Saturday 27 July 2013

National Trust opens Leith Hill Place - RVW's family home

Leith Hill Place, photo National Trust
Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Gloucestershire, where his father (Arthur Vaughan Williams) was a Vicar, but RVW's father's early death meant that RVW and his mother (Margaret Wedgwood)  returned to her family home, Leith Hill Place, where RVW was brought up. Leith Hill Place is an elegant 17th-century house, which was added to and improved in the 18th century. The estate grew to become a landscape of natural splendour and includes a ha-ha, lime avenue and extensive tree planting. The estate was bough by Josiah Wedgwood (grandson of the potter) in 1847. Josiah was married to his cousin, Caroline Darwin and the Wedgwood and Darwin families where heavily intermingled, so that Charles Darwin the naturalist used to stay at the house.  The house was inherited by RVW's elder brother Hervey, and RVW inherited it from his brother and donated it to the National Trust in 1944.

Though the wider estate has been open to the public, the first tenant of the house was RVW's cousin Ralph Wedgwood. When the family left in the 1960's the house was let as a school. It is empty of contents, Ursula Vaughan Williams' biography of her husband talks about them stripping the house of all the family things.

So, as an experiment the National Trust is opening up the house, as it is. This builds on their experience at Croome Court where they have opened the empty house and created an effective visitor experience and encouraged visitors to provide feedback about the way the house should be use. At Leith Hill Place, the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society has been working with the National Trust in helping to provide materials and recordings for use. A sound-scape – 'the Life and Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams' - is a guided sound installation in the attics, with the voices of Brian Kay and Virginia McKenna,

The RVW Society has organised two concerts in the house. On Saturday 31 August, Jessica Coleman (violin) and Alison Rhind (piano) perform a programme of RVW, Elgar and Ravel, then on Saturday 14 September, Rebeca Omordia (piano) performs a programme of William Lloyd Webber, Bliss, Ireland, Ravel and RVW. Further information and booking for the concerts from the National Trust's Leith Hill Place leaflet

Opening times for 2013: every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 11am to 5pm, from 26 July to 3 November 2013. Further information from the National Trust website.

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