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Nature – we live in it, we are part of it, we try to control it and here, in our respective isolations, we reside contained by it. My family and I will tonight (at time of writing) stand outside at 8pm and along with my neighbours, all eight of them (Taddington is remote and very small!), applaud in deep gratitude all those who work in the Health Service, and Key Workers, both here in the UK and across the World, who are putting their lives at risk to save and protect us. Thank you, thank you all.

It is then to the sanctuary of the garden, for those of us with the good fortune to have an outside space, that we turn (when the east wind is not blowing!) and see to all those jobs that need doing and, if you are me, make a long list and think about that for a while longer…  and wait for the sun to shine or the wind to drop to light that all-important bonfire – this of course involves much standing around with diligent prodding preferably with a mug of coffee in hand.  Delay it no longer, it is time to come in and write my Spring Latest Antique Garden Ornament Update!   So, lots of pictures which all link through to more information and I hope some interesting insights.
Ornament & Statuary
Queen Anne – last of the line of the House of Stuart – died in 1714 after a short reign of 12 years in which she oversaw; The Acts of Union – making Britain ‘Great’; the War of the Spanish Succession; and a gift of a grateful nation to the Duke of Marlborough of Blenheim Palace (started in 1705 – finished 1733!), as designed by John Vanbrugh for his part in battles various and deft politics. But why the potted history? Well, in 1713 The Treaty of Utrecht stopped the War/arguing in Europe and there was a deal – quite favourable to GB and a final recognition of Anne’s legitimacy by France as the British Sovereign. So, could this lead cistern be a celebration of this event? A small bit of history showing what looks very much to be Queen Anne in profile, the date 1713 and St George slaying the Dragon, with initials of some patriotic noble family possibly? We will probably never know, but it does show how garden ornament can take its place in history, whilst in this case also being something as entirely practical as a water cistern.
Staying in the 18th century, the model for this pair of lions can be traced back to an unknown sculptor working around 1740 for William Kent, on behalf of Lord Burlington at Chiswick House.
The carved Portland stone lion and lioness, still extant either side of the of the Exedra (a curved garden feature or folly), are larger in size than the pair we have here, and one can see that the model is the lion only. It is then interesting to note how later (after 1760) John Cheere (1709 -1787) – the man from Hyde Park Corner where he had his workshops – produced, in lead, copies of the Chiswick House models, with examples to be seen at Castle Hill, West Wycombe, Heaton Hall, Anglesey Abbey and Quenby Hall. It is also interesting to see that the position of the tail for the Lion, over not under the leg, is replicated here in these caved Bath stone examples, in contrast to the Chiswick Lion which is tail under. When one starts to look you see this model replicated quite often in various materials e.g. plaster (gilded and painted) and porcelain (Bow and Plymouth), throughout the 18 th century and later with this pair, probably carved in the Bath region around 1820.
Earlier I mentioned Blenheim Palace and in the Great Entrance Hall stand two bronzes, one of which is the Dancing Faun (previously left in the garden for quite a few years…), as cast in 1711 by Massimiliano Soldani­-Benzi (1656-1740); the version here paired with Apollino (Little Apollo) rather than Venus at Blenheim, is, although 19 th century, of comparable quality to the 18 th century versions. Indeed, the casting of the bronzes here at Taddington is a true technical masterclass (admittedly quite geeky) in being cast in one pour – no joints, no brazing and minimal after work. It is unknown who carried out the work and for a while I was looking for them to be earlier than the now agreed mid-19 th century date, even though there is a comparable model of Apollino described as 18 th century in the Walters Museum Baltimore. For the shy we have fig leaves and for reference the stone plinths come with. Comparable bronze models can also be seen in the Princely Collections of Lichtenstein, The Getty, the National Trust’s Hatchlands and in plaster at Kedleston Hall, The Louvre and Russborough. 
Continuing in the Neo-classical theme I thought to show again the Spinario on a rather elegant Sienna marble column – the theme thought to be a celebration of a shepherd boy called Matius who bore a message to the Senate with such diligence that only after the message was delivered safely did he look to remove the thorn from his foot; not a naughty boy but a very good Roman!
And finally in this section, to bring us out of Arcadia/Monty Python and to a more rustic Eric, I mean Idle, I thought to show this rather elegant sculpture of a young woman as an allegory of Autumn – in the Arts & Crafts style this niche figure (no carving verso) could hold well a focal point or vista.
Garden Seating
When the work is done you need to have a good garden seat to look at! I am never quite sure how much actual sitting goes on but possibly that’s not the point, it’s more the aesthetic and the idea of sitting with a glass of that is so appealing. Maybe in these times of enforced contemplation the humble garden seat will come once more to the fore..
I have consciously tried to find matching pairs of antique benches and have to a certain extent achieved this, though in the case of these rather elegant Regency wrought iron seats, one needs to describe them as ‘a harlequin pair’, a rather old school antique dealer term for a made up set. They can of course be sold separately or as seen together; they are the same size but with an optically confusing different back design.
A more conventional pair, here in cast iron in the form of a branc h and leaf shape, first patented by McDowell Stephenson and Co. Glasgow, circa 1840; the design was copied by several other foundries including the John Finch Foundry, Dudley.

