Tag Archives: heritage crafts

Dumfries House, Ayrshire, Scotland

‘There’s nothing that isn’t positive that comes out of this place.’

IMG_2850Dumfries House near Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. is a unique place in many ways. The house was designed by Robert, John and James Adam, their first independent commission after the death of their father William. The building of the house was completed on budget and on time in 1759. It contains the most wonderful collection of original Chippendale and other furniture and is an amazing place to visit.

IMG_2849The whole estate and furniture was due to be sold when The Prince of Wales stepped in, reputedly arranging for the lorry carrying the precious furniture to be stopped on its way for the contents to be auctioned in London, and saving this unique house with its associated furniture which has an enviable provenance. However, being The Prince of Wales, this project didn’t end simply with saving a house and its contents. I was there to visit the estate and view the wonderful activities involving the whole community and while I was there I noticed that the stone on side of the house has very intriguing diagonal marks – mason’s marks or part of the design?

IMG_2855At the front of the house is a huge fountain and two formal mazes either side. I tried out the maze and as someone with no sense of direction, I was amazed (!) that I actually got to the middle, marked by a stone obelisk.




IMG_2857And just to prove it, here I am at the centre with the obelisk!







IMG_2860It is well-known that The Prince of Wales loves gardens so as you would expect they are wonderful – a mix of colours and textures and not really done justice by this photograph.






IMG_2876As I walked through the gardens close to the house, I was intrigued by this huge tree which looked most impressive against the azure blue sky (yes, this photo was taken on the day I was there; the sky really was this blue).






IMG_2877The bark of this tree was fascinating with its whirls and swirls and I wished I had time to sit and draw it.





IMG_2889However, it’s not just the house and formal gardens that are worth seeing. On the estate there are animals kept specifically to show children where their food comes from. And if Dumfries House is a building fit for a prince, the animal houses are certainly beautiful enough for The Prince’s farm animals! But the walled garden really was something else! There was a whole long border of HRH’s favourite flower – delphiniums. Again this photo really doesn’t do it justice.

IMG_2890But true to walled gardens, there were also beds of fruit and vegetables, again used to teach children about food but the produce also used in the café and catering training on the estate, and for the formal dinners given by The Prince of Wales.



IMG_2893Students from The Prince’s Drawing School were in residence when I was there, using the house and grounds as inspiration for their work. There are also great plans for a development to allow onsite training in building and living crafts. This will add to the training already being done in the Textile Centre. Training is given in sewing and machining skills, not now taught in the textile industry, and I was most impressed by what was produced. Here Ashleigh Douglas, head of the centre, shows a specially designed tartan.



IMG_2896And, as it’s Scotland, Graeme has been making kilts, and will be creating one of the above tartan after he has finished this one.






IMG_2901 2The facilities are most impressive.






IMG_2885However, what actually impressed me most of all was, as in the quote at the very top, the comprehensive positivity of Dumfries House and its activities. Every single person I spoke to, from the local taxi driver, to the waitress in the hotel, to those visiting the grounds and house, every single person said how important the estate was to the locality and how impressed they were with what The Prince had done. And in terms of the staff in the house itself, not one wasn’t welcoming, courteous and so kind. It truly felt like a privilege to be wandering through these beautiful grounds and touring a wonderful historical house. If you ever have the chance to visit yourself – do go, make a detour or even a special visit. You won’t regret it.

Disappearing fore-edge painting

Columbus FEPIn May 2017, the Heritage Crafts Association launched the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts at the House of Lords. They listed over 170 traditional crafts and placed them in one of four categories (Currently Viable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, and Insufficient Data). There were seventeen Critically Endangered Crafts of which Disappearing Fore-Edge Painting was one; this is where a book seems to have an ‘ordinary’ gilded or patterned fore-edge, but when the pages of the book are fanned, a painting is revealed as if by magic.

Tennis 1903 bind3 17At the launch, Martin Frost, the remaining one disappearing fore-edge painter of which we are aware, demonstrated this craft, and all the images in this post are his. There’s more about Martin here. As I am posting this in Wimbledon month, the sequence of Martin’s painting of a tennis scene seems particularly appropriate. Here is the book as it looks normally with a gilded fore-edge.




IMG_3367The book is then carefully fanned and the pages held in a strong clamp. Martin starts the painting by creating the outline of the image.





IMG_3370More paint is added to build up the picture.






IMG_3372And finally, the image is finished, with a 1920s-style tennis player with a rather nifty backhand!





One show FEPBrightonPav copyThe Heritage Crafts Association were able to get a feature about the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts and Martin on the BBC TV’s The One Show. First he painted the fore-edge of a book for them showing the Brighton Pavilion.



