Moulin delivers from bookmarks and business cards to brass door keys and petite boxes â picorer. Highlights of the room service from Restaurant Chez Nenesse on nearby Rue de Saintonge include entrées: salade des queues de langoustines (Dublin Bay prawn salad); plats: fillets de bar aux fines herbes (sea bass fillet, sauce with fine herbs); and desserts: mousse et sorbet chocolat sauce pistache (chocolate mousse and sorbets with pistachio sauce).
Filling a pair of 17th century buildings which couldn’t be more pre Haussmann Parisian if they tried, the ground floor was once a bar and a street corner bakery. Victor Hugo’s house on Place des Vosges is just around the corner. As Monsieur Lohan notes, the former bakery still retains a hand painted glass shopfront. There are just 17 guest rooms. One bedroom on the rez-de-chaussée. Four on the premier étage. Four on the deuxième étage stacked in the same layout as below. Four stacked on the troisième étage. One on the étage intermédiaire. Three on the quatrième étage. The architecture is full of original quirks from fragments of timber structural beams to windows floating between floors. The interior is absolutely fabulous Christian Lacroix sweetie darling.The haut couture designer clearly had a lot of fun dreaming up this Louis XV on an acid trip décor. The colourful chaos of the montaged découpaged toile de jouy in the main rooms contrasts with the calm of the white marble bathrooms. Top floor Room 402 is the largest guest suite and angles into the street corner with the best views, taking in a sweep of chimneys rising above the buildings lining Rue de Poitou and Rue de Saintonge. The mirrored ceiling provides an altogether different view, not least of the shagpile carpet. “Early to bed, and you’ll wish you were dead. Bed before 11, nuts before seven,” shrieked Dorothy Parker in her short story for The Little Hours for The New Yorker, 1933.
Who said we didn’t end up at midnight in Princess Diana’s fav Knightsbridge haunt San Lorenzo three years ago to the day? Or a month earlier join influencers for a day at the races? Or fast forward a few seasons to find ourselves singing black tied carols with London’s finest on Pall Mall till dawn? As for the maquillage, English Heritage have a lot to answer for… Tell us, what are you doing?
A roar ripples through the crowd. The atmosphere is electric. Here he comes! A lorry carrying barriers turns the corner and comes into view, its driver waving regally. The crowd cheers and laughs. A young unfit looking guy breaks through the barrier and makes a run for it. An even more unfit looking policeman gives chase. The crowd cheers again before the guy is eventually toppled to the ground by five police officers further up The Mall.
The waiting continues. There’s a flurry of activity amongst the many security personnel. They’re all on their mobiles. Then at last the horse led convoy appears. The State Rolls Royce Phantom VI slowly drives past, enough to catch a glimpse of King Charles’ wispy grey hair. Hip hip hooray! And so His Majesty Charles III, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, Supreme Head of the Church of England, Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, starts the first day in his new job, aged 73, meeting Prime Minister Liz Truss and members of her new Cabinet in Buckingham Palace. What a short commute! What’s his job role? To weave a line through the tapestry of time. No pressure, then. Soon, it will be time to dust down the ermine. Where does pomp and pageantry better than Britain?
At the end of the winding mountainous road leading down from the Gortin Lakes into the village is a single storey white rendered slate roofed building. Provincial Ulster architecture at its best. It overlooks St Patrick’s Church of Ireland. The pillar box red painted doors at either end of the façade are a drive-by giveaway: it’s The Old School (gender segregated entrances for schoolchildren). Upon closer inspection a plaque over each door reads: “Beltrim National School 1899”. Beltrim Castle is the estate on the edge of the village. The eight bay Old School – or should that be Auld School? – is now a smartly kitted out holiday cottage to let. A combined reception room and kitchen is open to the beamed ceiling and there are two guest bedrooms.
The most idiosyncratically located picnic table in the area is next to the roof of Rylagh Limekiln. Down a narrow road leading nowhere in particular, this square stone stower built into the roadside slope encases an egg shaped chamber made of brick. A hole in its base opening to the road facing front allowed in air to assist combustion, and at a later stage in the process, the removal of the end product. Limestone from a neighbouring quarry was burnt with peat for a week inside the limekiln to produce a white powdered form – lime – suitable for agricultural and building use. Erected in 1800, the limekiln was restored 215 years later by a local group of volunteers ‘Friends of the Glens’. The lime may have gone, but the stone structure stands as a reminder of Auld Times.
