The Marble Hill Society

Past Member Events



26 January 2014
The Marble Hill Society Winter Party 2014


11 May 2014 : 30 and 31 August 2014
Serendipity

7 June 2014
Talk by Bruce Gordon-Smith on Henrietta Howard and her Servants

29 September 2014
Talk by Tracy Borman on Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction

4 October 2014
Servants - A Mixed Blessing : a Guided Tour

12 April 2015
The Marble Hill Society Spring Party 2015

9 May 2015
Ten Razor Blades in One Neat Couplet Case:  Alexander Pope and his writings

14 June 2015
Royal Dining at the Georgian Court

28 September 2015
Talk by Tracy Borman on Thomas Cromwell

10 April 2016
An Intimate Friendship : Horace and Henrietta

12 June 2016
The Marble Hill Society Summer Party 2016

12 September 2016
Talk by Tracy Borman: The Private Lives of the Tudors

16 October 2016
The French Connection in Twickenham 1800 - 1931 

 



 

The Marble Hill Society Winter Party 2014 












Members enjoyed a lunchtime Winter Party at the house, taking the form of a finger buffet in the Tetrastyle Hall.  Special guests were the distinguished biographer, Claire Tomalin and her husband, the novelist and playwright, Michael Frayn, Sam Walters, founder and director of the Orange Tree Theatre and his wife Auriol Smith and George Nissen, the chairman of the Chiswick House Friends and Mrs Nissen.  

It was preceded by a concert in the Great Room by Rosanna Ter-berg (Flute) and Olivia Jageurs (Harp).  Harp and Flute duos are relatively uncommon and it is the first time the Society has welcomed Olivia to Marble Hill.  Rosanna, however, has played here twice before and has become a firm favourite with the Society.

French composers working in Paris in the early part of the twentieth century bestowed special attention to writing for harp and flute and it was therefore not surprising that the concert leaned toward the French repertoire with pieces by Saint-Saens, Fauré, Debussy and Ibert.  However the 
concert also included a J.S.Bach Sonta in E-Flat major and works by the British flautist, Ian Clarke and the Texas composer, Kent Kennan.

It is always a pleasure to hear chamber music played in Marble Hill's Great Room and a privilege when played with such consummate artistry.
 

 

 

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Serendipity
 




Serendipity was a specially commissioned conversation drama between two of Twickenham’s most interesting 18th century residents, Henrietta Howard and her neighbour at Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole.  The drama was set on a May evening in 1764 in the Great Room, where these two friends would have met on so many occasions.  Much younger than Henrietta, Walpole was just as seduced by her charm, wit and experience of life at court as Alexander Pope, John Gay and others had been before him.  Effeminate, witty and entertaining, he wrote verses in her honour.  Henrietta was flattered and delighted.

Horace, played by Andy King, was a particular hit, with his interpretation and mannerisms; while Henrietta, played by Emily Swan, was captivating with memories of life in the Georgian court and the ‘bargain’ she struck to secure financial and personal independence at Marble Hill. The Director, Judith Hilvert, brought the tea party to life quite beautifully with the music, the costumes, the lights and the views into the park and to the river all cleverly reflected in the witty and poignant script.

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  Talk by Bruce Gordon-Smith on Henrietta Howard and her Servants



Bruce Gordon-Smith gave a very well attended talk entitled Below Stairs at Marble Hill - a perk or a penance?  to an audience of members and guests on Saturday 7 June 2014.
 
In a talk lavishly punctuated by slides he related the specific circumstances of Marble Hill in Henrietta Howard's day to the general situation of servants in the 18th century and on into the 19th century.  Swift and Defoe's writings about servants generally were useful sources. Bruce also made use of the evidence in Henrietta's wills and letters to and from her friends, as well as photographic and topographical evidence of the now demolished domestic wing of the house where so much of the servants' time was spent.  His talk ended with an evocation of the last days of Henrietta and her death.

Bruce was assisted by two actors Henrietta Swan and David King, members of the Richmond Shakespeare Society, who took on the persona of two of Henrietta's actual servants, the maid, Dolly, and the steward, Mr Russell.  

For those interested in the subject of servants, Bruce recommended Memoirs of an 18th Century footman by John Macdonald, originally published in 1790, now in paperback.

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Talk by Tracy Borman on Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction
 



Following the Society’s AGM on the 29 September 2014, and her election as President of the Marble Hill Society, Tracy spoke about Witches.

She traced the dramatic events which unfolded at one of England's oldest and most spectacular castles, Belvoir Castle, four hundred years ago. The case is among those which constitute the European witch craze of the 15th-18th centuries, when suspected witches were burned, hanged, or tortured by the thousand.  She presented a tale of superstition, the darkest limits of the human imagination and, ultimately, injustice - a reminder of how paranoia and hysteria can create an environment in which nonconformism spells death.  It was, however, not quite typical as the most powerful and Machiavellian figure of the Jacobean court had a vested interest in events at Belvoir who would mastermind a conspiracy that has remained hidden for centuries.

