Friday, 30 May 2008

When just being was enough

The year was 1987. Margaret Thatcher was beginning her third term. Terence Trent D'Arby, ABC, Black, and Depeche Mode all had hits. None of us really had careers, just badly paid, but fabulous sounding jobs. Jobs that barely covered living, never mind the the necessities. The necessities being Gaultier, Johnny Moke, the odd bit of Westwood, taxis, and white shirts by Comme. White shirts by Comme that would come in very handy when waiting tables in order to pay for the necessities.

Stephen Tennant, Cecil Beaton, 1924

This was also the year that the Hon. Stephen James Napier Tennant died. The youngest son of the Scots peer, Lord Glenconner, and one of The Souls, the former Pamela Wyndham. And along with him, so too passed the last vestiges of an age, and a culture, where just being was enough.

The Wyndham Sisters (Madeline, Pamela, and Mary), by John Singer Sargent, 1897.

In the Wilderness, Stephen Tennant Modeled as St. John the Baptist for Rex Wilstler

Wilsford Manor

...the house was commissioned by Stephen Tennant's parents, Sir Edward and Lady Tennant. The architect Detmar Blow, his assistants and a dedicated band of masons and carpenters worked on the site of an older, much-altered farmhouse; in March and April 1904 the original structure was carefully dismantled in order to re-use its materials... on 16th May, the new foundation stone was laid by Sir Edward's mother-in-law, the Hon. Mrs Percy Wyndham, who had seen the building of her own house, nearby Clouds, during the 1880s.

The dining room with its cornice of pink plaster shells.

Youthful Edwardian good looks turned florid with age.

One of many ivory satin sleigh beds, this one in particular covered in silver tissue.

Stephen was the first to go all-white in the early 1930s, with the decorator Syrie Maugham. Later, he embraced a palimpsest of flock wallpapers headed by cornices of gold cake braid, not to mention straw suitcases everywhere bulging with Thai silks and carefully arranged journal pages, each written in a different-coloured ink and often containing beauty hints directed to himself: “No mascara for seven days. Rest the eyes completely.” - Emma Tennant

All images of Wilsford Manor from World of Interiors, October 1987.

Now playing: Pet Shop Boys - Rent
via FoxyTunes


An Aesthete's Lament said...

I am reading this just before retiring for the evening and now feel overfed on (visual) cheesecake. Was just talking with a friend today about ST and hearing a story about ST's habitual wearing of shorts in his senior years (all the better to show off his legs) and his apologizing for this, saying that his laundry had shrunk.

Toby Worthington said...

Superb post, absolutely thrilling!
The Hon Stephen was, truly, a law unto himself.
Thanks for sharing the thoughts and images.

António Erre said...

A great post about an ending time... Pet shop boys are a plus here! So nice:-))

Pigtown-Design said...

Well worth waiting for!