AGM – come and hear about plans and achievements
Wed 19 April 7.30 pm in the Holland Park Orangery
Be sure to put the date in your diary and come along, with your comments and questions. The formal part is usually over quickly, and we will have time to talk about our plans for future projects and to hear your ideas. Various areas of the park have been closed for ‘works’ over this last winter, so we should have some new facilities and some greener grass by the time we meet. As always, there are real challenges and we have to learn to cope with climate change as well as reduced RBKC budgets.
This will be our first AGM since Eric Ellul has become president of The Friends. He will chair the meeting, have the opportunity to tell you a bit about himself and to share his views on the park.
Often, when it seems things are going well, people don’t feel they need to come to the AGM. But please do come as there are still issues, as there will be with any park. We also need your votes at the meeting to ensure your committee remains in place to carry on the work. Come and challenge us with thoughtful questions and share your ideas. The trustees need your support and want to know that we are representing you.
Members should please register to attend by contacting your chairman on firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 7243 0804.
We look forward to seeing lots of you on 19 April.
News update as at 13 February
The very attractive murals under the arches south of the Iris Garden have been suffering from water ingress for a long time. The Friends have pushed to have the walkway above made waterproof, but there has been delay after delay from the council and now we hear there is to be further delay as the project is transferred to a different budget pot. Meanwhile the paintings are being badly affected. The Friends last paid for the original artist, Mao Wen Biao, to conserve the panels about 10 years ago, and would have been prepared to pay for a further round of repairs, but there is little point in retouching damp panels that will inevitably suffer further damage. As no action was in sight, we have asked that the panels be removed and stored safely, so Mao Wen Biao can restore them off-site. They may be off-site for quite a while. The Friends are working with Park Management to find expert advice on how to handle and store the paintings, as well as how to re-install them, so an airspace is left between the panels and the Stable Yard building behind them.
Until 1991, the wall along the Arcade was painted plain white, which became stained and dingy and was vulnerable to graffiti. The Friends found Mao, who after executing vast murals in the Beijing Underground, had come to London where he was unknown and so took a commission decorating hoardings for a developer. Ours are not strictly murals but are oils painted on canvas in Mao’s studio and then affixed to the wall. There is quite a story as to how the images were arrived at, with locals sitting for the artist in appropriate costume hired for the occasion. One of the ‘locals’ was Rhoddy Wood. Can you spot her?
Here’s some good news. All the structural work, first-fix plumbing and electrics are now completed. The next stage is the ceiling, flooring and then installation of the toilet cubicles, showers and sanitary ware. Completion is now due in mid-March. Although this work has taken longer than expected, we will have the benefit of a really high standard of toilets.
The pond needs its annual clean out to remove silt, leaves and any bread or other food people choose to inflict on the fish. This will mean emptying the pond and storing the fish in a holding tank for a few days, while the work is being carried out. It is important that some of the original pond water is kept, as filling the pond with chlorine-laced water from the mains would probably kill the bacteria that the fish need to survive. The Kyoto Garden will be closed for around three days in early spring, with advance warning given through notices in the area.
The opportunity will be taken to repair the Tortoise and Crane Island, which has become waterlogged and lost its green topping of plants as a result. Fitting a membrane to keep the pond water away from the plant’s roots won’t work, as it would fill up with rainwater. So, we have to find planting that enjoys wet roots, doesn’t obscure the view of the waterfall and is in keeping with the original concept of the garden. That’s quite a challenge!
We notice that the ‘deer-scarer’, just outside the Kyoto Garden wall, has been mended. It clunks regularly as the water weighs down the bamboo pipe and is released into the well beneath.
The Holland Park Café
We understand that a number of operators have tendered for the new lease, several have been shortlisted and their proposals are being discussed. The new operators were due to be in place by April 2023, but have been told that this will now be delayed. The Friends have written to the Council to make our views known on:
• Reduction of noise inside the café. There is a hard wall, hard floor, hard ceiling and a glass wall, which cause sounds to bounce around and intensify. An acoustic study was carried out in July 2013 and action recommended to reduce noise levels.
• Pigeons are a nuisance in most cafés with outside tables, but the birds have started coming inside our café. Pigeon deterrents have been discussed following successful installation on Holland House during conservation works.
