The Victorian Idea of Heritage.
“Before the early nineteenth-century, country houses could be valued as symbolic of power, as places of comfort and convenience for their owners, as repositories of fashionable taste in art or architecture or furnishing, but not as part of a national heritage. An understanding of heritage- a physical legacy of the past belonging, however abstractly, to the citizenry of the present by virtue of its contribution to national history- requires both a feeling for the past and the existence of a cultural nation. Georgian England had the first only imperfectly, the second hardly at all.” Peter Mandler, The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home.
The word “heritage” derives from a root meaning to inherit; in the case of culture and history, the question arises as to who should inherit. In a certain sense, and is what Mandler is getting at with his point about the citizenry having abstract links to the past, this refers to the whole country. However, the idea of things “belonging to the nation” has to be reconciled with the real situation of some of these houses, art treasures, objects being owned by aristocrats, private trusts, funding bodies who allow the public access to their properties. The problem of defining “heritage” is that its current meaning was not known to the Victorians. Today, we define “heritage” as things belonging to the nation because of their connection with national history, but in fact this usage of “heritage” dates from the 1930s onwards. How then did the Victorians perceive the meaning of heritage? Some say that heritage was a reaction to the French Revolution which accelerated economic and social change; this school of thought argues that the aristocracy safeguarded their interests by identifying their properties with the “people’s property also.” That remains a theory, and perhaps Peter Mandler sums up the situation better: “..heritage consciousness of the nineteenth century was predicated on the construction of a national culture that drew on a much longer and varied history.”
|William Frederick Yeames, “And When Did You Last See Your Father?”, 1878, oil on canvas, 131 x 251.5 cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.|
|View of Haddon Hall, Derbyshire|
|John Callcott Horsley, Rent Day at Haddon Hall, 1866, Oil on canvas, 35.6 x 35.6 cm, York Museums Trust.|
|William Powell Frith Thomas Creswick, Haddon Steps, Haddon Hall, oil on canvas, 127 x 101.5 cm, Derbyshire Art Gallery.|
Reclaiming the Past through Art.
How does English history painting fit into this new redefinition of “heritage?” How does the representation of the stately home (in painting) accord with these cultural shifts and trends? Is it that culture was moving in the spheres of history and art towards Englishness? There were many forces behind this concatenation of painting, heritage, and history. One of the most important influences would have been the novels of Walter Scott whose colourful and romantic portrayal of the exploits and deeds of historical figures like Ivanhoe would have been lapped up by the Victorians. Scott’s novels also helped to popularise such sites as Warwick and Kenilworth which were painted by artists, though with their fictional links intact unlike Canaletto. Scott himself was painted by Victorian artists like John Faed who also did views of houses like Haddon Hall (Derbyshire), a beloved “Olden Time” house for the Victorians which had literary and historical associations. Views of Haddon Hall in the R.A’s summer exhibition were dominated by history painting. They were at their largest in 1879, but after that, in the words of Roy Strong, a “slow rot set in.” This link between the country house, literature and history was reflected in the choice of subjects chosen by more prominent artists of the R.A. such as Charles Robert Leslie and William Powell Frith who, in the words of Mandler, “picked up the thread that led back to Shakespeare and Spenser, Holbein and Van Dyck.” Despite England boasting of historical figures such as the Earl of Arundel who was a Holbein fanatic, many have left these shores. And now most of the Holbeins in Britain are in London museums; while the so-called “Holbeins” in country houses have turned out to be copies or inferior works of masterpieces which left these shores long ago. As for Van Dyck, the BBC Your Paintings list no less than 584 paintings by Van Dyck. It hardly needs saying that most of these are not by Van Dyck!
|William Allan, Sir Walter Scott Dictating to His Daughter, Anne, in the Armoury at Abbotsford, 1844, oil on panel, 114.3 x 88.9 cm, NT, Haddo House, Scotland.|
|Hans Holbein, Portrait of Henry VIII, 1536, Oil on wood, 28 x 19 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.|
|Charles Robert Leslie, Katharine of Aragon & her Maid, 1826, oil on canvas, 58.6 x 51.1 cm, R.A., London.|
|View of Hever Castle.|
|Nash’s Mansions of England in the Olden Time, Henry VIII arriving at Hever Castle, 1839-49.|
The Crisis of the Aristocracy.
