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For only £10 a year, you can become a Friend and come along to our talks, join us on trips out to places like The Royal Academy and Pallant House Gallery, there's always something going on. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website

Monday, 15 May 2017

Madresfield Court trip

The first of our Friends' trips took place last week to the little known Madresfield Court set in glorious rural Worcestershire with the dramatic backdrop of the Malvern Hills..
Madresfield Court is a moated stately home which has been in the Lygon family for nearly 900 years and is currently home to the 29th generation of that family.
The house is an architectural masterpiece and played a significant part in nurturing the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as acting at least in part as the inspiration for Evelyn Waugh and Brideshead Revisited. It also contains a fine collection of paintings, furniture and ceramics.
It's possible to book a guided tour around the house, but it's not open to the public in the way many other stately homes are, there's no cafe, and a very basic shop.
Our tour was booked for 2.30pm, so having left Swindon at 10am, we arrived at Madresfield at 11.30am. On ringing Madresfield Court, we discovered they didn't want us to arrive before 1.30pm because otherwise we'd spoil the experience for the other group who had a morning tour.
It was suggested we went to Malvern for a couple of hours, so we could grab a coffee and eat our packed lunches, it's difficult to convey the splendour of the hills there
 As we left the coach, the driver decided to turn the coach round, and unfortunately hit the lamp post in the centre of the car park, removing a wing mirror and shattering some of the windscreen, this meant that we couldn't be driven to Madresfield Court in this coach, so by the time we returned to the coach, we had a different coach and driver.
While in Malvern, we walked through Priory Park and admired the wooden sculpture carved into a damaged cedar tree by Tom Harvey. Initially you just see a leg, and then from different angles, there's lots more to see

 and a close up
 Prior Park also has a band stand.
 This is Prior park an impressive Gothic building housing the council offices
 Refreshed by the trip to Malvern, we were quickly at Madresfield, here people are seeing their first views of the house

 and here it is:

 Is this a better view?
 There's lots of wonderful topiary in the garden
 The nearer you get to the house, the better the views of it. I like this one
 There are busts in the grounds

 This is the entrance to the house with the most glorious Wisteria around the entrance.
  That's the last photo because there's no photography allowed inside, however I've found photos of the interior here it's worth a look. 11 May was the first day of Malvern Show, which meant there was a lot of traffic to negotiate to get home. However, it was a wonderful day out.
Next trips: 13 June Hauser and Wirth and 13 July The Watts Gallery

Creative Wiltshire exhibition

Last week  the official opening of the Creative Wiltshire exhibition at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery was held in the downstairs front rooms. It's a lovely exhibition celebrating some of the wonderful creativity in Wiltshire, with quite a lot of work from Swindon. Refreshments included ginger beer which has become quite a feature of events at the museum, celebrating the many ginger beer makers once operating in the town. The drink, while very refreshing, has an almost alcoholic hint about it, and makes me wonder if there could be a revival of locally produced ginger beer, maybe I'll ask Old Town Brewery what they think about brewing some.

Looking at the museum's website, they describe the exhibition as follows:

Creative Wiltshire: Celebrating modern art and design from Swindon and Wiltshire

 The landscape and character of Wiltshire has long inspired artists and designers. This exhibition celebrates artists from Swindon and Wiltshire who feature in our Collection of Modern British Art and includes many recent acquisitions.Since 2015, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery has worked with Wiltshire Council and museums across the county to acquire modern and contemporary work by artists from Wiltshire and Swindon. This exhibition brings together new acquisitions made through this scheme and includes work by Ken White, Patricia Volk, Sasha Wardell and Katharine Pleydell Bouverie, artists who live or work in Wiltshire.The exhibition also explores the Swindon Artists Society and Swindon Sketch Club, two organisations which between the 1940s and 1980s brought together some of the town’s most exciting artists, including Leslie Cole, Carleton Attwood, Harold Dearden and George Reason.Discover modern British art with a Wiltshire flavour!

Here's a sample of some of the gems, with number one, George Reason's wonderful depiction of the diving platform at Coate Water, entitled 'The Polluted Lake', painted in 1969. 

