6–10: Daisy Chain Thinking
As with Objects 1-5, the selection of Objects 6-10 presents some daisy chain thinking.
In recent times, as a result of COVID-19, there has been more time for reading, and Andrew Lemon’s The Master Gardener: A Biography of T.R. Garnett (2018) has provided food for thought. One of the most remarkable enterprises in Garnett’s time as Master of Marlborough College was the community project to provide the Chapel with cushions and kneelers. Object 6 is of course a collection of objects rather than a single object, but together they form one of the College’s great treasures. My thoughts turned to an earlier Master, George Granville Bradley (Master 1858–60), whose wife Marian helped to strengthen the sense of community in the College, and she was the first woman to make a significant impact on life in Marlborough. In the antechapel there is a memorial to her. My interest in Bradley led me to explore his friendships, and thus to Object 7, the world of Tweedledee.
It has been all too easy to become a victim of daytime TV during recent months, and the gastronomic delights on otherwise mind-numbing programmes, combined with the sight of squirrels playing in the garden, led to me think about nutrition in the early days of the College, and Object 8. Stories of later gastronomic horrors at Marlborough were related to me by a marvellous English teacher at my old school, Jack Thomas (C2 1942–47), who recalled the horrors of ‘root pie’ in the Second World War. He made a vivid impression in other ways though. He knew about my interest in architecture and showed me pictures of Marlborough’s Chapel and explained that it was his grandfather, Bursar Thomas (Object 9), who sorted out the finances to erect this and many other buildings at the College. His great-grandfather was Frederick William Farrar (Master 1871–76), who commissioned the Spencer Stanhope pictures in the Chapel. Object 10 is also concerned with the Chapel but it is a remarkable 20th century addition that has not been appreciated, indeed in most literature it is attributed to another artist.-
6. Guy Barton’s Chapel Seat Cushions
In the Chapel each one of the stalls above the ranks of pews has an embroidered seat cushion and kneeler designed by Guy Barton, Head of Art from 1946 to 1966. Affectionately known as ‘Arty Barty’, he was educated at Haileybury and taught Art by Wilfred Blunt (C3 1921–26), later Head of Art at Eton. Wilfred was the brother of Anthony (C3 1921–26), Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, Director of the Courtauld Institute and disgraced spy, and Christopher (C3 1919–21), an important numismatist.
Barton made an outstanding contribution to the design of kneelers and other forms of Anglican textile art, continuing the tradition launched by Louisa Pesel in the 1930s at Winchester. His first major commission was for the famous choir stalls at Lancaster Priory, with designs based on the building’s history and architecture.
Barton’s Marlborough project was ambitious, involving the wives of Common Room and other members of the community. It was indebted to the expertise of local expert Sybil Matthews, a prominent member of the Embroiderers’ Guild. Led by the Master’s wife, Penelope Garnett, and Barton’s wife, Maire, a team of over 70 embroiderers was trained and the quality of the work was checked. Starting in 1956 and taking ten years to complete, the result is one of the great achievements of 20th century Anglican embroidery. Maire was responsible for experimenting with different complex stitches in order to produce the Celtic, medieval and College-based forms of the designs. Barton undertook many notable commissions elsewhere, and the work at Marlborough resulted in him being asked to design the magnificent altar rail kneeler at Winchester Cathedral.
Beaks and visitors who occupy these seats should appreciate they are sitting or kneeling on something that is rather more than just an ecclesiastical cushion.
It has been argued that Lewis Carroll’s creation of Tweedledee was based on Hallam Tennyson (Preshute 1866–72). Alfred Tennyson, the poet, used to holiday with his family on the Isle of Wight where he met Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Julia Cameron, the pioneering photographer. Dodgson photographed Tennyson and his sons, Hallam and Lionel. They dressed identically and ran wild. Eventually they went their separate ways and Tweedledum (Lionel) went to Eton. Hallam eventually became Governor General of Australia. Tennyson became part of what was known as the Freshwater Circle, which included the artists GF Watts, Edward Lear, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and the actress Ellen Terry. George Granville Bradley (Master 1858–70) became part of this group during his holidays on the island and as a result of his friendship with Tennyson, Hallam came to Marlborough. Bradley and Tennyson admired one another: when the poet sent his son Hallam to Marlborough, he declared that he had sent him ‘not to Marlborough but to Bradley’. Bradley for his part returned the compliment by naming his daughter Emily Tennyson Bradley.
