The other day I went with my good friend Sonia (Androulaskitchen.wordpress.com) to Goodwood House to hear a talk in aid of the Chichester Cathedral Festival of Flowers. The subject of the talk was to be The Hidden Treasures of Goodwood House and the main speaker was Tim Wonnacott )of TV’s Bargain Hunt, Antiques Roadshow and Antiques Road Trip fame) ably assisted by the Curator of Goodwood House, James Piell.
A variety of small objects not generally on public display had been selected for discussion and it was through these that a picture of the various Duke’s of Richmond was painted. The first items were a pair of tiny boxes, one containing a lock of hair and the other a shard of wood. These items are said to be a lock of hair from the head of Charles 1 and a fragment from his coffin. James Piell explained in great detail how these items had come into the possession of the family and how they could be certain that they were “the real thing”. It all made for a fascinating story! This was followed up with a delightful portrait miniature by Ozias Humphry of the 3rd Duke, encased in a gold case which is engraved on the reverse with the name of the artist and the sitter, it measures some 4cms x 6cms and has the most incredible detail. Personally I am not one for carrying images of my loved ones around with me, but if I had a portrait miniature of Mr PP as beautifully painted as that of the 3rd Duke, I would take it everywhere.
Various other equally interesting objects followed including ledgers, papers and paintings followed including a small ledger hand written by Charlotte, Duchess of Richmond, wife of the 4th Duke detailing the guest list and other instructions for a Ball. Not just any old Ball however, this Ball has found its place in history. Held in Brussels on the 15th June 1815 – the date is a clue; virtually every high ranking officer of Wellington’s army was present including the Duke of Wellington himself. This Ball, known as “the most famous Ball in history” took place two nights before the Battle of Waterloo. Someway through the evening a message arrived for Wellington to advise that Napoleon had beaten the Prussians into retreat from Fleurus and had advanced further, crossing the river. A second message arrived advising Wellington that the French advance had reached Quatre Bras at which point Wellington took action, with the Duchess alleged to have implored him that perhaps the officers could stay for one more dance?
A slightly odder object resembling a pile of mould was shown encased in a glass bell dome mounted on top of a gilded stem with an engraved plaque which reads “The Protestant Cheese”. The wedge shaped object inside was indeed a piece of cheese. In 1825, the Duchess of Richmond was given a piece of the ‘Protestant Cheese’ by the Duchess of Ritland which had been cut from a large block of cheese that had been specially made by the burgesses of Chester to celebrate the quashing of the 1825 Emancipation Bill by the House of Lords. (This was one of a number of Bills introduced to relax the restrictions placed upon Roman Catholics during the English Reformation). It was certainly one of the most bizarre objects I have ever seen, all grey-green and mouldy inside it’s vacuum protected glass dome. Most odd.
The nicest story connected to an object was for me, the one about the Charlton Hunt and the “Greatest Chase that ever was”. This was an account in the 2nd Duke of Richmond’s own hand of a day when the meet set off early one morning finding their quarry at 8.15am. They then pursued it until finally capturing and killing it at 5.50pm having covered a distance of some 57 miles around the Sussex countryside. At the end only the 2nd Duke and 2 others were present, but it had been such a momentous day that the Duke wrote an account of the proceedings and even sent servants out with a measuring wheel to follow the route taken to ascertain the exact distance -they returned with the measurements some 2 days later! To celebrate the tradition of the old Charlton Hunt and the connection with Goodwood, there is to be an exhibition exploring its history at Goodwood House 1st to 31st August 2016. (See https://www.goodwood.com/goodwood-house/summer-exhibition).
It was a fascinating morning, the objects brought to life by Tim and James who are both excellent and engaging speakers.
Goodwood House, Chichester, West Sussex