Meeting Report 17th April 2015
At the Group’s April meeting an attentive audience in Kineton Village Hall heard an illustrated talk by Chris Rice, who described the major landscape project he is leading at Compton Verney.
He explained how the original medieval and Tudor manor house with a mill pond and water mill was remodelled in 1711, and then enlarged by Robert Adam in the most up-to-date style in the1760s. At the same time the unfashionable formal avenues of the earlier park were swept away by the more naturalistic landscaping of Capability Brown. Chris Rice used historic maps and plans to demonstrate the dramatic changes Adam and Brown accomplished. The Brownian landscape experience involved buildings as well as well as trees, lakes and grass, and Chris drew our attention to a ruined structure clearly visible from the Kineton to Wellesbourne road which many of us have driven past but not noticed. Other buildings such as the Orangery have disappeared altogether, although the Ha Ha – an essential element of every 18th century park – still survives, albeit in need of some repair. The Icehouse has already been restored.
After the estate was sold by the Verneys in 1922 the house and park deteriorated. In 1993 the Peter Moores Foundation acquired the estate and rescued the derelict house, establishing the flourishing art gallery, and beginning to restore the important historic Capability Brown landscape. The current multi-million pound project, partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to continue the restoration of the landscape. Chris showed some of the past indignities suffered by the historic landscape, including the demolition of the parapet of the elegant 18th century bridge by a wayward jeep during the occupation of the estate by the army during WWII, and the use of the Sphinges on the bridge for target practice in the same period. We heard how Capability Brown himself removed Combrook parish church because it obstructed the view of his improved lake. He moved the important Verney monuments to his new chapel, itself currently undergoing extensive restoration. Chris outlined the project’s aim of recreating some of Brown’s footpaths to make the landscape more accessible, using early documents and archaeological research to discover their original locations and materials. Negotiating the 21st century planning and regulatory pitfalls seems to be a major element of his brief!
We were left in no doubt that when completed the project will greatly enhance our experience of the Compton Verney house and landscape, but the insights Chris Rice gave his Kineton audience will already enrich their next trip to the house and its grounds. Roger Gaunt gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the meeting and discussions continued over tea, coffee and biscuits.
Elizabeth Allison will give us an illustrated talk entitled “Follies: a look at some eccentric buildings” at our next meeting on Friday 15th May at Kineton Village Hall at 7.30pm. Visitors are welcome, the £2.00 at the door includes refreshments after the talk.
Meeting Report 17th April 2015