Richmond, Susanna (1 of 10).  National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2009-07-28, 2009-07-29, 2009-07-30, 2009-07-31

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Rounton, North Yorkshire

  • Interviewees

    Richmond, Susanna, 1923- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Westley, Hester (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: [Session One, July 28th 2009] [02:06:58] Susanna Richmond [SR] explains reasons for living where she does; maternal family connections, surname of Bell. [00:00:56] Great-grandfather, [Isaac Lowthian Bell, ILB] mineralogist and ironmaster in Middlesbrough; his career trajectory. [00:02:00] SR’s mother [Elsa Florence Bell, EB] born in Redcar [in Philip Webb house, Red Barns, built 1868]; ILB’s family house, Rounton Grange, built by Philip Webb from 1873-1876; EB’s family moved to Rounton Grange following death of ILB; EB married in Rounton Grange. [00:02:43] Extent of Bell family, ‘The Bell and Pease Country’; founding of Middlesbrough by Joseph Pease. [00:03:08] ILB’s construction of Rounton Grange and his relationship with Webb; ‘the only man for whom Webb built industrial buildings’; building of school and village houses. [00:05:46] Description of Rounton Grange, ‘a huge sugarloaf’; the extension, the ‘Common Room’ built by SR’s maternal grandfather [Sir Thomas Hugh Bell, HB]. [00:06:45] Construction of ‘Rookery Cottage’ by Webb’s successor, George Jack, who also built East Rounton Village Hall. [00:07:16] Family ‘home farm’ built by Webb. [00:07:42] ILB’s house furnished by Morris and Co.; description of dining room and wall-hanging designed by Edward Burne-Jones inspired by Chaucer’s ‘Romaunt of the Rose’, and embroidered by SR’s great grandmother. [00:08:46] ILB’s art purchases included John Everett Millais’s ‘The Roman’s Leaving Britain’; SR’s familiar title for painting. [00:10:15] Personality and stories about SR’s great-grandmother [Margaret Pattinson/]. [00:11:12] Great Aunt Florence Bell lived in Arncliffe Hall; humorous anecdotes illustrating Aunt Florence’s ‘brisk’ temperament. [00:13:28] Rounton Grange, family estate house. [00:13:42] Children of maternal great grandparents, ‘the only ones I know about’: SR’s grandfather, Sir Thomas Hugh Bell [HB] Aunt Florence and Aunt Ada who married into Stanley of Alderley family; anecdote about the ‘posh cousins’. [00:14:51] ILB enlightened attitude to education; HB sent to Heidelberg for schooling; ILB’s commitment to cause of education for working classes. [00:15:58] ILB’s politics and progressive worldview from industrial trade. [00:16:37] ILB’s background from Cumbria; extent of extant archival information on ILB; ILB’s relationship with Webb and Morris. [00:18:27] HB ‘scientifically minded’; SR relates EB’s anecdotes: ‘You had to be terribly careful how you asked him questions’. [00:19:43] HB as successor to ILB; HB’s political interests and social work; the ‘Hugh Bell School for school’; HB’s construction of transporter bridge over River Tees; HB’s liberal politics, his stance towards outbreak of WWI, the ‘Union for Democratic Reform’;. [00:21:32] Story about aunt Gertrude [GB] during the WW1; the ideas behind HB’s politics. [00:22:26] SR’s grandmother, [Florence Eveleen Eleanore Bell, nee Olliffe, FB] born 1856; married HB in 1870s; EB born in 1880; FB’s father was Irish born British doctor, Joseph Olliffe [JO], whose most distinguished patient was brother of Napoleon III; JO married Laura Cubitt, niece of William Cubitt, builder of Belgravia and Lord Mayor of London; FB born in Paris and raised bilingual. [00:24:51] HB’s first wife gave birth to Gertrude Bell [GB] and died in childbirth with their son Maurice Bell. JO moved from France to Brighton; JO’s involvement with construction of Deauville. [00:26:02] Anecdote about HB’s proposal of marriage to FB. [00:26:45] Account of FB’s literary and musical accomplishments; FB’s friendships included actress Sybil Thorndike and Henry James; FB wrote plays in French and English; describes storyline of FB’s play [‘Alan’s Wife. A Dramatic Study in Three Scenes’] that interested George Bernard Shaw; FB’s teaching books, ‘French Without Tears’ and ‘German Without Tears’. [00:29:47] FB’s arrival to