Ade Edmondson ONE SHOWAnd then, because the actor and comedian Ade Edmonson was being featured and interviewed on the same programme, they asked Martin to create a fore-edge especially for him which shows Ade as the character he played in The Young Ones, and also an image from a book he has written.





Columbus BAnd, being Martin, he doesn’t just restrict his paintings to the fore-edge. That painting showing Columbus at the start of this post was only on the fore-edge. Here is the ‘head’ (top) of the book showing Columbus and native Americans, and there is a different scene painted on the ‘tail’ (bottom).

This is a craft that shows, as so many traditional crafts do, terrific skill, and one which we are in serious danger of losing. Please contact the Heritage Crafts Association for more information especially if you would like to support the work they do and contribute to ensuring that we don’t lose any more traditional crafts which are, after all, part of all of our shared heritage in the same way as heritage buildings and treasured landscapes.

Heritage crafts and a National Honour

Buckingham Palace gatesA great day for heritage crafts – the first national honour was awarded today, and what a day that was!



photo copyWe had been advised to get there early, and so we were, and queuing with Brian Rea, from Northern Ireland Policing, and his family, at one of the wonderful Buckingham Palace gates.

Fortunately it was a fantastic day. Last night there were gale force winds and horizontal heavy rain. If this is the weather tomorrow, I thought, my hat will be flying off my head and be completely ruined!



BUCKINGHAM PALACE LOOSOnce we had had our tickets and passports checked, we were led through the central archway of Buckingham Palace and into the building itself. Then we were directed to the cloakroom and loos – the latter quite extraordinary. Vast wooden seats covered a rather ancient loo, with a wooden ‘stirrup’ pull up handle instead of a chain or lever.





Access_BP_grandstairs_lgThen up an amazing gilded staircase, where guests/family went one way and recipients the other. We were led into the picture gallery, and once our names were checked, a hook was pinned to our jackets. This meant that when the medal was awarded, it was simply looped on to the hook.


Picture GalleryThe picture gallery was stunning – if only we could have just looked at the wonderful art – but there were so many interesting people to meet and find out why they were being awarded honours. They ranged from Pamela Goldberg who got hers for the Breast Cancer Campaign, Wing Commander Teresa Griffiths, who is doing sterling work at Birmingham Hospital with those who have been injured in conflicts, Christine Edwards for Higher Education, and our celebrity Adele (Adkins), the singer.

First Football Match In Buckingham Palace Gardens To Celebrate 150 Years Of The Football AssociationThe awarding procedure was then explained to us – not too complicated – and we were then told to wait until our names were called. We were taken out in batches, through some wonderful rooms, and then led across the back of the huge ball room to a parallel corridor and were checked yet again at the entrance to the ballroom. One by one our names and awards were announced. Forwards, stop, curtsey/bow, forwards to The Prince of Wales, medal awarded, chat and then go. (picture on right is of the Duke of Cambridge presenting awards earlier this year). It was a thrilling moment, not least because, coincidentally, In Paradisum, from Fauré’s Requiem, one of my favourite pieces of music, was played by the orchestra just as I went forwards for my award.

The Prince of Wales, President of the Heritage Crafts Association, was charming, as indeed he was to everyone I spoke to afterwards. He was interested in what we were doing and very supportive. Once out of the ballroom, I did give a little jump of celebration, but then remembered that there were video cameras everywhere (you could buy a film of your own presentation) and hoped they didn’t catch that rather non-MBE behaviour! The hanging pin was removed for us, and the medal was put into a smart box, then we were shown to the back of the ballroom to watch the remaining people being awarded.

When everyone had received their awards, The Prince of Wales left after the National Anthem, escorted by ghurkhas, and the Yeoman of the Guard marched out.

Patricia Lovett and her MBEI met up with my family in the Ballroom, and took my medal out of its box straightaway and pinned it on. As I said to the people as we walked out at Buckingham Palace – if you’ve got it, flaunt it! Then it was out into the courtyard for our photos.

This is the first time heritage crafts have been nationally recognised like this, and the first time for calligraphy for about forty years. The Heritage Crafts Association is working hard to nominate deserving traditional craftpeople for honours and we hope to see many more makers in future New Year and Queen’s Birthday lists.

And the singer Adele? Well apart from standing next to her and her smiling back in the picture gallery, and spotting her a few rows in front in the ballroom, we didn’t see her again. Speaking to the photographers they said that celebrities and VIPs are usually fast tracked through afterwards.

What a fantastic experience!