8. A Squalor
In the early days of the College there was no organised sport but poaching was rife and the cause of much irritation to local landowners. A favoured weapon was a ‘squalor’, which consisted of a pear-shaped lead head fixed to an 18-inch wooden handle. This could be used to kill squirrels, rabbits and even deer. Boys hunted not just for pleasure: the school food was so bad they needed to supplement their diet.
The arrival of George Cotton as Master in 1852 curtailed Marlburian poaching. When he was a beak at Rugby (the eager and enthusiastic young teacher depicted in Tom Brown’s Schooldays) he saw that the boys enjoyed their games, although the beaks played no role in their organisation. At Marlborough he employed young teachers, largely Old Rugbeians, to supervise sport and channel the energies of the young. Marlborough, together with Harrow and Uppingham, transformed the nature of the public schools promoting athleticism as well as ‘godliness and good learning’. There was little time for the use of squalors after Cotton’s arrival and the improved discipline at the College also acted as a deterrent.
9. Bursar Thomas’s Bust
Bursar Thomas (C1 1848–55) was a remarkable figure in Marlborough’s history and he is commemorated by a marble bust now kept in the Bursar’s Office. In addition to bringing the College’s finances under control between 1860 and 1897, he was largely responsible for directing the extraordinary building work that took place in the final decades of the 19th century. Thomas arrived in the same term as William Morris but he stayed on after the Great Rebellion of 1851 until he was nearly 20 years old. He knew some distinguished architects as a result of contacts established when he was a young man at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at Marlborough he orchestrated the talents of William White, George Edmund Street, Arthur Blomfield, Alfred Waterhouse and George Frederick Bodley during the College’s expansion. Thomas commissioned his friend William White to build a home for him. This is now Barton Hill House.
For years his bust was placed in the Prefect’s Parlour where it endured outrageous headwear and other indignities. Now, once again, Bursar Thomas is keeping an eye on the course of the College’s finances.
10. The Virgin and Child on the West Front of the Chapel
The stone statue of the Virgin and child above the west door of the Chapel was the gift of Mary, wife of John Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury (1843–1911) and Chairman of Council (1885–1911). In 1930 it was given by her in gratitude for the education of their four sons who were in B2 between 1912 and 1929.
The work is often described as being by Eric Gill, but it was in fact carved by Gordon Herickx (1900–53). He was a pupil of and an assistant to William Bloye, who was Birmingham’s unofficial municipal artist in the 1930s. Bloye had been taught by Eric Gill and the artistic lineage shows in the work of Herickx. The depiction of the infant with arms stretched upwards has a spontaneity that speaks of the close observation that Gill encouraged. The exaggerated hands of the Virgin also reflect the modernity of the piece. How Herickx was chosen to undertake this commission remains a mystery.
Some of Herickx’s best work can be seen on the walls of the Barber Institute of Fine Art at Birmingham University where there are four stone carvings known as The Symbols of the Arts. Occasionally it is stated that he was educated at Marlborough, but there is no reference to him in the Marlborough College Register. There were Marlborough associations with the sculptor though. The great poet Louis MacNeice (C3 1921–26) was a supporter of Herickx, who was hard-pressed financially, and he transported the latter’s sculpture Cyclamen to Cambridge to try and get his friend Anthony Blunt (C3 1921–26) to sell it to Victor Rothschild, the third Baron Rothschild. Unfortunately, this venture failed. There is a depiction of Herickx in MacNeice’s character ‘Wimbush’ in his autobiographical poem Autumn Sequel.