Over the border today to the NT property Buckland Abbey in Devon. Tucked away in its own secluded valley above the River Tavy, Buckland was originally a small but influential Cistercian monastery.Two of the most famous owners were Sir Richard Greville and Sir Francis Drake. According to one of the Guides, the latter bought the property from Sir Richard through a third party, as they were not on the best of terms and he knew that there would be no sale with Drake’s name attached. However, I have since learned that this is most probably a myth. Buckland then remained in the Drake family until the 1940’s. A very full description of the buildings and their history is given at Heritage Gateway. On of the most impressive buildings is the 15th century Tithe Barn, but there is so much else besides. It is not a huge estate, when one bears in mind that Drake was one of the wealthiest men in England on his return with pilfered treasure. So there is a nice homely feel to it all, just as I like. There is a small museum to Drake in the house containing ‘Drake’s Drum’. Reading the sources it is not clear to me whether this is a replica or not (with the original stored for safety). Here is Newbold’s famous poem…..
Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time O’ Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the Island, yarnder lie the ships,
Wi’ sailor lads a-dancing’ heel-an’-toe,
An’ the shore-lights flashin’, an’ the night-tide dashin’,
He sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.
Drake he was a Devon man, an’ ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha’ sleepin’ there below?)
Roving’ tho’ his death fell, he went wi’ heart at ease,
A’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
“Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
An’ drum them up the Channel as we drumm’d them long ago.”
Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
An’ dreamin arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’
They shall find him ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago!
Also, magnificent to see was Buckland’s Rembrandt recently restored.
“Previously thought to be ‘school of Rembrandt’, Ernst van de Wetering, the world’s leading Rembrandt expert, concluded that the painting may well be a genuine after seeing it again in 2012. His assurance led the NT to send the painting away for further scientific analysis.
Christine Slottvedd Kimbriel, Paintings Conservator at HKI said: ‘When the painting arrived we felt that a thorough technical examination would aid the reassessment of the painting’s authorship and we hoped that the findings could help to verify if it was definitely by Rembrandt.
‘The self-portrait went through a series of investigate analyses to include close visual examination under magnification, infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, raking light photography and pigment and medium analysis.
‘Careful cleaning and removal of several layers of aged and yellowed revealed the original colours and painting style beneath which was much more detailed and gave a three-dimensional appearance to the fabric in Rembrandt’s cloak.’
The artist’s signature was also analysed and other processes used for further investigative work.
David Taylor, NT paintings and sculptor curator said: ‘The debate over whether this is or isn’t a Rembrandt has been on-going for decades.
‘The key element for me has been the cleaning. The varnish was so yellow that it was difficult to see how beautifully the portrait had been painted. Now you can really see all the flesh tones and other colours, as well as the way in which the paint has been handled – it’s now much easier to appreciate it as a Rembrandt.'”
The painting sparkles…it is worth a visit to Buckland just to see it.
The gardens are a treat in themselves, and whilst there we came across a swarm of bees wrapping themselves around a fence. I didn’t want to get too close to take the photo! All in all a most pleasurable day.