Mon 13th September : ‘Downton Abbey’.  Owned by the Carnavon family since 1679, Highclere Castle is often described as “the finest occupied Victorian mansion in England”, set amidst 1,000 spectacular acres. Carnavon Egyptian exhibition. And, of course, steeped in Downton Abbey history.

Thurs 6th November : Rembrandt’s Final Years. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the passion and innovation of Rembrandt’s late works at a National Gallery blockbuster exhibition. Private lecture from gallery expert James Heard. James has worked for the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery for over 30 years. He is an artist, art historian, author and teacher who communicates his enthusiasm for great art of the past with passion and approachability. James is well recognised by museum curators for his skill in accurately reconstructing the techniques of the masters. He has travelled worldwide to recreate the methods used in artists studios for appreciative audiences. He has made a number of videos for the National Gallery series “Art in the Making”.

The cost will be £56 to include travel by train, coffee and a sandwich lunch, the private lecture and an exhibition ticket. Booking starts at the September meeting.


Thurs 29th January : Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery. A private visit, with talks, tours and behind-the-scenes storeroom exploration of the treasures of the Fine & Decorative Art Collections. We have the sole use of the Bentlif Library for the day. We start with coffee, then a private lecture on Albert Goodman, a notable Kent landscape painter specialising in watercolours. Maidstone Museum holds the finest collection of his watercolours in the country, & we will get to see the best. Then we split into 3 groups, & rotate between a behind-the-scenes visit to the storeroom to view the unseen gems; a tour of the new Ralph Steadman exhibition from the Cartoon Museum which explores the full range of his work; time to browse the galleries, visit the Great Hall, Tudor & Jacobean fine & decorative arts, a costume gallery, many oils & watercolours, rare engravings & prints, lots of fascinating bits & bobs. We have lunch booked in the museum cafe, sandwiches, scones , fruit, tea & coffee – they will set aside an area for us. Then just 1 hour back in the Bentlif Library for our own Greek workshop! We travel by train. Should be back at Ashford station just after 4pm. All for £35. Restricted to a maximum of 30 people because of visiting the storerooms. NOW FULLY BOOKED.

Mon 23rd March : Ditchling Museum of Arts & Crafts. Recently re-opened, reviewed as “one of the loveliest small museums ever visited”, after a £2.5m renovation, the Museum is a showcase for the arts & crafts movement. Finalist ArtFund Museum of the Year 2014. We will have it to ourselves, with curatorial talks and guides of both the Museum and the village, home to such artists as Eric Gill, Frank Brangwyn and many contemporaries. Coffee on arrival,  followed by an introductory talk. Then we will be taken on guided tours  in small groups of maximum 10 people. A beautiful place; there is a 5 minute walk to the White Horse Inn for an inclusive Soup and Sandwich lunch in a private room before further guided tours in the afternoon. Travel by coach. £47 per person. PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE FOR THIS VISIT (Previously Monday 27th April).  Booking opens at December meeting.

Wed 22nd April : Alexander McQueen – Savage Beauty Victoria & Albert Museum. Alexander McQueen’s first retrospective to be presented in Europe, it will showcase his visionary body of work from his 1992 graduate collection to his unfinished work in 2010. The exhibition is presented with dramatic staging and the sense of spectacle. In 2011 it was shown in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it became one of the museums top 10 most visited exhibitions ever. Travel by coach. Coffee and pastry on arrival, private lecture by V&A’s excellent guide Mrs Anne Haworth, sandwich lunch, exhibition ticket, all for £60. Numbers restricted to 30 people. Booking open from January 2015 meeting.

Wed 3rd June : Hampton Court Palace. Following on from the February lecture, we will explore the wonders of this majestic building and some of the stories behind it. On arrival at Hampton Court coffee will be served in ‘The Snug’ private area of the Tiltyard Café. Then there is a guided tour of the palace which will be followed by free time for lunch, exploring the gardens and revisiting the palace if desired. Then meet up to walk back to coach and return trip. £50 to include guided tour of palace and coffee. Booking opens at the March 2015 meeting.

Wed 30 Sept: Provender House & the Huguenot Museum in Rochester. Provender is the beautiful home of Princess Olga Romanoff, the daughter of the eldest nephew of Tsar Nicholas 2. When Princess Olga inherited the house from her mother in 2000, it was almost derelict. Since then, under the direction of Ptolemy Dean, it has been restored using traditional methods. Now only the interior of one wing remains unrestored, awaiting new funds! Built in 1342, Provender has been rebuilt or extended in every century & provides a fascinating record of seven centuries of English building traditions. We will be shown round by Princess Olga, who will tell us about the building and her father’s life in pre-revolutionary Russia. As well as having a guided tour by the Princess, we will see rooms not open to the public. In the afternoon, after lunch, we will visit the newly opened ( in May) Huguenot Museum in Rochester. Many of the artefacts have never been in show to the public. We will have as our guide the Director of the new museum, Hannah Kay, who has put together an afternoon of entertainment for us, her first booked group. The Museum tells the story of the array of crafts, trades & skills the Huguenots brought to Britain. Cost is £42pp to include lunch in Nancy’s. Travel by coach. We are restricted to 30 places. NOW HAS WAITING LIST.

