Tag Archives: Marianne Rush

18th century escapades – Lady Walpole’s curious grotto

Whenever I start to write about the paintings of Marianne Rush I have a tendency to wander off into fantasy. As I recently had a very pleasant meeting with a distant relative of the lady I feel an obligation to anchor this post in reality as far as possible. So let’s be clear. The picture below is not a painting by Rush, (we’ll get to her later) although there’s something about the trees and the foliage in the foreground which reminds me of her work. This is a black and white photograph of a water colour by another artist (possibly unknown) of “Mrs Aufrere’s house in the Stableyard, Chelsea”, about 1780. It shows the entrance to the Coal Creek, a kind of canal which ran a short distance into the grounds to the west of the Royal Hospital, and on the corner, the Octagon Summer House.

The house which may be visible in the distance used to be called Walpole House, and had been one of the residences of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (but don’t get him confused with the previous Earl of Orford, Edward Russell, who had been Walpole’s mentor and whose title died out. Walpole took the title himself as a tribute to his old friend). Walpole is regarded as the first Prime Minister and the longest serving in that role. (He is the father of Horace Walpole, author of the Castle of Otranto, the first “Gothic” novel and builder of an extraordinary house, Strawberry Hill  in Twickenham which fortunately you can read about elsewhere) Walpole and his first wife Catherine (Horace’s mother) used the house and garden for entertaining and filled both with extravagant collection of furniture, decorations and exotic trees and plants.

I have here next to me a small pamphlet entitled…. well, instead of copying all that out let’s use the medium of the digital image.

There’s that word “curious”. The final line refers to a separate sale of “exoticks”. Regretfully we don’t have a copy of that. The exoticks, were the many plants and small trees which had grown in the garden, along with exotic fruit like pineapples, which were popular and expensive items for the leisured classes of the day.

Walpole died in 1745, hence the sale. His wife had died in 1737. Without intending to malign either of them, it seems that though the marriage had begun as a happy one, the two had gone their own way in its latter years. Walpole also had children by his mistress Maria , who became his wife after Catherine’s death.

I had no trouble finding images of Sir Robert. Here he is looking as grand as possible

Although we have a print showing Lady Walpole it proved slightly harder to find. Fortunately there are other images of her online. She was famed as a great beauty, but not as notorious as a slightly later celebrity.

The sale catalogue backs up the notion that the Walpoles enjoyed an extravagant and sumptuous lifestyle.

Have a look at the contents of ” the taffetty bedroom

Fabric wall coverings were popular with those who could afford them.

The contents of the “worsted damask bed chamber”:

The senior servants’ rooms were less ornate, although they had the basics, and probably wouldn’t have complained about the “feather beds”.

 

Also listed is “the red room in the garden

That would be one for the 18th century version of World of Interiors.

When writing this post I’ve relied heavily on an article on Walpole House written by the late David Le Lay for the Chelsea Society Annual Report in 2013. David and I spent an hour or so one afternoon examining prints of the Royal Hospital looking for a glimpse of the House on the western side. This print by Maurer seems to offer a view.

You can see the summer house again, on the extreme right, and to the left a single storey building with a row of windows which might be the Orangery.  The house itself could be behind that. A close -up helps a little.

But let’s not worry too much about the elusive house. According to an early volume of the Survey of London the house couldn’t be seen from the river.

With the garden buildings in mind let’s turn at last to Marianne Rush.

She calls this the “Green House”, not a glass house as we would think of today, although some doubts creep in here. The building in the pictures looks a little like the Orangery, which still exists. But the architect, Vanburgh,  favoured round headed windows. At any rate it was a building containing many plants and fruit trees, with paintings and objects, and space for entertaining.

According to Thomas Faulkner in his History of Chelsea (1829) “Lady Walpole took great delight in improving these gardens and spared no expense in procuring natural and artificial curiosities from foreign parts. Her grotto exited much of the attention of the curious at that time.” 

“During the King’s absence in Germany one summer Queen Caroline frequently honoured Lady Walpole with a visit, and dined in the green-house, which was laid out with choice flowers and plants, and hung with some of the fine paintings which were afterwards removed by the Earl of Orford.”

