Must-See’s at Weston Park
The Gobelins Tapestries in the Tapestry Room
Weston Park’s Gobelins Tapestries which fill one of the ground floor rooms of the house, creating almost a fantasy tented effect, were acquired by Sir Henry Bridgeman, 5th Bt., (1725-1800), having been woven between 1766 and 1771. They are one of only six sets of similar tapestries commissioned from the Paris tapestry manufactory for English Country houses – one of which (that made for the Coventry family of Croome Court, Worcestershire) is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
George Stubbs, “Two Horses in a landscape” in the Entrance Hall
This masterful depiction of two horses communing in a landscape is believed to have been originally commissioned as an overmantle picture, which would have been framed above a chimneypiece. Commissioned from the artist by Sir Henry Bridgeman, it is the work of George Stubbs, the greatest of Britain’s equestrian artists, whose understanding of anatomy stemmed from the dissection of horses. It is the finest of Weston Park’s sporting art collection, which also includes paintings by Ferneley, Thomas Weaver, John Boultbee and other notable equestrian painters.
17th century Burse of the Great Seal of England in the Breakfast Room
The Great Seal was a silver seal impressed with the Royal coat of arms which was impressed into wax on documents which had the Royal assent. This impressive burse, or ceremonial bag, would have contained the Great Seal and would have been carried in procession before the Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the Seal in a burse, or purse, originally of white leather or linen. This example was used by Lord Keeper Sir Orlando Bridgeman, 1st Bt., and has the crowned royal cipher and the letters ‘CR’ (Carolus Rex) for King Charles II for whom he served in the office of Keeper of the Great Seal.
Sir Orlando, the son of a Protestant Bishop, had refused to apply the Seal to the Declaration of Indulgence, which he felt to offer too much equality to persons of the Catholic faith. He eventually resigned office and was given the burse and seal silver. The seal silver was melted down and used to create a large stem cup, engraved with an image of the burse, and this cup may also be seen in the collection at Weston Park.
The Lady Anne Newport Silver Toilet Set in the Silver Safe
The so-called ‘Lady Anne Toilette Set’ which is hallmarked 1679 bears the maker’s mark for Jacob Bodenick. The set has the initial ‘M’ stamped on it and it is likely that this set belonged to Mary Wilbraham, daughter of Elizabeth Lady Wilbraham. Mary married Richard Newport, 2nd Earl of Bradford in 1681 and this toilet set may have been part of her dowry. The Bradfords’ daughter, Lady Anne Newport (1690-1752) may then have later inherited the set from her mother, at her own marriage in 1719 to Sir Orlando Bridgeman 4th Bt. (1695-1764), hence the traditional name for the service.
The double-gourd shaped bottles were for scent, whilst some of the caskets would have contained white-lead which, although now regarded as highly poisonous was considered an essential skin cosmetic by late seventeenth and eighteenth century ladies.
Sir Thomas Hanmer by Sir Anthony van Dyck in the Dining Room
Van Dyck rose to prominence in England as a portrait painter in Charles I’s court and he painted the portraits of many of the most notable courtiers and aristocrats of the time. This picture, which is one of a group of portraits by van Dyck at Weston Park, shows Sir Thomas Hanmer, a Flintshire landowner, one-time Cup Bearer to Charles I and a talented amateur gardener who developed the costly Hanmer Agate Tulip. An especially fine work of van Dyck, the painting is perhaps the most travelled in the collection at Weston Park, having been to exhibitions in Tokyo, Washington D.C., Amsterdam, and London.
Morel & Hughes Suite of Regency Chairs & Settee in the Tapestry Room
Nicolas Morel and Robert Hughes were partners in a cabinet-making and upholstery business at 13 Great Marlborough Street, London, from 1805 until 1826. Their commissions included work at Carlton House, London, for the Prince of Wales – later the Prince Regent – and for several aristocratic clients. This set of furniture was part of a large commission of furniture, upholstery and decorative items that were commissioned by the 1st Earl of Bradford of the second creation for Weston Park in the early years of the nineteenth century. This suite can today be seen in the rich decorative surroundings of the Tapestry Room, where it was placed in the latter Victorian period.
Claude Joseph Vernet, the paintings of The Calm & The Storm in the First Salon
These two beautiful contrasting scenes were painted in the latter eighteenth century in Rome by the French painter Claude Joseph Vernet. They were souvenirs of the Grand Tour – the great journey across Europe which usually involved a prolonged stay in Italy – which marked the end of a young noble man’s education. In this case they were acquired by the Earl of Mountrath, a cousin of the Bradford family who, on his death in the early nineteenth century left the paintings to the Bradfords.
John Constable’s Portrait of Henry Greswold Lewis in the Library
We tend to think of John Constable as a landscape painter, but this is one of two of his portraits that Weston Park has in its collections. The sitter, Henry Greswold Lewis had married a daughter of the house at Weston and was, himself, the owner of an estate called Malvern Hall in Warwickshire where Constable painted the House and its park. A view of Malvern can be seen today in Tate Britain’s collections in London.