The Hilliard Show

Nicholas Hilliard was an English goldsmith and limner (miniaturist), best known for his portrait miniatures of members of the courts of Queen Elizabeth I and James I of England.  He lived in the West Country so when a society of miniaturists was formed in Wells, Somerset, it was decided to adapt one of his most famous miniature portraits - 'Young Man Among Roses' - as its emblem. 

Last Thursday evening my young friend and I drove down to Wells to attend the opening of the annual Hilliard Show there, on the following day.  We stayed at a very nice hotel called Crossways near Pilton.  I had a slight accident at breakfast.  For some reason the large jugs of juice were kept in a small fridge on the table, and having poured out a glass of orange I obviously didn't put it back properly because suddenly the sound of an almighty crash reverberated around the breakfast room as the jug and contents landed on my big toe!  Yes, it hurt, and my toe went black.  Oh yes, something else - my young friend caused the toasting machine to catch fire!

The exhibition was really good this year and after lunch at the town hall I bought this lacquered Russian box to add to my collection. 

Later in the evening we joined good friends Jacquie and Paul Eaton for dinner at Goodfellas restaurant. (Paul is a goldsmith and makes wonderful miniature sculptures).

The next day we drove on to Devon and visited Brixham...

...and further on to Berry Head - the internationally acclaimed heritage site.

We were due to spend the next couple of nights at a farmhouse in Devon, but having a few hours to spare we decided to look around Paignton Zoo.  Although a lot smaller than the last zoo we visited - Singapore - it was very well laid out.  We both like animals so took quite a lot of photographs.


Nice day.  Then we carried on to find Sampson's Farmhouse where we were due to stay for 2 nights.

I was hoping to do a bit of clay pigeon shooting there - but nobody was available to organise it on the day.  In the garden I noticed one of the geese kept very still - until my young friend pointed out it was a very life-like model goose!  Next day we had arranged to meet an old friend from Singapore days - Ian Stevens - for lunch at 'The Linney Inn' in the charming little village of Coffinswell, resting in a valley a few miles from the sea. 

This is one of the thatched cottages a short walk from the inn. (By the way I could thoroughly recommend the restaurant as the best in the world for Sunday lunch.  Every single table - and there are many - is booked weeks in advance).

On Monday we wended our way home, first stopping at Arlington Court in North Devon.  It has been owned by the Chichester family since the 14th century until 1949 when the last in line, Miss Rosalie Chichester, bequeathed the whole estate to the National Trust. 

Amongst the many treasures displayed around the house were a small collection of excellent miniature portraits, paintings by William Blake, 18th century tapestries, and a collection of 36 model ships.  These were made by French prisoners while they were held in British gaols during the Napoleonic wars.  When you consider the extremely harsh conditions they lived in, and with few tools and materials to hand, some incredible ship models were produced.  Here's one of them.

Outside, across the courtyard, is the National Trust's carriage museum.  Although carriages, as we know them today, were introduced in Elizabethan times, they were only used by Royalty and the wealthiest of the nobility until the 18th century.  Even then they were principally used for occasions of state and seldom used for long distance travel because the condition of the roads made this impractical.  But towards the end of the 18th century, these conditions improved and a large number of different carriage types were developed.  The carriage building trade began to expand and prosper.  Here are three examples out of their large collection.  The first is a travelling coach, the second a double brougham, and the third a 4-wheeled dog cart, with a rear boot for transporting small hunting dogs.


Finally, as we walked around the walled Victorian garden, a friendly peacock circled around us providing a lovely display of turquoise, green and lilac colours, shimmering and sparkling in the morning sunshine.