Yorkshire; her commitment to the area; FB’s landmark book, ‘At the Works’, an early book of social inquiry; the difficulties of labour conditions during the time. HB and FB’s social conscience; her projects included a rural ‘rest’ house for urban workers [00:31:37] FB’s foundation of a lending library; FB’s initiative, the ‘Winter Garden’, a club for working men’s wives; FB’s characteristics of compassion and generational understanding of class difference; FB’s upbringing in the Second Empire and fears of ‘Reds under the bed’. [00:33:05] Living with HB at Red Barns; SR recalls storyline of one of FB’s plays and its relationship to FB’s own life; visits to London; FB’s attitude to domesticity. [00:34:41] HB’s reactions to FB’s literary pursuits and her extravagant generosity; FB’s generation, a very ‘cerebral race’. [00:35:38] FB’s twin passions in music for Mozart and Wagner. [00:36:00] FB’s death when SR was 7 years old; her kindness towards SR; last time SR saw FB--a visit to Madame Tussaud’s; FB’s peaceful death. [00:37:43] SR’s impressions of FB’s life; letter from GB to FB. [00:38:37] SR’s mother, Elsa Florence Bell [EB], born 1880; named after heroine in Lohengrin; EB’s education. [00:39:47] EB’s siblings, Hugh (Hugo), Mary (Molly) [MB]. [00:40:13] Hugo’s musicality; offered position at the Times but he ‘caught religion’; EB’s and GB’s reactions to Hugo’s becoming a priest; his early death by typhoid; Hugo’s two children. [00:42:20] MB’s marriage to Charles Trevelyan. [00:42:53] Description of GB; her education; her travels; visit to Persia; early translations from Persian; became archaeologist; epoch-making journey across Arabian Desert; talents at photography and cartography; invitation to EB to join; beginning of WWI and GB’s involvement with TE Lawrence and establishment of Iraq; GB’s imperialist tendencies; organisation of museum in Baghdad; her journey’s origins in personal tragedy and disillusion; her fondness of Hussein and her encouragement of his becoming king; anecdote of GB’s relationship with the local people; SR’s reactions to a recent exhibition featuring ‘Women Travellers’; GB became ‘for a time, non-PC’, drawing the boundaries of Iraq with a walking stick. [00:51:33] GB died in 1926; her last return to England and SR’s final memories of her at 1 1/2 years old; SR’s nanny saying ‘Please be good’; comparisons of SR’s memories with her sister’s memories of GB. [00:53:40] GB’s relationship with her family; EB’s fondness for GB. [00:55:03] HB’s views on GB’s life and achievements; her powers of thought and respect for conventions. [00:56:02] GB’s death and reasons leading to it; family’s coping with GB’s death. [00:57:01] Maurice Bell [MB], GB’s brother; characteristics of MB and his romantic nature; decline of family and MB’s becoming a ‘country gent’; his approach to the ‘cumbersome estate’; financial dealings. [00:58:59] HB persuaded to buy Mount Grace by Phillip Webb; Ambrose Pointer, architect who helped HB renovate Mount Grace. [01:00:24] Movements and living arrangements of family in early 1920s. [01:01:26] Explanation for Phillip Webb’s persuasion of HB to move lodgings. [01:02:14] Living arrangements of FB and AB. [01:02:36] Upbringing of EB; her facility for French and reading interests; closeness with sister Molly; MB’s temperament; the girls’ engagement with country life. [01:04:24] EB’s travels abroad; ‘danced with the Kaiser before the war’; anecdote of spelling out the alphabet in Russia; her wistful distance from the land; difference between MB and her family. [01:05:34] Details of MB’s marriage and daughters; anecdote of EB’s ‘remoteness from physicality’ and how this way of being was engendered in the family. [01:08:25] EB’s honesty; SR and EB’s friendship; EB’s closeness with FB. [01:09:30] EB’s relationship with her parents; details of EB’s girlhood--the Sunday morning game in Redcar; Christmas dinner with HB. [01:11:53] Description of EB; married in 1907; pre-marriage arrangements. [01:14:08] Circumstances of EB’s meeting her future husband; anecdote of MB’s marriage to Charles Trevelyan [CT]. [01:15:51] Explanation of Trevelyan family; ‘descended from King Arthur’s knights’; extensive relationships with other families; ownership of ‘a hell of a