Sunday, April 06, 2008

Compton - The Gallery, The Chapel and The Cat

Today began with R shaking me awake and saying 'look at this', pulling back the bedroom curtains to show me the blizzard outside. And, for a short while at least, it was certainly a blizzard. I confess I went back to sleep but R went out and came back with tales of Christmas Card snow many inches deep, crisp and even... By the time I came to and staggered to my desk the sun was out while the rooves and roads and the cars were still covered, I suspect some of the magic had worn off.

In the afternoon though, really to stop R from spending the whole afternoon asleep on the couch although why I care if he does I beginning to wonder, I suggested, not really knowing where or how far it was, that we go to Compton. We had heard of Compton on the BBC restoration programme and marvelled then at the tiny little Arts and Crafts style purpose built gallery in the middle of the Surrey countryside - but on the TV. I then picked up some vintage postcards of the Cemetery Chapel which is a masterpiece of Arts and Crafts/Art Nouveau decoration - but even that was a long time ago now... all these little pieces shifted about in my head and eventually resulted in the word Compton coming out of my mouth when R said 'okay but where?' when I suggested an afternoon out.

Turns out that Compton is only really an hour away.

The drive was quite lovely with bright spring sunshine on fields and downs still covered and capped in snow. Butster Hill was bright with white and showed evidence of people having been sledging and making huge rolling snowballs all day...

We were both enchanted by Compton, both by the gallery and the chapel. The Gallery was purpose built by G. F. Watts, perhaps one of the most well known of all Victorian painters in his day and the chapel was designed by his wife and dcorated by her with the help of the villagers. The gallery is now in a very bad way and even the buckets which collect the water dripping from the snow covered roof have signs on them saying 'please donate'.

It has to be said that, needing money as they do, and having such a phenomenal collection as they also do. They could afford I think to double the £3 entry fee and double their income from admissions in one fell swoop and I have no doubt that people would continue to come in the same numbers.

Walking up through the cemetary we were met by our guide for the afternoon - a heavily pregnant and fabulously friendly cat. She trotted down the path to meet us as we came up towards the chapel, led the way inside, looked with us at all the various parts of the chapel, sat on R's lap for a while as we took a moment to take in the decoration and then followed us out and accompanied us around the rest of the cemetery. A cemetary by the way which must have the largest proportion of Art Nouveau gravestones of any in the country. (There is something of a spooky coincidence about one of the graves there but I will bore you with that another time.)

A beautiful, bitter, bright, spring day...

1 comment:

John C said...

Marvellous photos, the best I've seen of the place, I think. Thanks. A shame to hear they're struggling for money.

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