• Re-alignment of the counter area, to enable faster service and shorter queues. This should take place as soon as tendering for the work is completed.
This area will remain fenced off until the grass has re-established, the ground spiked, with margin beds replanted and edged to prevent people treading on the plants. The south side, under the pleached hornbeams, will have a low fence to prevent erosion of the grass at the south corners. We have asked for a notice to be erected to explain what is being done, and why it takes time to ensure the work is done in a way that it lasts.
Andy Walker steps down as trustee
Andrea Walker, always known as Andy, has been a trustee of The Friends for many years. We first became aware of her when she badgered us to let her have a newsletter round until we had to find one for her. From that, she was “promoted” to running the art exhibition, no mean task, which she did for four years. When she wanted a rest from that, it was her enquiries (at her hairdresser’s!) which found us the French family to take over. Andy then reverted to delivering her round which she has continued to do.
She subsequently took responsibility for the logistics of our events. As she found she had less time available, she became the Park Observer, which meant she kept an eye open for what needed doing in the park. Those of you who have been to our summer party and events in the Orangery will remember Andy, and husband Tony, running the bar, and Andy has very ably read the AGM report of the past year’s achievements.
In total she has undertaken a significant amount of work on behalf of members, but has now told us that other commitments mean she cannot continue. We are sad to accept her resignation as a trustee, but respect her decision.
We will keep in close touch with Andy, who now becomes an Ambassador of The Friends. The trustees have conveyed to her how much her help has been appreciated over the years.
We will see you in the park Andy. A big thank you.
Sadly we have to announce that Janice is retiring. Difficult though it is to believe, her swansong for the Friends was at Tim Marlow’s talk in the Orangery in mid-February. 35 years ago she attended a talk by Sir Hugh Casson, then president of both the Royal Academy and The Friends of Holland Park, which inspired Janice to offer us her services. She joined the committee and was soon catering for all our Orangery events. At that time she lived in Holland Park, near several other committee members, and it was squeezed on to one of their sofas that I can still see her saying that she was resigning, but that it wouldn’t make any difference, she was happy to go on catering. We all sighed with relief and she has carried out her promise ever since. What makes this truly remarkable is that, though a highly professional and much sought after caterer, she has never charged us a penny for her work, only for the ingredients. She has saved us thousands of pounds.
We have all loved her food and sold tickets to our Orangery events by saying she will be bringing her distinctive canapés again. Everyone’s style is different, so we won’t be able to offer the same again. But she has taken holidays sometimes in the summer, when we have had to find someone else for Pimm’s, and they have been good in their own way, though we have had to pay commercial prices.
Our best wishes go to Janice on her retirement and all our thanks for 35 years of cheerful and friendly support.
Member, Simon Grantham, wins award
In November last year, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea held their first Sport and Physical Activity Awards since the pandemic. The event celebrated local sporting heroes and organisations that dedicate their time to helping borough residents get active. Ten awards were presented by Swimming World Champion and former Olympian, Mark Foster.
We are delighted that one award went to member of The Friends, Simon Grantham, for his work as Wellbeing Walk Leader for RBKC’s Active for Life programme. He leads a daily walk and co-leads the Nordic Walk in Holland park each Thursday afternoon.
Having been on some of the walks myself, I can attest to the fact that Simon is very careful to ensure walkers are safe, which has been particularly important during icy weather. He is reassuring to those who haven’t taken a walk in a while and welcoming to all. The groups get to know each other, look out for each other and often go to a café after the walk for a friendly chat over a coffee and bun.
Other walk leaders who won an award were Mike Bates, Ewa Kingsleigh-Smith and Svetlana Mills (also a member of The Friends), who guided the first walk some 20 years ago.
Lead member for Culture, Leisure and Community Safety, Cllr Emma Will, said of the awards,
“The Sports Awards celebrate local people and the organisations in our borough who support their community day in and day out and work hard to inspire them through a range of physical activities.” She praised their commitment, enthusiasm, and encouragement that helps people to feel connected and to improve their health.
Congratulations to Simon and thank you for your support and your patience. Do check out the Active for Life programme (see contact details under Links) and join one of the walks.