Everything about Chatsworth, one of England’s most famous grand houses, is on an industrial scale. Roundly: 14,000 hectares; 62 farms; three villages; 130 rooms; 17 staircases; 1,250 works of art; 12,000 books in the Library and Ante Library; and 700 staff. And one very large farmshop (think King’s Road Partridges takes flight to the Peak District). Little wonder the current Duke and Duchess, well past retirement age, have decided to step back from overseeing the whole venture. Like his mother the late Debo (the last of the legendary Mitford sisters), Peregrine “Stoker” Cavendish along with his wife Amanda are moving from The Very Big House to The Old Vicarage in one of the estate villages, the picturesque Edensor. Debo lived in one half of the subdivided dwelling. Inskip Gee Architects are reuniting the two parts of The Old Vicarage. “It is a house with service buildings that survives from the old town and predates the alteration of Edensor by the 6th Duke and Paxton,” the architects explain. “The transformation of the house as an Italianate villa in 1838 is representative of the recasting of Edensor in various picturesque styles as a model village within Chatsworth Park, carried out in 1837 to 1840.”
The 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire haven’t been averse to some dramatic interventions during their tenure. In 2010 they held a three day ‘Attic Sale’ of 1,422 lots including 34 belonging to Debo. For example, Lot 223: “A gilt-bronze mounted Meissen porcelain timepiece Louis XVI, provenance Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire (acquired in the 1960s), estimate £4,000 to £6,000.” There aren’t any actual attics at Chatsworth (it is flat and low mono-pitch roofed) but there are plenty of far flung wings and outbuildings which stored surplus trinkets and larger items. In fact enough architectural salvage to fit out the interior of a decent sized country house. “There simply wasn’t enough room,” the Duke notes. “We were never going to be moving to a bigger house!” More random was Lot 1412: “Six magnums of 1982 Dom Pérignon, estimate £1,250 to £1,800.” Lots 1419 to 1422 were vintage vehicles and parts.
He continues, “These houses have all been centres of the family’s activities as builders and collectors over nearly 500 years, but at Chatsworth we now see its fullest flowering, incorporating elements of all these other family collections. Replacing Hardwick in the late 17th century, Chatsworth has been the principal family seat for the last 300 years and in the last 100 has been the repository of works of art emanating from their other houses. This has meant that over the years every nook and cranny of this ‘Palace of the Peaks’ has been filled.”
And finishes, “The past year has been spent carefully sifting through these items, retaining some of those objects which illuminate family history and selecting what has become the content of this sale. In assessing the objects, comparing them to similar items remaining in the collection, and through reference to the large number of inventories that have been kept on the various properties, it has been possible at times to identify who commissioned them and for which of the family houses, as well as finding out when they moved to Chatsworth.”
The £65 million proceeds of the sale funded cleaning the stone walls to reveal their original warm buff and regilding the glazing bars of the windows on the two principal floors of the south front (architect William Talman) and west front (architect probably Thomas Archer aided by the 1st Duke) in 25 carat gold leaf. “The house was built to show off,” affirms the Duke. The glass panes are bevelled and the internal windowsills are made of marble. There is one single pane window on the east front contrasting with the multipaned sash windows everywhere else. About one third of the house is open to the public. The private rooms are on the south and west fronts. The gardens closest to these rooms are closed to the public. This has the dual benefit of providing privacy for the Cavendish family and keeping the elevations clutter free of tourists.
One of the highlights of the tour is the Chapel. “This space is practically unchanged since the 1st Duke in 1700,” states Stoker. Except for one addition. St Bartholomew Exquisite Pain, 2008, is a life size sculpture cast in gold plated silver in an edition of three by Damien Hirst. The artist says, “I like the confusion you get between science and religion… that’s where belief lies and art as well.” St Bartholomew was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus and was meant to have been flayed alive and martyred. In this sculpture he stands shinily resplendent, holding his detached skin draped over his right arm and blades as a symbol of his sainthood in his left hand. Historical depictions of St Bartholomew showed anatomical detail combining art and science and this artwork remains true to that tradition. It is the standout piece in the current display of contemporary art at Chatsworth and is aptly placed.
