A hand written letter in black ink on unheaded folded grey notepaper addressed: 3 Eldon Road, Hampstead, NW35 to Cicely Grey: February 1938 My dear Cicely, please come and see us, we’d love to see you again and it will reassure us both. We thought you had abandoned us as we never heard from you again. I was staying with Tom and Gillian in October and we used to talk of you. They are steadily making a nice fat living out of The Blue Pool. I made a drawing of it and we are planning to produce a sort of guide to the Pool… Of course we should love to come and sample your cook and sniff the tulips from the country. With our best greetings Paul. With an envelope in adifferent hand. Nash stayed with the Barnards, the owners of the Blue Pool, at Furzebrook House in 1937 and talked of producing a guide for the Blue Pool for which he would supply illustrations. Provenance: The Barnard family.
letter to Cecily Grey
Pennie Denton. Paul Nash and the Blue Pool. Dorset Life, May 2013. “The visitors’ book from Furzebrook House, near Wareham, records that Paul Nash stayed there from 17 to 24 September 1937. Seven-year-old Tom Barnard junior was told that the famous artist needed to sleep with seven pillows, because of his asthma. In the morning he crept to the door dividing the nursery wing from his parents’ quarters and peeped through, hoping, in vain as it turned out, that the visitor’s bedroom door might be open and he might catch a glimpse of Mr Nash on his seven pillows.
Tom does not know how Paul Nash first got to know his parents, Tom and Gillian Barnard, but on 9 March 1935, a few days after the Barnards had moved into Furzebrook House, Paul and his wife, Margaret, were brought to tea by a Mr West, who may have had a part in the negotiations to buy the house. Just why these visitors were invited when the family were in the process of moving in is unclear but perhaps Nash, who was then living in Swanage and busy researching his Shell Guide to Dorset, was anxious to see the Blue Pool, a beauty spot on the Furzebrook estate often sought out by artists.
The Barnards had lived for many years in South Africa where Tom Barnard was Director of the School of African Life and Languages at Cape Town University. In 1934 the family returned to England and began to look for somewhere to live. Furzebrook House seemed attractive, with its 200 acres of land including a large garden, heathland, woodland, eight cottages and a small farm. They decided to buy it but as the house had not been lived in for some time, it needed a good deal of work before they could move in.
The Furzebrook estate had been owned and managed by Leonard Gaskell Pike, the last of the generations of Pikes who had mined the land for ball clay. Joseph Pike, a clay merchant from Devon, had started mining in the area in 1760 and in 1762 his son, William, drew up a contract with Josiah Wedgwood for 1100 tons of clay a year. In 1866 the Pikes opened a railway line from Furzebrook to Ridge Wharf and a steam train replaced the donkeys and carts that had transported the clay across the heath. From Ridge, barges took the clay to Poole for onward shipment to the Mersey ports, to Bristol and, by canal, to Staffordshire.
When the Barnards bought the estate, some of the clay workings had been filled in but several large ponds, including the famous Blue Pool, remained. The Blue Pool had originally been dug in the mid-19th century but was already disused when Augustus John and his friends came to paint there in 1910. The pool’s main attraction was its startling turquoise water, which was caused by the diffraction of light from minute clay particles in the lake. People were turning up at all times and without permission to gaze in wonder at the pool and Tom Barnard hit on the idea of turning the lake and its surroundings into a visitor attraction. He fenced in about 25 acres around the pool, turned one of his fields into a car park, built an attractive teahouse and charged an entrance fee. Gillian Barnard laid the first brick on 15 April 1935 and on 8 June there was a ceremonial opening attended by special guests Mr and Mrs Archibald Russell of Swanage and their friend, the artist Paul Nash. So Nash was involved in the very beginning of this enterprise.
After his September 1937 visit to Furzebrook House, Nash wrote to a mutual friend, Cecily Grey, that the Barnards ‘are steadily making a fat living out of The Blue Pool. I made a drawing of it and we are planning to produce a sort of guide to the pool.’ As well as making drawings, Nash took several photographs. One shows a cliff pock-marked by nesting sand martins. This mound has completely disappeared, worn away by erosion, and what remains is covered in vegetation. A second photograph shows a more conventional view of the Blue Pool. Sadly, no guide was published.
During this same 1937 holiday, Gillian Barnard drove Nash to Creech Folly and Kimmeridge, where he made preliminary sketches for a poster in the Shell ‘Follies’ series. He sent a copy of one of his photographs of the Creech folly to the Barnards inscribed ‘with love to Gillian and Tom’. But it was his design based on the Clavell Tower at Kimmeridge which was eventually used as a poster by Shell.
Nash also found time to do a quick watercolour sketch of the garden at Furzebrook House. He gave this previously unknown little painting to the Barnards as a thank-you gift and it has survived in the family archive. In blue crayon Nash wrote the words ‘for Tom and Gillian souvenir from Paul’. It seems in every way to have been a memorable and productive visit. “. Mrs Cecily Grey, a noted collector who knew the Nashes through his brother John. She owned a number of works by Nash, including the important Winter Sea which she donated to York City Art Gallery in 1956.
Format: Single sheet
Edition: First edition
Book ID: 021140