 These ceramic pieces above are made by Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie and were acquired for Swindon through the Creative Wiltshire project.
 Above with far too much reflection Gerald Gardiner's Towards Wiltshire, Early Autumn, interseting view of the window though!
 Above E.Bampton's painting of 'Coate Water' painted in 1948, it looks very tranquil
Below more ceramics in a case.
 Below in the other room, the maquette used to make a Carleton Atwood sculpture, The Watchers.
 Below in this cabinet there are 2 Desmond Morris paintings and the 2 works bought with funding from this project by Patricia Volk.
 and on the side wall, quite hard to see is an aquatint by Howard Hodgkin
 There's a lovely painting of a magnolia in flower on the other side of the cabinet with the maquette in it.
 There's much more to see in this lovely exhibition, and an alternative view by Martin Parry who was taking photos there last week. Martin has also produced a compilation of photos of Swindon Sketch Club in 1950 where you can glimpse some of the pictures in this exhibition on the walls.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Archaeological Reconstruction Drawings

We had an excellent talk given by Jennie Anderson on archaeological reconstruction drawings last Thursday. The talk sold out beforehand, which was very exciting because we normally have a few tickets left. We have a maximum capacity of 53 in the audience, so it's always better to buy tickets beforehand form the museum, or online at the Friends' website.
 I wasn't sure what to expect really apart from some drawings of people wandering round Barbury Castle in leather sandals, it was far more detailed and well thought out than that.
Jennie tackled the whole talk in a logical and interesting way, first of all stating that she does do lots of looking at ancient maps, aerial photographs and remains found at the sites she intends to reconstruct, but there's no real way of knowing how accurate a picture she is painting, and she probably isn't.
I did take photos, but the screen has made everything look a bit dark
 Here's the capacity audience

 So what are the issues that must be faced when engaging in archaeological reconstruction drawings?
 One important thing is people's preconception. For instance many people imagine Vikings had 2 pronged helmets as seen on the person below. The audience were asked to draw a Viking and many people drew the helmet with 2 prongs, seen below, Jennie was able to trace this back to a drawing made of Vikings made over a hundred years ago which has influenced our idea of what Vikings looked like
 Since then, Vikings have been depicted in films without the 2 pronged helmets so this idea might not persist for much longer
 Jennie then revealed her drawing of Bowood House before Capability Brown began landscaping, seen below
 Jennie ended her talk by saying she 'creates engaging visualisations about human connections with history, and appreciates ' she has a 'responsibility to create images based on best evidence available'.
It was a fabulous talk.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Raising the Bar

This event was held at the Phoenix Theatre at New College on Wednesday 19 April from 7-9pm with the intention of informing members of the public about the plans for the new museum and art gallery in the centre of town, on the site of the former car park beside the Wyvern Theatre.
I've taken some photos from the Total Swindon page, although they have written Hadrian Ellory-van Dekekr into the evening, he wasn't there. In the photo below you can see members of the Trust, Cllr Garry Perkins and Cllr David Renard, leader of the Council and Jason Parker of Make Architects
 David Renard below talking about the commitment of the council to the project.
 Robert Hiscox, Chair of the trustees, who outlined the benefits of the new museum and art gallery to the town.
The evening was a tremendous success with a packed house, and great support expressed for the project. A vote at the end of the event revealed 140 people for the project and 6 against.
People have been encouraged to get in touch with the Trust via their website to offer support, and have been doing so. Lots of engagement work will be taking place before the bid is submitted in November. The interim director, Rod Hebden of the project has just been appointed this week.
It's worth adding a couple of views of the proposed new building, the first a romantic evening view
 and a photo of the model which can be seen at the museum
And some of the audience just leaving the event:
 The excitement in the room was palpable, and is continuing with the positivity exuding from Rod Hebden.
Great article in yesterday's Swindon Advertiser:

Volunteering at the Museum

In order to help with the new opening hours, which since the beginning of April have been more than double the previous ones, Friends have been asked if they would like to volunteer at the museum. I have been three times now, and thoroughly enjoyed each session. There's a subtle difference in visiting the museum and being there in a capacity to help, you get quite a different view of things.
I have been helping at fairly quiet times, giving me plenty of opportunity to talk to visitors when they came in.
Katie Ackrill seen above at the reception desk has been very patient and helped me learn to use the till and other various things I've done like rearranging the shop.
On the first occasion a couple came in from Eastleigh, Hampshire, they used to live in Swindon and they love visiting the museum. The husband of the couple,is particularly keen on collecting crested pottery and specifically wanted to know the location of the original model of the Goss Swindon vase. I emailed the information we had on the crested china to him, and suggested he send an email to Sophie Cummings, asking his question. I've had a look on ebay and found a Goss Swindon vase for sale.
 Above is the case showing the crested china, and below cups and saucers with 'Broad St Chapel, Swindon on them.
 Below some lovely pieces, the fireplace has 'there's no place like home' on it as well as the crest. The hen is very strange.
 More crested china
 and I particularly liked this one depicting the town hall which says 'Public Offices New Swindon' on it.

 I was pleased to see these lovely pieces by Patricia Volk acquired through the Creative Wiltshire project They are displayed in the Creative Wiltshire exhibition in the first two downstairs rooms, well worth a look if you're visiting the museum.
 Being around at closing time, I was given the job of closing the shutters in the downstairs rooms, the one to the right of the front door is cut in half to accommodate a radiator. with a radiator

 Whereas the one in the other room has the original complete shutter

Things you'd never notice if you weren't closing up.