“They reached the Park and Castle and wandered through the picture galleries, Jude stopping by preference in front of the devotional pictures by Del Sarto, Guido Reni, Spagnoletto, Sassoferrato, Carlo Dolci, and others. Sue paused patiently beside him, and stole critical looks into his face, as regarding the Virgins, Holy Families, and Saints, it grew reverent and abstracted. When she had thoroughly estimated him at this, she would move on and wait for him before a Lely or a Reynolds.”
Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy, 1894.
Jude the Obscure and his cousin are on a half-holiday at Wardour Castle, Wiltshire where they choose to spend time inspecting the Old Masters. The pious Jude favours Del Sarto, Spagnoletto and Carlo Dolci; the less reverential Sue “strikes poses” in front of Lely and Reynolds, the secular portraitists of previous centuries. Apart from the interesting use of genres of art to illuminate character and sensibilities, Hardy’s scene is relevant to this subject because in the 1880s and 1890s, barely a hundred people visited Wardour Castle, though the Gothic ruins in the grounds (Sue’s bête noir) were a great attraction drawing over five hundred in the 1880s, and over a thousand by 1900. Even the much-admired (by artists and connoisseurs) collection at Petworth House in Sussex only attracted several hundred visitors in the 1880s, though by 1910, it had climbed to three thousand per year. This reduction in visits contrasts strikingly with the previous decade of the 1870s when stately homes were drawing large audiences, thanks to the railways and transportation. Houses such as Eaton, Alton, Knole, Belvoir and Newstead were at the 10,000 per year level. But Chatsworth, Aston, Haddon and Warwick soared far above that. The disappointing visitor figures of the 1880s are accounted for by a number of factors. Firstly, an agricultural depression forced owners such as the 7th Duke of Devonshire and others to re-consider their attitude towards opening their country houses. Secondly, the government’s sluggish action on the arts, as was tartly observed by the art historian Gerald Baldwin Brown, (1849-1932) who criticised the government’s indifference to national heritage. By the 1880s, there were attempts to radicalise heritage through the expediency of redistributing aristocratic property through taxation despite Gladstone’s attempts to obstruct this. Some aristocrats predictably responded to this shift towards “democratic finance” with alarm. Most famously, the Duke of Devonshire threatened to close Chatsworth to the public which had not hitherto charged for admission; he was heavily satirised in Punch for his pains. Thus, Devonshire unwisely opened up a debate about whether country housings and their treasures were part of the national heritage which fed into political debates. The Durham MP Sir Joseph Pease objected that his constituents should pay tax so somebody could see a collection of pictures in a private house. Others opposed the purchase of aristocratic art by the National Gallery on the grounds that the museum was closed on Sundays and therefore not available to working people. Their cry was that “the working classes of Great Britain at this moment want bread, not pictures.”
|Sassoferrato, The Virgin in Prayer, 1640-50, Oil on canvas, 73 x 58 cm, National Gallery, London.|
|Carlo Dolci, Saint Catherine of Siena, c. 1665, oil on cedar panel, 24.4 x 18.1 cm, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.|
|Carlo Dolci, Self-Portrait, 1674, Oil on canvas, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.|
|Andrea dal Sarto, The Virgin and Child with the Infant Baptist, c. 1517-19, oil on canvas, 106.5 x 81.3 cm.|
|Punch, “Depressed Dukes,” 1894.|
Octavia Hill and the National Trust.
It was against this background of low country house attendance, aristocratic uncertainty and political wrangling that the National Trust was founded in 1895 by a number of progressive thinkers, of which the most prominent was Octavia Hill. Hill was a social reformer who believed in alleviating the lot of the poor, so long as they exerted themselves to help themselves. Unlike the fictional Sue Bridehead who personified the “new woman,” a new social type of the bachelor girl and “unmarried feminist,” Hill did not support universal suffrage, nor would she have had any sympathy for Sue’s admiration of eighteenth-century aristocratic portraiture by the likes of Reynolds and Co. Hill was friendly with John Ruskin, and in her spare time worked as a copyist for Ruskin in Dulwich Picture Gallery. In his turn, the philanthropic, though non-socialist Ruskin admired Hill and allocated funds for her to improve properties for the poor, and to set up a system of what would be known today as “housing management.” This form of urban housing had to be balanced by recourse to the countryside, the open spaces: in Hill’s own words, "the life-enhancing virtues of pure earth, clean air and blue sky." From as early as 1884, Hill and another activist Robert Hunter had hoped to set up a trust in the public interest holding a range of buildings and land. Due to lack of government interest in pursuing this aim, Hill’s dream would be realised when The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty was established as a charitable institution. From its inception, the NT never had a coherent philosophy about how the collections of art in stately homes and other ancestral buildings should be shown to the public. Such a philosophy only started to emerge after the Labour landslide in 1945 when the burning question of why a National Trust should exist at all in the post-war world refused to go away.
