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Chichester West Sussex +

Signs of the Times

On the eve of the 17th Sunday after Trinity, or as one entrant in the Visitors’ Book of the Pallant House Art Gallery put it, “37 days till Halloween”, we spend the day in Chichester. Pronounced “Chai-chester” if you are from Belfast (Chichester Street is one of the city’s main thoroughfares). Londoners put the hitch into “Chitch-ester”. The city is logically and legibly laid out: North, South, East and West Streets crisscross at Chichester Cross.

The laneways snaking round the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity are pure Miss Marple territory. The red brick Deanery with its façade spanning pediment gable is one of many historic residences under the shadow of the spire. The cathedral itself is an absolute medley of periods and styles with a very deliberate Romanesque vault system and simply divine medieval tracery. Recent additions include a portly stone head of The Queen, part cherub part gargoyle, looking down on commoners traipsing through the main entrance.

Every street is a revelation. There’s Chichester’s narrowest house at 6a North Pallant with its skinny one bay façade and entrance door squeezed to the left of the bay. Then there’s the Queen Anne townhouse reborn as the Pallant House Art Gallery. It has a smart restaurant in the 2006 wing designed by Sir Colin Wilson and Long + Kentish. A current exhibition of 80 miniature works of art by the likes of Damien Hirst, Augustus John, Paul Nash and Rachel Whiteread fills a model art gallery, an architectural maquette, with transparent gable end elevations designed by Wright + Wright architects.

There are wide townhouses of Henrietta Street Dublin proportions with double pile roofs and deep returns. There are white brick terraces with paired entrance doors. It rains, it shines, we come close to missing our train (The Foundry pub is temptingly close yet mercifully next to the railway station) all full of the joys of a day well spent. And everywhere in this most civilised of cities are enough signs of the historic times to compete with a Harry Styles song.

The plinth of the statue of St Richard Bishop of Chichester,1245 to 1253, near the entrance to the cathedral: “Thanks be to Thee my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which Thou has given me, for all the pains and insults which Thou hast borne for me. O Most Merciful Redeemer, friend and brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly and follow Thee more nearly.”

A plaque in the cathedral: “Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester 1955 to 1977, was in the forefront of the 20th century renaissance of church patronage of contemporary artists. As Vicar of St Matthew’s, Northampton, he had commissioned a ‘Mother and Child’ by Henry Moore and a ‘Crucifixion’ by Graham Sutherland. For Chichester he commissioned the Sutherland painting, the John Piper tapestry, the Marc Chagall window and copes by Ceri Richards. Hussey was responsible for introducing Geoffrey Clarke’s cast aluminium works such as the furniture in this chapel, the lectern at the shrine and the pulpit. He also commissioned major works of choral music including Berstein’s Chichester Psalms and Albright’s Chichester Mass. Hussey himself amassed an important collection of modern art which he left to the Pallant House Gallery. There may be seen sketches for the Piper tapestry and Feibusch’s Baptism of Christ, as well as another version of the Sutherland painting and works by others including Ivon Hitchens.”

The painting Noli me Tangere by Graham Sutherland, 1960, inside the cathedral: “This painting depicts the moment when Mary Magdalene finds the tomb of Christ empty, but encounters the resurrected Christ and mistakes Him for a gardener. Sutherland presented Dean Hussey with two paintings; Hussey selected the one he felt most appropriate for the cathedral setting, which features Christ in a gardener’s straw hat. The second painting remained in Hussey’s private collection, now at the Pallant House Gallery.”

The Chagall Window in the cathedral: “This window designed by Marc Chagall and made by Charles Marq was unveiled by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent and dedicated to the Bishop of Chichester at 12 noon on Friday, 6 October, 1978. It was commissioned by Dr Walter Hussey shortly before he retired as Dean. The theme of the window is Psalm 150: ‘O praise God in His holiness – Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.’ The triumphal quality of this chant is expressed by the dominance in the composition of the colour red (red on white, on green, on yellow) broken up by a certain number of green, blue and yellow blobs. This is the first time that Marc Chagall has conceived a subject composed entirely of small figures: it is the people in festive mood glorifying the Lord, exalting His greatness and His creation. The musicians are playing the instruments referred to in the Psalm: horn, drum, flutes, strings and cymbals. A man juxtaposed with an animal at the right hand edge of the composition holds open a little book, indicating that the word too participates in this hymn of praise. In the centre two figures hold up the seven branched candlestick, while David, author of the Psalm, crowns the whole composition playing upon his harp.”