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Servants - A Mixed Blessing : a Guided Tour



On 4 October 2014 Bruce Gordon-Smith gave a special tour of Marble Hill House which looked at the role of servants in Henrietta Howard's household and how they provided daily support to her, her family and friends. The tour gave an interesting introduction to Georgian life and times and an insight into some fascinating social history. 

Accompanied by David King, who read selections from the views of contemporary authors about Henrietta's servants, the tour started in the Great Room.  It then wended its way via Henrietta's bedchamber and dressing room to the attics.  Not normally open, these provided a stark contrast to the grandeur of the public rooms and gave some feeling as to how the servants slept cheek by jowl in limited comfort. The tour ended in the Shop and a glimpse of where the long demolished servants' wing used to stand.

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The Marble Hill Society Spring Party 2015
 



The opening concert for the Society’s 2105 season was given by the acclaimed young soprano Emily Armour accompanied by the harpsichordist Petra Hajduchova, both alumni of Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

The Great Room at Marble Hill was the perfect setting for a recital of 18th century music that might have been heard at one of the soirées given by Henrietta Howard.  Ranging from the well known, such as Haydn’s My Mother bids me bind my hair and Bach’s Bist du bei mir, to Handel’s operatic scena Lucrezia (composed during his youthful years in Italy) the recital was a delight.  Rarely does one hear a concert where performers and building are so attuned.

The concert was followed by a sophisticated finger buffet by “Isabel’s Catering” in the Tetrastyle Hall.  A highly popular start to the year.

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Ten Razor Blades in One Neat Couplet Case: Alexander Pope and his writings 

 

 

In contrast to our opening event of the 2015 Summer Season, which was a concert featuring Baroque music, our second event on 9 May written and presented by Susan Morris and Alfred Bradley focused on a very well known 18th century Twickenham resident – one Alexander Pope (1688-1744) of Strawberry Hill.

This entertaining and informative presentation of Pope’s life and selected works, was delivered with aplomb by Susan.  She had clearly warmed to her subject and Alfred’s poignant and amusing readings from some of Pope’s choicest works explained why.  Though in poor health for most of his life, Pope’s prolific, witty and satirical writings made him famous and rich.  From epic poems like the The Rape of the Lock (actually a cutting by Petre of a few of his beloved’s curls) to translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey which made his fortune, to love poems, trenchant critiques of the poor quality of other writers’ works and The Dunciad (an all-embracing satire of dullness in contemporary culture, and a dig at the Georgian court including some of Henrietta Howard’s fellow courtiers) – Pope was fearless.  

He was preoccupied with what it meant to be human - that fascinating and contradictory mix of good and not so good – the glory, jest and riddle of the world: and many of his most famous sayings we still use today, for example:

-  Hope springs eternal in the human breast

-  To err is human, to forgive divine

-  The people’s voice is odd – it is and is not the voice of god

-  A little learning is a dangerous thing

-  Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

In the end, Pope fell out with both Henrietta and Lady Mary Wortley Montague – perhaps because neither returned his love – but the appreciative audience that enjoyed this talk will forgive him for this.

The programme also included information about the Pope’s Grotto Restoration Trust, and its Chair (David Cornwell) said a few words about it. Pope moved to Strawberry Hill in 1719 and became fascinated by horticulture and landscape gardening.  He constructed a shell-lined grotto which is all that remains of Pope’s home today.  It is in a bad state of disrepair and the Trust are aiming to preserve the Grotto "for the benefit of the people of Twickenham and of the nation".

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Royal Dining at the Georgian Court






On Sunday 14 June 2015, Susanne Groom, a former senior curator at Kew Palace, talked about feasts fit for a King, royal table manners, flamboyant chefs and the intrigues of the kitchen staff.  She focussed on royal dining from the arrival of George I from Hanover in 1714 to 1820 when George IV became king: one hundred years of over-indulgence of every kind and the strictest rules about social etiquette.  Susanne explored the fascinating changes in royal dining and what influenced them.  

After the talk, Susanne signed copies of her book At the King’s Table, Royal Dining Through the Ages - an illustrated history of royal dining from the Middle Ages to modern times.
       
 

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Talk by Tracy Borman on Thomas Cromwell






Following the Society's AGM on 28 September 2015, the Society's President Tracy Borman talked about her latest book on Thomas Cromwell, the untold story of Henry VIII's most faithful servant.

Born a lowly tavern keeper's son, Cromwell rose swiftly through the ranks to become Henry VIII's right hand man, and one of the most powerful figures in Tudor history.  The architect of England's break with the Roman Catholic Church and the dissolution of the monasteries, he oversaw seismic changes in our country's history.  Influential in securing Henry's controversial divorce from Catherine of Aragon, many believe he was also the ruthless force behind Anne Boleyn's downfall and subsequent execution.

