Sunday, 26 June 2011

Watts' Gallery, Compton - Lady Mary's Chapel

Last weekend my son had an appointment with several roaming robots in Guildford. This afforded me the chance to pop my Surrey cherry, at the same time catching up with my old friends, the poets Jan Windle and Dónall Dempsey.  At least they felt like old friends, it was just that we'd never met before.  It was good to put that right, and to find that they were as engaging as I'd imagined.


It was the day after the Watts Gallery in nearby Compton had opened, having been closed for a couple of years for a much-needed restoration, and although I badly wanted to visit, I was concerned that it might be teeming with people.  Happily, this wasn't so; in fact, we had our first stop, the stunning cemetery chapel, to ourselves.


Designed principally by Lady Mary Watts, the chapel is a mix of art nouveau, Celtic, Romanesque and Egyptian influences. Mary believed that anyone with sufficient interest and enthusiasm could produce beautiful decoration, and so she cajoled almost everyone in the village into learning how to model in clay. 


It rather looks as if some of their likenesses have been appropriated for the architrave around the door.


If the exterior was a delight, the inside was fantastical - again an exuberance of styles, in painted and gilded gesso.  This, and its close, curving dimensions, make for a wonderfully intimate and romantic space.












Outside, in the grounds, contemporary cloisters, an Art Nouveau well and complementary gravestones.



Though my favourite has to be this truculent cherub:




More anon.

3 comments:

  1. Art nouveau and art deco - I love both. I must visit this place. Superb photographs.

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  2. It really looks stunning! What an achievement in restoration- so glad it got the care and attention it deserved. Also looks like a very sympathetic job done. Beautiful pics as always Deb.

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  3. The chapel has been in continual use and I believe it's been kept in reasonable condition throughout its existence. It was the gallery that fell almost into ruin.

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