This week Ruby Shaw discusses her exploration of the Broadlands archives as part of research undertaken for her MA in Historic Interiors and Decorative Arts at the University of Buckingham.
“When contemplating the daunting question of deciding upon a topic for my dissertation, it was almost by chance that I came across the Broadlands archives at the University of Southampton! Although I knew that I wanted to base my research around a historic house within my local area (I am studying for an MA in Historic Interiors and Decorative Arts with the University of Buckingham but live in Southampton) I was surprised by how few local archives there are with collections relevant to art history students. Then I stumbled across the Broadlands archives and what a wealth of material it has to offer!
The archives are probably better known for material relating to the career of Lord Palmerston, the 3rd Viscount, who became prime minister to Queen Victoria. Yet Lord Palmerston’s father, Henry Temple the 2nd Viscount, was an influential eighteenth-century figure, particularly as a patron of the arts. This interest in art and antiquities was ultimately reflected in the collections and interior decoration of his country house at Broadlands.
Although I have often stolen a glimpse of Broadlands house through the gates, I was unaware until now of how much of its eighteenth-century interiors and furnishings survive. This includes paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds with whom Lord Palmerston enjoyed a close friendship. Many famous names have also been associated with the construction of Broadlands. The first phase of Lord Palmerston’s building campaign in the 1760s, for example, was carried out by the famous landscape gardener Lancelot “Capability” Brown. A further phase in the 1780s was meanwhile executed by the architect Henry Holland, most famous for his construction of the splendid Carlton House in London for the future George IV.
From an initial consultation of the archives, I could see that there was an extensive range of material to conduct a stimulating research project. This material has been drawn upon to explore the role of Henry Temple, the 2nd Viscount (1739-1802) as a collector and architectural patron at Broadlands. Numerous visits to the archives have given me the pleasure of delving into Lord Palmerston’s Grand Tour travel journals, as well as art sale catalogues, architectural drawings and correspondence with various dealers. Viewing an original letter by “Capability” Brown was a particular treat! Some of the correspondence between Lord and Lady Palmerston also makes for amusing reading. The unfavourable temperament of the plasterer at Broadlands, Joseph Rose, for example is highlighted by the repeated reference to him as “Mr Melancholy.” Humorous appeal aside, these personal insights have been extremely valuable in helping to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between architects, craftsmen and clients during this period.
In general, the wide range of material in the Broadlands archives has allowed for an enjoyable exploration of a much overlooked patron of the arts in the eighteenth-century, from Lord Palmerston’s acquisition of antique sculpture on the Grand Tour to his purchases of contemporary Wedgwood pottery. This exploration has only of course have been made possible with the help and patience the archives team, for which I am very grateful.”