Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Tudor tower

This might look as if I am going off on a completely different tack ... but it really is a writer's house as anyone recognising Sissinghurst Castle's tower (okay, so I have replaced some of the facing which appears to have dropped off over the years) will confirm.

In this case the writer's house really was her castle. Vita Sackville-West had her study on the first floor of this wonderful building. She was the friend and lover of Virginia Woolf, whose house was the subject of my last image. So you see, it's not the non-sequitur it at first appears.

Vita Sackville-West with Rollo and tower
By coincidence I had borrowed The Queens and the Hives by Edith Sitwell from the library, the Queens of the title being Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. There is an evocative description of one of Elizabeth's visits she inflicted on her aristocratic subjects and courtiers during her "progresses" through the kingdom. Dumping herself and her hundreds of followers on her hosts could prove costly to the point of bankruptcy but was an unavoidable honour.

Sissinghurst was a port of call in 1573, on August 15 to 17 to be precise, when the then lord of the Sissinghurst manor was one Richard Baker. Unfortunately I haven't come across any references as to how the Virgin Queen was entertained during her brief stay. The surviving record of her visit to Long Itchington in Warwickshire two years later veers between the sublime (she was met at the Castle gate by the porter in the guise of Hercules and greeted at the lake by a lady and nymphs who seemed as if they walked upon water) and the ridiculous (as the Queen dined under a large tent she was shown two wonders of the district, a huge fat boy and a correspondingly monstrous sheep).

Here is an Elizabeth which will eventually take her rightful place in the foreground. Not sure where I will fit Vita in yet.  But first I am going to get the tower finished and properly scanned as I quite like it in its naked state on a white background. That means it will be out of my hands at the printer for at least a week or so, so I will probably start on something else before I get this house finished. I have a show coming up in December and must crack on ....

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