A couple of weeks back, I posted an essay called The Occasional Tang of Salt, in which I described how our house was built as three holiday lets for the Glasgow Boys, who came here, partly to learn from Joseph Denovan who set up a school about a mile away called Craig Mill – where the ‘Edwardian Country Lady’ Edith Holden spent some time – but partly to paint in rural surroundings. James Guthrie painted Women Working in a Field here, and William J Kennedy painted Harvest Moon – we still dispute about whose houses are in it! Some had more permanent studios, but I don’t think any artist could have been comfortable in the two room flats, with shared wash-house facilities outside for more than a summer holiday.
All the same it is clear that some trouble was taken to make the rooms fit for paying guests. The house was knocked about a bit in the last century – combined into one in the 1950’s and extended in the nineties (by us). Remedial work has been done on damp-proofing, and the water-pipes had to be dug up and buried to the standard depth because they kept freezing up. So although I knew there had been a bit of fancy paintwork under the woodchip wallpaper in one of the rooms, I wasn’t prepared to find this survival:
I have to admit, the photograph makes it look a bit more classy than it does in real life. The colours are more faded, and the whole wall has been knocked about a lot since it was done (in 1901 or thereabouts – the house was built about 1891, so this would have been a make-over). I got this date when I put the picture on Facebook, and two other people told me they had found similar paintwork in their houses, from about that date.
So this isn’t a spontaneous burst of artistic activity, like the house at Charleston where Vanessa Bell and her friends seemed to have painted every surface they could reach, but a slightly upmarket interior design cliche. I’ve been looking on-line to see what the bobbles might be – they certainly aren’t Mackintosh roses, though they look like them. I hoped they might be apples, which would have had a certain local reference, as Cambuskenneth was known for its orchards, but at a guess, I’d have to say they are pomegranates, done from a simplified stencil for mass reproduction.
We can’t restore the whole design, tempting as it might be. It would be a heck of a job, even if we could get the right paint. So we sre going to cover it up carefully, so that the next owner of the house will have the option – or failing that, a genuine glimpse of the history of the house.