In August 1729 the Walpoles entertained the Queen and several other dukes and princesses. ” A kitchen was built on purpose in the stable yards…with above 20 places for fires etc. The Fruit for the Dessert was collected for a week previous from all Quarter of the Town…there were several Barges of fine Musick playing all the Time. After which they returned to the Green House where the illustrious company were entertained with a Ball and afterwards supp’d in the same place.” According to the Monthly Chronicles, quoted by Alfred Beaver in his book Memorials of Old Chelsea. An exaggerated account? Well you wouldn’t get all that in here:

It’s not clear whether Marianne ever actually saw some of the buildings she painted but she seems to have been quite careful in her work and if she never actually saw the Ranelagh Rotunda for example she would have been familiar with it from prints and engravings. We give her the benefit of the doubt.

The grotto is a little more problematic. Here is Marianne’s painting. Look carefully.

Is that something like a Hindu deity beside the urns? Maybe not.

As David Le Lay and others who have written about it (I also looked at an article in a 2004 periodical called Follies) have said, it’s not quite clear where the grotto actually was. There are some half-buried arches on the grounds but they don’t look much like Rush’s picture and it’s hard to imagine the grotto in its heyday when it was much celebrated and compared favourably with Queen Caroline’s own grotto. There were even some verses in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1734.

[Scan from Faulkner, which was clearer and didn’t obscure the name W-lp-le.]

 

 

And rival Grotto Caroline.” Decorating your grotto with shells was a bit of a thing back then. I looked at an article in Country Life for 1944 (February, when there was still some time before D-Day to think about grottos) showing some examples, which mentions Lady Walpole’s grotto, but of course had no pictures.

There are no signs of any shell decorations in Rush’s interior.

So perhaps this view is speculative, or just imaginary, although Rush did like that trope of 18th century water-colourists, the empty room.

The summer house too looks  quite deserted, apart from that bust. She’s taken care with that glimpse of the view outside and the light entering the small room. Can I  see a hint of the windmill on the south bank?

Rush’s view of the exterior is a useful point at which to stop, as it provides the opposite point of view from our first picture, and does seem to look like other views of the summer house. There’s the windmill again. (There really was one – it appears in several prints.)

Marianne got this one right so perhaps she knew more than us. But. as I’ve found, an aura of mystery still clings to her and her paintings. And I like that, as you’ve probably realised.

Postscript

I have used the Rush pictures before in one or two of the imaginative posts I used to write when I started the blog so it’s good to get back to seeing them as views of reality. When they were first acquired by the library in the 1920s it was because they provided a valuable look at a whole series of buildings which no longer existed. I am still very taken with their visionary qualities though, and it seems quite appropriate that we’re not quite sure about Lady Walpole’s grotto. We were high on word count and low on pictures this week so I’m going to find a furnished summer house and lie down now. Oh, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to say this but as this is a complicated business I should add that any errors are mine and are not attributable to any of the sources I’ve used.

This post is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Marianne Rush herself and David Le Lay, a friend of Chelsea.

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The dead magpie, and other garden mysteries

A couple of weeks ago, sitting on the bench I thought I saw  through the trees at the opposite edge of the garden the distinctive black and white colouring of a magpie. It had been weeks since I last saw one, well before the hot spell. That one had been dead. I took several photos of the corpse like a corvid CSI, marvelling at the blue green colours in the black feathers. Had a cat got lucky? There was one prowling around in the distance looking suspicious. But then cats always look as if they’re up to no good. It’s a predator thing. The magpie was stiff, so was probably not a recent kill.

DSC_5515

I wondered if the crows had something to do with it. They had been the exclusive masters of the garden before the magpies came. During the spring I had often counted magpies and recited that familiar rhyme to myself, once getting as far as seven. After the death the magpies disappeared just as if they couldn’t stand to be where their fellow had died. Two of the crows strutted around as if the magpie spring had never happened.

