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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: west dean college

Dutch respect...

During my course on Historic Metal work I had a most wonderful time in the forge. I was very happy to meet the blacksmith in residence, Mr. Peter Parkinson. (his own website). He was very enthusiastic to meet an odd Dutch girl (who was accidentally rather useless at wielding hammers on the anvil). He told me how he had met and worked with a Dutch blacksmith many years ago, who had introduced him to the iron work of the “Amsterdamse School”. The Dutch blacksmith had given him an old article in Dutch explaining all the different types of bannisters on the bridges of Amsterdam.

Ripples on and under the bridge...

I was happy to translate the 20 odd pages for him, even if I struggled somewhat to come to terms with the forges’ formulations. It opened up a whole new world of curls and arches on the bridges of our capital.
It is funny how you can be blind to your own national treasures…
Dutch rudely park their bicycles against the intricately wrought curls and ripples.
So it was funny to get a new insight into this exceptional work. The article explained how well made these bannisters actually are, so exquisitely so that modern day blacksmiths would have trouble to copy them. I fear this will get harder over the years… as more and more ancient skills fall by the wayside.

The wrought iron bridges were actually hand forged around 1916-19, during WWI.
It shows an interesting rebellious fashion in iron work, countering the English cast iron hegemony. It is funny how ironwork fashion can be so different between two countries.

Anyway, I will be sure to pay attention next time I lock my bicycle!

(note to self: Freddie, do try to exercise those arms, it is worth improving your hammering skills.)

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Wet feet on the stairs...

After earlier negative posts on English plumbing I should now eat humble pie and pledge my eternal devotion to bathtubs…

Last week my course on Building Conservation at West Dean College started in earnest.
Apart from the actual course I really looked forward to spending more time at the house itself…

The house is a wonderful place to just be. It is the ideal space to learn (in all her studios), study (great library in the old billiards room, including a nook) and spend time with a large variation of creative and cultural types (especially at the cheap college bar!).
The wet footprints of Tilly Losch (the last lady of the house) woven into the carpet on the stairs are only one of the many eccentric touches that surprise you when wandering around.

But this time for me the largest attraction must have been the shared bathroom.
In it was the most enormous Edwardian Bath.

It is me...

It was the first time since I was a little girl that I actually could float full length in the tub.
And just to add to the experience the original fittings revealed a strange looking tap, with a sweet note on it:

But it is me, I am your plug!
If you turn me and drop me I will hold your water.
Lift me and twist me and I will GULP it!

Imagine this one steamy and filled with bubbles....

All of a sudden I remembered the incredible bath described in ‘The Bolter’, a freestanding green onyx monolith at Idina Sackville-West’s Kenyan house.
She made it part of the daily attractions of being her guest.  As part of the experience she would invite her guests to witness her bathe and dress before dinner…

Lying in that West Dean bath I could imagine how roaring the 20’s really must have been.

The tank...

Hahah, shows you the importance of actually experiencing old buildings and places for yourself.
Even if the National Trust now occasionally allows visitors to sit on their sofas, it will take a little more before we will be allowed to have a proper soak!

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