Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Forty Hall & Estate, Enfield

Clare Twomey 'Everyman's Dream' in the Great Hall
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in a small room on the first floor of Forty Hall listening to Sir Nicholas Rainton, Lord Mayor of London, explain why he had chosen Enfield in particular to build his house. He explained that as a Puritan he would be surrounded by like-minded people and that it was as far out of London as you could ride without having to change horse.

I obviously wasn't eavesdropping on a real conversation, since Sir Nicholas Rainton died in 1646, but instead I was enjoying listening to a recording made by actors designed to bring the house and grounds to life. Forty Hall is Grade 1 listed and 'is a fine architectural example of the change in style from medieval to modern.' The house and estate are now owned by Enfield Council which must be quite a responsibility since in the past it has been owned and occupied by a number of influential families.

The people who care for this impressive pile appear to have successfully navigated the tricky task of preserving its many layers of history while allowing it to live in the present. The tour around the house is easy to follow but there are surprises which greet you en route. If my mobile phone had been smart enough I could have listened in to servants as they went about their duties which would have been fun. You are encouraged to pick things up and open closed doors. One of these eventually leads you to Sir Nicholas' bedchamber which is surprisingly austere and there you can learn about the bequests he made in his Will.

Clare Twomey 'Everyman's Dream'
Within this setting there is currently an exhibition called Legacy: Two works about Hope and Memory. It is to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and while it isn't specifically about war it is about 'personal loss, legacy, testimony and commemoration'. Clare Twomey's Everman's Dream is on display on the ground floor in the Great Hall and in the Parlour. Clare Twomey works in ceramics and her installation consists of many identical bowls and on inside each one is a simple line of text in gold leaf of how an individual would like to be remembered. An air of peace and quiet permeates the house and this is especially noticeable where Clare Twomey's work is on display and it is this silence that allows you to hear the hopes of all these people who are present in these bowls.

Upstairs on the first floor is Julian Stair's Reliquary for a Common Man. Julian Stair made a recording of a relative of his who, I think, was his great-uncle who reminisced about his youth and how he was drawn to either Communism or Socialism. You could listen to this gentleman talking while watching old colour cine footage of him as a younger man relaxing on holiday and then turn around and see still photos of him through his life. Julian Stair is also a potter and had made a container that included some of his relatives ashes in the fabric of the pot as well as containing the ashes which I found a bit disturbing (assuming I understood the work correctly).

From this floor you can look out on the lawn and you can see inscribed into the turf the words in large letters LEST WE FORGET which I imagine is another reference to World War I and the view takes you to an avenue of trees that leads the eye to the site of Henry VIII's Elsyng Palace, but that is another story.

The exhibition is on until Sunday 2 November.