Please help prevent Avian Influenza
There have been 144 confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in the UK since 1 October 2022, but none have yet been confirmed in Kensington and Chelsea. We want to keep it that way. RBKC Parks Management and the Ecology Service are following government guidelines, but you can help too.
Please don’t feed birds, including peafowl, in the park. Feeding encourages birds to congregate which could spread the disease. Do not touch surfaces where it is evident that lots of birds have been e.g. where there are bird feathers or bird droppings. And please don’t be tempted to pick up peafowl feathers, however attractive they are. If you see a dead bird, do not touch it but please do report it to a member of the idverde staff, or email: Parks@rbkc.gov.uk.
RBKC will launch an impactful poster campaign with a QR code link for updates on the Government website. Or try: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bird-flu-avian-influenza-latest-situation-in-england#full-publication-update-history
The avian influenza situation means we have had to postpone our plans to re-invigorate our depleted pride of peafowl in Holland Park.
Thank you for helping keep Holland Park’s birds safe.
Holland Park – a hotspot for wild bees
Holland Park has always had bees. They are important pollinators, along with butterflies, hoverflies and beetles. While you might be familiar with honey bees, they are just one of over 240 species of bee in the UK, and perform less than a third of pollination. The majority of pollination is down to wild bee species, such as bumblebees and solitary nesting leafcutter and mason bees.
If the park’s bees are to thrive, it is essential to provide appropriate habitats to support them with foraging opportunities, as well as shelter and nesting sites. The main causes of bee decline are man-made stressors, including habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.
For many years, Holland Park has hosted managed honey bees in hives. Keeping bees in hives offers no benefit to the ecology of the park, though the local community does like to buy the honey, when there is some.
The RBKC Ecology Service is working to help bees and other pollinators by developing a Bee Superhighway that aims to increase the number of linked pollinator hotspots right across the borough. Holland Park is intended to be one of those hotspots. The approach will be to support a healthy wild bee population, instead of managing honey bees in hives, which compete with wild bees for limited resources.
We can now look forward to bee banks, nesting sites and flowers that bees can’t resist, all of which will serve as a valuable way of engaging children in wildlife.
News update as at 24 October
Information boards for Holland House
At last, two information boards have been installed to explain Holland House to visitors who do not know its history. The Friends applied for NICL (Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy) funding and have committed to paying the balance of the cost.
One board is under the big chestnut tree at the bottom of the terrace approach road, the other to the north of the house. We notice that many park visitors are stopping to read the information, and what better timing could there be than when the opera has finished for the season and we can, once again, see the elegance of Holland House.
[Photos by Jennie Kettlewell]
Road across the back of Holland House
The re-surfacing was completed in record time and is now a smooth finish which matches the colour of the road in front of Holland House. So much nicer than black Tarmac.
The arcade in front of the café
The ceiling under the arcade in front of the café had become a mass of wiring and lights that no longer worked. All redundant installations have been removed and the ceiling painted white. Discrete new lights have been fixed so that there is soft lighting onto the arcade’s historic tiles and onto café visitors near to the tiled wall, when the weather is dark and gloomy. The work will be finished on the west arcade once the plaster has dried.
The walkway over the café was resurfaced and made waterproof as part of the Holland House conservation work, but the scope of the work did not include the part of the walkway that runs east-west under the stables’ clock tower. The result is that rainwater is seeping through to the murals beneath. The Friends pushed for repairs and are delighted to hear that Allies & Morrison have been appointed to write the specification and get a costing for the work. They are on the case and we hope to hear shortly when work will commence. Once water ingress is stopped, we will ask Mao Wen Biao who painted the murals, to carry out the necessary restoration.
[Photo by Rhoddy Wood]
The North Lawn is now fenced off for the winter so that the grass can be improved and has time to recover before the picnic season. The Acer Walk has been blocked and we will all have to make a slight detour when walking from the Lord Holland statue to the centre of the park.
Work has started on creating smart new toilets, with an accessible entrance opposite the drinking fountain in the Café Yard. The path between the Stable Yard block and the Toddlers’ playground has been closed for the duration of the project for public safety. No one likes all this building work in the park, but we think that the result will be worth it.