|John Singer Sargent), Dame Octavia Hill (1838-1912), 1898, oil on canvas, 101 x 77.5 cm.|
|George Downes, Acorn National Trust Centenary Mural, 1999, Acrylic & mixed media on board, 241 x 460 cm, Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.|
William Gershom Collingwood, John Ruskin in his study at Brantwood, 1897, oil on canvas, 120 x 101 cm, Brantwood, Coniston, Cumbria.
|Ford Madox Brown, Work, 1852-63, oil on canvas, 137 x 197.3 cm, Manchester Art Galleries.|
John Constable, Hampstead Heath with the House called the “Salt Box,” c. 1819-20, oil paint on canvas, Tate, London.
|Photograph of Sayes Court, created by John Evelyn, now rundown and disused.|
Lilies and Hobnail Boots: Aesthetes V. Philistines Rebooted.
With the setting up of such socialist initiatives as the Arts Council, the Third Programme (later Radio 3) and the National Opera House, movers and shakers proposed that some country houses, especially those containing excellent collections such as Petworth and Knole could be used as art museums. Yet, as Mandler says, from the start, a tension existed between a modern public seeking the healing outdoors, and an administrative body committed to the study of history and the practice of artistic connoisseurship. This tension existed high up in the administrative body of the Trust; there were those who espoused the virtues of taste, views fashioned by admiration for the Georgian age of elegance; and then there were the more hard-nosed individuals determined to put the NT on a solid business footing in order to prosecute the aims of the founders of the organization. This war rumbled on behind closed doors throughout the 1950s and 1960s, though now the combatants had been given distinguishing insignia. The curators were dubbed “lilies,” and the property agents, “hobnail boots.” This seems to have been a revival of the philistines v aesthetes debate inaugurated by such critics as John Ruskin and Matthew Arnold, but at an organisational level. Lilies obviously smacks of the aesthetic movement of the nineteenth century who were noted for this badge of cultural honour; however, hobnail boots suggests something more down to earth, with literally feet on the ground tramping across the parkland, less concerned with aesthetic matters, more with land management. The triumph of the philistines would have been almost complete had it not been for a few voices such as the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and country house expert James Lees Milne. They were fighting a philistine attitude inculcated through education at the great public schools. These august institutions had emphasised sports, team-work in its ethos; reading novels, enjoying poetry and music was frowned upon. As for the visual arts, it was not only considered “soft,” but had “sinister implications.” George Lees-Milne, was revealed by his son in his autobiography Another Self, to be such an irredeemable philistine and intellectual-hater that he used the word “artistic” sneeringly; and any books found in the school holidays were seen as evidence of a defective mind and accordingly tossed in the furnace.
|Photo of James Lees-Milne.|
|Jacket Design for Another Self, James Lees Milne’s autobiography.|
|View of Barrington Court, Somerset, begun about 1538, first house acquired by NT in 1907|
|View of Westwood Manor, Wiltshire.|
National Art Collections Fund (NACF)& NT
It’s tempting to speculate on what the NT would have looked like if during its history more strenuous attempts had been made to embed art historians into the organisation. Obviously some did and do work for the NT. But judging by the remarks of Alastair Laing, the retired Curator of Pictures and Sculptures at the N.T., at the start of his tenure art historians were conspicuous by their absence: sixteen regional curators with the glorified title of Historic Buildings Representatives, and these were mainly architecture historians. Since then there have been significant structural changes with curatorial roles diminishing. Rather quicker off the mark than the NT was the National Art Collections Fund, set up shortly after the Trust in 1904 which sought to buy art and objects from interested aristocrats with a view to securing them for national and local museum collections. The story of the NACF’s success (compared to the NT) is told in terms of membership numbers: in 1910, it had 1,178 which rose substantially to 12, 503 in 1930. The few accounts of the NACF such as that of Richard Verdi’s in the catalogue to 2003 exhibition Saved! 100 Years of the National Art Collection Fund, tend to ignore the significance of country-house tourism, though Philip Conisbee’s essay on paintings that have been lost to the nation does praise the Trust’s role. The NACF did try to play its part by organizing trips to country houses in the 1920s, thus elevating the tone of the organisation, though one problem was that this kind of country-house visiting was orchestrated by a social elite who had taken the eighteenth-century as a cultural model for the formation of taste and aesthetics which would be furthered by such individuals as Christopher Hussey, James Lees-Milne, and Rex Whistler.
