Baddesley Clinton is a lovely, romantic-looking manor house with a fantastic Tudor history surrounded by a moat in the Warwickshire countryside.
It also houses an art collection which has an interesting history behind it.
For me, Baddesley Clinton will always be fascinating because of its early history. Reputedly, owner Nicholas Brome killed the parish priest there because he’d tickled his wife under the chin, and he rebuilt the nearby parish church, which can also be visited, as penance.
Later, the occupants post-Reformation were Catholic and helped shelter priests there, and there’s at least one priest hole which leads from a garderobe shaft to sewers that can be seen on a visit
There are some seventeenth century portraits in the ground floor rooms, including one Joshua Reynolds work, The Right Honourable Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer, of 1766 looking suitably serious and important. Other portraits include family members, unknown nobles and Princess Henrietta, Charles I’s daughter. However, paintings by Rebecca Ferrers dominate the walls.
In Victorian times the house was occupied by what became known as The Quartet. Marmion Ferrers lived there, and married Rebecca Orpen in 1867. Two years later, her aunt the author Lady Georgiana Chatterton and her husband Edward Dering moved in with them. They worked to restore the house, and spent time writing, painting and on their shared Catholic faith, also restoring the chapel during this time.
According to Mark Girouard’s The Return to Camelot, Chivalry and the English Gentleman, there was also more between them. He wrote that Edward was in love with Rebecca, and had gone to her guardian Lady Chatterton to ask permission to propose to her. But Lady Chatterton, either on purpose or accidentally, misunderstood and accepted his proposal herself, and Edward was too chivalrous to put her right. After the deaths of both of their spouses, Edward and Rebecca finally married in 1885, 26 years after his first attempted proposal, and he died in 1892, leaving her alone for another 29 years.
With this in mind, Rebecca’s paintings take on a new interest. She was not the most talented of painters ever, but her subjects are interesting, including Cardinal Newman, who received the Quartet into the Catholic faith.
She painted family members, and idealized scenes. Architectural subjects are detailed and well depicted, but another painting of a young girl has proportions all wrong, with enormous feet and tiny hands.
Paintings of the interior of the house are a useful record of the Victorian country home interior, and the Quartet liked to dress up, sometimes in historic costumes, and Rebecca painted them in the house and grounds.
There are examples of her two husbands in similar poses, showing a position she obviously felt comfortable with, and an unfinished work in similar style. Her religious devotion can also be seen in one of the paintings behind the altar in the house chapel.
As an information panel points out, the artistic merit of these works isn’t necessarily what is most important, but a collection by a female artist of this period is interesting and worth seeing in itself. This is true enough, and is an interesting addition to the joy of visiting Baddesley Clinton.