Design Museum offers 10% off courses and workshops
The Museum already offers our members a 10% discount on purchases from their shop and on exhibition tickets (+1 guest) booked on-line, using code ‘HollandFriends10’. We are delighted that they are now offering our members 10% off Design Museum ‘Academy’ courses and workshops, booked on-line, using Code FOHPXDM. Please take your Friends’ membership card to a booked course. Check out the wide choice of courses and workshops on https://designmuseum.org.
Friends' Subscription Renewals and Membership Cards
Thank you again for all your support and we hope you will want to continue to help through these troublesome times when the park is more appreciated than ever, but also has had extra strains put upon it. Your membership also gives the Friends clout when negotiating with the Borough on the park’s future.
The Friends’ subscription year runs from 1 January. Some of you have already paid for 2023 and a healthy number (about 60%) pay by bank standing order on 1 January. New members who have joined since 1 September 2022, or existing members who have renewed since that date, are already covered for 2023.
To the rest of you, now is the time to pay, using the order form or online HERE, or contacting your bank. If in doubt, check with Graham Franklin 07802 761 548 or email@example.com. We would like to emphasise that it is less trouble to both you and us if you pay by standing order. If you do not yet do so we are always ready to send you a paper form, or you can download one from the website. Unfortunately this is almost the only thing we are not able to arrange for you to do on the website. The most efficient way is for you to contact your own bank yourself.
You will know that your membership card, which entitles you to discounts under our Friends & Neighbours scheme, expires on 15 March. Those who have paid their subscriptions for 2023 will receive replacement cards with their spring newsletters, which will reach them about 1 March. Please be careful opening your newsletter, as the cards can easily fall out and be lost.
We are sad to say farewell to Trevor Bowyer who has played such a valuable role in Holland Park for the Ecology Service, as one of their environmental education officers. Over many years, Trevor has helped local children to learn about the wonders of nature and you could see their delight as they ran about the Wildlife Enclosure area discovering frogs, spiders and other wee beasties. Often they went home to regale their parents and I can well remember a small child on a nature walk telling me earnestly what we would find under a stone, because he had learned about it on a school trip.
Trevor took a sabbatical this summer, to work with one of the teams in the Kensington Town Hall. At the end of the period, he was offered a long-term roll as an employee engagement officer, which he accepted. He says he will miss the park and we will miss him. We won’t be saying goodbye though, as he has been organizing visits to the park for groups of council employees, so that they are better acquainted with the many benefits the park has to offer. Thank you Trevor and see you in the park soon.
Text and photo by Jennie Kettlewell
The history of Holland House and those who lived there
The tour. The history of Holland House and the people who lived there is fascinating and no stranger to scandal. Most of you will know something about it, but you may not know all the intriguing anecdotes that you would hear if you join one of The Friends’ tours. A tour is also a chance to get a close-up view of the recent conservation work on Holland House.
The final tour of this year is on Tuesday 15th November, from 10.30am-12noon, led by Blue Badge Guide, Leila Sukiur. The cost is £10 per person. Book an online ticket here.
The book. The Friends of Holland Park commissioned Carolyn Starren, a past Local Studies Librarian for The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, to write a definitive social history of Holland House. Painstakingly researched and beautifully presented, it is available as a 64-page, soft-covered book with 39 illustrations and two family trees. Copies are available from the Holland Park reception office, or online. Cost £6, plus p&p when appropriate. Order online here.
The Belvedere Restaurant opens for business
So many people have been waiting for the treat of being able to eat in the Belvedere restaurant once again. Now you can! The new proprietors, George Bukhov-Weinstein and Ilya Demichev, are experienced restaurant owners with a successful restaurant, Wild Tavern, in Chelsea. Immediately after the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea granted them the lease, they set about discovering the history of the building and planning what they could do to link a modern, welcoming restaurant with its past. Their research paid off and planning consent was granted in August 2021. Since that time, they worked diligently with architect David Archer and their teams to return the interior to a place of beauty.