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Of course the magpies could have just moved on somewhere else as the weather got hotter. I hadn’t seen any of the green birds (feral parakeets, now natives of west London) for a while either. The wood pigeons carried on regardless with their usual business. These are not your standard London pigeons – the rats with wings. The wood pigeon is cleaner, sleeker, a bit larger, with a longer and more curved beak. A lot more middle class than the standard winged urban scavenger. They prefer big gardens and tall trees as found in a large communal garden.

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The garden is a large rectangle with housing blocks on the two long sides surrounded on three sides by more blocks. A single tower faces the main road. There was bomb damage during the war and many of the old late Victorian apartment blocks were replaced with modern versions in the 1970s. A single detached house (a forgotten building if ever there was one) was demolished in the 60s to make way for the tower.

The garden is what remains of a large estate which is called a Park on early maps. The trees are tall, as tall as the blocks except for some recent plantings (a big tree went down in October 1987) and an old mulberry tree thought to be the remains of a failed 18th century silk production scheme. (Every mulberry tree in Chelsea is attributed to the same venture – apparently one of the reasons the plan failed is that the trees were the wrong kind of mulberry and turned out to be repugnant to silk worms).

There is some evidence of former landscaping in the form of half-buried stone borders.

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And then there are the drain pipes.

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Three of the large trees have drain pipes embedded in them, almost absorbed into the bark. Why do trees need drain pipes?

Now about that forgotten building…

1963

This single mansion built in 1884 was demolished in 1965 although I think these photographs were taken in the winter of 1963, possibly by John Bignell.

There’s some snow on the ground

That tree is still there. It all looks a bit Dickensian.

On the main road a couple of pedestrians trudge through the slush.

It was a fairly grand residence.

Elm Park House before demolition 1963 Bignell 001

Another feature of the modern garden is the occasional feature which indicate what lies below, small..

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…and large.

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Three underground chambers used for parking.

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Hot water pipes run through them meaning  that snow never lingers too long in the garden.

Long ago when the garden was a Park another house sat among the trees.

Old Park House Warton Park

It was painted by our old friend Marianne Rush.[link] [link]

Postscript

This is another summer vacation post so there wasn’t much research involved. Those pictures which may or may not have been taken by John Bignell have not been seen much. The colour pictures are by me.

I hope David Brady will like this post.


Shepherd in Chelsea

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd is one of the few artists in our collection who seemed equally happy in Chelsea and Kensington. It could be argued that his Chelsea watercolours have the edge for the variety of the subject matter, although some of these views are familiar from the work of other artists. Take Gough House as an example.

Gough House 238A

We’ve seen it before in the paintings of Mariane Rush. She painted Gough House from different angles, even from old prints and her imagination. Shepherd’s view is more exact, his trees less exotic, but he does allow a certain darkness about the place. Gough House was built in 1704 but the Gough family didn’t own it until ten years later. It lay adjacent to the later building Walpole House – susequent researchers wish that Shepherd (or Rush) had painted that.  In 1790 Gough House was a girl’s school (inevitably) . The grounds were gradually absorbed in the 19th century by the building of the Embankment and the laying out of Tite Street but the house itself partly survived into the 20th century as The Victoria Hospital for Children

The Chelsea Bun House in Grosvenor Row was the home of the Chelsea Bun but also had a museum of curiosities, not the only one in the area.

Chelsea Bun House 167A

The Bun House was run by several members of a family named Hand. The often quoted figure of a quarter of a million buns sold on Good Friday 1829 is probably apocryphal but the buns themselves “a zephyr in taste, fragrant as honey” sound  a little more interesting than the modern version.

Below, a view of St Joseph’s Convent, Cadogan Street occupied then by the Sisters of Mercy. Boys and girls’ schools and alms housas were later added and the street now also has a Catholic Church, St Mary’s.

St Soseph's Convents and Schools, Cadogan Street 172A

Some of this building still survives. Another building with ecclesiastical connnections is now gone, Winchester House, home of the Bishop of Winchester after the destruction of Winchester Palace. While the Bishop lived there it was outside the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, but by 1825 Earl Cadogan’s estate had acquired it. After its demolition, Oakley Street was built, running south from the King’s Road to the river right through the former house.