lot of Northumberland’. [01:18:05] Happiness of MB’s marriage; her administration of Wallington Hall, old hunting lodge with gardens done by Capability Brown; MB’s involvement in CT’s politics; her children; comparison to pre-French Revolution aristocrats; CT’s admiration for Russia. [01:21:20] SR’s father’s naval activities during WWI; anecdote of SR living with cousins in Wallington and seeing CT’s ‘influence’ on the children. [01:22:28] Uncle George Trevelyan [GT], master of Trinity College when SR’s father was master of Downing. [01:23:23] Importance of women’s making happy marriages; anecdote of Hugo’s marriage. [01:24:00] SR’s father’s military rank during marriage. [01:24:19] Herbert William Richmond, [SR’s father, HWR]; paternal lineage; anecdote about investigation conducted by the British Society of Eugenics; lines of familial descent. [01:26:3] HWR’s father, William Blake Richmond, [WBR], painter; WBR’s father, George Richmond, portraitist [GR]; GR’s father, Thomas Richmond, a miniaturist; family came from Yorkshire, but certainty complicated by other accounts; anecdote of a painting of Thomas’s wife’s eye; George Richmond, born 1809, sketching soldiers returning from Waterloo. [01:28:41] GR’s fame arose with a portrait of Wilberforce; another portrait of Elizabeth Fry; his evangelicalism and student of William Blake--‘the man who closed William Blake’s eyes’ upon his death; GR’s devoted marriage and enormous family; difficulties in professional life; ‘a more liberal dream evaporated’; ‘I always painted with love’. [01:33:11] Social stature of a painter at the time; GR became a Royal Academician. [01:34:37] GR’s family home in York Street, just off Baker Street. [01:34:51] WBR lived in Hammersmith, Beavor Lodge; HWR’s upbringing and schooling; very artistic; anecdote about a cabinetmaker; the ‘backgrounds became tough’. [01:36:55] HWR to sea at 13 on Britannia; born 1871; schooling while on ship; constantly drawing and his sketchbooks of ships are now in the British Navy Museum; a ‘born illustrator’; began to wonder ‘what the Navy was about’; began studying naval history and ended as the major naval historian in England; as an officer wrote his first book; during WWI he captained the Dreadnaught; then became liaison to Italy and surveyed Italy. [01:41:40] WBR as Royal Academician; his subjects and styles; friend of Gladstone; subject arose of decorating St. Paul’s; ‘Black Chapel’ type of religion; winning competition for decorating the barrel vault of St. Paul’s with mosaic; imported Italian craftsmen; details of WBR’s death and his wife’s death; their six children. [01:46:31] Youngest child, Arthur Richmond [AR], ‘hated his father cordially’--authored a biography of upbringing in Hammersmith. [01:47:32] Ernest Richmond [ER], architect, became Director of Antiquities in Jerusalem. [01:48:01] Description of photograph of grandfather and grandmother, Clara, who came from the Isle of Wight; his first wife died of tuberculosis; the difficulties of her life. [01:49:09] Description of HWR and HWR’s brother, John. [01:49:32] ‘Uncle Cec’ [Francesco]; story of his birth and death. [01:15:12] Description of ER; his support of Mussolini; ER’s devotion to HWR. [01:52:06] Description of AR, uncle; his extraordinary jobs--in South Africa with Milner; time in Post Office; worked for WEA; married twice; WEA workshops dedicated to women only; involvement with Land Settlement Organisation; participation in farming cooperatives; hilarious accounts of life at Beavor Lodge; account of Oscar Wilde and William Morris attending a family party. [01:57:01] Aunt Helen; her family and personality. [01:57:54] HWR’s filial respect; tenderness towards mother; account of HWR clearing studio after WBR’s death. [01:59:34] Encouragement for the children’s studies; accounts of living in a house in Hammersmith haunted by a gray lady; Arthur Conan Doyle would visit house to witness the ghost; story of the gray lady’s death. [02:04:02] Account of grandparents’ taking family on a country holiday. [02:05:10] Psychic experiences of the family; ‘Protestant countries have a lot of ghosts in them’; unquiet and caring souls. [02:06:40] Summary of paternal family.

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