What is now the Belvedere building, the adjacent Orangery and the brick arches leading up to Roger’s Seat, were once the stables for the Holland House estate. These stables were built at a cost of £4,000 by Sir Henry Rich around 1638, as a display of status and wealth. In the early 19th century, the impressive stable block was turned into The Orangery and a summer ballroom. Both could be reached from the main house by an upper and lower walkway built in the 1840s by the 4th Baron Holland. The summer ballroom, now The Belvedere, has been a place of eating, drinking and merriment for over 200 years, entertaining many famous guests. The last private owners of the Holland House estate, the Ilchester family, sold it to the London County Council in 1952 for use as a public park, and work started on clearing the badly overgrown grounds and making use of the buildings. The park itself is Grade II listed and is now owned by RBKC, who converted the former ballroom was into a restaurant space, and who grants leases for the park’s buildings.
George Bukhov-Weinstein and Ilya Demichev have turned the interior of the Belvedere into a warm and welcoming space. It has been opened up, with a view of the kitchens to give a lively atmosphere. The walls are covered in apricot-coloured terra cotta plaster and the brick pillars revealed to show the history of the building over the ages. There is even a trace of the fire that damaged the interior in 1971.
The floor of the restaurant is polished parquet and two gas fires have been installed to add warmth on cooler days. The bar is at an island site on the ground floor, with comfortable seating areas and dining tables set around it. Diners are reminded that the restaurant is in a park by the many plants, while elegant lamps hang from the ceiling.
Achille Pinna, the executive chef, is Sardinian and, with head chef Stefano Ponzani, will offer a menu that is modern Italian and caters both for a special night out as well as affordable meals for the family. Look out for lemon and truffle chicken, meat from the grill and home-made pasta. Wines will be a specialty. George Buckhov-Weinstein said: “We are very lucky to have an opportunity to bring this amazing building back to life and open a restaurant in one of the most beautiful parks. It will be a unique and beautiful restaurant. We are also very thankful for the warm welcome that we are receiving from the local community and the council.”
The restaurant does not extend to The Orangery, whose operation is managed solely by the council for weddings and celebratory events. Nor does it extend to the lawn or terrace outside the building, which is part of the park.
Opening will be in mid-November and bookings can be made on firstname.lastname@example.org and Tel. 020 8191 1407.
A written description is nothing like as good as seeing the restaurant for yourself. Please do make a booking and judge for yourselves.
Belvedere building photos and text by Jennie Kettlewell
The role of President of The Friends of Holland Park is an important one for our charity. The Friends’ Constitution states that: “The Trustees may invite an honorary President (“the President” who shall not be an Officer or Trustee) to enhance the profile of the Friends.” We have been fortunate to have Sir Angus Stirling fulfil that role for 20 years, and he has certainly enhanced our profile. Angus told us at the end of 2021 that he was reducing his commitments and felt it was time he stepped down as president, but that he would give us time to find the right person to take over.
We have found the right person. Eric Ellul is a member of The Friends who lives locally.
He attended our 2022 AGM and introduced himself. I am glad he did, as it was clear he was very interested in the park and committed to The Friends, and I learned about his impressive career. After several more conversations, introducing Eric to Angus and the trustees, we invited him to be our new president and are delighted that he has accepted. Angus and Eric have given their own perspective in this newsletter.
We are sad to lose Angus, not only because of his unfailing wise advice, but because he has been such a delight to work with. He has not only been a wonderful president, but has starred in our art exhibition in his new career as a notable artist. Angus and his wife, Lady Morar Stirling, will keep in touch and we hope they will continue to come to our events. Please join us in thanking Angus and welcoming Eric, whose experience and wisdom will be a benefit to us all.
Jennie Kettlewell, Chairman
On 7 September, a second, and more formal event was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Fukushima Garden. It was hosted by the Worshipful the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor David Lindsay, and the Japanese Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Mr. Hijime Hayashi. The speeches focused on the sense of healing that the garden represented for the prefecture of Fukushima. A cherry tree was kindly gifted to the garden and was planted with due ceremony. The managing director of Fukushima Minpo News presented a polished wooden bench.
Photo by Jennie Kettlewell
A Reflection on my Time as President
Sir Angus Stirling
It is my great privilege to have been the Hon. President of The Friends for 20 years. I succeeded Sir Peter Parker in 2002. Morar and I became familiar with Holland Park soon after we married in 1959. We have lived within easy walking distance ever since. We and our children soon appreciated that Hyde Park is not the only green reservoir for recreation: Holland Park offers something very different and special.
