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Last Saturday (9 April 2011) was a beautiful sunny day. I visited Standen for the first time.Standen is located close to East Grinstead, East Sussex. It took me a mere thirty minutes to get there in my car. At the entrance a National Trust staff checked my membership card and gave me a brief verbal introduction and a paper guide to Standen.
The car park was big enough, but the footpath up to the house was terrible. Before I started my tour I stopped at the restaurant, which had a good range of food choices. I saw displayed a beautiful cake and ordered a piece. However to my surprise I was given a slice, which was from yesterday’s cake. It was dry and not tasty. I felt rather cheated and upset.The introductory exhibition and information:
An introductory exhibition was in a room adjacent to the restaurant, where I gained some idea about Standen. It was designed as a country home for a successful London solicitor named James Beale and his family. Philip Webb, a well known architect at the time, designed Standen. William Morris, one of the most famous and influential figures in the Arts & Crafts Movement, was a friend of Webb and was a contributor to the interior decoration and design of Standen.The construction of Standen was completed in 1894 and is considered to be the masterpiece of Philip Webb. It has since become an icon of the Arts & Crafts Movement with its Philip Webb architecture and Morris & Co. furnishings.
The house:Following the signs and passing under an archway I entered the house. My first impression of the house was of a very comfortable family home rather than a tourist site.
In the hall there was a built-in fireplace designed by Philip Webb, which had a painted wood and black iron grate. On the wall three oriental paintings caught my attention. These were 19th century Japanese pictures, which reminded me of Chinese Tang Dynasty paintings I have seen. Some of the furniture in the hall was designed by Philip Webb or made by Morris & Co, but never the less my favourite piece was an 18th century open armchair in fruitwood, which was owned by the Beales before Standen was built.Leaving the Hall I walked into a huge space known as the Billiard room. A billiard table was in the centre. Adjacent to a big bookshelf there was a rocking horse, which was named Dobbin. It was a gift to Beale’s eldest daughter, Amy. In the same room I also saw some original Islamic tiles, which were hanging between the main windows. Similar tiles could be seen on a wall nearby. They were designed by William De Morgan, who was inspired by Islamic culture, and under that influence developed his own theme.
Moving on from the Billiard Room I entered the Conservatory from where you can see the best views of the garden. Because it looked so modern in concept I thought it was added by National Trust, however it was part of the original build. Sitting on a chair and viewing the plants growing around me in an almost tropical environment left me feeling closely bonded to Standen.
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