Winchester House 150A

Some clerical figures strolling on the left perhaps, and one of Shepherd’s running dogs on the other path.

East of the point where Oakley Street met the river was a grand terrace of houses we’ve seen in Hedderly photographs. The house with the signs is Don Saltero’s Tavern,  once home to an even more famous museum of curiosites.

Cheyne Walk - Don Saltereo's 151A

James Salter (“Don Saltero” was his exotic alter ego) had been a servant of Sir Hans Sloane. The original coffee house was further east near Lawrence Street but he finally moved to 18 Cheyne Walk. He died in 1728. The collection was sold in 1799 and by the time Shepherd painted this picture the house was just a tavern.

The collection itself deserves a post of its own, which I may do one day but let me just give some random examples from the 1734 version of the catalogue:

21 Petrified crab from China; 27 The Worm that eats into the Piles in Holland; 31 A piece of rotten wood not to be consumed by fire; 67 A pair of Nun’s stockings; 69 A Nun’s Whip; 70 the Pope’s infallible candle; 76 A little Lobster;102 A curious snuff box, adorn’d with ivory figures;119 the Hand of an Egyptian Mummy; 135 An Ostritch’s Leg; 142 A Cat of Mountain; 302 A Whale’s pizzle: 305 A Batt with four Ears

As you can see, it was a collection you’d want to see if you could. I once displayed the whole list in the gallery at Chelsea Library. In the end though the whole lot sold for £50.

We now begin a walk along the riverside, one of the most illustrated parts of Chelsea [link]

Another familiar view shows the pre-Embankment riverside heading towards the Old Church. The river was wider, and maybe gentler at this time.

Chelsea waterfront 152A

Getting closer to the church you can see the Sloane Monument and the terrace leading up to it, both photographed by Hedderly. (plus other posts under his name)

Chelsea Old Church 145A

Shepherd gave the dog some time off and puts a horse in this one. Arch House, the covered way to Lombard Street is just visible.

Lindsey House 146A

On the other side of the bridge, the dog returns in this view of Lindsey House, built in 1694 but substantially altered over the years. The Brunels, father and son lived there for several years in the early 19th century.

Turner's House 119 Cheyne Walk 147A

Further along Cheyne Walk at number 119 (the house in the centre) was rented from 1838 by the painter J M W Turner. The rail on the roof was supposedly the point from which he watched the river, particularly at sunset.  He lived there almost incognito only visited by a few friends such as Leopold Martin, son of the painter John Martin. It’s not recorded whether the misspellings at Alexander’s are what Shepherd actually saw or whether Shepherd himself was a poor speller.

Time-journeys along this stretch of river often end here:

Cremorne Gardens 1852 148A

The Cremorne Pleasure Gardens, where I imagine there were no dogs allowed, apart from the performing variety [link]

Cremorne Gardens 1852 149A

Shepherd doesn’t show the crowds. Perhaps he’s imagining a quiet afternoon at Cremorne. These two ladies, the gentleman and the boy can have their pick of the chairs. A few figures make their way out of what I assume is Ashburnham Hall, part of the old estate now convereted into an exhibition area.. This is the genteel version of the Gardens. Some edifying displays in the hall, a chance to sit quietly, almost in the country with only the sound of the wind in the trees and the river in the background. Later the entertainments will begin and presumably Cremorne won’t be so quiet or so staid.

Let’s go one step further and pass through the gardens onto the westernmost stretch of the King’s Road. St Mark’s College was built right across from the entrance to Cremorne. As a teacher training college the authorities there naturally deplored the licentious activity in the evenings at Cremorne and the Principal of the College was one of the main objectors whenever Cremorne’s licences were up for renewal. (Although the main reason for the closure of Cremorne was probably a decline in profitability and the desire of developers to build housing on the site.) The days of seasonal  outdoors entertainment on the scale of Cremorne were coming to an end.