Another 20th century insertion into the cathedral: “The High Altar and Piper Tapestry 1966. Considered the spiritual heart of a church, the High Altar represents the ‘holy table’, a sacred place for gifts and prayers to be offered to God. The tapestry, set behind the High Altar, was commissioned by Dean Hussey from the British artist John Piper and was installed in 1966. It consists of seven panels, each one metre wide and five metres high. Using bold colours and striking imagery the central subject is the Holy Trinity, to which the cathedral is dedicated.”

The most famous memorial in the cathedral: “The Arundel Tomb circa 1375. This tomb monument is widely identified as being that of Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel (died 1376) and his second wife Eleanor of Lancaster (circa 1372). It was first erected at Lewes Priory and was moved to Chichester following the priory’s dissolution in 1537. The hand joining pose of the figures is rare and was restored in 1843 after much research. The tomb is best known today through Philip Larkin’s poem ‘An Arundel Tomb’ (1955).

One of our best architectural finds in Chichester: “Welcome to St John’s Chapel. This Grade I Listed Building is no longer used for regular worship but is one of over 330 churches in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust. Despite its nonconformist appearance St John’s Chapel is in fact Anglican. It was opened in 1813 to overcome the shortage of accommodation provided by the city’s seven tiny parish churches. It was not a parish church but a proprietary chapel which, although firmly part of the Church of England, was built and run as a commercial venture. Its Trustees, in addition to paying the Minister’s and organist’s salaries and keeping the building in repair, had to pay dividends to the shareholders and keeping the ‘business’ afloat was a constant struggle.”

“With no income from a parish or financial support from the Diocese the Trustees’ income had to come from sale and rent of pews and the generosity of the congregation. Worshipping at a proprietary chapel was an expensive alternative to a parish church! St John’s was designed by the London architect James Elmes (1782 to 1862) who carried out a body of work in and around Chichester between 1811 and 1814 when he was also surveyor to Chichester Cathedral. The wealthy bought or rented spacious box pews situated in and beneath the gallery. These pews were only accessible from the side porches. However the 1812 Act of Parliament authorising the chapel required at least 250 free seats to be provided for the use of the poor. These were open backed benches in the centre of the chapel and as they could only be reached from the front door the classes were kept strictly separated.”

“A three decker pulpit was a most essential attribute of a Georgian church or chapel and was used for the services of Morning and Evening Prayer. The lower desk was occupied by the Parish Clerk who had the job of leading the congregation in the responses and Psalms. The Minister would occupy the middle desk from which he would read the service but after the third collection and the prayers he would ascend the stairs to the pulpit to preach his sermon. From this vantage point he would have a good view of those in the gallery as well as those sitting below and could also watch the clock set in the west end gallery in order to time his sermon. The pulpit of St John’s is made of American black birch and was originally laid out on the more usual east west axis. At some time it was realigned north south and examination of the lower desk reveals the fact that there was originally a door on the north side.”

A jolly plaque over the front door of the Council House and Assembly Room, “Licensed in pursuance of Act of Parliament for music and dancing.” This building is one of the most architecturally important in Chichester: “The Council House was erected in 1731 by public subscription at a cost of £1,189. It was designed by Roger Morris (1695 to 1749), the architectural associate of the Earl of Pembroke, who, with the 3rd Earl of Burlington, was the leader of the Palladian movement which set the standards for nearly all English architecture in the second half of the 18th century. The Assembly Room was added to the east of the Council House from the designs of James Wyatt (1746 to 1813). It is approached from the landing of the Council House, through an anteroom, formerly a civic apartment. It is a spacious room of three bays lit by three windows. There are niches over the original fireplace.” And finally, a race down the ages of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity.