But although for years he has been reviled as a Machiavellian schemer who stopped at nothing in his quest for power, Thomas Cromwell was also a loving husband, father and guardian, a witty and generous host, and a loyal and devoted servant.  With new insights into Cromwell's character, his family life and his close relationships with both Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII, joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces Tracy Borman examined the life, loves and legacy of the man who changed the shape of England forever.

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An Intimate Friendship : Horace and Henrietta



 
The first event of the season on 10 April 2016 was about the intimate friendship between Horace Walpole and and Henrietta Howard.  A good audience enjoyed home-made canapés and wine before the talk.  

The speakers were Susan Morris and Alfred Bradley.  Susan gave an interesting and informative overview of Horace Walpole's life and times with special mention of Henrietta Howard, his good friend.  Alfred performed extracts from Horace's diaries to illustrate the people and events in his life. We learnt that Horace liked older ladies, so the fact that Henrietta was thirty years older did not bother him. He was fascinated by her tales of court life and was happy to sit and listen to her past experiences and exchange notes.  As the the readings from some of Horace's many letters showed, he was witty and entertaining in his descriptions of life and the foibles of those he met on his travels.  This was altogether a most enjoyable evening.
 

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The Marble Hill Society Summer Party 2016




On Sunday 12th June the Society held its summer party at Marble Hill House on the theme of "Music for a while". Spanish singer Laura Ruhi-Vidal and Classical guitarist Maria Camahort played a varied selection of songs by Purcell, Dowland and several Spanish composers which were much enjoyed. We experienced baroque favourites together with the passionate flavours of Spain exploring seductive love, revenge and sorrow and traditional catalan songs.

After the concert , we were able to enjoy conversation, lovely food and a glass of wine, indoors and on the terrace. Altogether a successful evening.


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Talk by Tracy Borman: The Private Lives of the Tudors




Following the Society's AGM on 12 September 2016, the Society's President Tracy Borman provided a fascinating summary of her latest book - The Private Lives of the Tudors.

What she discussed was exactly the opposite of the title - there was little or no privacy for the Tudors.  Whatever bodily activity they were doing, someone would be present or close at hand.  Bowel movements, giving birth, ablutions, eating their meals and fertility - to name a few - would be open to public view.  The Tudor monarchs were surrounded with people ready to clean their teeth, run baths, wash their underwear and dress them.  

A high point of the talk was the Groom of the stool who carried with him a portable toilet which the monarch could use in case of emergency. The Groom of the Stool for Henry the Eighth had a real challenge.  After Henry's near fatal fall at the jousting , he was unable to keep fit and became obese.  However he continued to consume large amounts of the the very foods which would accentuate his problem and this would have kept the Groom well occupied, especially if Henry became constipated.  It must have been a very smelly job.

Tracy also told us the sad tale of Mary's non existent baby and Elizabeth's marital state or lack of it which aroused much comment during her reign.  Tracy delivered the talk with great aplomb and it was much enjoyed by all.  A talk to remember.

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The French Connection in Twickenham 1800 - 1932




On Sunday 16 October the society held a successful Sunday evening event at Marble Hill House with wine, nibbles and an illustrated talk by David King, MA, Chevalier des Palmes Academiques, former lecturer for the Alliance Française and past president of the Cercle Français de Richmond.  His talk was entitled 'The French Connection in Twickenham 1800 -1932'.  

David explored the French royal family connection, commencing in 1800 with the arrival in Twickenham of the exiled grown up sons of the decapitated Duke of Orléans, an immensely wealthy member of the Bourbon royal family.   Despite having supported the Revolution under an adopted name of Philippe Égalité. he had become a victim of the French Revolution,  The Orléans were all descendants of the Sun King's brother Philippe, Duc d'Orléans, who had been so memorably featured in a recent television serial on Versailles.

David related anecdotes of the generations that followed the initial exile of the family and the houses and places with which they were linked, ranging from Orleans House in Twickenham, Claremont in Esher, the Star and Garter pub and the graveyard at Thames Ditton.

From difficult beginnings in Twickenham, one of Philippe Égalité's sons, Louis Phillippe, went on to have 13 children and eventually to be crowned King of the French in 1830.  As King, he made a triumphant royal visit to Queen Victoria in 1844, which included a nostalgic visit to his former home, Orleans House.  However a few short years later, Louis Philppe was deposed in 1848 and retreated to England where he died. 

During the 1860s three of the late King's sons were living in the area – the Duc d’Aumale at Orleans House, the Prince de Joinville at Lebanon House, and the Duc de Nemours at Bushy Park – while one grandson was living at York House and a second across the river in Morgan House. The connection lasted until 1900 when the then Duc d’Orléans moved away from York House where he had been living since 1896.  

The extraordinary Orléans dynasty ended when the last Duc died from the effects of a bee sting.


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