On the Fulham Road side of the College site was the chapel:

St Mark's College Chapel 138A

It looks like another tranquil spot. But London was growing around all the quiet places Shepherd depicted and the modern city was taking over. The only animals in this picture are a small flock of birds.

Postscript

Shepherd brings together many strands of Chelsea history. I’m almost certainly going to pick one of those up next week, I’m not sure which one right now.


The Red Portfolio: more tales of old Brompton

It’s an archivist’s joke. The watercolour paintings by an unknown artist which were formerly kept in a red portfolio are now stored in a green archive box labelled…the Red Portfolio. The pictures, probably loose sheets by the time they fell into the archivist’s hands were carefully removed from the portfolio and mounted or (later) put into acetate sleeves. On the reverse of the sheets the artist wrote notes, some of them copious. These were later transcribed, not always precisely, as the archivist was sometimes better informed than the artist on certain historical points.

Old Brompton 2530

The village of Old Brompton in the late 1820s (“opposite Brompton Heath and Selwood Lane”). A rural spot with a motley collection of houses looking a little like they might be about to collapse. In the house on the left the hindquarters of a horse are visible, and a woman in the window remonstrating with someone. Actually I think it was Sallad Lane, as shown on this map of 1829 by Crutchley.

Crutchley 1829 Brompton - Copy

The map locates Old Brompton fairly precisely. Since then the name has been used to describe a much vaguer area. Nearby was another quiet thoroughfare.

Old houses Thistle Grove 2525

Thistle Grove (now Drayton Gardens, not the modern Thistle Grove). On the right the Jolly Paviours Inn (Paviours were artisans who laid paving stones – though not in this neighbourhood by the looks of it), a favourite of the artist George Morland. He was said to be responsible for painting the inn sign, and for paying his bar bill with a painting for the parlour. They always say that about feckless artists though, don’t they? (Although Morland was more feckless than most.)

I like the house on the left with the stairs leading up to the front door, conveniently situated above the muddy road. Quite a nice house for an artist or a place for a visitor to stay.

We learn a few facts about the painter of these pictures along the way but we never find out a name or a gender. The artist was familiar with the history of the area through local tradition and thorough knowledge of the work of Thomas Faulkner, one of the pioneers of local history in west London to whom he or she sometimes refers in his penciled notes. (The slight evidence of poor handwriting and time spent in taverns made me lean towards a male artist, but the same handwriting and a certain delicacy of touch made my colleague M argue the case that she was a woman. There is no overwhelming proof either way.)

We have to move off the map section above way past the western limit of the territory we can call Brompton to a cluster of buildings near Putney Bridge called Fulham. In the High Street was a tavern called the Golden Lion Inn.

Golden Lion front 2520

A Golden Lion still exists today, a little altered probably.  Down the same street closer to Putney Bridge stands a building which is now a pub called the Temperance, an ironic name for a former temperance hall. I remember it in the 1970s when it was a snooker / billiards hall. When I first went there my friends announced that we were going to a place called “Lards”. It had that name because those were the only remaining letters in the illuminated sign.

Forgive my digression. I brought you down here for a glimpse inside.

Golden Lion Inn High Street Fulham interior of the hall 1837-40 2518

The artist gives the measurements of the empty room and reports that it was the residence of Bishop Benson.

Golden Lion Inn High Street Fulham interior servants room 2521

This equally vacant space was the servant’s hall.

This is what I wanted to show you. Perhaps it was a habit of painters at this time but this interest in empty rooms is also a feature of the work of that other enigmatic local watercolourist Marianne Rush. (Try the link) There are other shared characteristics.

Florida Gardens 2529

The extravagant and slightly inaccurate foliage is a Rush trope. So is the over-sized writing on the sign and the figures which don’t quite seem to belong. Florida Gardens, Hogmore Lane  was a house which had been converted into a public tea garden by Mr Hyam,”a German gardener“. It was located on the east side of what is now Gloucester Road, opposite the tube station. There are now many establishments on this spot where you can buy burgers or coffee, or change some currency. No gardens to sit in though.

