Hartwell House, a truly delightful historic stately home in the English countryside, has seen most things – good and bad – throughout the course of its long and eventful life.
The estate was a private residence until 1938, when it was acquired by the philanthropist Ernest Cook, grandson of the travel entrepreneur, Thomas Cook, and subsequently passed to the Ernest Cook Trust that was founded in 1952.
The house was rescued from decline and converted into a flourishing hotel enterprise. A wonderful location, compelling interior decoration and a consummate blend of urbanity and sophistication, combined with fine dining and a warm welcome are a sure guarantee for satisfied guests who take every opportunity to return.
Some of the furnishings are what might properly be called new purchases, but are nevertheless of old or even antique provenance. This little chair of unknown pedigree is just one such example. Did it arrive at Hartwell after being bought at auction? Was it perhaps a gift? Or was it quite simply purchased because it filled a need?
It is possible that the chair dates back to the time when the Houses of Parliament were being built. After a calamitous fire in 1834 the Palace of Westminster, to give it its proper name, was rebuilt between the years of 1840 and 1876 in a style known as Gothic Revival, an expression of the nineteenth-century’s romantic infatuation for medieval forms. In this instance this is reflected in decorative flourishes such as the slender columns and pointed arches of the chair back.
Sometimes when you want to enjoy a breath of country air, make friends with the animals and allow yourself to be immersed in a world filled with figures and furnishings from bygone days and the sounds and scents of times long past, a setting like this is “balm for the soul”. To share a conversation with like-minded souls, or simply to relax in peace and quiet.
Maybe to sit for a while on a Gothic Revival chair, sipping a glass of red wine as you eagerly await the pleasure of enjoying a meal to remember in a genuine historic setting. There’s no reason not to indulge in life’s little luxuries now and again.
By Gun Bjerkander Handberg
Notes from the editor:
Chairs from history and the tales they tell have inspired Swedish author and antiques expert Gun Bjerkander Handberg to write two charming books featuring chairs from around the world. Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and the Tales They Tell are avalible now online and can be ordered from your local bookshop.
Please Be Seated – Historic Chairs and the Tales They Tell ISBN: 9780992708474
Please Be Seated – More Historic Chairs and the Tales They Tell: 9780992708481