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Posts Tagged ‘Interior decoration’


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This post takes a look at the main staircase at Harvington Hall. Like a lot of things at Harvington it has a bit of a story to tell – some of which can be told in this post, and some of it not!middle stairs smaller

A grand entrance

The original staircase dates from about 1600. This would have provided important visitors with a suitably grand entrance.

Harvington Hall was built by Humphrey Packington around 1578. After he died the Hall passed to his daughter Mary Yate. After Mary died, the Hall passed by marriage to the Throckmorton family from nearby  Coughton Court.

A replacement staircase

The Hall was not regularly lived in for over 200 years and a great many of the fixtures and fittings at Harvington were taken out.  If you want to see the original Harvington Hall staircase you have to travel to Coughton to see it. The staircase that we see today is an exact copy built between 1936 and 1947. The only things remaining at Harvington from the original construction are some candlesticks made from the bannisters and the shadow painting of the staircase seen on the walls in the pictures on this page.

half way down the stairs

A hidden purpose?

The original staircase was built around 1600 and was a substantial improvement to the Hall. However, there is a theory that this development may have served another more secret purpose.

Of the seven hiding places at Harvington, four are to be found close to the staircase. These are the most ingenious hides and the ones thought to be the work of Nicholas Owen – the famous hide builder.

In a house such as Harvington which was being used to hide Catholic Priests an attempt was made to employ servants (often Catholic themselves) who could be trusted to keep quiet about what was going on in the house. Despite this, there was always the possibility of the authorities being tipped off. Hide building and the location of such hides would have been a secret known only to a few people.

In order to make a secret hide it would have been necessary to cut through plaster, bricks, and wooden beams. As with any building project this would have involved a lot of mess and noise.  It is thought likely that the staircase construction also served to hide the activity of the hide builder.

A secret –  hidden somewhere on this page!

The entrance to one of the most ingenious hides left anywhere is hidden somewhere on this staircase. The actual hide is quite a large one, over 5ft by 5ft wide and 6ft high, when it was found it contained the remains of a  rush mat that had been left there. There is also a story that it was once possible to spy on people in the great hall from this hide.

The entrance to this hide can clearly be seen in one the pictures on this page – exactly where is it? – well, that is a secret!

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Small Chapel at Harvington Hall

Small Chapel at Harvington Hall

I love this painted wall from Harvington Hall. What look like falling rose petals are actually drops of blood and water – a depiction of the blood and water that poured from Jesus’ side at his death.

A Roman soldier thrust a spear into Jesus’ side to ensure that Jesus was dead, “Immediately blood and water flowed out.” (John 19, 34) Blood, a sign of his life, flows upon those standing beneath his cross. Water, which signifies the Spirit living within him, is poured out upon the world they represent. Death, far from ending his life, becomes the moment he shares his life. “This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ.” (I John 5 and 6)

Blood we might expect at a crucifixion – but, from a medical point of view, the presence of water is surprising. The early believers would have lived in much closer proximity to birth and death, as would the Tudor builders and residents of Harvington Hall, than we do today. For them water and blood in close conjunction would be associated with childbirth – and so this report of blood and water flowing from the side of Christ would have led them to think of Jesus giving birth to the Spirit and to the Church, and even of him giving birth to creation as the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, as is described in the prologue to St John’s gospel. For more on this see The Kindness of God by Janet Martin Soskice.

Dame Julian (Click photo to see owner)

Dame Julian (Click photo to see owner)

Dame Julian of Norwich, who lived as an anchoress attached to a church in Norwich in the late 14th century wrote in the Revelations of Divine Love,

[Christ] our natural mother, our gracious mother, because he willed to become our mother in everything, took the ground for his work most humbly and most mildly in the maiden’s womb…. Our high God, the sovereign wisdom of all, arrayed himself in this low place and made himself entirely ready in our poor flesh in order to do the service and the office of motherhood himself in all things. …. A mother can give her child milk to suck, but our precious mother, Jesus, can feed us with himself. He does so most courteously and most tenderly, with the Blessed Sacrament, which is the precious food of true life. With all the sweet sacraments he sustains us most mercifully and graciously. http://www.gloriana.nu/mother.htm

The wall painting looks like it could have been done by a member of the household at Harvington. It is a homely decoration that reflects the faith of the family; drops or petals of death and birth.

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Thought I would do a quick post to show off a re-creation of some Tudor style decor that I did. The great chamber at Harvington Hall is panelled on three sides. This is a modern replacement of panelling that was stripped from the Hall whilst it was in the process of becoming derelict.

Harvington - Modern day room

Harvington - Modern day room

I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of what it might have looked like originally. There is one small panel on one of the walls which still has some of the original panelling. This is quite brightly painted with a red, triangular design – this original design is quite clearly evident on the door at the back of the room.

I took a photo of the door painting and then  added this to the other panels in the room ( I also ‘lit’ the fire and added a figure). I think the effect is quite interesting although I am not sure that I would particularly like it myself. I have left the floorboards un-covered, I think they would have been covered by rushes originally.

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How the room may have looked?

Ok , Ok – the electric lighting is a bit of an anachronism too! but you get the general idea? (Although apparently ‘The Tudors’ TV Show had a central heating radiator on display – why shouldn’t I have electric lights!)

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