Residence of M la Touche Little Chelsea 2526a

The residence of Monsieur la Touche in Little Chelsea has the same exotic vegetation with some  particularly wild trees. I have been unable to find any details about the resident himself. Is that door open? Is there a smudge-like figure standing at it? Mrs Rush used to like details like that.

I’m not suggesting the artist actually is Mrs Rush. There are plenty of differences. To be unkind for a moment it may be that they share a lack of some artistic skills with regard to depicting objects and places but I could also say they share a kind of weird vision which overcomes any objection to technique.

Billings Well 2533

Here is Billing’s Well, in the northernmost of a set of fields called the Three Billings. The artist gives an autobiographical snippet: “I use to go for the purpose of gathering water cresses,  being large and good”.

“In 1781 the  waters spread from this well over a large piece of ground….the well is resorted to and frequented by visitors..the water said to be good for sore eyes and legs (its qualitys not known by me)”

The avenue of trees on the right conceals a path which would have taken a walker to Holland House.The field is now part of Brompton Cemetery.

Even though we know her name, the unknown artist is perhaps less of a mystery than Mrs Rush. She or he had a liking for pieces of local history and tradition.

Old House which stood nearly adjoining the Swan Inn 2527

This house  was “nearly adjoining the Swan Inn” (look back at the map), and had been a pest house (a place where victims of infectious diseases were kept, sometimes forcibly). In the early 1700s it was full of Scottish lodgers so was called the Scotts Barracks or slightly libellously the Beggars Rest. The figure of a one legged man is included to illustrate this.

Ship Inn 2523

The Ship Inn (later the Swan) stood, according to the archivist in Swan Lane (later Selwood Terrace) where Queen’s Gate intersects with Old Brompton Road. You can see from the map that this is not quite right as Selwood Terrace (where Dickens stayed briefly before his marriage) was nearer to Fulham Road.

I’m only showing you eleven pictures this week. I’m holding back a few of the Red Portfolio pictures for another day. But the last one is an intriguing one I think.

Red Lion Tea Gardens Brompton 1782 2537

The Red Lion Tea Gardens, “stood on the high Brompton Road to Earl’s Court“, an unfortunately imprecise description. (There was a tea garden behind the Swan). The sign, surrounded by a ring of ropes, depicts a somewhat eccentric red lion with a word which looks like “snips“. Beneath it hangs an embroidered smock and a bonnet. The artist suggests that these are a prize for the winner of a game played in the grounds. I on the other hand am tempted to imagine some esoteric or ceremonial rural activity involving an effigy and a person. But more than a century of supernatural stories lie between me and the artist so I won’t let my imagination run away with me. I’ll leave it to you to wonder who was going to wear those garments and why. Perhaps if you had been walking by that day you might have shuddered and waked on instead of entering.

We’ll do that ourselves and as the sun goes down we’ll stroll back through the fields and paths back to those upper rooms in Thistle Grove. We could cross the road to the tavern later and look at Morland’s picture. And listen, like the unknown artist, to some of our fellow patrons’ stories of old Brompton.

Postscript

The unknown artist shares his or her area of interest with our old friend the  artist William Cowen who was a rather more skilled painter. But I’m glad to add her or him to the list of artists who have chronicled that rural hinterland between Kensington and Chelsea. I’m sure we’ll be back there again.


The mysterious Mrs Rush: more pictures of houses and rooms

Here is Lord Ranelagh’s house after his fall from grace and subsequent death. The owners of the Gardens used his name and his house as part of the entertainment. By 1805 nothing was left of house and Gardens but a few foundation stones, and a cellar or some kind of crypt.

Here is a house called Gough House a little way down the river. Mrs Rush and the time traveller can disembark here and make their way through the formal garden, even though it only existed in this form in the artist’s imagination. Mrs Rush tells the traveller to pay attention to open windows, glimpsed faces and distant statues.

Here is the interior as Mrs Rush pictured it. Her rooms were always tidy as though she was painting for an 18th century estate agent’s brochure, or imagining the afterlife. The door to the north front is open.

