Timothy Lindsay, the Superintendent of Robinson Gardens, was introduced by our President Kerstin Royce as our No.1 friend to the Friends of Robinson Gardens. Tim attended the prestigious Attingham Summer School Program in Southern England during the 2013 summer program. As historian, teacher and garden restorer, Tim joined 50 other museum professionals from 7 countries. They visited 33 grand houses and met with their aristocratic owners. “After this lecture,” Kerstin joked, “we should call Tim, King Timothy I!”
Tim showed us numerous slides of these beautiful estates whose architecture was adapted from classical Greek and Roman styles. As the seat of power, the English Country House had its own economy, and some houses needed a staff of 1,000 people to run them. Tim talked about the Grand Tour where the eldest son spent 3-4 years on the continent, learned several languages, and bought sumptuous furniture, textiles, silks, porcelain, sculpture and paintings to furnish the house. Tim explained, “The aristocrats’ great wealth and purchasing power allowed this aesthetic impulse.”
Tim proceeded to show us Apsley House by Hyde Park in London, owned by the Dukes of Wellington. The most important painting was always placed above the mantelpiece; since there was no electricity, the fire from the fireplace helped provide additional light to showcase the artwork.
The group stayed at another house called West Dean manor. Although the manor is medieval, one of the owners, Edward James, assembled a surrealist art collection, including a couch in the shape of the lips of Mae West. Similarly, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire also buy modern art for Chatsworth, one of the grandest English country estates. The Duke gave a private tour, and asked many questions from Tim and the experts there. The group also toured historic gardens, including the grounds of a 12th century house called Broughton Castle. The garden had 4 parterres in the shape of a fleur de lys, filled with roses, which made for a beautiful pattern when viewed from above.
We were served a delightful lunch after the lecture on festive tables, decorated by Marian Power with a British theme of blue, red and white flowers, ribbons, and tiny British flags. The delicious luncheon was prepared by a young chef, Anthony Cailan, a friend of Tim’s daughter, who attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.