Friday, 25 March 2011

The Twenty First Century Idler

Hubert-Francois Gravelot, The Coffee House, The Tate Gallery
As far as lively conversation and witty debates went during the eighteenth century, there were few places better to enjoy it than within the walls of a Coffee House. Coffee was served in abundance, but the real reason so many writers, artists, politicians and thinkers flocked through their doors was largely due to the opportunities to meet, talk and formulate ideas.

Created in the spirited and convivial atmosphere of an eighteenth century Coffee House is the recently opened Idler Academy on Westbourne Park Road, London. Named after a magazine written by the don of eighteenth century literature, Dr. Samuel Johnson, it offers lectures, talks and classes of an eclectic and tongue-in-cheek nature (while serving drinks and cakes, of course).

The spring timetable is now available to view online, and includes discussions and courses such as:

Tuesday 29th March: A Masterclass in Elizabethan Music for Plucked Instruments.  
Wednesday 30th March: The Art of Cloud Collecting.
Tuesday 12th April: The Hidden History of Glamour.
Wednesday 27th April: The Decline in Grammatical Standards.

The Idler Academy is also hoping to offer courses in calligraphy, embroidery, philosophy, Latin, life drawing, and last but not least...the ukulele.

For more information, visit The Idler Academy's website here.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Taken in Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan, c.1942
Later on tonight I shall be raising a glass to St. Patrick, and today I wanted to share a favourite old photograph with you: a way of both honouring and sharing my heritage. Above is a photo taken in the village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan, and cheekily peeping over the shoulder of his brother, Mickey (on the left hand side of the photo), is my grandfather James (Jimmy to everyone in the know). Enjoy the ultimate Irish party today wherever you are - Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Restoration Round-up

Today I have two restored gems for your viewing, visiting and intellectual pleasure, to blow away the winter cobwebs and pave the way for spring.


Firstly, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, west London - one time property of the eighteenth century writer and wit, Horace Walpole. Upon buying the original property, Walpole set about a fantastical overhaul; transforming Strawberry Hill into the vision of gothic revival glamour it is today. Walpole's  schemes were envisaged at a time when all things gothic were undergoing a popular resurgence. He called his second home "a gingerbread castle," and a "Gothic mousetrap," and allowed the public to visit the house on a daily basis (even devising a system of advanced bookings) with one key rule: no children allowed. These days, there is still an advanced booking system in place, but the no-children rule has been relaxed! The first phase of restoration has been completed for some months now, allowing a dazzling glimpse of Walpole's impressive vision, and as further restoration work is completed, more rooms will reopen their doors.

Strawberry Hill opens for the current season on April 2nd, with pre-booking strongly advised. For more information, click here.


Secondly, we go to Shugborough Hall (Milford, Staffordshire). Ancestral home of the Earldom of Lichfield, the property and estate are now jointly ran by The National Trust and Staffordshire County Council. It has always been a gorgeous place to visit; built in the 1700s and set within rolling parkland, but this year it becomes even more special. Once the main home of Patrick Lichfield (otherwise known as the 5th Earl), only the ground floor state rooms and part of the first floor were accessible to the public. Since Lord Lichfield's death in 2005, work has been carried out to sensitively restore his private apartments and open them up for viewing. On the 18th March, these once off-limits rooms will open along with the rest of the house and estate for the current season. As Patrick Lichfield was a society and fashion photographer of great repute, there will also be a new retrospective exhibition of some of his beautiful images.

Grace Coddington, former model and current Creative Director of American Vogue, 1964
Shugborough Hall and Estate will be open daily from the 18th March. For further details, click here.

Strawberry Hill image courtesy of Strawberry Hill House; Shugborough Hall image courtesy of The National Trust; Lichfield's shot of Grace Coddington courtesy of The Independent.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

One Year Old!

Today, this blog is one year old. One year ago today, I decided to go for it, and so The Beau Monde Gallery was born. It hasn't been my first foray into blogging, but in so many ways it's been new and exciting, and exciting is also what this past year has been. There are always downs in everybody's year, but today I choose to honour the ups of the past twelve months - times that have made me laugh, smile and be glad - true visual treats.

Captured: Eighteenth Century Gentleman's Waistcoat (Detail)

Captured: Thoresby Hall, Nottinghamshire
Captured: The Library at Thoresby Hall
Captured: Spring Forsythia in my garden
Captured: Lovely peeptoe heels
Captured: Canadian Ranger and Toronto skyline
Captured: Mucking around with dinner
Captured: The Blue Room's vivid wallpaper, Thoresby Hall
Captured: 'Brother Cadfael' rose - in the garden
Captured: Kedleston Hall's grand staircase, Derbyshire
 Captured: Garden wall and door, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Captured: Cloud gazing in the garden
 Captured: Toronto skyline from the Manulife Centre
Captured: Radcliffe Camera, Oxford
Captured: Bonfire Night
Captured: Britannia salutes the fallen
Captured: Mince Pies and tea
Captured: Santa on the mantel
Thank you (a million times over) for stopping by, reading, commenting and following. I have met some truly lovely people, and in turn have been inspired over and over again. I can't tell you how much that means. Here's to another year of blogging!