Wednesday, 28 January 2015


who designs lovely things...
These were the words of Lady Bute, wife of his patron, upon the untimely death of William Burges, architect, designer, passionate Gothicist and imaginative imp. Burges was staying with the Marquis and Marchioness of Bute when he caught a chill from which he died, aged 53, in 1881. My enthusiasm for his work has been growing over the past few years, as we encounter his fantastic creations on our travels round the UK. Mr N kindly presented me with a giant book about him for Christmas too - that's Castell Coch, near Cardiff, on the cover.

Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton in Devon, is another of his buildings, now owned by the National Trust - we visited two years ago.
The stable buildings at Knightshayes.
       Burges applied his love of Medieval style and decoration to walls, furniture

and objects.


To see a film of this wonderful washstand in use, click on the link. The marble bowl is inlaid with silver fish, which seem to swim when it is filled with water.

This decanter in the form of a Gothic jug or ewer has elaborate silver mounts featuring plants and animals, typical of Burges and resembling the gargoyles and grotesque carvings found on medieval churches. He often incorporated genuine antique treasures into these elaborate designs, for example, this piece has a Chinese jade lion on its lid, with coral cameos and Eastern coins  decorating the mounts. We saw it in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, last year.
We are very lucky to live very near to two beautiful churches designed and decorated by Burges.
Christ the Consoler in the grounds of Newby Hall at Skelton-on-Ure.

The buildings delight the eye from a distance and become even more interesting when examined closely.

I love these small details most of all - the more you look, the more you see.
St. Mary's, Studley Royal Park, near Ripon .
Burges's Chorister's House, close by, is a National Trust holiday cottage
The interior is colourful, almost exotic - perhaps influenced by the architecture Burges discovered on his European travels to Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey.
The exterior is less showy, but just as intriguing.
 Look closely, up there near the roof, and you will see...
the draughtsman
and the stonemason.
This is the house that Burges built for himself, The Tower House. He lived there only briefly, at the end of his life. A more recent resident was John Betjeman and in 1970 the house was bought by the actor Richard Harris for £75,000. Two years later he sold it to Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page for £350,000. To their credit the interiors have been carefully preserved and conserved, but, unlike much of Burges's work, it is not on view to the public - unless, of course, you are best mates with Led Zeppelin. 


Tuesday, 13 January 2015


I can't quite believe what has happened. Mr N and I were in the same room, within inches of each other and each separately glued to the internet, when an online fight broke out! My dear husband has only just started constructing his own virtual scrapbook of visual memorabilia and information on Pinterest - and this is what started it.


His Pinterest persona goes by the name of Arthur Ventress and he looks rather sweet, doesn't he?

This is me on Pinterest, Nilly Hall - demure and utterly harmless.
George Best started it! I've never liked him very much and when I noticed that Mr N had pinned his photo with the adoring title "Ubercool George Best" I could not resist a  little dig.

He noticed and rose to the challenge (as any man would).
As time went on, the jibes became more vicious..
.. will our relationship stand this?
Then I pinched his teddy bear!


Saturday, 3 January 2015



We've had some perfect winter walking weather in Yorkshire over the past couple of weeks - cold and crisp.
We went on a circular walk around Spofforth, near Harrogate, where I was hoping for chills of a supernatural kind. Last Christmas (The Tractate Middoth and The Thirteenth Tale) and this December (Remember Me and The Haunting of Radcliffe House), the seasonal  TV ghost stories, have failed to freak me out. Is it my age? Have I, at long last, outgrown my fear of phantoms? I still remember the ghastliness of Schalcken the Painter, (here) Christmas, 1979 - I don't think I'd dare to watch it ever again, even with Mr N to hold my hand and a cushion to hide behind.
So we walked onwards, to Spofforth Castle, to test my dulled nerves. It has its own ghoulish legend of a woman, of a strange bluish-white hue, who appears at the top of this tower. She (allegedly) hurls herself down, the spectacle made even more scary by the fact that only the upper half of her body falls to the ground. I prepared to be spooked...

...nothing. (Phew!)