Charleston and Monk House
This Saturday I went to Charleston House with a group of students from my program. I had earlier emailed the professor of the Bloomsbury class – he was organizing the trip – and he graciously let me come along.
So what is Charleston House, what is Bloomsbury?
Quick rundown: Charleston House was the home of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and a menagerie of changing intellectual and artistic guests in the early part of the twentieth century. They called themselves the Bloomsbury group, and rejected the Victorian culture they had grown up with, to create an environment where free thinking and free living and beauty took precedence. The product was a gorgeous house filled with Post-Impressionist and Italian fresco paintings, hand-painted walls and fireplaces, and a ceramics collection from across Europe. Clive Bell (Vanessa’s son), Maynard Keynes (the economist), Roger Fry (artist/critic), and Virginia Woolf (Vanessa’s sister) were all part of the group, and lived in or visited the house often. Alternative, bohemian living before anyone knew what that was.
Unfortunately, I could not take any photographs within the house, but I found a couple on the internet. Each room was gorgeous, and my friends and I got dizzy from inspiration and plans for our future homes.
The garden behind the house was also gorgeous, and we were given free reign to romp in it.
There is a cafe and gift shop on the property as well, so we stopped and ate sandwiches and sketched each other “Bloomsbury style.”
I’m regretting the fact that I took a picture of my sandwich. I do not want to become one of these people! (Click the link). But I loved the bird plate and the table cloth. The walls were whitewashed brick and the garden was just outside.
Then we visited a small church a mile or so down the road, where Vanessa and Grant had been commissioned to paint the inside.
Again we got plenty of time to explore the grounds and try to decipher names through the moss on the weathered tomb stones. One of my friends found this rock in a nearby field. It looks like an arrowhead to me…what do you think? I took a picture and nestled it back in the grass.
The final part of the day was visiting Virginia Woolf’s family home called Monk’s House. I took some pictures of the inside, and many, many more for my sweet mother who will get them emailed to her! The house and all of its knick knacks reminded me of my houses growing up…
Here is Virginia’s famous room of her own, which was separate from the main house.
One thing I will say, for honesty’s sake, is that I did carefully take pictures around a lot of people. It’s wonderful to know how many other living people are as excited to be somewhere as you are, but at the same time it is strange to see a person’s private place swarming with bodies. Wouldn’t it be weird to visit the future and see your college dorm room preserved in the way “they” thought you kept it, and a family from Norway crowded around your bed and taking a picture? If we are even so lucky…
The house looked out onto beautiful English countryside, and had a pond, statues, another writing studio, and a bevy of orchard trees and sweet peas.
I enjoyed myself (Henry David) Thoreau-ly.