A Flake of Snow
CHA/P/1757 Recto. Duncan Grant, print, winter scene, ink on paper. Photograph © The Charleston Trust.
The pond at Charleston, which ripples the reflection of the house façade with jumping fish and swimming ducks in warmer months, is shown here frozen over with young skaters etching patterns into its glistening surface. This print by Duncan Grant is a proof of a commercial print, possibly inspired by the bitter winter of 1947 when the frozen pond become an impromptu ice hockey pitch for a group of local youths. The design has been reproduced as the Charleston Christmas card for this year and is the kind of image that a young Quentin Bell, on his first visit to Charleston in 1916, may have had in mind. He describes his anticipation before his first visit and the disappointing reality of being met by a wet autumn afternoon in Charleston Past and Present:
“at the age of six I can have had only a very imprecise idea of what a lake would be like, and the front pond at Charleston seemed vast. In my imagination it could have been an ocean. But there was a disappointment. Just before we left London I was taken, for the first time in my life, to the cinema. Believe it or not, they were already making films about Scott of the Antarctic… I was immensely enthusiastic about the whole thing and got it into my head that in travelling south from London we were making for the Pole… but when we arrived at Berwick station and were driven off through damp green fields… the sight of the Downs, mountains without a flake of snow on them, depressed me greatly.”
Although seemingly impressed by the vast size of the pond in comparison with his diminutive six-year-old self, Quentin Bell’s mood is dampened by the similarly incremental weather. However, he goes on to admit “I, who had been so anxious to discover snow and ice, soon forgot my enthusiasm and was not at all grateful when the hard winter of 1916-17 struck us”. Our Christmas blog from last year details the icy reality of this inaugural winter in a house with no electricity or running water.
Although the winter this year seems to resemble more of Quentin Bell’s disappointing “damp green fields” than the print above, we are still hoping, like a six-year-old Quentin Bell, for a white Christmas.
We look forward to continuing to share our finds in the Attic with you in the New Year. Season’s greetings from the Charleston Attic.