Last weekend I joined a field trip to Cotswold Farm, an Arts and Crafts house with terraced gardens and terrific views. In the main, we were there to see the ceramics, but my overriding impressions are of the house itself. It is used by groups of clergy on retreat, though not on the day of our visit. Lucky clergy, I thought.
The farmhouse was built in the 1720s and expanded to twice its original size in about 1900. The Arts and Crafts interiors are the work of the architect Sidney Barnsley (1865-1926) and his assistant Norman Jewson. The library in particular is full of delights: wooden paneling, delicate plasterwork, metal sconces and curtains with rich embroidery.
We saw Chinese and Japanese ceramics, mainly blue and white export porcelain, collected by J. Dearman Birchall between 1860 and 1900. One of our guides was Colin Sheaf (Bonhams), who explained that at this time there was a surge of interest in blue and white export porcelain of the Kangxi period (1662-1722), pioneered by such well-known figures as Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These pieces had been sitting around in country houses since they arrived in the early 18th century but were now re-presented as the height of fashion. This shed new light on my visit to the Russell-Cotes Museum in Bournemouth, another late Victorian collection that includes blue and white porcelain.
Not everything came from China or Japan, it turned out. Certain pieces that seemed to be Imari ware were reproductions by the French Samson firm. Our guides chose to keep quiet about this at first, and they fooled the group very nicely.
Near Cirencester, Gloucestershire
This visit was open to members of the Oriental Ceramics Society; information on how to join this group can be found on their website.
Above: Cotswold Farm. Image at http://www.cotswoldfarmgardens.org.uk/.
Below: Cotswold Farm, the library. Image at http://www.traveleditions.co.uk/tour/cotswolds-arts-and-crafts-traditions/photos.
Below: Cotswold Farm, interior. Image at http://www.cotswoldfarmgardens.org.uk/.