There are a few subtractions to the Chapel. The 19th century furniture and fittings went in the Attic Sale. Lot 920: “The Victorian furniture for the Chapel at Chatsworth circa 1870. Comprising an oak altar rail in three sections in the form of a three bar gate with uprights surmounted by trefoil motifs, together with a larger pair of pine Prie Dieu, a further smaller confirming pair of Prie Dieu, an oak rail and an ok and upholstered kneeling stool.” Lot 921: “A Victorian patinated bronze surmount in the form of a processional cross. Late 19th century. £300 to £500.”
The Duke and Duchess are avid art collectors, favouring 21st century pieces. Amanda explains, “We recently collaborated with Michael Craig-Martin on a new dinner service. We love music, and Michael was also inspired by the violin door in the State Music Room. The dinner service was made together with Royal Crown Derby. Around the table are chairs made by Joseph Walsh. He makes furniture full of curves – they are sculptures as well as seats.”
“The Duke and I commissioned Joseph Walsh to also make the Enignum Bed in 2014,” continues the Duchess. “It is usually in one of our guest bedrooms, but we have moved the bed into the Sabine Room so that everyone can see it. The bed is made of thin layers of ash wood, which are twisted into shape using steam. The spiralling forms are six metres tall and soar upwards in this space that was painted by James Thornhill in 1701.” There are also rather a lot of artworks in the interiors by Edward de Waal.
Mark Girouard included Chatsworth in his 1979 book Historic Houses of Britain. Like all his published work, it is beautifully written combining art, architectural, political and social history with insightful anecdotes. On Chatsworth, “By the time of the 1st Duke, the towers and huge windows that his ancestress Bess had built at Hardwick had gone completely out of fashion. Pediments, pillars and rich carving derived from the palaces of Italy and France had replaced them as the sign of greatness. Symmetry was still the rule of the day and had been carried to its furthest limits. It was now expected that inside a great house all the doors would be aligned, and outside the grandeur of the house itself was extended by avenues and sheets of water stretching into the far distance.”
London’s glossiest posse gathered at Southbank for a Saturday evening fashion show on the Riverside Terrace along the Thames. It was the catwalk of the summer. But first there was a round of turmeric iced lattés, the boisson du jour before the hard work began. Makeup artist Karen Messam explained, “It’s going to be a graphic bold story. We’re highlighting bold, glossy lips.” Karen was assisted by fellow mistress of maquillage Jade Almojera.
Sierra Leonean-Lebanese model Yasmin Jamaal commanded the catwalk, rocked the runway, walked the wave of cheers, stormed the storm parading in Mary’s Gold Coast Dress. Multitalented Yasmin has launched an Afro-Middle East plant based food company, Jamaal Cuisine. She recently was invited to cook for a high society private dinner. When Yasmin arrived the hostess confessed, “I didn’t expect the model off the website to turn up!” Yasmin had to explain, “I’m the model and also your chef for the evening!” The admiring crowd included lots of well known faces from the arts world like the principal actor from the 2022 film Django, Vivienne Rochester, and Eric’s mum in the Netflix series Sex Education, Doreen Blackstock.
Star of the fashion show was… Mary Martin London. Earlier in the day she beamed, “John Fairbrother Dolls have just made The Mary Martin London Dress! I’m wearing my epic Union Jack Dress! Or rather the miniature me is wearing it!” Now there’s a tribute. Mary showed dresses from her previous award winning collections as well as new ones such as The Eccentric Peacock Dress and The Grace Jones Dress. “Grace is such an inspiration,” she recorded. Mary is of course famous for designing dresses for singers and musicians like Heather Small. “If there aren’t high vibrations forget it!” she exclaimed. Thanks to DJ Biggy C there were plenty of high vibrations. The tune maker let it be known, “That’s me playing now!”