Westward to the Malvern Hills
18 October 2015
Charlie and I went to Ledbury for the weekend… to see our friend Phoebe Clive and, at the longest lastest, to visit (amongst other treats) her beautiful shop Tinsmiths. We sped out of London on Friday morning and had the happiest weekend in a long time.
First, some photographs gives you a little taste of what Ledbury is all about. A real proper little market town, completely unspoilt.
We wandered up and down the high street… finding good junk shops to rummage in (minding the step as we went):
The Baptist Chapel, with green paint and green stained glass windows:
The gentle curve of the high street:
The Market House, with a Saturday market in full throttle:
The back of the Prince of Wales, which I loved..
And the front, more widely photographed I suspect.
Every where you go in Ledbury are small richly coloured letterpress posters. More of these later. Cheese sellers,
And finally….. what is this rich yellow wall and three-dimensional painted signage? The alleyway that leads to Tinsmiths.
Tinsmiths was established 11 years ago by Phoebe and Alex Clive. The shop is perhaps best known for its brilliant selection of linens and cottons, tickings and prints, sold by the metre and all incredibly well priced. Lighting sales, too, are an important component of what makes Tinsmiths tick; they have a warehouse with everything kept in stock and ready to ship, which is more than we can say for many of their competitors (and useful to know when you need a light in a hurry). And then woven through all this, is Phoebe’s beautiful, well-curated selection of textiles, cushions, prints, pictures, and wonderful bits and pieces for the home.
I can wax lyrical about Phoebe’s tastes all day long, because I find them so complementary to what Bride and I are up to at Pentreath & Hall – but different. I don’t think you’ll find too many things on their website which are on ours, but if I was going to look for a shop anywhere in England that is as sympathetic to our thoughts and ideals, then I’d say without missing a beat that it is what Phoebe is doing. It’s bang on.
Combine all this with the fact that she makes curtains efficiently and inexpensively (on several of our decoration projects… but I especially remember the day at our Coed Darcy house that we spent together) and you can see why I’ve been itching to visit Tinsmiths for ever.
As you walk up the alley, more fantastic letterpress posters pasted to the wall…
Here’s a glimpse inside part of the shop,
And this is the second half, in an extraordinary, rich, medieval-meets-modern building designed by Alex.
This building houses furniture and piles of cloth, and all the rolls of cloth, and the offices.
It is a quietly eccentric and subtle triumph.
The Clives live upstairs, in an ancient medieval townhouse that has a palimpsest of Georgian and later alterations – a richly decorated Baroque facade, a perfect early Georgian oak staircase (it turns out, like so many houses in Ledbury)…. and collections of things wherever (and I mean, wherever) you look.
This shelf is in the loo.
As is this bookcase:
Here’s the staircase, piled with textiles…
And in the dining room window, Alex’s insane collection of decorative art glass.
(If you fancy a paperweight, just to let you know that Bride’s got a bit of a thing going for crazy paperweights just now… pop into Rugby Street and you will see what I mean).
After our early morning ramblings, Phoebe dashed us off in the car to see an ancient sprawling Herefordshire house called Forthampton Court; a remarkable place, with a fine walled garden, and layer upon layer of architectural development, upon medieval bones, the most dramatic of which are the alterations carried out in the late 19th century by the Arts & Crafts architect Philip Webb.
Webb loved gables, as anyone who knows his famous house at Standen (now owned by the National Trust) will have guessed. Here are three of the many gabled elevations at Forthampton. Beautiful.
We were given a complete tour by the kind and knowledgeable owners. Inside the Library are a set of original Morris and Co curtains, almost disintegrating. Perfect. You cannot make up time.
We returned to Ledbury for late lunch and Phoebe took us up another little alley to the source of the letterpress posters, The Tilley Press. Martin, who runs the press (which has been here since 1875) was sadly not around this weekend… but what a place.
Engravings by Mark Hearld being printed:
Brilliant posters everywhere (you can buy some of these in the Tinsmith’s shop):
Drawers of type:
The beautiful printed invitation sent a year or two ago by my friend Ed Kluz (whose brilliant exhibition Monument, by the way, is on in London until the end of the month… go!)…
A corner of Martin’s office… type porn. The poster on the left is what your packages get sent in if you order from the Tinsmith’s website. Which is another thing worth knowing.
Black and white in Ledbury is everywhere.
Phoebe and Alex’s house – Gibbs classicism on steroids.
And then we went home, that afternoon, it has to be said a little exhausted… but happy. We were staying with another friend of Phoebe’s – serene, brilliant Gillian Archer, who with her husband Mark has restored the beautiful Voysey house, Perrycroft, and created a wonderful garden over the last 15 years. Gillian and Mark have just restored the Voysey lodge house which was our home for the weekend. You can rent it too. Charlie and I could not recommend it enough. We loved it. Distant views from the bedroom windows across Herefordshire…. …and up to British Camp, the haunting, distinctive, iron-age hill fort that looms over this corner of the Malverns. The whole of Perrycroft is built around this view.
Perrycroft is a dream house, perfect in every detail.
Gillian’s garden is completely amazing. She is very modest but has made something of great beauty, and sensitivity.
Their Vosyey-esque cat…
And here we are in the garden with Gillian, and with our friends Deby & Phil – all the way from Canada – who Bridie & I got to know first though the shop and the blog. Deby’s been coming to Ledbury for years, and they were staying next door in the other little cottage at Perrycroft, equally beautiful, The Garden House – details here (this is where, I think, you would also contact Gillian about the Lodge).
We walked back up the hill to see this beautiful soft late October sunset over the Malverns… before driving back down to Ledbury for a hilarious noisy and very raucous dinner with Alex and Phoebe and many friends.
On our way home we stopped in at Wardington to admire the land gardeners’ Dahlia Borders… newly planted this year, as regular readers of the blog will recall. Bonkers.
Charlie picking dahlias for his pop-up shop…. not having been able to do a quick trip to Dorset this weekend…
Guess what’s going to be in the shop tomorrow morning?!
What a brilliant time, Phoebe. We almost need a weekend to recover.