Shrubs with Attitude – Clanfield to Chester

At last – a holiday! Short but very sweet. Started with a visit to my cousins who run Silver Pear Weddings at historic Friars Court, Clanfield.  Seriously old building:

The first recording of buildings on the site of Friars Court dates back to 1142 and the establishment of the first ‘Hospitaller’ in Oxfordshire by the charitable, religious order of the Knights Templar Order of St. John of Jerusalem. An ‘Hospitaller’ was a place of rest for travellers and from it are believed to derive the words ‘hospital’ and ‘hostel’.

In a chronicle of 1338, Friars Court is mentioned as being “… a small house with gardens, dovecote and adjacent crofts worth 30s a year”. This accommodated the preceptor (the only serving brother), a chaplain, a steward, two servants and three pensioners.  A few years later after the building of a bridge over the River Thames at nearby Radcot (now the oldest surviving crossing to remain standing), the increase in passing traffic must have had a strong influence in making Friars Court a more important stopping point.

By the middle of the 15th century the “small house” had become a stone-built hall with a ‘great chamber’; a separate kitchen, with an adjoining building; latrines to the east; a bake-house and a stone-built chapel with a walled garden to the north.

The house remained under auspices of the Order of St John until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s after which it became a private residence. From 1558 until the turn of the 19th century Friars Court had a varied succession of owners, often joint owners, most of whom let the house and land to tenants. During this period the most significant change to the house, before the alterations of the 19th century, was the addition of an attic storey and the remodelling of the façade in the 1650s.

We stayed in the sumptuous ‘Brides Room’ which is apparently haunted and overlooks the water meadow where I joined a family of  coots for a spot of morning yoga beside their water lily pond.

Later, a lovely summers evening walk along the upper reaches of the Thames to Radcot Lock as the sun was setting – took loads of reference photos including these amazing ‘hedge faces’ – perfect reflections of the hazy Oxfordshire sunset with swans, reeds and wildflowers as we made our way past the cows and wheat fields to the local pub.

On to Symonds Yat (Yat means gate in Welsh I think) on the Wye where we visited the red stone Goodrich Castle that we could see from our hotel window. Later with rain threatening we climbed up to the lookout for spectacular views down the valley and made it down to the pub just as the heavens opened.

Next day we took the tiny roads across beautiful Herefordshire countryside to Hay on Wye, up to Ludlow for lunch (renown as being a town to delight gourmets) then Shropshire and on to Meole Brace Hall in Shrewsbury – a historic house full of exquisite antiques and artwork tucked away next to a church. I’d never been to this part of England before and was delighted to discover what an interesting town Shrewsbury was. Our host was the charming Charles Hathaway who directed us to a hidden walking route into the town and made us an excellent breakfast next morning. Just wonderful!

Then on to the Cheshire border to visit Welsh relatives Alan and  Joy Parry who took us on a grand tour of Chester, up the Moelfamau Hill,  then to The Wirrel for ice creams on the edge of a sea of grass, complete with gulls and holiday makers at Parkgate where water had once been.

Alan spent his working life at Shotton steelworks on Deeside.  The plant opened gradually in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was huge concern employing thousands by the time of World War One.  Nationalised in 1967, by 1979 the plant and the whole industry was struggling under the pressure of foreign competition and industrial unrest. In 1980, British Steel took the decision to close the furnaces at the plant, making 6,500 workers redundant and leaving only the finishing operations such as rolling and plating.  However, Alan worked down the line from the furnaces in logistics where he pioneered the use of computer systems to track the loads of metal travelling through the plant.  Shotton was ahead of the times in this way, having first installed a computer system in 1976.  Alan retired in the 1990s and Shotton is now a much smaller private concern owned by Corus.

Home on Monday and a production team from ITV arrived in my studio to film someone buying one of my paintings for a programme with Lawrence Llewlyn Bowen – House Gift. Sadly she only had a limited budget but it will be great to see the studio on tv.

‘Pulse’ oil on panel -Lee Campbell

That evening was also the Bridgeman Art Library’s annual summer garden party at the Chelsea Art Club – very exclusive, no mobile phones allowed and just great to meet all the people who help sell the rights to my images which are held in the library.  Always a thrill to see a long lost painting appear on a book or CD cover. Lots of well know artists there and I also spotted Antonio Carluccio – whom I usually associate with networking breakfasts.

Pearls & Bubbles – Lee Campbell

Above is the large 6′ x 4′ commission that I’ve completed for Joseph’s Hairdressing Salon in St Margarets. So many bubbles! I did get a bit carried away but they were such fun to do. Pearls and bubbles a theme in keeping with the previous ‘Orb’ series and the bubble paintings that I did at the NPL last year.

A very big THANK YOU to all who braved a hot sticky night at the Portland Gallery on Richmond Hill last night- the show continues till 26th August – contact gallery for opening times Tel: 0208332 1200


2 Responses to “Shrubs with Attitude – Clanfield to Chester”

  1. 1 ann clark
    July 7, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I do like that bubble painting. Makes my inner kid get all excited.

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