Here is the view from the north. The lush vegetation besieges the house. But the women inside seem unconcerned.

Here is the Duchess of Monmouth’s house where Smollett lived and wrote Humphrey Clinker. His study window is open, next to one of the bricked in windows.

But when they got inside there was no trace of Mr Smollett.

Here is Sir John Cope’s house which was later turned into a madhouse. There were several of those in Chelsea. One Turlington kept a house where a man could put away his wife or any other troublesome relative under the pretense of insanity. In 1763 a judgement at the King’s Bench went against him. One husband testified that he considered the house to be nothing more than a bridewell or house of correction. That year the Lords called for a bill to regulate such houses.

The woman on her way out of the house holds an oversize key. Mrs Rush has some questions. What happened to the tree on the left? Have the peacocks escaped? Mrs Rush and the traveller cannot stay to see what happens next.

Under the house says Mrs Rush is a subterranean passage. She is drawn to underground places.

They pass another garden with lush growth of flowers and plants.Mrs Rush regards Dr Mead as a friend to herself and her husband.

But in that house she dreamed of this room.

The plants seemed to press against the windows in a rather too insistent fashion.

In more open country the two women can stop and take refreshment at Pond House. Mrs Rush is welcome in many houses.

The Pond was subsequently filled in and built over. It is commemorated in a street name.

The tour is coming to a close. Here is the church where Mr Rush officiates at religious services. This may be where Mrs Rush  met Elizabeth Gulston, the woman who kept her pictures safe for many years.

If she wishes the traveller may sit inside for a while and prepare herself.

Here is the final room from Mr Faulkner’s book where Mrs Rush introduces the traveller to her guide home. Pay no attention to the goods for sale.

The traveller and her friends are re-united back in their own clothes in their own present, remembering their adventures.

Next week we might also be back in our own reality.

The Rush pictures were acquired by Chelsea Library in 1929 having been in the Gulston family for many years. The engraving is from a special edition of Mr Faulkner’s history of Chelsea. The photograph is from a private collection.


The secret world of Marianne Rush

Marianne Rush died in 1814. She was interred in a burial ground which has been cleared of all its tombstones. I think she painted these pictures, although they have been attributed to another lady at times in their history. She created a place which is half real and half imagined, a special country made out of her imagination. The places she painted all existed but it is not certain whether she had seen them all. You can identify most of them and research them but you can’t quite pin them down. You could call her a naive painter, or an amateur. But her vision is clear. This is the secret world of Marianne Rush.

Let me tell you a story. Here is an old half fallen wall. The gate is open.

Follow the path through the banks of flowers to Lady Walpole’s grotto.

You can pass under the arches without being seen from the house.

Take note of the pattern on the floor. Do not look out of the window. You cannot be sure what you will see. The trees ahead have formed a passage through which you must go quietly. Cross the lawn and enter the greenhouse.

But don’t step into the shadow of the gate.

You can collect some fruit but only one from each tree. Keep them in separate pockets. Hold one in your left hand. At the end of the gallery you will find a staircase. Ascend and wait in the upper room.

It has a curious ceiling. Colonel Despard held his meetings here. There was a miniature guillotine on the mantelpiece but Dr Mead cleared the room. Most of the rooms here are empty. The current inhabitants don’t need furniture. Try the fireplace. There may be something worth keeping in the ashes. Squeeze the juice from one of the fruits into the ash. Does the smell disturb you? Close your eyes. Do you remember this place?

Did you select the middle passage?

Who is this who is coming?

Open your eyes. There is a key in your hand. Slip out of the window. You can climb down the ivy. Follow the river path to the summer house.

You can use the key. Enter.

Is there writing on base of the bust? Or is there a set of pages torn from the Gentleman’s Magazine? Pick them up. You need to leave quickly. Go through the trees. Stay close to the river. As the trees thin out can you see a building?

Remember this place. We will come back soon when it’s safe. But there is somewhere else to go first. Back to the machine, before it gets dark.

I’ll tell you more about what I know of Marianne Rush another time.

But you can always tell your own stories about her.


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