GF And Mary Watts #art #chapel #visit

Who? you ask. I did. Even the Textiliste, who’s cultural life is so much wider and deeper than mine, didn’t know them before something appeared on some feed somewhere.

Had you lived in England in the 1890s with her appreciation of fine things – I still would have failed, philistine me – you would have heard of him. He was an artist and, specifically a portraitist of much renown. His wife, Mary, probably less so given the wider and deeper misogyny of those years.

His talent and accompanying fame generated a sufficiency of the spending stuff to enable them to built a rather splendid home on the Surrey countryside near Guildford. Then it was humbler farms, now its overpriced bankers and studs. It was and is delightful, whoever lives there.

They built a gallery to house his work, and workshops from where they continued their artistic endeavours until his death in 1904. Mary continued to live there until the 1930s and while the house was sold into private ownership it is now back under the management of the GF Watts trust.

I didn’t take many shots of the art or the interiors. It seems right that these should be for you to discover. But the above is a taste.

There are many splendid reasons to find the excuse to visit but the real draw is the small chapel that Mary Watts determined to build. When they arrived in the 1880s the local graveyard attached to the village church was full. The local authority bought a piece of land as an overspill and Mary offered to design a memorial chapel for those waiting to be buried, where the deceased could rest prior to interment.

In fact she raised money and had the chapel built under her watchful eye, training locals in the skills of creating the intricate terracotta bricks that make up the chapel’s exterior. It is a stunning piece of work, with so much detail that you wander round the outside, unsure what to focus on next.

The doors are equally grand and looked, for all the world as if they were locked.

We tried the handle…

I don’t think I’ve experienced such a shock and awe moment as walking inside created, not for sometime. Probably not since we visited Cookham church decorated by Stanley Spencer, when walking the Thames Path. It was so unexpected. I took this video to try and capture a sense of the place but nothing really does it justice except seeing it for yourself.

Back outside, and above us a covered walkway drew us close. In front the simple graves of GF and Mary were placed.

They were a power couple of their days, influencers to coin the modern descriptor. It is sad that they are not better remembered; Mary, at least, and her chapel deserves a wider audience.

These last two pictures are two of the monumental sculptures that GF focused on in later life. The man is Tennyson, poet laureate and friend. From this a bronze was cast which now resides in front of Lincoln Cathedral. The horse epitomizes physical energy and is some sort of a tribute to Cecil Rhodes, not a name that is much celebrated these days. There have been four casts, the first cast is in Cape town, the second in Kensington Gardens and a third ended up in Harare. A fourth is planned for this site but we didn’t see it when we were there. The material used is called grosse gesso and, I’m informed, is very messy.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in art, Art Nouveau and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to GF And Mary Watts #art #chapel #visit

  1. Mick Canning says:

    We came across it while walking the North Downs Way. It is indeed a beautiful place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I did some of that with my dad back in 1988, when he retired and did it all with a couple of friends. I joined after this so missed it. And he never mentioned it!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Darlene says:

    That chapel is something else. Thanks for sharing it here. I love discovering these surprises tucked away.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A marvellously fascinating well photographed tour

    Liked by 1 person

  4. willowdot21 says:

    Wow, just wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well done on the breathing control whilst filming! Not bad for a “little home”! The gesso sounds very messy – rabbit skin glue, chalk and white pigment! A marvellous report, thank you both.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. gordon759 says:

    ‘The simple graves of GF and Mary ‘
    Si Monumentum Requiris Circumspice

    I remember taking Peter to the chapel one day, bringing him back from uni.

    It is always interesting to see him when confronted by major works of art, he goes very silent, looking at everything in great detail, then pulling out his sketch block (which, as you know, he always carries) and sketching or making notes.

    The reaction of the guide in the chapel was typical, she looked askance at him, he was very shaggy and unkempt then, I followed him in and said simply, ‘Art Student’, at this she relaxed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. noelleg44 says:

    This place is, in a word, breathtaking. A jewel! Thanks so much to the textiliste and you for taking us there on a tour. You are so lucky to live with such art and history surrounding you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JT Twissel says:

    Definitely a place I’d like to visit. Thanks for the intro. Love all the faces.


  9. Thank you for sharing this treasure, Geoff. I won’t be going there soon so I loved the photos

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Absolutely superb! But oh, my blood does boil at “Mrs Watts, wife of …”


  11. Suzanne says:

    Yes, good on Mary and what a artistic thoughtful person she was. Great day out and the carving on those buildings, wow. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. George says:

    Wow. That chapel is like nothing I’ve seen. Breathtaking. Like entering into a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Thank you for a wonderful post. I must find the opportunity to visit it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I wasn’t expecting that at all after the delicious carvings outside. As you say it was like going inside her work. We are spoilt in this country to have such gens tucked away and still preserved; you only have to look at what’s happened in Ukraine or Turkey/Syria to realise how easy it is to lose one’s cultural background

      Liked by 1 person

  13. HI Geoff, this is a most beautiful place. So much time and effort involved in the creation of the chapel and all the artworks too.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. V.M.Sang says:

    I haven’t heard of these artists, I’m sorry to say. The chapel looks an amazing place. Thanks for sharing your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Stunning. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. arlingwoman says:

    That chapel is amazing. I’m so glad you resorted to video because it put the different pieces together as a whole. For some reason, I kept thinking of bas reliefs done by Augustus Saint-Gaudens when I was looking at the art and then that painting of the woman with the veil and the orb–looks so similar to the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek cemetery in DC. I checked and they were contemporaries–breathing the same artistic air. That would be a place I’d visit over and over if it were close.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Jennie says:

    This was just wonderful, Geoff. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.