Lifestyle: Colour explored in historic interiors

The bed, thought to have belonged to Henry VIII'Contributed picture SUS-140814-150701001
The bed, thought to have belonged to Henry VIII'Contributed picture SUS-140814-150701001

Olivia Lerche rounds up a Weald and Downland event working to bring history home

Shops selling home furnishings and decorations line our high streets. Although the selection of curtains, paint colours and furniture is magnificent, the thought which goes into decorating our homes hasn’t change for centuries.

The Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton is exploring the domestic interiors of historic homes with a series of demonstrations and talks for a one-day event called Colour in Domestic Homes.

“The chance to glimpse into a home is of interest to so many of us, and the range of speakers on this day will enable us to do that for past centuries,” said Diana Rowsell, head of learning.

“Dull and brown these homes certainly weren’t and it is interesting to trace the fashions at different levels of society.”

A new wall hanging in Bayleaf Farmhouse will be displayed with a chance to discuss it with both the artist who made it, Melissa White, and museum historian, Danae Tankard.

Jonathan Foyle, television presenter and chief executive of the World Monuments Fund, will be divulging details about Henry VII’s recently-discovered marriage bed – which is thought to be the bed where the famous king was conceived.

Jonathan said the bed itself retains some traces of 15th-century paint and the iconography helps to place it at Westminster Palace.

The talks will move into the realms of the 16th century, where Catherine Richardson, of the University of Kent, will paint a picture of colour in the home with her talk A fringe of yellow and blue silks and venis gold. Appealing to people who are curious about home furnishings, Craig Gershater will also introduce the science 
of colour and question what colour really is.

“We will explore some of the earliest ideas about colour and briefly examine how Newton, doing the most brilliant experiments, started ‘unweaving the rainbow’ with his analysis of white light,” said Craig.

“Pausing to take in the work of James Clark Maxwell, colour theory and the first colour photography, we will then consider how the eye perceives colour and address the question as to why there are just three primary colours. We finish with a consideration of how nature exploits or reflects aspects of colour and perhaps consider how using these natural principles humankind seeks to enhance the artificial environment with the use of colour.”

Clare Gittings from the National Portrait Gallery, will look at the changing colours which surround domestic life in portraits – providing a glimpse into domestic interiors from the Tudor period through to the first world war.

Some of these portraits show rooms which no longer exist, providing the only surviving record of life in these homes.

Ian Bristow, an architect and specialist in historic architectural colour, will explain how technical investigations and documentary evidence can be used to determine distinct colours.

The talks will be brought to life in the historic setting – which boasts rolling countryside and some of the best-preserved 15th and 16th-century buildings in the country – a rare treat not to be missed.

Colour in Domestic Homes takes place on September 21.

The cost is £40, including teas and coffees. Pre-booking is essential.

Call 01243 811464 to make a booking or find out more.