On cold February day, accompanied by fellow artists Jules Allen, Jo Howe, Heather Hunter and Jean Mold Hart, I visited Blickling Hall in Norfolk. Our aim was to gather inspiration and information about this beautiful historic house in preparation for a group show. The exhibition will be held in the Loft gallery during May and September.
The house was being woken from it's winter slumber in readiness for this seasons visitors. The conservation team were busy cleaning and unwrapping the contents of the house. All around intriguingly shaped objects wrapped in tissue had an appealing air of mystery.
Curious red crosses appeared on various objects. I was informed these indicate items that are of particular importance or value. The red crosses are a visual aid, highlighting which objects should be removed first in the event of in fire.
We were taken on a 'behind the scenes' tour of the servants quarters. Climbing the stairs to the top of the building, the carefully preserved interiors of the main house give way to bare plaster walls, and plain floorboards. Today this area is mainly used for storage. I think all of us appeared struck by this bareness and the worn marks on the plaster and wooden beams. For me they seemed to have a different kind of beauty to the valuable wallpapers on the lower floors. I started wondering about the previous occupants of the house - all those people who had lived within these walls over the past four hundred years. Hints and traces of memory could be glimpsed here and there.
Windows, draped in black muslin, cast interesting shadows, creating a melancholy atmosphere. The house has had it's share of sadness and loss over the years. There has been early deaths leaving a number of widows, as well as childless couples. The house has been passed from family to family, rather than through the usual channels of inheritance.
There are so many avenues that could be explored in response to the site and the history of Blickling Hall. As we left at the end of the afternoon, I made the decision to use these first impressions as my starting point.