Amberley people in the 1920s

When John Ireland was visiting Amberley in the 1920s, writing Amberley Wild Brooks in 1921, the village was not only an exquisite one, but also one inhabited and visited by artists and writers. Arnold Bennett and family stayed in Box Tree Cottage for several weeks on an extended holiday, this property the home of artist Fred Stratton. Fred’s son Hilary Byfield Stratton (1906–85) went on to become a well-known sculptor. A distant link with the world of John Ireland emerges here, in that this Stratton was married in Chelsea Old Church in 1937, to Billie Despard, an artist’s model. Stratton was Eric Gill’s assistant, working with him in South Harting in West Sussex in 1919, on a memorial obelisk following WWI (shown right).

Another Amberley artist was Gerald Burn (1862–1945), an etcher and engraver. His home was in Penny Hill, with attached studio. Many of Burn’s works take Sussex as their focus, for example his representation of the lovely Stopham Bridge (below).

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Predating these two artists, Edward Stott (1859-1918), settled in Amberley after studying in Paris. Stott left many wonderful paintings, but also played an important role in the preservation of Amberley’s thatched cottages.

waterlilies on a sussex river by edward stott


Grinke and the Second Violin Sonata

Dorothy ManleyThe immensely talented and individual violinist Fred Grinke was a wonderful advocate of English music, known for his association with John Ireland. He played both of the composer’s violin sonatas on many occasions, as well as the three piano trios. One regular accompanist was Dorothy Manley, shown left.

A series of reviews collected by the young Grinke, undated, as seen below, make mention of the Second Violin Sonata in A minor in particular. The regular partnership of Grinke and Manley is praised for its ‘smoothness of ensemble’, and Ireland’s sonata is widely considered to bring out Grinke’s depth of feeling. One commentator sees this piece as showing this violinist to ‘outstanding advantage’ in the long, sweeping phrases of the second movement.

English music in Cheltenham

In Cheltenham on 6 July 1950 a delightful concert of British music included works by William Alwyn, Vaughan Williams and John Ireland. For Vaughan Williams, it was the occasion of the 100th performance of his magnificent Symphony no.6. For Alwyn, it saw the premiere of his Symphony in D. And for Ireland, it was another outing for his ‘brilliant, witty, and beautiful’ overture Satyricon. The performers at the festival were Sir John Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra.

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Cheltenham, 1950


Source: The Times, 7 July 1950, page 6.


On this day: 7 January 1930

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On this day in 1930 Ireland’s symphonic poem, Mai-Dun, was played by the Scottish Orchestra (now the Royal Scottish National Orchestra) in St Andrew’s Halls, Glasgow. The conductor was Vladimir Golschmann. ‘There was only a moderate attendance’.

Source: The Scotsman, 8 January 1930, page 12.

The winter Proms

On 6 January 1947 the winter Promenade season at the Albert Hall opened with a varied musical programme, featuring the BBCSO under Sir Adrian Boult and Basil Cameron. Alongside Beethoven and Sibelius were two British works: Britten’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell and Ireland’s overture Satyricon. Satyricon, a joyous depiction of Petronius’s gallery of rogues, had been premiered at the Proms the previous year. The use of spiky, angular xylophone, brittle winds and whip contrasts with one of Ireland’s long, luscious melodies and the floating clarinet solo created for Frederick Thurston. Cameron conducted the two British works, and therefore, according to a reviewer, ‘had most of the fun’.

The boy Giton from Satyricon

Source: The Times, 7 January 1947, page 6.

A letter from Alice

In 1952 Ireland was busy trying to construct his autobiography, writing to many of his relatives for information. One with whom he exchanged correspondence was his loving and admiring niece, Alice. She wrote to him on 16 September, mentioning her brother Percy and son Raymond, music she’d heard and an array of domestic matters:

Percy has moved once more-this time from a large house to a small one-so when I go to Liverpool I shall be visiting a strange house, though not very far from the other two previous dwellings. Never have I known of so many changes – no one ever seems settled nowadays. I am glad to say Percy has had a good holiday at Colwyn Bay – he goes there every year.

I felt in splendid form on my return from Filey – the air is wonderful.

It has not really been a very hard year for me – but I have a good deal of expense this autumn  – my home will have to have some joinery repairs, new spouting, fencing & gate – also the outside has to be painted. I hope the time will not be far distant when rents can be increased to help pay for repairs & renewals.

I hope you have good news of Tony, & my cousin in San Francisco – I should very much like to read the cuttings about Uncle Alleyne when they are returned to you.

My son Raymond was finally rejected for the Ministry & now seems to have settled down. He devotes most of his spare time to the Youth Fellowship of his Church- he is the Junior Club Leader & seems to have his hands full, now the winter season has started.

We have been listening to a Rachmaninoff Concerto on the radio. Irene Kohler with the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra- but it did not approach the perfection of the records we have of it – for the gramophone.

Next Sunday is Harvest  Festival  Service & one of your anthems forms part of the service. A song of yours I heard recently I do like very much – “If there were dreams to sell”.

It is very cold up North – & September has not come up to expectations at all – there has been so much rain & so many high winds.

I wonder if you have television, or whether you prefer to be without it. Sometimes modern noises get unbearable. My daughter has an electric washer which bangs messily away – then there is her electric sewing machine which is just as noisy – to add to it all there is a Pressure Cooker which hisses loudly. Methinks the dignified quiet of the old homestead is a thing of the past.

Well I must close. I have meant to write sooner – but have been, as usual, so fully occupied this past eight months.

A letter will always find me if sent to Guiseley. As soon as I have had a short rest I want a post in Leeds or Bradford-preferably for the winter.

I do hope your rheumatism is not troubling you, & that you keep well. I am always so pleased to hear news of you.

Love & best wishes,

Your affectionate niece


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Guiseley, 1952