Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Escape to the Country.

A very exciting opportunity for Marshall Murray has presented itself, so I thought I'd give you all a heads up.  

Riverhill House is a gorgeous Kentish estate with fantastic views across the Weald and an historically significant garden.  Bought in 1840 by John Rogers, a contemporary of Darwin, due to the perfect conditions present for growing exotic species on the lime-free soil and south facing slopes.  He sponsored expeditions to the Himalayas to collect seeds and specimens which, despite the hazards and very basic equipment available, flourished in the Kent climate.   

The house grew and thrived up until the First World War when, due to the changes in society that saw the price of labour increase dramatically, the numbers of staff available to maintain the house started to dwindle.  The estate began a slide into disrepair; the world-class gardens fading as hedges slowly became oppressive trees, seas of weeds ebbing and flowing over the once proud gardens, eroding the walls and blanketing the lawns.  Left to their own devices, in acres of increasingly wild woodland, the azaleas and rhododendrons flourished in the shade. 

Successive generations managed the gentle but inexorable decline of the estate, eventually opening the gardens to the public to generate revenue, albeit to a limited degree and with a less than commercial approach.  Wind the clock forward to 2009 and the estate was featured on Channel 4's "Country House Rescue" which, allied with the current owners' open and progressive approach, has seen a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the house and grounds.  Edward and Sarah Rogers have begun a fascinating programme of renovation and reinvention, the show is well worth a watch:

I met with Sarah to discuss a partnering between Riverhill and Marshall Murray and I think it presents a very exciting opportunity for all involved.  We can offer world class British sculpture, they can offer a stunning setting and steadily rising footfall in a very affluent part of the country.  Our shared ambition is to create a platform for British artists, a rotating gallery of exterior pieces of both art and furniture.  The wide expanses of open ground and quintessentially English views are a wonderful gallery wall on which to hang our work.

We shall look to offer opportunities to up and coming artists alongside the more established, mixing mediums and influences to offer a wide range of beautiful scenes.  There are a number of buildings that could become temporary studios, woodland walks in which to nestle hidden art, crumbling cellars that could hold pop up galleries - the potential is unlimited and my enthusiasm unbounded.  The Rogers are art lovers and passionate about the project on which they have set out.  It is a fascinating time to get involved with the realisation of their ambition for their home, the plans in place are as exciting as the ideas still loosely formed.

This may just be the start of a long and exhilarating partnering, I'll be sure to keep you all posted and hope to see you at one of our future events.

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