In preparation for our level 5 Scholarly Research Project module on the Gothic, the Pre-Raphaelites and visual culture, a group of Humanities students travelled north to beautiful Wightwick Manor and Gardens (National Trust) near Wolverhampton, shortly before the end of term. The house wore its Christmas decorations and was enchanting.
Photo courtesy of the National Trust
The Mander family bought the old manor house in 1887 and refurbished and extended it in the ‘Old English’ architectural style. The Great Parlour with its wooden minstrels gallery restored medieval domestic aesthetics, and the stained glass windows, tiled inglenook fireplaces and Jacobean-style wooden carved furnishings add rich darkness to the interiors. Yet Wightwick Manor was from the first a high-tech house, lit and heated by electricity, and with all modern comforts. The house was also ‘modern’ in that it drew on William Morris’s Arts and Crafts notion that houses should be useful and beautiful, and is a glorious example of Morris & Co.’s design as it was meant to be used. Morris’s textiles, wallpapers and carpets, William de Morgan tiles, and Leonard Shuffrey’s plasterwork, such as the friezes in the Great Parlour and the Billiard Room, combine to create what Oscar Wilde called ‘the House Beautiful’, a total design environment. The house is also a gallery of nineteenth-century art, with paintings and drawings by Rossetti, G.F. Watts, Elizabeth Siddal, Ford Maddox Brown and, of course Edward C. Burne-Jones, whose Love Among the Ruins hangs like an altarpiece at the end of the Parlour.
Photo: Harriet Heathman.
Wightwick is a wonderful place to visit all year round, but it’s especially magical during these quiet Advent weeks. We had the place largely to ourselves and were free to wander around the house and gardens. The superb docents and volunteers know absolutely everything about the house and family history, and we learned so much. But the visit was more than just a study trip; we spent a magical day among art, remembering the pleasures of escape. The low winter sunlight added to the intense beauty of the house and gardens.
Photos: Harriet Heathman
You can see more pictures at our Flickr gallery. Thanks to Harriet Heathman for most of these fantastic photos; and thanks to all the students who came on the trip and made it the success it was. Merry Christmas.
Photo: H Weeks
We still have some spaces left on the coach to the beautiful Wightwick Manor and Gardens on Friday 11 December. Wightwick (National Trust) is a late-Victorian fantasy house full of pre-Raphaelite paintings and William Morris furnishings and textiles. The house will be decorated for Christmas (the minstrels’ gallery decked with holly and mistletoe…) and it will look magical. This trip is a must for students working on nineteenth-century art, literature, history and culture; and for anyone interested in Pre-Raphaelite arts, William Morris’s work, Arts and Crafts design, domestic architecture, English garden design, and neo-medievalism. Everyone is welcome. Start the Christmas season by treating yourself to a day away from Cheltenham. At £5, it’s a steal. Please book your place now through the Online Store: http://store.glos.ac.uk/.
Illustration: Edward Burne-Jones, Love Among the Ruins (1890s), Wightwick Manor; ‘Bird’ textile, Wm Morris, in the Great Parlour at Wightwick Manor.
We have received some extra funding for Humanities field trips, and we’re delighted to announce that four are planned in December and January. On 2 December, a day in Worcester (part of the ‘Showcasing History’ programme) includes visits to the Civil War Commandery, Worcester’s great Cathedral and the King’s Head, one of the oldest pubs in the Midlands. After Christmas, there’ll be a day trip to London on 13 January to visit the Crime Museum’s special exhibition, plus ‘No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action, 1960 – 1990’ at the Guildhall; and on 8 January death fans can spend a day in Bristol and see the acclaimed Death Exhibition at the Bristol Museum.
Edward Burne-Jones, ‘Love among the Ruins’ (1894) at Wightwick.
English Literature students will love our pre-Christmas visit to Wightwick Manor and Gardens (National Trust) on Friday 11 December. Wightwick is a gorgeous example of late nineteenth-century Aestheticism in art and architecture. William Morris’s manifesto for beauty in everyday life accorded with Oscar Wilde’s celebration of ‘the House Beautiful’ and self-conscious cultivation of the senses. Houses were treated as palaces of art. Wightwick is in fact a domestic art gallery, with many paintings (some by Burne-Jones, above), and its furnishings, textiles, stained glass and tiles designed by Morris and Co.
This trip will appeal to anyone interested in the Pre-Raphaelite poets and artists and Arts and Crafts designers. Students taking the HM5000 English Literature option in semester two will have priority, but the trip’s open to all.
Full details and booking instructions for all these wonderful trips are available on the Online Store (Infonet access required). Most trips require a small charge to cover costs.
There are still a few places left on the Humanities field trip to see Birmingham’s collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. The Pre-Raphaelites began as a collective of artists who resisted what they saw as the ‘clear poison’ of Renaissance art, and sought to recapture the purity and radical simplicity of medieval art. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has one of the world’s most extensive collections of Pre-Raphaelite art. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Millais, William Holman Hunt and Edward Burne-Jones are all represented, as well as Arthur Hughes, Elizabeth Siddal and Kate Bunce.
Arthur Hughes, The Long Engagement (1859), Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
On Monday 20 April, we’ll depart FCH by coach at 9:30 am for Birmingham, and a guided tour around the Gallery. The rest of the day is yours to explore Birmingham’s art galleries, sights and shops before we return to Cheltenham at about 4:30. The visit is free of charge, but you MUST book your place on the coach via the Online Store.