21 October 2013
Ben Pentreath

Do you ever have one of those days where you get out of the wrong side of the bed… and nothing goes according to plan? That was this weekend. I had planned to be in Dorset, but painting work was running on (note: I now have a scary purple dining room. Watch this space). So I stayed in London and woke up on Saturday morning a bit too late and a bit too hungover (as a friend of a friend used to say at this point: “no details”).

My plan was to head out to Dreweatts auction house, near Newbury. A few things I wanted to see before their sale on Wednesday. But just that, and coming back, would have felt like too much of a work trip. So, beginning to recover, I spent a while searching on google to find out interesting things or places. I began to develop a perfect itinerary… Ashdown House, that perfect 17th century box now owned by the National Trust; the Great Coxwell Barn; and finally, a house that I have longed to see for ever, Kelmscott, William Morris’s Oxfordshire house… each just happened to be not so far from the next, and all open on a Saturday afternoon.

What happened? Well by the time I was finally out of the house, camera charged, after breakfast, and some strong coffee, and in the car, and realising that I had no petrol, and that the traffic was dreadful… well, by then, I realised that there was no way on planet earth I was going to get to Dreweatts before they closed. I called just to check, and a polite lady confirmed that they close at 12.30 on the dot. The petrol was the real clincher. Never, ever leave your car with no petrol will be my new rule: who knows when you need to make an emergency road trip to the Cotswolds.

I could have pressed on, of course, but somehow a two hour drive to Kelmscott and back felt just as strange as a going to the auction house and returning. I like trips with multiple agendas. And somehow… once if it was off on the wrong foot… well, you know what I mean.

So, no beautiful photographs I am afraid. Can’t you imagine what we would have been looking at right now? My friends Maria and Will came to the rescue of my cabin fever, but I spent the better part of the rest of the weekend grappling with one of the trickier articles I’ve written in a while – a long piece on Poundbury for the FT.  Talk about being too close to your subject to write. Then last night went to a fabulous supper given by my friends David & Chris, who’s house I’ve been working on around the corner in Gordon Square. It was great fun, but a Sunday? (reader, there was actually a good reason). Monday mornings can be pretty grim at the best of times (I am never quite sure why, because I like going to work)… but this takes the biscuit.

In the interests of the blog, therefore, I want to declare this week: INTERLUDE.

Do you remember those BBC films of a potter making a pot?  That they stuck on when one programme had ended a bit early and before they were ready to go with the next?  To be honest, I am not sure if I can actually remember them: I think they were already wrapped in irony and inverted commas by the mid 1970s. But for readers wanting a fun way to waste a few minutes, watch this interesting little film which explains the history of the interludes; have a look at the potter’s wheel, London to Brighton in Four Minutes, and my favourite, by far: Roadworks, as re-broadcast on Friday 3rd September 1982. Insane on a number of levels. You will see why.

What would we do without youtube?

Incidentally, I am sorry that I don’t seem to be able to embed the videos directly into the blog. Something is up.  I would bother Colin, but he’s got, how can I say, a bit on his plate at the moment (the new Pentreath & Hall website is launching very soon…).

Finally, at the end of an otherwise bizarre post, let us extend a cordial welcome to all who do not yet know about our fabulous opening night on Wednesday for the Cabinet of Curiosities: L O N D O N, curated by our very own Bride Hall and The Bible of British Taste. I’ve been spying some incredible things happening. Well, maybe it’s still going to be pretty bizarre. Here, for instance, is one of the lettertrays that Bride and I have designed.

That woke you up! See you from 6.30 until 9… and in the meantime, I hope your week gets off to a better start than my weekend.

11 comments on this post

The NT guides were printed at The Curwen Press for years, if not decades. They were also designed there and that design basically continued unchanged after they went bust. The earlier ones were designed by George Carruthers and then I think there was a new design using Walbaum [which Curwen was the first to import to the UK between the wars and these were designed by James Schurmer


Thanks Diane!!!! 😉

Ralph and Anneliessays:

Two of your Dutch fans were just wondering. We know you live in a different time zone but do you also have more hours in a day than we over here? How did you ever thought you could fit a late breakfast, a trip to the auction house in Newbury and a visit to the those properties in the Cotswolds and drive back to London all in one day? … even with a clear head and petrol? 😉


Dear Ralph and Annelies, that is a very good point! Ben

Ashdown House looks utterly beautiful, I drove past on the way to a pub for a meeting with a client and on the return journey we stopped and wandered and took lots of photos. If you do make it, there is a nice pub (The Royal Oak in Bishopstone) down the road with lots of organic goodies but make sure there are no coaches booked in that day!!!


I do hope you get to see the Great Coxwell Barn it’s an absolute delight. Before moving “up North” (to Liverpool) we lived close to it and visited the barn often – happy days.
Regards Peter

Ben Thomassays:

Ben you need to be taken in hand, you are always an inspiration but please relax and have some calm I your life.


Will the London tray be available online? It would be a perfect Christmas gift for my brother. And I am in the U.S., soooo… (We are popping over the pond in November to visit Sussex relatives, but he will be with us the day we plan to visit London, soooo…….)

As someone who is forever hopping on and off the potter’s wheel, I find it delightful that the BBC should have thought to entertain its viewers with a pottery demonstration. I did find the potter’s technique a little eccentric though – he seemed to have been commissioned to go for five minutes rather than to make anything in particular. Maybe they commissioned a whole series of potters to run, variously, for one, two, three etc minutes, depending on how early the previous programme had ended. Either way, give me a pottery demo any day over more commercials. Especially with that sort of musical accompaniment that suggests lambs and frolicking and fields, open topped cars and flying scarves and jolly jaunts.


This probably isn’t going to help your Monday mood, but Great Coxwell tithe barn is a gem. I’ve been to a wedding/ceilidh there and it was magical, and my mother had an exhibition in the barn once too – so I hope you make it on another weekend, it’s really worth the trip!

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