Large Arch Revealed in Basement Kitchen! 22/06/2014

As mentioned last week, Isis Gallery is once more using the Town House as the site for one of its exhibitions, Time for Magic by Jamie Reid. A large, ceiling-high tipi now stands in the middle of our Regency drawing room. The tipi's interior spaces are strewn with cushions to simulate what was once called a 'chill-out' space. Visitors are encouraged to enter inside and utilise both cushions and space. This exhibition represents a hippy squat and is colourful, bright and a lot of fun. Do come in and see it for yourselves.

Time for Magic is open 21 June to 6 July, Wednesday to Sunday, 12:00 to 6:00pm.

Being exam time, some of our volunteers are otherwise occupied at the moment. So it was a friendly gesture on the part of one of our Swiss interns to offer to help out if, and where needed in addition to the other work he is doing. We have been fortunate indeed with our scheme involving interns, whose help on some of our large and ambitious projects has been a contributing factor in the success of those projects. Without help the work would have taken much more time – and more volunteers – to complete.

As work in the original basement leads to more cleared spaces one or two fascinating facets of domestic archaeology have emerged. The first was the outline, in the bricks we were preparing to plaster, of a large arch. This suggests strongly that the design of the kitchen at No. 13 differs from that of No. 10. It is possible that a scullery or preparation space was built at the side of the kitchen closest to the stables and outbuildings. This would have been planned once the advantages of the large kitchen skylight in bringing extra light had been fully appreciated. (The scullery at No.10 was built behind the wall opposite the fireplace. It is rather dark and would have needed artificial light most of the time).

The second discovery was of various holes and marks in the brickwork of what was once a pantry – which led to speculation as to whether, at some point, a dumb waiter had been installed. Given the history of the house during the first half of the 20th century the installation of such a fixture is not inconceivable.

The most recent discovery was that, from the cleared courtyard, a piece of high-tech design is clearly apparent. In the sheer outside wall of what was once the first floor library/study for the gentleman of the house, a tiny wooden door and ledge immediately arrests the eye. This, in the days before telegrams or phones, was probably one of the most important doors in the house. It was the place where carrier pigeons roosted and from which the latest news of commerce, trade or war could be plucked by briefly rising from the comfort of a fireside chair. Only five other houses in the Square had these 'pigeon holes' – all belonged either to gentlemen of the Admiralty or those who had overseas trade and/or business links. The original owners of the Town House owned plantations overseas.

Nick, of course, mentions this feature in his interior tours of The Regency Town House but somehow, seeing it in situ from the outside brings the past very clearly and starkly into the present.

Finally, for those interested in both history and film, comes word of an event which may be of interest. Outdoor film showings will be held in the gardens of Preston Manor from July 4th at 9.00pm or dusk. Some oldies but goodies will be show, including Singin' in the Rain, Labyrinth, and The Rocky Horry Picture Show (for which, as is customary for Rocky Horror shows on either stage or screen, dressing up is encouraged!). Details can be found here:-

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