Why is this so? For me, it has its resonance not in wide open landscape, but in nature, trees, architecture, and an extraordinary variety of quite intimate spaces for public enjoyment. Of all these characteristics, perhaps the natural world is the most important, especially in these times of concern about city life and climate change. The wonderful, extensive and popular children’s playground close to the car park is a vital feature of the park. Indeed, the whole park was of special value for air and exercise during the two years of Covid lockdown and restriction. The beautiful Orangery near the entrance has always played a crucial part in the life of The Friends: this is where we hold our AGM; and have for many years been privileged to present in the spring an exhibition of members’ art work, organised by Gordon French and his wife Sandra. Just before Christmas this has also been the venue for a superb chamber music concert by the Tallis Chamber Choir, presented and conducted by Philip Simms.
Walk along the wooded paths, relish the many varieties of fine trees, and the coppices, spot the great variety of birds ( ignore the shrieks of the invading parakeets) . The Japanese Garden is a real masterpiece of creative authenticity, hugely popular, with its own contribution to the right scale and natural features, including enormous carp in the waters. The formal garden has a different kind of appeal. It is the scale that is important: not big and grand as in many great country house estates, but contributing its own intimacy and inviting rest and peace to visitors. The great mural of high society and fashion in Edwardian times leads on to the café, and then to the shell of Holland House itself. This is important because, although largely a ruin, the great distinction of the design is still very much present. It has been a most valuable initiative that the terrace and the walls facing the park have undergone crucial conservation work by the Borough Council. The presence of Holland Park Opera, led by Michael Volpe over many years, has proved to be a valuable supporting influence to get this work done.
I have always believed that the president has a supporting role to play, not a management one. The president is not a trustee. It has been my purpose to try and support the trustees, and in particular the chair, when this may be helpful. It is, I think, important not to become involved in the day-to-day management, but always to listen and lend weight if possible when the chairman needs it. I do not think it is any exaggeration to say here that The Friends has been managed by a truly remarkable group of people. I’d like to mention first Nicholas Hopkins. Nicholas was chairman during my first years. He was fun to work with, loves the park and was always a successful negotiator with the borough councillors, and the park staff, to secure financial and physical support for conservation. Rhoddy Wood became our membership secretary in 1996 and later the charity’s secretary. Rhoddy’s commitment to the park and all that it means is beyond any praise I can give here. Her energy and determination is everlasting. She is much loved and valued. Joy Puritz, our minutes secretary, is also synonymous with The Friends. It is impossible to imagine what we would do without Joy. Her knowledge of the history of the park, what it offers, how it has evolved over the years, is exceptional and all recorded in her minutes. Joy has also been the editor of the newsletter for many years. Graham Franklin has also devoted his great love of plants and gardens to the service of the trustees. We are very fortunate to have Silvi Spassov as our treasurer. Silvi is chairman of the major accountants Emeralds BS Ltd; perhaps it is a reflection of the great value of our park that someone of such distinction should act as our treasurer. Andy Walker has fulfilled many important roles in the longstanding time as a trustee and Nigel Brockmann is invaluable in keeping the charity on the right corporate governance path. I would like to end by expressing my very special thanks for all that Jennie Kettlewell means to me and to the park. Jennie’s knowledge of the park, in all its aspects, is deep and extensive. She has established a truly remarkable constructive relationship with every organisation and individual with whom we have dealings. This is perhaps most importantly evidenced by the genuinely positive and constructive relationship built up over recent years with the Borough Council, the staff in the gardens and visitors. Jennie’s knowledge and love of the gardens and all its wildlife is incredibly valuable to the work of The Friends. Her brochures on the park, its birds and trees, are to be treasured. We arrange to have a meeting at least every six months to discuss all the issues, and consult more regularly as necessary.
The presidency has been a truly valuable part of my life and I wish to conclude by giving my deepest thanks to all who have helped to make this possible.
