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The 3 murals in the Drawing Room and Restaurant are the work of London art teacher, Barrington Barber. Working in oils straight onto the walls, he was encouraged by our previous owners, Mr & Mrs Boddy, to use artistic licence to depict three periods in the life of Northcote Manor.
The first shows the Manor ‘long-time past’. There is some evidence to indicate that about 1000 years ago the Benedictine Monks from Tavistock Abbey came to the site. We do not know what they did here but from the atmosphere which pervades, especially at sunrise and sunset, the work must have been largely contemplative by nature and of deep spiritual value. Research has so far indicated that the lands of Northcote belonged to Tavistock Abbey, being given to the Abbey by the mother of Harold of England after Senlac, Hastings, and held until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.
The perspective and design of this mural is similar to medieval paintings with rather reduced perspective, which means that figures farther away can still be clear and even larger than one would expect. The border has a Latin quote above, and an English translation below, from Psalm 131.
The second mural (near the entrance to the Restaurant) shows the Manor ‘recent-time past’, after it had been given to local aristocracy by Henry VIII, who had owned it for 21 years. The original Manor house is thought be have been positioned south-west of the current house, the first wing of which was finished in 1716. From that time until 1973, the property was used as a centre of local rural life, housing the families of Lords of the Manor, including the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Portsmouth. The mural is in an apparently carved frame on which the shields and coats of arms of these and other families are shown. The main motto – CLARIORA SEQUOR – “ I FOLLOW THE LIGHT “, is of the Buckinghams.
In the final mural, Barrington was encouraged to use his expressionist talent for mood-making vignettes by showing the hotel in time present & future. Northcote Manor has been a hotel since 1973, but has only recently been upgraded to allow guests to meet the experience of timeless tranquillity in modern luxury and comfort.
Our owners, Mr & Mrs Mifsud, wish for the hotel to become a centre of quietude and relaxation from which all sorts of pleasurable pursuits may arise. Some of these are depicted colourfully on the mural, along with a judicious reference too past (or are Henry and the wives returning?) guests! Any resemblance between faces in the murals, and faces seen around the hotel, is purely intentional. (Please don’t worry – the murals are now finished!) Barrington Barber teaches art at St James Independent School for Boys, Twickenham, in Middlesex.