  • 2025: To mark the 950th anniversary of the cathedral’s move from Selsey to its forever home, there will be a festival of music and art.
  • 2021: Lavender’s Blue make a pilgrimage to the oldest city in Sussex.
  • 1960s: Modern artworks by among others Ursula Benker-Schermer, Hans Feibusch and John Piper are commissioned.
  • 1930: St Richard’s shrine is restored.
  • 1866: The cathedral reopens after repair.
  • 1861: The tower and spire collapse.
  • 1660: Restoration begins on the cathedral.
  • 1642: Parliamentaries ransack the building during the English Civil War.
  • 1538: St Richard’s shrine is wrecked during the Reformation.
  • 1530: The large scale paintings by Lambert Barnard are completed.
  • 1400: The spire, cloisters and bell tower are constructed.
  • 1276: The body of St Richard is moved to the retroquire after being canonised by Pope Urban IV 14 years earlier.
  • 1100s: Much of the eastern end of the cathedral is destroyed by a series of fires.
  • 1108: The cathedral is consecrated.
  • 1075: The bishopric and cathedral are moved to Chichester and building work commences.
  • 681: The monastery founded by St Wilfried in Selsey becomes the first cathedral in Sussex.

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The Berkeley Hotel Knightsbridge London + Breakfast

Apsley Fabulous

Lavender’s Blue. Some colours are legendary. And others become synonymous with places. The Blue Bar is always The Berkeley Hotel. The hangout of the bold and brilliant and beautiful down from Apsley House. Every era has one. A London fine dining defining interior designer. Currently, it’s Martin Brudnizki. At the end of last century, no restaurant or wine bar was complete unless David Collins had transformed it. The late Dublin born artist used a striking Lutyens Blue hue, a dusky cornflower, to create the most memorable interior in Knightsbridge just as the new millennium dawned. In a touching posthumous tribute, The Berkeley called up David Collins’ protégé to dream up a dining room named after his master. Robert Angell employed some of David Collins’ favourite motifs, from a white onyx bar to a Soaneian use of mirrors. Some designers are legendary. And others become synonymous with places. Lavender’s Blue. Breakfast in bed, even The Berkeley variety, means casually leafing through magazines, preferable the vintage variety. Although inclusion of today’s Times is a nice touch. Here’s the September 1999 edition of Wallpaper* magazine:

“There’s no denying that the acrimonious and much publicised art appreciation tiff between Damien Hirst and new Quo Vadis owner, Marco Pierre White, was bound to draw in curious diners and art lovers alike. But David Collins’ pleasing refit and the culinary skills of ex Ivy maître d’ Fernando Peire are two good reasons to return.  Leather banquettes break up the room, a marked improvement on its previous cold refectory incarnation. Though not hugely original, the food is exquisite, just as we have come to expect from a MPW establishment; lobster, poulet noir and a variety of risottos are all on offer to a discerning clientele. The controversial conceptual art by Marco Pierre White is more than a little reminiscent of that of Damien Hirst, though much cheekier, especially our favourite, the aptly named ‘Divorce’ – a copy of Hirst’s dot painting, but with four perpendicular slashes – ouch. The Private room at the back boasts Thirties New York green leather walls created by the ubiquitous Bill Amberg. The skeletons have been ripped out of the upstairs bar, and the refit’s final stage will include  a bar for the restaurant as well as a members’ bar called ‘Marx’ in homage to the great Karl who lived on this site. Admittance will depend on whether or not Fernando likes you – so start sending flowers and chocolates now.”

As always, what does Gertrude Stein have to say about breakfast in her 1914 Tender Buttons? Rather a lot as it turns out. Here are a few of her rich pickings, “A sudden slice changes the whole plate, it does so suddenly.” And, “An imitation, more imitation, imitation succeed imitations.” And, and, and, “Anything that is decent, anything that is present, a calm and a cook and more singularly a shelter, all these show the need of clamour. What is the custom, the custom is in the centre.” A candy striped strawed bottle of ‘Berkeley Boost’ – freshly squeezed carrot, orange, turmeric, apple and ginger – followed by a homemade croissant and almond pastry; fruit salad; Scottish smoked salmon, cream cheese, rocket with Annabel’s style linen tied lemon bagel; Greek yoghurt, granola, Acacia honey and strawberries; and a celebratory chocolate cake topped with raspberries. The portions are so indulgent this ain’t breakfast in bed – this is breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea and supper between the duvets. All to be taken laying down. All on Aunt Margery’s best linen and tea set. Some breakfasts are legendary. Lavender’s Blue.

