Mary Wollstonecraft Exhibition at Chawton House in Hampshire

Chawton House associated with Jane Austen

An exhibition of work by Louisa Albani, not an artist I’m familiar with, opened at Chawton House in Hampshire, yesterday, and goes on into November. Not a large exhibition, held in one of the garret rooms,but powerful none the less, and deals with the period that Mary Wollstonecraft spent in Paris during the French Revolution

Known as a writer and legendary advocate of women’s rights, she was in Paris from December 1792, a month before Louis XVI was guillotined, until April 1795 when she returned to London. The artwork in the exhibition was inspired by what she saw and what she did during her stay, and what she wrote, whilst acting as a war correspondent for the English journal Analytical Review

I was struck by one of her quotations.

People thinking for themselves have more energy in their voice,than any government, which it is possible for human wisdom to invent; and every government not aware of this sacred truth will, at some period, be suddenly overturned

Written during the French Revolution by Mary Wollstenecraft

Hint of a warning there for someone perhaps

Chawton House is a gem in itself. An Elizabethan Manor House. of which there are not too many. It belonged to Edward, Jane Austen’s brother who had inherited from the Knight family. Jane was a frequent visitor to the house which is only a short walking distance from the village. The lovely tea room served teas to visitors back in the c19

Lapsed into disrepair during the c19, for lack of funds, the house was rescued by the North American branch of the Jane Austen Society, and has been splendidly restored whilst retaining the character of a country house of the Elizabethan style

Artwork from the exhibition referring to the quote above:

The caption would have to be her quotation above

A delightful visit

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West Horseley House and Grange Park Opera Company

West Horseley Place in Surrey

This is the side elevation of the house, medieval but clad in c16 brick. This is the old part as if any of it is recent! Not exactly art but certainly architecture and the Arts

The house is associated with Henry VIII who gave it to one of his favourites in 1534, a man called Courtenay. This was about the time that Thomas Cromwell was gathering strength, and being more proficient in the black arts, managed to persuade the king, that Courtenay was a Catholic and a subversive. Courtenay was executed. This was about the time of Henry’s break with Rome which was unpopular, and which increased Henry’s paranoia. He was prone to striking down anyone whom he suspected of subversion, with or without evidence

The Raleighs later owned the house. Sir Walter the well-known colonist of North America, who fell foul of James I, was executed in 1618. The house, through his brother-in-law, was left to Raleigh’s surviving son Carew. There is a story, well-known, that Raleigh’s head was rescued from its pike on London Bridge, and dropped onto a waiting boat on the river. The head was kept by his widow wrapped in a velvet cloth, for some years at West Horseley. Later Carew’s two sons and baby daughter, all of whom died of an epidemic, were buried under the floor of St.Mary’s Church nearby. The head was buried with them

To come up-to-date, the house was bequeathed two years, unexpectedly, by the then owner the duchess of Roxburgh, to Bamber Gascoigne. People of my age will remember him as the host of that erudite TV quiz University Challenge, which he presented for many years since its inception. Today it is still running and hosted by Jeremy Paxman, who is good, but not the same. We toured the house recently, with a group from Guildford museum, and were privileged to be shown round by Bamber himself. His voice still sounds the same despite the years. I kept expecting him to say, “Jesus, your starter for ten………………”

And now the most exciting development, the creation of the Theatre in the Woods. About a year or more ago, the Gascoignes were visited by one Lasfi Kani, the major force behind the Grange Park Opera Company. At the time this company had been based at another mansion in Hampshire, and had had their lease summarily terminated, and were looking for a new home. West Horseley was agreed upon and work started

Incredibly from the first sod being cut in June 2016, the programme was published and world class voices engaged with performance dates set for June 2017. Within that last twelve months, Ms Kani raised the £8 million needed to fund the building. The theatre stands now ready for performances next month. The first, Tosca is sold out already. The theatre is ready in that it has seats, and is weatherproof. There is still finishing work to be done

There is no doubt that this will be a venue to rival Glyndebourne

The house itself needs about £8 million spent on it to bring it up to standard, and the surrounding estate houses, another three. A charity has been formed to raise funds necessary

The opera company has its own web site should you want to read more

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One of two c16 century dog kennels near the front door. Two outside the same house are unique. Both are Grade 1 listed