Month: January 2019
Lawnmowers – a very British obsession?
Did you know the lawnmower was invented in Gloucester by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830? He was deemed a madman for making such a contraption and had to test his machine at night so no one would see him.
But Budding was not mad at all and his machine revolutionised gardening.
Britain began making the best lawnmowers in the world. Sadly it seems this great piece of British engineering is less cutting edge and more heritage now on the world stage.
Talking of heritage, Britain does have the world’s only lawnmower Museum.
Where would you expect to find such a place? Gloucester, as it was home to Edwin Beard Budding? Kent, maybe, as its the Garden of England? No, it’s actually based in Southport on Merseyside.
106-114 Shakespeare Street, a short distance from Southport town centre, is where you will find this museum of garden machinery, not just lawnmowers.
Brian Radam, an ex-racing champion, started the museum, which sees more than 5,000 people visit every year. It was Brian’s dream to showcase vintage lawnmowers. His museum specialises in antique garden machinery and supplys parts, archive conservation of manuscript materials and values machines from all over the world.
It houses housing over 200 restored exhibits. These include machines and equipment owned by the rich and famous. You may have seen Lee Mack talking about his contribution to the collection on TV.
Lawnmowers owned by Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Brian May and Paul O’Grady are in there too. This museum is a unique tribute to the garden machine industry over the last 200 years.
Brian May’s mower – photo by Juliamaud
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It’s often said that you never visit what’s on your doorstep. Sometimes because the attractions become so familiar that you just expect them to always be there. And sometimes it’s because you don’t know they exist. Or maybe you do know they exist, as you’ve heard their name, but you have no idea what’s there and why you should visit.
If one of those places you’ve heard of but never visited is Strawberry Hill House you should definitely make the effort to go. It’s only a short walk from Strawberry Hill station after catching a train from London Waterloo.
Strawberry Hill House
This is an impressive Gothic revival house in Twickenham, that was created by Horace Walpole in the 18th century. It is Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture and inspired the first gothic novel – The Castle of Otranto.
The house was bought in 1747 by Horace Walpole, son of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister. He transformed it into a “little Gothic castle” between 1749 and 1790, providing a purpose built home for his growing collection of paintings, ceramics, coins and artefacts.
Inside the building the rooms lead you from mysterious dark space to light, open spaces. You’ll even find yourself venturing through passages into hidden rooms.
Why visit now?
Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill is an exhibition running until 24th February. It showcases many of the artefacts that used to fill the house, many of them to be placed into original locations for this time period.
Horace Walpole’s collection was one of the most important of the 18th century. He designed the interiors of his home to showcase his collection. Unfortunately the collection was sold in 1842. Spread over 24 days, the sale was an important society event, with special steamers laid on to take prospective buyers and tourists down the Thames from the centre of London.
The Lost Treasure exhibition brings back the treasures that have been dispersed for over 170 years and allows visitors to see the house as Walpole conceived it. Many of the pieces will be shown in their original positions.
Strawberry Hill Treasure Hunt
No, this isn’t a hunt you can go on yourself. Instead this is a series of blogs describing how the treasures that were sold were traced so they could be included in the exhibition.
“Ever wondered what it takes to unearth long lost artworks? What kind of detective work is required to retrace treasured antiques and objets d’art scattered two hundred years ago? This is the fate that befell the celebrated collection of antiquarian and man of letters, Horace Walpole, once displayed in his home, Strawberry Hill House. Centuries on, this series first will follow art historian and provenance researcher, Silvia Davoli, in her hunt for the lost treasures of Strawberry Hill and her bid to restore Walpole’s collections to his legendary gothic rooms.”
Strawberry Hill House & Garden, 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham TW1 4ST
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