|Joos van Cleve, The Virgin and Child with Angels, 1520, oil on oak panel, 85.5 x 65.5 cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.|
|Bernardo Bellotto, View of Verona from the Ponte Nuovo, 1745-47, oil on canvas, 132.5 x 231 cm, NT, Powis Castle, Welshpool, Powys, Wales.|
|View of Upton House.|
Pieter Brueghel the Elder, oil (grisaille on oak panel), 37 x 55.5 cm, NT, Upton House.
|Jan Steen, The Tired Traveller, 1660-61, oil on oak panel, 31.5 x 25 cm, NT Upton House.|
1) William Frederick Yeames, “And When Did You Last See Your Father?”, 1878, oil on canvas, 131 x 251.5 cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
2) View of Haddon Hall, Derbyshire.
3) John Faed, The Great Hall at Haddon, 1860, Oil on millboard, 35.5 x 50.7 cm, Victoria & Albert Museums, London.
4) John Callcott Horsley, Rent Day at Haddon Hall, 1866, Oil on canvas, 35.6 x 35.6 cm, York Museums Trust.
5) William Powell Frith Thomas Creswick, Haddon Steps, Haddon Hall, oil on canvas, 127 x 101.5 cm, Derbyshire Art Gallery.
6) William Allan, Sir Walter Scott Dictating to His Daughter, Anne, in the Armoury at Abbotsford, 1844, oil on panel, 114.3 x 88.9 cm, NT, Haddo House, Scotland.
7) Thomas Faed, Sir Walter Scott and his Friends at Abbotsford, 1849, oil on canvas, 118.2 x 163.2 cm, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland.
8) Benjamin Oakley, A Sleeping Shepherd with the Ruins of Kenilworth Castle, 1811/21, oil on canvas, 122 x 91.5 cm, NT, Tyntesfield.
9) Charles Robert Leslie, The Principal Characters in 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' by William Shakespeare, c. 1838, oil on canvas, 93.3 x 133.2 cm, Victoria & Albert Museums, London.
10) William Powell Frith, Othello & Desdemona, 1840-56, oil on canvas, 55.9 x 48.3 cm, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
11) William Powell Frith, John Knox reproving Mary Queen of Scots, 1844, oil on canvas, 72.3 x 97.2 cm, Sheffield Art Gallery.
12) Charles Robert Leslie, Katharine of Aragon & her Maid, 1826, oil on canvas, 58.6 x 51.1 cm, R.A., London.
13) Henry Nelson O’Neil, The Trial of Catherine of Aragon, 1848, oil on canvas, 42.5 x 64.8 cm, Birmingham Art Gallery.
14) After Hans Holbein, Henry VIII (1491-1547), oil on panel, 107 x 69 cm, NT, Knole.
15) Hans Holbein, Portrait of Henry VIII, 1536, Oil on wood, 28 x 19 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.
16) Nash’s Mansions of England in the Olden Time, Henry VIII arriving at Hever Castle, 1839-49.
17) View of Hever Castle.
18) View of Wardour Castle, near Salisbury, Wiltshire.
19) Cover of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, 1895.
20) Carlo Dolci, Saint Catherine of Siena, c. 1665, oil on cedar panel, 24.4 x 18.1 cm, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.
21) Carlo Dolci, Self-Portrait, 1674, Oil on canvas, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
22) Sassoferrato, The Virgin in Prayer, 1640-50, Oil on canvas, 73 x 58 cm, National Gallery, London.
23) Andrea dal Sarto, The Virgin and Child with the Infant Baptist, c. 1517-19, oil on canvas, 106.5 x 81.3 cm.
24) Punch, “Depressed Dukes,” 1894.
25) John Singer Sargent), Dame Octavia Hill (1838-1912), 1898, oil on canvas, 101 x 77.5 cm.
