'An alluring lightness of touch overlaid with skill and artistry.'
Rupert Uloth on Ockwells Manor by Cecil Aldin
‘I have always loved Cecil Aldin’s work, particularly his charming pictures of hunting characters and scenes, dogs and other animals. Even with his depictions of buildings, he has an alluring lightness of touch overlaid with skill and artistry. He was a friend of my great-grandfather, Sir Edward Barry, who restored Ockwells and lived there for the first half of the 20th century. My mother stayed there regularly during the Second World War and we are still in touch with the Belgian family who sheltered there, as guests of the Barrys, after fleeing the German advance into their country during the First World War. Serendipitously, my great-grandfather was also Master of the Grocers’ Company, 100 years ago.’
Rupert Uloth is Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and a former deputy editor of Country Life.
John McEwen on Cecil Aldin
John Norreys built Ockwells, Berkshire, in the mid 15th century. As John Goodall wrote in his article on the house iin Country Life in 2018): ‘Our understanding of grand architecture of the period is almost entirely derived from the evidence of masonry buildings. However, there also existed a tradition of high-quality timber-frame residential architecture about which we know practically nothing.
‘This was adaptable, luxurious and even portable… Such buildings have long vanished, but Ockwells suggests what they may have looked like.’ Extended and regularly restored since 1889, the house has featured in a number of films, including Alexander Korda’s The Four Feathers (1939).
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Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin was born in Slough and trained as an artist, encouraged by his father, a prosperous builder and hobby painter. In 1898, he co-founded the London Sketch Club, which gave him a range beyond his reputation as a sporting artist.
It was probably as master of the South Berkshire Hunt that he met his neighbour Sir Edward Barry, also a master of foxhounds, who had bought Ockwells in about 1890 as a ‘rather ruinous farmhouse’ and brought it back to life. He replaced the glass of the hall windows piece by piece (it had been removed for safe keeping to Taplow) and filled the rooms with his armour and 16th- and 17th-century furniture.
This picture is one of a series that Aldin sold as limited-edition prints in 1920 and reproduced in his book Old Manor Houses (1923). He loved Ockwells for its ‘air of restraint… everything is quiet and in tone’ and wrote how he longed to club Barry and then ‘to walk in and take possession of his home and everything that is his; just pure unadulterated envy with murderous intent. He has restored it in so perfect a way’.
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