Saturday, 25 June 2011

Gardens at The Red House Museum in Christchurch

It is a while since we last spent time at the Red House Museum in Christchurch. When our boys were young, we would marvel at the Stone Age hand axes, the Bronze Age cremation urns and the evidence that Neanderthal men and women once lived in the place we called home.

When I was teaching, we would bring primary classes to see the Saxon exhibitions; the artifacts and the finds from a Saxon graveyard excavated where a supermarket car park now lies. A boy and a girl would dress up in the fashions of a Saxon man and woman. Christchurch was an important town in Saxon times. It was called Twynham then, because the town grew up between the confluence of two great rivers, where the Hampshire Avon and the River Stour meet the sea in Christchurch Harbour.

Today, we came to research an important craftsman who lived and worked in Christchurch in the first half of the twentieth century. Arthur Romney Green, a furniture maker and boat builder, is considered a fine craftsman of the Arts and Crafts Movement. He had a workshop and a bow fronted shop in Bridge Street, Christchurch. Inside the Red House Museum, a small room is set out as a 1930`s dining room, where Romney Green`s furniture is displayed. It is like peering through a window into the past.

I took photographs outside, in the lush and lovely gardens of the Museum. The Red House was built in 1764, as a workhouse for the town`s poor. It is difficult to walk in this garden, without thinking of the orphaned, old, ill and destitute souls who trod these pathways centuries ago.

More about the museum can be found at

The water pump....

Into the walled garden, where herbs of every description are grown. Well labelled, they make a good resource for teaching children and adults about both culinary and medicinal herbs. They also make a quiet garden of scented leaves and bright flowers.

In the centre is a pond.

A formal urn grows house leeks.

A plaque tells of the origins of the herb garden.

Mr Blackbird......

...and his wife.

Leaded windows above climbing roses.

We followed a narrow path, into the garden that borders the road.

Through the hedge was the tower of the Priory Church. As we walked in the garden, the bell in the tower struck four o`clock.

The covered well where the workhouse residents would draw their water.

On the Georgian Vicarage opposite, Virginia Creeper covered walls and chimneys.

Soft herbaceous borders against the trees........

A cloud of powder-blue cranesbill geraniums.

The West Window on the tower.

A beautiful rose, Lady Sylvia.

The weeping ash........

.....moss on a coral skeleton........

....and a return through the herb garden, out into the busy streets of the town.

Not far from the Avon Bridge on Bridge Street, we found the building which once housed Arthur Romney Green`s furniture workshop and bow fronted shop.

A popular Italian restaurant has taken the place of a craftsman`s shop......

....but the upstairs windows are the original ones. These are the rooms where Romney Green lived and where he met with friends to discuss art, politics and philosophies of life.

As he walked into town, Romney Green would have met this view of the Norman Priory ruins and the Priory Church . In the waters of the River Avon, he would have sailed his beloved wooden boats ........

...moored, perhaps, by the willow trees on the river bank, two minutes from his home.

As a young man, Arthur Romney Green lived and worked in Haslemere, Surrey. He was part of a community of artists, writers, thinkers and craftspeople associated with the Haslemere Peasant Industries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More can be learned about them at this interesting and well researched blog

I have a hunch that Romney Green would have known my Haslemere Grandfather in his younger days, but that is another story and, as yet, we only have the faintest of connections.


Karen said...

What a beautiful town and a lovely walk. Thank you so much for it, DW, and now off to learn more about Romney Green.

rachel said...

That was very enjoyable, thank you. What a beautiful place!

The Weaver of Grass said...

This is not a part of the UK that I know at all DW but your photos really bring it to life. Little snapshots of features, rather than overall views is a good idea I shall bear in mind myself - they give one a feel of the place.

My Spotty Pony said...

Hello, thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.
What an interesting post you have written and your photographs are wonderful too. I would really enjoy looking around both the museum and gardens. Thank you for sharing all of this with your readers.

Rowan said...

The gardens of the Red House are beautiful, I'd love to wander round there - it's hard to imagine the poverty and desapir that must have been associated with this place when it was a workhouse. I don't know the name of Romney Green but it's a coincidence that he lived in a town which had a Red House as that's a name I always associate with the Arts and Crafts Movement and William Morris.

Morning's Minion said...

The comment window was misbehaving when I first read this the other evening. I am reminded of visits to such places as Shelburne Museum [a whole village of buildings collected, moved and restored to Shelburne, Vermont] or Old Sturbridge Village. Reading your post I can imagine the scent that always lingers in such places--old stones and bricks, moss, lawns and flowers which have been long in place. That same smell lingered around the lilbrary in my hometown--it had once been a prestigious home on the main street.