26) George Downes, Acorn National Trust Centenary Mural, 1999, Acrylic & mixed media on board, 241 x 460 cm, Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
27) William Gershom Collingwood, John Ruskin in his study at Brantwood, 1897, oil on canvas, 120 x 101 cm, Brantwood, Coniston, Cumbria.
28) Ford Madox Brown, Work, 1852-63, oil on canvas, 137 x 197.3 cm, Manchester Art Galleries.
29) John Constable, Hampstead Heath with the House called the “Salt Box,” c. 1819-20, oil paint on canvas, Tate, London.
30) Photograph of Sayes Court, created by John Evelyn, now rundown and disused.
31) George Clint, Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) “The Michelangelo of Wood,” 1830, oil on canvas, 37 x 29 cm, NT, Petworth.
32) Same in frame.
33) John Evelyn discovering Grinling Gibbons.
34) Grinling Gibbons, Carving of Crucifixion (after Tintoretto), 1671, limewood sculpture, library, NT Dunham Massey.
35) Jacket Design for Another Self, James Lees Milne’s autobiography.
36) Photo of James Lees-Milne.
37) Longleat House
38) View of Barrington Court, Somerset, begun about 1538, first house acquired by NT in 1907.
39) View of Westwood Manor, Wiltshire.
40) Netherlandish or German School, Landscape with a fête champêtre, c. 1600, oil on panel, 51.5 x 72 cm, Westwood Manor, Wiltshire.
41) View of Upton House,
42) Master of the Barbara Legend, a Man & His Wife, oil on oak panel, 39.5 x 28 cm NT, Upton House.
43) El Greco, “El espolio,” The Disrobing of Christ, 1577-78, oil on pine panel, 55.5 x 34 cm, NT, Upton House.
44) Pieter Brueghel the Elder, oil (grisaille on oak panel), 37 x 55.5 cm, NT, Upton House.
45) Jan Steen, The Tired Traveller, 1660-61, oil on oak panel, 31.5 x 25 cm, NT Upton House.
46) Bernard Partridge, Punch cartoon, “Desirable Aliens, ” 1909.
47) Joos van Cleve, The Virgin and Child with Angels, 1520, oil on oak panel, 85.5 x 65.5 cm, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
48) Bernardo Bellotto, View of Verona from the Ponte Nuovo, 1745-47, oil on canvas, 132.5 x 231 cm, NT, Powis Castle, Welshpool, Powys, Wales.
 Mandler, 21.
 Mandler, 35-36.
 Hardy’s inclusion of Dolci is interesting and hardly accords with the taste of the art establishment established in the Victorian era. Thus in 1858, Lady Eastlake sternly observes “Modern Florentines are so degenerate that they think far more of a Carlo Dolci, or a Sassoferrato, than they do of their really great masters…Botticelli, Ghirlandajo, Filippo and Filippino Lippi.” But perhaps before we rush to dam Dolci, we should ponder Francis Haskell’s point about taste: “I would like to bear in mind, as a sort of unseen commentator on what is to follow, the man who continued to venerate Luini and Carlo Dolci long after more prominent connoisseurs had begun to rave about Fra Angelico and Memling.” Rediscoveries in Art, 5.
 Other houses drawing huge crowds (in summer) were Woburn, Trentham, the Dukeries, Enville, Dunham Massey, Cassiobury, Alderley Edge, Hagley, Arundel, Battle Abbey, Hatfield, Lumley and Cliveden
 By the 1880s Alton had closed. Previously, at Belvoir, the 7th Duke of Rutland openly welcomed the tourists and charged no fee. But his inheritors weren’t of the same calibre. After the war the 9th Duke closed down Belvoir and Haddon to tourists. The same at Chatsworth where the 9th Duke inherited in 1908 and subsequently wound down the tourism and restricted visiting
 On charging for entry, Mandler, Fall and Rise, 197. Only Eaton had charged, but donated the funds to charity. But with the agricultural depression, the 7th Duke of Devonshire and others were forced to re-consider. Houses that charged a shilling a head were Blenheim, Eaton, Alton Towers, and Burghley. Eaton gave reduced rates to those pleading poverty. No charging at Chatsworth and Trentham and servants and gardeners were to rely on tips.
 Merlin Waterson with Samantha Wyndham, The National Trust: The First Hundred Years, (BBC Books, 1994).
 The printed notice for its first meeting read: “National Trust for Historic Sites and Natural Scenery “ proposes the setting up of a body “to act as a Corporation for the holding of lands of natural beauty and sites and houses of historic interest to be preserved intact for the nation’s use and enjoyment.”