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Sexy Fish Mayfair London + Annabel P + Mary Martin London + Peggy Gou + K Style + Maya Jama + Teddy Music + Gertrude Stein + Frank Gehry + Damien Hirst + Lavender’s Blue + Love + War + Peace

Annabel’s Party

Finally the limo pulls up on Berkeley Square and Annabel P dramatically disembarks dripping in diamonds. Cathedral school followed by the finishing variety has clearly paid off. It’s her role. Lavender’s Blue Directrice turned Diamonds Ambassadress turned Frontline Heroine has arrived. “Dahlings! One can never have enough class – or diamonds.” Clearly not. The doormen make way, the waitress beckoning to the best table in the house. Siberia where art thou now? “This is War and Peace!” Annabel declares scouring the wine list. “Champagne, dear Giuliano!” Meanwhile DJ Sophie ups the tempo downs the base. It’s a night off for Korean DJ Peggy GouK Style is so where it’s at right now – but Sophie is determined to bring the house down. This is going to be more disco than dinner.

Sometimes you really gotta go with it and order a pre dinner alfresco cocktail that matches the cushioned upholstery. Sea Breeze please or at least something ephemerally turquoise. Beetroot, carrot, ginger and orange detox elixirs soon cancel the boldness. For a hot minute. Annabel’s wearing Biba vintage, working it babes. Her fellow guest is as always rocking Mary Martin London head to toe. Annabel gets busy stirring up Insta Stories in between yellowtail tartar, smoked tofu and caviar followed by pink shrimp tempura. Maya Jama sends her love. Sexy Fish is after all the television presenter’s fav restaurant. Good friend Grime DJ Teddy Music of Silencer fame chimes in next. Everyone’s soon discussing menu tips. Mango and passionfruit, coconut and lemongrass or pineapple and mandarin sorbet? Decisions, decisions. “All three. Or is that six?” How does Gertrude Stein view dinner in her 1914 classic Tender Buttons? “Not a little fit, not a less fit sun sat in shed more mentally.”

Basement bound, a downward descent reverberating under a Frank Gehry crocodile past Damien Hirst mermaids before walking by those marbled bathrooms – salut Versailles – till the night relaxes into an embrace of unbelievably attractive seafood. Late call but Mary Martin London’s on the blower. “Fantastic! I cannot wait for our next interview. Let’s talk. I’m here and ready and want to talk about my amazing new dresses and fashion.” The limo pulls up on Berkeley Square and Annabel P dramatically departs dripping in diamonds and fantasy.

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Belvedere Restaurant Holland Park + Holland House London


The told untold. Belvedere was once the Summer Ballroom of Holland House. Jacobethan and all that. Yeah yeah all very interesting but where’s the St Véran (O+C Club favourite)? Sorted. This restaurant is housed in a gorgeous fragment of a great house, a remnant of glory rebuilt, a figment of imagination realised. Halcyon days | salad days | Holland days. Saucy. And that’s before the Marie Rose with prawn cocktail and caviar arrives. Lavender’s Blue intern Annabel P is here and on form. And she’s got form.

Main course is fillet of sea bass, Jerusalem artichokes and mushroom dipped in balsamic jus. A winning formula. But hey we’re distracted by the fenestration. It’s a very glassy affair. Jigsaw panes of intersecting hexagons and rectangles reflect the timber herringbone floor. We’re transfixed. And that’s before we realise this place is really an art gallery masquerading as a restaurant. Mulled wine jelly with vanilla crème fraîche distracts our minds for a cold minute. Wait! What do Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol have in common? You guessed it! Belvedere.

The formidable Karla W rocks up working it and then some: black trilby, black jacket, black polo, black shades, black stilettos. Black is the new black. Some days, formal lunch blurs into informal dinner into the velvety night into the evanescent. Days like this. The Summer Ballroom has renewed midwinter purpose. It’s got form. The untold unfolded.

