Suite surprise to give 300th birthday party some flower power

Leeds, Leeds Star

A sumptuous suite of floral furniture will be displayed in all its glory for the first time in eight years ahead of a unique 300th birthday party.

The colourful collection of chairs and sofas was supplied to Temple Newsam House in 1746, originally as the decorative border of a lavish “indoor garden” in the house’s stunning picture gallery.

Usually, the suite’s intricate embroidery is carefully shielded to protect its delicate textiles from the harmful effects of the sun.

But as part of preparations to mark the 300th birthday of renowned landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown on Aug 30, the covers finally came off this week, giving guests a rare chance to view the beautifully crafted suite while enjoying tea, dancing and some of the estates incredible views.

Rachel Conroy, curator at Temple Newsam said: “The suite is absolutely stunning and a fabulous piece of craftsmanship, but usually we have to cover all but one of the pieces to protect them from potential damage from the sun.

“It’s not every day we host a 300th birthday party for such an historic figure though, so we decided to give guests a very rare opportunity to experience the suite in its full splendour.

“We hope that they’ll  paint a more vivid picture of what life at the house was like for those who lived here and help guests to appreciate just how closely the landscape and the house work in harmony.”

The historic suite of furniture was commissioned for the picture gallery more than 300 years ago and supplied by James Pascall, a noted guilder, carver and frame maker.

Each of the chairs and sofas, as well as a lavish daybed, is upholstered with a distinctive pattern, which helped them play a key role in the picture gallery’s original indoor garden theme by creating a border of flowers around the room.

As well as the suite, one of the highlight’s of next week’s celebration is the performance of a specially-commissioned dance that will weave its way through the house and into the gardens.

The performance, entitled Moving Through the Landscape, will see participants using dance and movement to highlight some of the house’s historic features.

Workshops have been taking place for the last six weeks, led by professional dance artists Gerry Turvey and Tara Baker and involving a wide range of participants from a number of local community groups, many of whom have never danced before. The 15 dancers, aged from one to 60, will now perform for guests at next week’s event.

The project has been funded by the Capability Brown Festival, which is supporting historic sites across the country to celebrate the iconic designer’s 300th birthday.

The event will also include bunting making from 10.30am and costumed characters dressed as ‘Capability’ Brown and Frances Shepheard, the former owner of the house.

The Arbeau dance group will also perform in Georgian costume in the Picture Gallery at 12.15pm and 3pm and visitors can also enjoy an afternoon Capabili-Tea, with live piano accompaniment, in the Great Hall of the House.

Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said:

“The long history of Temple Newsam features so many intriguing characters and stories, and that is reflected so perfectly in the breathtakingly colourful and varied collection of objects and antiquities contained within the house’s walls.

“Next week’s celebration not only marks the birth of one of the country’s most renowned landscape designers, but also the important role that Temple Newsam has played in the history of Leeds.”

The party and dance performance will take place on Aug 30.

Booking is essential as numbers are limited. Call 0113 3367460 or email Temple.Newsam.House@leeds.gov.uk

For more details about the event, visit: www.whatson.leeds.gov.uk/Pages/eventdetails.aspx?eventId=whatson-862