I had a wonderful day last week meeting up with friend Barbara during her annual trip to Devon. Barbara now blogs about her literary travels at Milady's Boudoir which all saves me the bother of leaving my armchair.
Once we had conversationally de-oxygenated all available air in the Cranks Restaurant in the Cider Press Centre at Dartington (coffee...lunch...about three hours-worth) we walked up to see the recently opened National Trust property on the Dartington Esate, High Cross House.
Designed by the architect William Lescaze in 1932, I now realise that all those Primary Care Trust meetings held in the Lescaze offices about a mile away in Dartington village actually saw me seated somewhere historic and apparently architecturally important. In fact we used to hate going there, the 1930s building seemed depressingly bleak and characterless.
High Cross House was commissioned by Leonard Elmhirst and built for the then headmaster at Dartington Hall School, William Curry. Modernist and minimalist would sum it up, and not entirely to my taste would sadly also be accurate.
Not that I went to Dartington Hall School, but my primary school of the 1950s must have been built at around the same time and I couldn't get the feel of an institution out of my mind as we walked round...the metal window frames and the sense of space. I am clearly an architectural philistine and plenty of you will see much to admire here I feel sure, and the books on view will give you an indication of predominant themes and style at play here.
Spotting these chairs didn't help either..how many hours did we spend sitting on or stacking these back in the 1950s??
The other problem with modernist and minimalist is...well there isn't really much to look at is there, and whilst I know that is the whole point, and this is about looking differently and in a wholly undistracted way, and though there were some modern art displays around the house, it still felt sparse if not a little bleak.
I wonder what you all feel about places like this??
What am I missing here, what should I be admiring??
There were however a few glimmers which more than made up for the entrance charge, namely this chair which I want and why can't someone start making them like this again...
or like this...
and as we wandered around some beautiful piano music filtered into every round and square corner of the house...
From High Cross House we walked on through the grounds of Dartington Hall where the trees were putting on their best display of colour.
And more colour was what we needed as well as tea, so we headed off to see the stained glass and sample the delights at nearby Buckfast Abbey, more about that soon and you can read Barbara's much more informative account of our visit here.