Angus Stirling, August 2022
A Message from our New President
Dear Friends of Holland Park,
As a regular visitor in Holland Park, I have always been impressed by its multifaceted profile. Its greenest areas offer the opportunity of a quiet walk, the tennis and sporting facilities appeal to the most active of us, the nursery helps rejuvenate the park and other ones in the borough in springtime, the opera is a major cultural event alongside a number of other ones, the Orangery with its beautiful surroundings is the perfect place for parties, and of course its large open fields provide an attractive ground for children and team sports. The park is really used and enjoyed by many. The Friends of Holland Park are playing a very important and effective role in working with the Council to maintain and develop it as well as to preserve it.
As a matter of introduction, most of my professional career has been as a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. I left two years ago and am now active in boards either as a chair or as a non-executive director. In addition, I have been a trustee at The Wallace Collection for the last six years, and I am currently the acting chair of the board. Originally from France and, after several years in continental Europe and Japan, our family has been in the UK for the last eighteen years. My wife, Virginie, two of our children and I live in London, and our eldest son lives in Paris. We are passionate about outdoor activities, including trekking and sailing, and love long walks in the many and beautiful tracks around London.
When Sir Angus, Jennie and the committee of trustees offered me the opportunity to become the president, I was honoured while humbled by how much Sir Angus, the board and The Friends of Holland Park have achieved. I am delighted to be able to contribute to the important mission of the Friends of Holland Park and will do my best to serve and ensure we are collectively as effective as possible.
I am looking forward to meeting more of you in coming events.
AGM 6 April 2022
The AGM was well attended and significantly exceeded the 30 members needed to be quorate. All votes were carried.
• Minutes of the 2021 AGM were approved
• Accounts for 2021 were approved and have since been filed with the Charity Commission
• All trustees standing were re-elected: Jennie Kettlewell (Chairman), Silvi Spassov (Treasurer), Rhoddy Wood (Secretary), Nigel Brockmann (governance), Graham Franklin (member database), Sandra French (art exhibition), Nicholas Hopkins (website), Joy Puritz (editor), Andy Walker (park observer)
• Roger Foreman was re-elected as independent examiner
Andy Walker reported on achievements in 2021: completion of stage 1 of Holland House conservation, improvements to the Dry Garden started, trees planted along the north edge of the sports field and new signage for the Kyoto Garden. Rhoddy Wood reported there were 940 paid-up members at the end of 2021, fewer than pre-Covid numbers, but now starting to increase as live events recommence. Margaret Rhodes explained the newsletter delivery system, thanked those who deliver the newsletters and asked for more volunteers. Two members offered to help.
Chairman, Jennie Kettlewell, explained that, although we all appreciate the park as a wonderful safe green space to enjoy in many different ways, there are significant challenges. Since the start of the pandemic, visitor numbers have increased. It is wonderful that the park is of benefit to so many, but the consequence is compaction of soil and erosion of grass. Solutions previously used only work for a season and then need redoing, so radical solutions are needed. Radical solutions are also needed to cope with frequent drought, with occasional torrential rain which can cause significant water run-off and flooding where it has no right to be. We would like to see rain absorbed as close to where it falls as possible. Tree felling had been more drastic than anticipated and, though tree planting has started, more needs to be done.
Thanks were given to the French family for another successful art exhibition, to the trustees for their tireless work in running the charity, to Sir Angus Stirling for his wise advice and to the members for their loyalty and support, without which The Friends could not operate.
Photo Jennie Kettlewell
Fukushima Garden 10th Anniversary
On Wednesday, the 18th of May, a lovely early summer day, the Fukushima Prefectural Association UK held a Japanese Hanami, or picnic, in the Fukushima Garden to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Garden and to express their gratitude for the support of the people of Kensington and Chelsea in the creation of the Garden. The garden had been given by the people of Fukushima as a thank you to all the people of the United Kingdom for their support after the disaster. RBKC was happy to cooperate with the organisation of this important occasion.
On this occasion, there were speeches from Mr Yoshio Mitsuyama, the Chairman of the Association, and the Worshipful the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Gerard Hargreaves. Both highlighted the bonds of friendship between the Borough and the city of Motomiya in Fukushima Prefecture, which is home to the English Garden in Prince William’s Park. The highlight of the picnic was the formal tea ceremony in which Japanese tea was carefully prepared by experts in kimonos for the Mayor to taste. All the guests were treated to a delicious Japanese lunchbox and a taste of sake. It was a truly memorable occasion!
