20 August 2011

chalk cliffs and charleston

Early Friday morning, under the brightest of blue skies, G and I escaped to East Sussex. We made a brief detour to the Birling Gap, where the chalk cliffs drop dramatically

to the long pebble beach below,

then doubled back on the A27 to Charleston, the country home of the Bloomsbury Group:

Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant moved to Charleston in 1916, and over the next 50 years transformed the dilapidated farmhouse into a home and gathering place. Clive Bell, David Garnett, and John Maynard Keynes all lived at Charleston at various times, and Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, and Roger Fry were frequent visitors.

Vanessa and Duncan, inspired by Italian frescoes and the Post-Impressionists, painted nearly every wall, door, and piece of furniture: there was a nary a blank surface to be seen on our tour. And the painted decoration was complemented by objects from the Omega Workshops, the Bloomsbury Group's design business in London.

© Pia Tryde

© The Charleston Trust

I fell in love with Vanessa Bell's paintings when I was an art student in London many moons ago, and there were works by Vanessa (as well as Duncan) throughout the house:

Vanessa Bell, Iceland Poppies, c. 1908-09, © The Charleston Trust

The tour finished in the walled garden, which was planted with flowers, fruit, and vegetables,

enclosed by box hedges, and ornamented with mosaics and statuary in the southern European style:

G would like a classical head for our plot too, which is fine by me. But he's also suggested livening up the flat with some sponged and stenciled decoration, which is where I think I better draw the line!


  1. What an inspiring outing, and super photos. Jude x

  2. Oh lucky you! That looks such a fun visit. I'm very much looking forward to our outing together sometime :)

  3. Thank you for taking us along!

  4. oh I've been there!!! isn't it an amazing house? I totally wanted to paint my house when I got back home...


  5. Ah, two of my favourite places - my parents live in East Sussex and we're down there every few weeks or so. Fab!

  6. Oh I love this post, Kristina!

    I'm thinking of a trip to that coastline - well, Brighton actually!

  7. Charleston Farm was very charming. I loved how Italian fresco style painting was used to decorate the livingrooms and bedrooms, and the casts of classical heads on the garden walls mixed with Picasso statue by the pond made a humble farmhouse very grand indeed.

  8. I didn't like the look of the fireplace very much, especially the manky old electric fire. Your photos are superb.

  9. Something tells me that it wouldn't be all that difficult to picture the Bloomsbury Group walking around those rooms.

  10. How wonderful... it's another on my list of places to visit.

  11. I have been meaning to visit for such a long time, I love the eclectic style of the Bloomsbury Group.

  12. Very lovely place for a walk. Thank you for the information also. Makes me want to jump in the care and go!