Larmer Tree Temple
Fine Art Watercolour Paper
Size: 305mm x 430mm
Original Painting Medium: Graphite Pencil
Larmer Tree Temple c. 1895 – c. 1907
In 1989, I moved to the Larmer Tree Gardens in the village of Tollard Royal, Wiltshire. The gardens had been closed for many years and were quite overgrown – it was a magical place – quite special; a secret garden, containing ornate buildings including the beautiful Larmer Tree Temple: set amid the majestic trees and intimate arbors frequented by many species of wild birds, along with the resident peacocks and ornamental pheasants; the ancient gardens surrounded by woodland walks and stunning scenery.
I lived and worked from The Flat, a self-contained, ‘one up – one down’ dwelling attached to the Larmer Tree Lodge and situated within the Larmer Tree Gardens. The Flat was damp and cold during the winter months, and whatever the weather, accessing upstairs meant using the outside staircase. I always had a fire lit in the hearth and wore many layers of clothing. As basic as it was – it was also glorious during the spring and summer months and was my home for 30 happy years. Not long after moving in, I was invited by the estate to care for the birds and to monitor the gardens and buildings. The Temple, overlooking the Dell and housing a bust of General Pitt Rivers, was always my favourite building.
At the beginning of my career, the majority of my commissions were pet portraits and in 1990 my landlord, Michael Augustus Fox Lane Pitt Rivers: the Great Grandson of the renowned Historian, General Pitt Rivers; commissioned me to paint the six macaws he had recently rescued. I also later received commissions to portray Alex, the beloved pet whippet belonging to Michael’s partner, Mr. William Gronow Davis. During this period I also displayed my work in galleries and exhibitions; slowly but surely introducing my wildlife artwork.
Meanwhile, the gardens were being renovated and eventually opened to the public, exactly as General Pitt Rivers had envisaged back in 1880. I was subsequently commissioned to design a ‘Garden and Wildlife Trail’ Guide for the Gardens, which included drawings of the various buildings: the General’s Room, Lower Indian Room, and Singing Theatre; whilst also being employed to give Larmer Tree guided walks.
I renamed my flat ‘Larmer Tree Studio’; converted my sitting room into a small gallery and invited visitors to view my work. I loved the gardens, the views from my home, the surrounding woodland, and the wildlife. Michael Pitt Rivers would often visit me, we shared a love of Larmer Tree and the birds, and I appreciated his support. I’ve always felt privileged to have been able to live and work in such beautiful surroundings.
Many times over the years I have watched the bats and birds feeding and flitting around the Dell as the sun goes down, and to portray the Dell and the beautiful Larmer Tree Temple, was a joy.