The Conservation of Holland House
By Rowan Freeland
A couple of months ago, The Friends arranged for Leila, my fellow-guide, and I to meet Anna Joynt of Allies and Morrison, the architect leading the recently-completed conservation project at Holland House, who explained the works that had been done.
One of the most striking features of the south front is the balustrade on top of the loggia which incorporates fleurs-de-lys from the coat of arms of Sir Walter Cope. The old stone fleurs-de-lys had been taken down for safety reasons, and the question facing Anna and her team was whether they should be repaired and reinstated, or replaced by new-carved stones. The old stones are not all from the original 17th century construction – there are many 19th century repairs and 1950s cement insertions. Furthermore, the old stones are weak and can fracture easily, so re-assembling them on top of the loggia would need visually intrusive metal armatures to support them.
After extensive discussions with Historic England, they decided to keep the old balustrade on the West end of the loggia (the arch facing you on the left as you look at the house), which is least damaged, and painted it with a preserving “shelter coat”. The rest of the balustrade has been replaced with newly carved stone, giving modern craftsmen (at a firm in Chippenham, Wiltshire) the opportunity of using their traditional craft skills. The new stone is Ketton Stone, a type of oolitic limestone from a quarry in Rutland. It is very yellow when first quarried, but whitens as it dries and weathers. It has a particularly even grain and hardly any stratification, which means that it will weather very evenly.
The loggia was extensively repaired in the 18th and 19th centuries, using stone indents and “Roman cement”, an artificial stone invented in the 1790s, made by burning rocks containing clay and lime. The crisper details are mainly repairs from the 1950s, using stone indents and cement. There are no cracks around the old stone indents, which indicates that the building is stable, but some weathered stone has been replaced by Ketton Stone indents.
The “stone” portal on the south face of the east wing is a copy, reconstructed in the 1950s. It has been coated with a special conservation paint. The windows in the east wing have all been repaired and rotten wood replaced.
The tower has been re-roofed using slate from the Delabole quarry in Cornwall (England’s largest and oldest slate quarry), selected because it matches the colour of the previous roof most closely.
The surviving wall and basement windows have been consolidated rather than repaired, making sure that they will not be damaged by people sitting on the wall.
East front (facing the Youth Hostel)
All the brickwork has been cleaned and repointed. Compared to modern bricks, the bricks are thin and uneven, requiring thicker mortar. A brick historian advised that the original builders would have used double strike (“bird’s beak”) pointing (looking like “ > ”), because the shadow on the lower half of the pointing makes it look thinner, and the point of the “beak” helps to shed water.
The gables, rebuilt in the 1950s, are still structurally sound and were left untouched.
One of the final steps in the conservation is the writing of a detailed report, describing all the works and the materials used, a copy of which will be lodged in the Kensington borough archives.
Apart from the East front, the work had to be carried out to a strict timetable between September 2021 and February 2022, between the removal and re-erection of the canopy and other structures for the Holland Park Opera; and it is a tribute to the skills of Anna Joynt and the team of architects and builders that this very tight schedule was successfully achieved.
Rowan is one of the Blue Badge Guides who leads tours covering the history of Holland House and the Decorative Arts in the gardens around the house. Regular tours will run throughout 2022. Tour dates are listed under Events.
Photos by Jennie Kettlewell and Phil Pring, Borras.
The Friends would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the Parks Police for working even harder than usual to help keep park visitors safe during the challenge of the pandemic. You are appreciated.
Should you need or wish to contact the Parks Police for any reason concerning Holland Park, please call them on 0300 365 5101.
Defibrillators in Holland Park
We have been asked to let our members know about the availability of defibrillators in Holland Park. All Parks Police vehicles are equipped with a defibrillator and there is also one in the Holland Park Police Office in the Stable Yard. If you find someone in Holland Park in need of a defibrillator (not breathing or appears to be suffering a heart attack), please call 999. This will alert the London Ambulance Service. Any call made to the London Ambulance Service concerning someone in our parks and open spaces is automatically forwarded to the Parks Police duty phone. This is to ensure the fastest possible response until an ambulance arrives.