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Masterpiece London Preview 2013 + Royal Hospital Chelsea

Art Attack

Donald Judd @ David Zwirner Gallery copyright Stuart Blakley

Donald Judd. Art for architecture’s sake. A private view at the chic David Zwirner Gallery in Mayfair. Three floors of white galleries behind a cream façade. Cool as. Next the RCA end of year show at the Dyson Building in Battersea. The gallery with a shop in residence. Unresolved duality. Is it just us or does art exist in a vacuum these days? Charles Saatchi put in an appearance, no doubt hunting for the next Damien or Tracey. Back over Battersea Bridge, a wedding cake cast in iron, walk down Cheyne and check into hospital. Royal Hospital Chelsea. We’ve saved the best till last. It’s Masterpiece, the highest end arts and antiques fair in London reserved for the nought-point-one-per-centers. Boutique Maastricht.

A red carpet over green grass leads to a white pop up portico framing the entrance to a vast marquee, a primitive structure lifted to the sublime by a printed cloak resembling the hospital building: Henry James’ “principle of indefinite horizontal extensions” in canvas. Masterpiece attracts the famous and infamous. Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice walk on by. Anna Wintour’s sharp bob and Zandra Rhodes’ fuschia bob make them both recognisable from behind, surely the key definition of fame. We are joined by leading architect and avatar of heritage today John O’Connell, first director of the Irish Architectural Archive Nick Sheaff, and reductivist artist Suresh Dutt. What’s the collective noun for design luminaries? Coterie?

Now in its fourth year, Masterpiece is a variegated container of uses, architecture, history and technologies, challenging our thinking on design, strategies and the relevance of art – and on the urban importance of aesthetics. It questions artistic predilections and speculates on ideas of time and context. A temporary setting for the permanently magical. First pitstop the Ruinart stand, the oldest Champagne house, purveyor to the likes of Browns Hotel. Next stop, The Mount Street Deli for beetroot and avocado salad.

The new Maserati Quattroporte on display provides a beautiful distraction. “The design of the Quattroporte is inspired by Maserati’s core stylistic principles: harmony of proportions, dynamic lines and Italian elegance,” explains Marco Tencone, head of the Maserati Design Centre. “It’s been kept simple and clear with a character line flowing alongthe side to define the strong volume of the rear wing, creating a very muscular look. The cabin is sleek with a three window treatment and frameless doors.” Even the engine is a work of art. Next, we call in on Philip Mould who has just sold The Cholmendeley Hilliard miniature, a rare portrait of an unknown lady of the Tudor court, for a not-so-miniature £200,000.

A pair of George III marquetry semi elliptical commodes with Irish provenance is the star attraction at Mallett, that stalwart of Dover Street antiques hub. “All this is very emphatic,” notes John, pointing to the lashings of evidently bespoke detail. Mallett attributes the commodes to the London cabinetmakers Ince & Mayhew. They were supplied to Robert and Catherine Birch in the 1770s for their home near Dublin, Turvey House. Duality resolved. John reminisces, “I picked up fragments of historic wallpaper from the derelict Turvey House, just before it was demolished in 1987.”

Onwards to the Milanese gallery Carlo Orsi which is celebrating winning object of the year, a 1920s bronze cast by Adolfus Wildt. But we are there to see Interior of Palazzo Lucchesi Palli di Campofranco in Palermo, an exquisite oil on canvas. Elegant Roman gallerist Alessandra di Castro remarks, “Oil is much more sought after than watercolour. This important aristocratic residence was the townhouse of the Duchess of Berry.” She understands the painting to be by the early 19th century Neapolitan artist Vincenzo Abbati. “It’s a wow picture!”

“The layered curtains filter the light through the open windows, imparting a soft indirect radiance to the room,” observes John. “The red banquette type seating, white chimney board and green painted frieze combine to form a most stylish Sicilian neoclassical interior. It forms the setting for a beautifully hung significant collection of paintings.” Guercino, Stomer, Titan: all the greats are represented. “My life is crowded with incident. I’m off to a bidet party in Dresden.” In between, he’s restoring Marino Casino, Ireland’s finest neoclassical building.