Monday 3 December 2018

Compton Verney

The 18th century country mansion has been converted to house the Compton Verney Art Gallery.

In 1769, landscape architect Lancelot Capability Brown was employed to lay out the grounds in keeping with the new taste for more naturalistic landscape. He eliminated all trace of the earlier formal gardens, including the canal and the avenues running east to west. These were replaced with grassland and trees, with the planting of cedars and over 2,200 oak and ash saplings.

Although it looks natural, the lake was created from a chain of five separate ponds. Brown designed the lake to look like a river that, like the park itself, appeared to continue indefinitely.

The Upper Bridge

The walk from reception to the house is a pleasant one,

affording great views of the house across the lake

On our way we came across The Clearing,

an art installation by Alex Hartley and Tom James, who set out to build a vision of the future in the grounds. Commissioned as a modern 'eyecatcher', a contemporary version of the kind of folly that Capability Brown would have built, the geodesic dome is made from scrap materials.

We reached the path that would take us over the Upper Bridge

which afforded views of the Old Town Meadow

there are four Sphinx positioned at either end of the bridge.

another view from the bridge

We then started walking towards the house

We could see The Clearing from here

We walked around the house and came upon these gigantic deckchairs

Ken looks tiny sitting in one of them

The steps that lead to the chapel

The chapel was built in 1775-9 by Capability Brown. It is a plain, Palladian-style Chapel. It was designed to look like a classical temple, in keeping with Brown's idealised landscape. Brown demolished a medieval chapel by the lake in 1772, probably to improve his newly-created sight-lines across the lake, and brought many of the old chapel's monuments to the new chapel including the double tomb, the large memorials and all the floor brasses.

The chapel's foundations of oolite limestone (egg stone) were sourced locally but the rest of the walls are Gloucester sandstone.

The interior is dominated by the tomb of Richard and Margaret Verney, carved by sculptor-architect Nicholas Stone. Brown deliberately put the tomb centre stage, and appears to have almost built the chapel around it. Much of the wall decoration is made of papier-mache that was added during the 1930s.

Unfortunately, in 1929 most of the old chapel's English heraldic glass was removed by the then owner and sold at auction. The Chancellor of the Diocese was petitioned to intervene to stop the sale but he concluded that Lord Manton was within his legal rights. Today some of the glass can be found locally at Warwick Museum and further afield at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. The remainder is believed to be in the USA.

A last view of the chapel and we moved on

down the steps, and we had come full circle

to the front of the house where we stopped to have a look at this Boulder by John Frankland

view of the bridge

a last look at the lake

and then we reached the Ice House

which was built in 1772 by Capability Brown during the extensive re-modelling. An ice house was a 'must have' accessory of the day amongst leading gentry, with growing demand for refrigerated food, sorbets and ice creams. Ice was cut in blocks from the lake during the winter and dragged up to the Ice House. A drain at the bottom allowed water from the melted ice to escape. The structure was built mainly underground where the temperature is more consistently cool.

It was open

looking down, we could see that the storage area is huge

This is one of the nicest ice houses I have seen

The back is a perfectly formed thatched cone

Behind the Ice House is this coppice. Brown planted trees and shrubs to screen the mansion, wanting to offer visitors an unexpected vista at particular points when the house could be seen at its best.

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