 Waterson & Wyndham, The National Trust, 101.
 Philip Conisbee, “The Ones That Got Away,” Saved! 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund, Richard Verdi and others, (Hayward Gallery, 2003), 26-33, 31-32.
 “It occurred to me to represent him in a situation where the child’s outspokenness and unconsciousness would lead to disastrous consequences, and a scene in a country house, occupied by the Puritans during the Rebellion in England, suited my purpose.”
 Haddon Hall is an English country house on the River Wye at Bakewell, Derbyshire, one of the seats of the Duke of Rutland. It is currently occupied by Lord Edward Manners (brother of the current Duke) and his family. In form a medieval manor house, it has been described as "the most complete and most interesting house of [its] period". The origins of the hall date to the 11th century. The current medieval and Tudor hall includes additions added at various stages between the 13th and the 17th centuries.The Vernon family acquired the Manor of Nether Haddon by a 13th-century marriage. Dorothy Vernon, the daughter and heiress of Sir George Vernon, married John Manners, the second son of Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, in 1563. A legend grew up in the 19th century that Dorothy and Manners eloped. The legend has been made into novels, dramatisations and other works of fiction. She nevertheless inherited the Hall, and their grandson, also John Manners, inherited the Earldom in 1641 from a distant cousin. His son, another John Manners, was made 1st Duke of Rutland in 1703. In the 20th century, another John Manners, 9th Duke of Rutland, made a life's work of restoring the hall.
 Hever Castle is located in the village of Hever, Kent, near Edenbridge, 30 miles (48 km) south-east of London, England. It began as a country house, built in the 13th century. From 1462 to 1539 it was the seat of the Boleyn, originally 'Bullen', family. Anne Boleyn, the second queen consort of King Henry VIII of England, spent her early youth there, after her father, Thomas Boleyn had inherited it in 1505. He had been born there in 1477, and the castle passed to him upon the death of his father, Sir William Boleyn. It later came into the possession of King Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. In the 21st century the castle is a tourist attraction.
 31 Dolcis listed on BBC, most copies.
 24 Sassoferratos on BBC Your Paintings.
 26 Andreas listed on BBC, most non-autograph.
 Grinling Gibbons (4 April 1648 – 3 August 1721) was a Dutch-British sculptor and wood carver known for his work in England, including Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral and other London churches, Petworth House and other country houses, Trinity College Oxford and Trinity College Cambridge. Gibbons was born and educated in Holland of English parents, his father being a merchant. He was a member of the Drapers' Company of London. He is widely regarded as the finest wood carver working in England, and the only one whose name is widely known among the general public. Most of his work is in lime (tilia) wood, especially decorative Baroque garlands made up of still-life elements at about life size, made to frame mirrors and decorate the walls of churches and palaces, but he also produced furniture and small relief plaques with figurative scenes. He also worked in stone, mostly for churches. By the time he was established he led a large workshop, and the extent to which his personal hand appears in later work varies.
 The diarist Evelyn first discovered Gibbons' talent by chance in 1671. Evelyn, from whom Gibbons rented a cottage near Evelyn's home in Sayes Court, Deptford (today part of south-east London), wrote the following: "I saw the young man at his carving, by the light of a candle. I saw him to be engaged on a carved representation of Tintoretto's "Crucifixion", which he had in a frame of his own making." Later that same evening, Evelyn described what he had seen to Sir Christopher Wren. Wren and Evelyn then introduced him to King Charles II who gave him his first commission - still resting in the dining room of Windsor Castle.
 Barrington Court is a Tudor manor house begun around 1538 and completed in the late 1550s, with a vernacular stable court (1675), situated in Barrington, near Ilminster, Somerset, England.
The house was owned by several families by 1745 after which it fell into disrepair and was used as a tenant farm. After repair by architect Alfred Hoare Powell (1865–1960), it was the first house acquired by the National Trust, in 1907, on the recommendation of the antiquarian Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley (1851–1920). In the 1920s the house was renovated, the stable block turned into a residence and several outbuildings, gardens and gateways constructed. The house was originally surrounded by a medieval deer park and in the 17th century a formal garden was constructed. This had largely disappeared until a new garden was laid out by garden designer Gertrude Jekyll (1843—1932) in an Arts and Crafts-style. It now contains walled kitchen gardens, fruit orchards and ornamental gardens.