The Vyne (Hampshire)

From London I took the train to Basingstoke and then cycled for 30 minutes through the countryside to reach The Vyne.  The advantage of the bike is door to door service: being able to drive right up to the entrance gate is a bonus as it’s still quite a trek from the car park to the house, via the meandering gardens.

The star of the house (once Tudor in a double (or possibly triple) courtyarded fashion reaching down to the river, then much reduced to create a lawn and single Stuart house) is the tiled floor in the Tudor chapel.

The house was entertaining an art exhibition, with each artist taking inspiration from the house.  In the dovecote the pigeons were having a party and were covered in sparkles.

In the long gallery, the walls were decorated with pomegranates for Henry VIII’s visit with Katherine, to symbolise fertility.  A guide pondered what the owner did when Henry visited again with his new wife, Anne.  Did he cover the symbolism with tapestries?

Reflecting the walls, hiding under the carpet at one end of the gallery a pomegranate has been carved for every one on the wall.

Some of the art was downright rubbish.  Others were quite pleasing.

I’m starting to be quite ruthless with myself, only keeping pictures that I like (rather than just any picture I take).  I really liked the moment in the picture below from the Stewart dining room, incorporating earlier linenfold panelling.

Now for some juxtaposition.

I mentioned the Tudor origins of the house and its vast scale.  It was built between 1515 and 1529 for Lord Sandys, King Henry VIII‘s Lord Chamberlain.  I also mentioned the Tudor chapel which remains.

Well, the Civil War saw to the end of the Sandys’ fortunes and in 1653 the house was bought by Challoner Chute (apparently pronounced CHOOT, although I did study with someone with that name who pronounced it SHOOT).  Lord Sandys returned to his other (not insignificant) house, Mottisfont Abbey.

It was Challoner Chute who demolished most of the house and added the north front, designed by Inigo Jones‘s pupil John Webb.  Chute was a self-made man, a lawyer and an MP.  He died in 1659.

The house passed through the family and eventually into the hands of John Chaloner Chute, a friend of the notorious Horace Walpole (son of Robert Walpole, owner of Houghton and brain behind Strawberry Hill).  By all accounts they had a gay old time together and Walpole encouraged Chute to buy collections to fill his house.

Perhaps in co-conspiracy, Chute added a print room and redesigned the stairs in a neoclassical style.  I think the latter was a mistake because it’s a bit like a clown’s red nose on an otherwise sober businessman, but I managed to get a nice picture of it.

Without issue, the final Chute owner, Sir Charles Chute, gave The Vyne to the National Trust in 1958.

I was glad to add another Print Room to my list.  Helpfully the guide in this room (there were some rather wonderful, helpful and enthusiastic guides at The Vyne) knew all about Stratfield Saye and explained how The Duke of Wellington was a frequent visitor at The Vyne and it was here that he first fell in love with print rooms.  I don’t know if this is true because when I was at Stratfield Saye I recall hearing that Arthur Wellesley inherited at least one of his print rooms, but who knows…

When visited: August 2013


More on the art exhibition:

Theme tune: Diamonds

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