The last day of our holiday and the offspring decided they didn’t want to go ot, but I was ken to visit Compton Verney – another 20 or 30 minute drive away – an old Stately Home and its grounds that’s been converted into an art gallery. I’d heard about it, the first time quite a few years ago, and have been keen to visit ever since. The trouble is its on the wrong side of Birmingham, but here was an opportunity to see it that I wasn’t going to miss.
The weather was beginning to change. Cloud was coming in covering over the blue skies we’d had for the rest of the week, but it was still pleasantly warm.
Arriving at the site we parked up and then paid our entry fee – £17 each. Memberships cost less than double this and allow entry for a year, but it didn’t seem an extra sensible expenditure for us given its location as regular visits aren’t an option.
To reach the house we walked through the grounds along the drive, crossing the old bridge (this view is from the other side, nearer the house)
There’s been a manor house here since the 12th Century but it was extensively remodelled for the owners, the Verney family, in the then fashionable Neo-Classical style in the 19th century by Robert Adam together with the grounds which were designed Capability Brown.
The Verneys it financial difficulties and sold the house in 1887. It passed through a series of owners and was requisitioned by the War Office during the Second World War. It wasn’t occupied after the war and started to deteriorate. It was rescued by Peter Moores Foundation who bought the house and grounds in 1993 which restored the house, which was in a dilapidated state, turning it into a modern art gallery. It’s now owned by Compton Verney House Trust, a registered charity.
Next to the house there’s a Georgian Chapel which has also been restored and is registered for weddings
The chapel, which was completed in 1780, was designed by Capability Brown and replaced an older church that stood on the other side of the house and which was demolished to open up views from the house over the lake and grounds.
Very little of the original Medieval stained glass which was taken from the old church, is left; it was sold in the late 1920’s and some can be seen in Warwick museum and at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.
The tombs of earlier Verneys were moved to the new chapel and still remain
We eventually found the right door to gain entry into the main building and sussed out what there was to see. There are 6 permanent collections
British Folk Art
Marx-Lambert collection of of English popular art
and galleries for temporary exhibitions. During our visit there was a major exhibition showing of works by David Batchelor, some loans from the National Portrait Galley, an exhibition of photographs by Magnum photographers of artists at work, and a couple of installations in the grounds. Unfortunatley we didn’t get to see the Folk Art and Marx-Lambert Collections. We’d left it to the end of our visit and due to staff shortages they’d close these two galleries early. However, we were starting to feel “arted out” by then so weren’t that disappointed.
These rowing boats on the lake were one of the installations – Crossings by Luke Jerram. Visitors were able to take out a boat to row on the lake while listening to one of a number of 30 minute audio recordings of stories, created by Luke Jerram in collaboration with BBC Radio 4 producer Julian May, all related to the sea from around the world.
It looked like fun, but, unfortunately, we didn’t have time to have a go!
The other installation was effectively a playground for children in the Old Town Meadow,, a sort of colourful fantasy village, by Morag Myerscough. Children were certainly enjoying themselves running through, in and out and on to the colourful structures.
We started by touring the ground floor to see the art from Naples, Northern European Art and British Portraits (including the National Portrait Gallery Loans) which were all on the ground floor. We revisited some of the works after lunch when we tagged on to a guided tour. (I should add that the room guides were all very friendly and helpful and very keen to tell you about the exhibits)
The gallery claim to have” “one of the richest collections of Neapolitan art in the world outside Naples”, with paintings, sculptures and other objects from the 17th and 18th Centuries. This Baroque isn’t my favourite style but there were some interesting pieces and the explanation of a couple of them during the guided tour definitely added interest as their creation and context were described by a very informative and knowledgeable guide.
I didn’t take any photographs on the ground floor, which is rather remiss of me, but there are plenty on the Gallery’s website, of course (click the relevant links in the above list).
The Northern European art was of more interest and I enjoyed the British Portraits, including the loans from the National Portrait Gallery of celebrities from the West Midlands celebrating the recent Birmingham Commonwealth Games (including a video work of Julie Walters).
We’d taken in a lot so it was time to get something to eat. And after that we went to have look at the upstairs galleries. But I think I’ll save them for another post – this one has gone on a bit!
Shall have to look at the Burrell stained glass collection more closely next time I am there!