Another cast iron bench but here in the classic Fern and Blackberry design by Coalbrookdale, embossed with its diamond registration stamp relating to its pattern number 29a, as registered on 30 th April 1858 number 113617. A fine crisp early casting now repainted, re-slatted in oak and brass nuts replaced.


Finally, a little vintage green iron bench, of no real age but a nice look with swept arms and legs, terminating in neat scrolls.
Garden Urns
It has been a while since I have had a really chunky stone garden urn and here it is, carved in Bath stone of the Campana type (upside down bell shape), the decoration in the form of grape and vine to both the main body and top rim, the handles now missing but with weathered masks and lobed base allude to the design, being a rustic interpretation, of the classic Borghese vase shape.

Smaller and with some grotto rock added by yours truly, this carved stone urn could do well holding the centre of a parterre or rose bed. 
For a terrace however, one needs a pair, or four, or six, or even eight urns – here most unusually I can supply all options in the form of a harlequin (that word again) set of lead urns.  Scrolled handles with decoration throughout, these urns can be planted or left as they are to add interest and a contrast of materials; stone and lead complementing each other so very well.
Rustic, Troughs etc
Normally you will be used to me adding the humble stone trough as a footnote to these missives, but today I elevate them to second last. This promotion is due to their perennial popularity as both planters and water features.
Here in our workshops we prepare for pipes and pumps, mostly the rectangular versions, and make watertight or just leave as they are for deep planting where not possible in beds, usually closer to the house. 

A sought-after round version is available also and, with Romanesque carving, I have this Italian (it is carved from Istrian stone) interpretation of a much earlier design, intriguingly with a flat side verso supporting a shield motif.

Not to be left out, there are a couple of fun copper planters and for use possibly in a water feature or grotto, a group of three weathered clam shells.
Ironwork
I try to hold interesting, well-made and, if possible, extravagant gates. Function and form, though in a garden I believe a little theatre is allowed, be it with toll (beaten tin) work decorative gates, wildly over the top Scottish art nouveau forged iron gates, tightly scrolled wrought iron gates held together by small clasp fixings, or, though much plainer, a rather stately set of larger gates here with fixed sides. These could easily be electrified but do watch the width as most older gates are only 10ft wide – horse drawn carriages being significantly narrower than a lorry.
As the gates open you may come through to see a circular pond and in it could be a water jet, this is something that has been around for some time. The Italians in the Renaissance loved to play jokes by unexpectedly squirting you with water when on a garden passeggiata. Here though with this 19 th century French fountain head, cast by the foundry collective of Val d’Osne, circa 1870, the jet or spray from a modern pump can be elegantly contained within reed and bulrush, painted on request to a colour of your choice. 
Moving past the fountain to an entrance which could well be flanked by these large Neo-classic cast iron lamp stands, complete with stone base (optional) and glass globe (replaceable).

Finally, as a footnote you may look for respite inside, after your regulation daily gardening exercise and here to scrape away the mud are two extravagantly oversized Gothic boot scrapers, provenanced to Forcett Hall, North Yorkshire.
Thank you as always for your kind interest and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can assist with any of these items or with projects going forwards, as we all look to plan beyond what is a most extraordinary time.

I wish you and your family good health.

Best regards

Alex