Double Elephant Print Workshop recently began an exciting new project exploring the history behind Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens, the UK’s oldest public space.
The project, ‘The People of Northernhay Gardens’ is funded primarily by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This project chiefly involves members of Double Elephant’s award winning Print on Prescription group for adults recovering from mental illness, who are using their research into the history of the gardens’ five Grade II listed statues and the men they depict to inspire their printmaking. The group members have so far undertaken visits to The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, the Devon Heritage Centre, and most recently to National Trust property Killerton House.
The part of the project involving Killerton House is the part that I am also involved with. The POP participants and members of Double Elephant are responding to the theme of Victorian Exeter with a special focus on Killerton House for a sequence of exhibitions. The work created will be exhibited in the Studio at Killerton House, the Northcott Theatre and Exeter Phoenix’s Walkway.
It’s a treat to take part in a Double Elephant outing. Together with several other members of the workshop I had a very interesting guided tour of the house and it was very interesting to learn about its history. But typical of me I found my attention repeatedly draw to the windows, gardens and outside world.
While I’m sure many of my collegues with be focusing on the stories of the people and views of the house, I found that it was the Ha-ha that spoke to me. The ha-ha at Killerton was constructed in the 1930s to stop the cattle from wandering up to the front door.
Mostly a feature of the 17th and 18th Century on country estates of the landed gentry, ha-ha walls typically formed a boundary between the estate’s gardens and grounds. These walls were constructed so as to be invisible from the house, ensuring a clear view across the estate. Ha-ha walls consist of a sunken stone wall-its top level with the garden, with a deep ditch on the far side: an effective barrier to livestock. Though the view was preserved from within the estate gardens, little thought was given to aesthetic appreciation for those on the far side of the wall. But sensibilities change, and for me and other lovers of wild flowers, the outside wall and ditch of the ha-ha offers a richness of interest that a manicured lawn never can.
For the work I’ve produced for this exhibition I’m using photographs I took on our day trip to create photo etchings used in a combination with mono print techniques. My aim has been to give the section containing the house (gentry) the feel of a Victorian tinted sepia photograph contrasting strongly with the abundance of verdant wildlife on the ditch (peasant) section.
The wild flowers used are the same types of plants I noticed on the ha-ha, but collected from my own garden.
To add some gentle colour to the “sepia” photograph of the house I used pieces of hand tinted chine collè. One of the photos below shows the plate prepared for printing with all the colours, tissue paper and inked plants in place. The photo etching plate itself is a strong blue colour making it hard for you to see the colours I have applied to the texture of the plate and rolled over the surface. Finished framed and unframed work will be available soon.
Victorian Devon Exhibitions:
Killerton House 3rd – 20th August
Exeter Northcott Theatre 2nd September – 3rd November
& Exeter Phoenix Walkway Gallery 9 September – 12th October
Here for details
And just for fun – Here’s a cartoon of a ha-ha….