Fri 6 Nov: Goya, the Portraits.    A National Gallery landmark exhibition, the first ever focusing solely on Goya’s portraits, will re-appraise Goya’s genius & provide a penetrating insight into both public & private aspects of his life. It will explore Goya’s innovative & unconventional approach to portraiture which often broke traditional boundaries. We will see more than 50 of his most outstanding portraits. Preceded by a Private lecture from a National Gallery expert, in our private room with refreshments. Travel by train. Booking starts at the September meeting. For full details click on the link below.

This is what the National Gallery says about Goya and his work:-
Striking and often unforgiving, Goya’s portraits demonstrate his daringly unconventional approach and remarkable skill at capturing the psychology of his sitters. Already 37 when he secured his first important portrait commission from Spain’s Prime Minister, Count Floridablanca, Goya’s reputation grew quickly. Ambitious and proud of his status, he gained patrons from the entire breadth of Spanish society: from the royal family and aristocrats, to intellectuals, politicians and military figures, to his own friends and family. Deeply affected by his deafness, the result of serious illness in his mid-40s, portraiture remained a means by which Goya could communicate. His approach was unhindered; he was unafraid to reveal what he saw. Providing penetrating insight into the public and private aspects of his life, ‘Goya: The Portraits’ traces the artist’s development, from his first commissions to more intimate later works painted during his ‘self-imposed exile’ in France in the 1820s – a career that spanned revolution and restoration, war with France, and the cultural upheaval of the Spanish Enlightenment. A boundary-breaker, and highly regarded by Delacroix, Degas, Manet and Picasso, Goya is one of Spain’s most celebrated painters, yet until now, his story as a portraitist has never been told in an exhibition.

This is what TimeOut said about this exhibition:-
Don’t miss the first ever show to focus on the portraits by the Spanish painting done, Francisco de Goya. The first ever show to focus on the portraits by Francisco de Goya, Spain’s leading artist in the late 18th century and one of the most psychologically revealing painters of all time, is set to be the highlight of autumn 2015. Two masterful and deeply moving self portraits are among the most important internationally loans. Painted in 1793-95, “Self-portrait in the Studio” shows Goya backlit against a window, his features silhouetted against the brilliant White of the sun. He is at the height of his powers, by this point he was court painter to King Charles 3rd, later he would be appointed painter to Charles 4th and Ferdinand 7th, yet a mysterious illness had recently left him completely deaf. A quarter of a century later, he paints himself after another illness, weakly gripping the bedsheet, his grasp on life apparently slipping away while his doctor administers medicine. Whatever was in the glass did the trick; Goya lived for another eight years.

For full details of the day and how to book click here Goya Visit Programme


Thurs 14 Jan: Dulwich Picture Gallery, M C Escher exhibition.  First major UK show of work by the great Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher brings together the prints and drawings which made him one of the most famous artists of the 20th century.  Showcasing nearly 100 works from the collection of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in The Netherlands, the exhibition offers a rare chance to see originals of Escher’s most significant works rediscovering an imaginative artist of unparalleled technical ability. Entry to the exhibition will take place in the afternoon following a private lunch in the gallery. Audio guides available.  The morning will be taken up with a guided tour of the permanent collection which has over 600 works rich in European masterpieces including Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Canaletto and Poussin. The cost is £50 to include the guided tour of the permanent collection and entry to the Escher Exhibition, coffee and lunch and travel by coach.

For full details of the day and how to book click here Dulwich Picture Gallery Visit

Weds 9 March: Ingatestone Hall & Gainsborough’s House, Essex. We start our visit to INGATESTONE HALL with coffee and a scone in the Summer Parlour, the recently refurbished former Ballroom. We will then be given a private guided tour of the House, and the grounds if the weather allows.

INGATESTONE HALL is a Tudor Manor House built for Sir William Petre, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth 1. It substantially retains its original Tudor form and appearance, with its mullioned windows, high chimneys, crow-step gables and oak-panelled rooms. It is surrounded by ten acres of enclosed gardens. The Hall is still a private family house. The Petre family continue to own and occupy it today, fifteen generations later. Since 1992, the family has made the house available for private events and guided parties.

Among the rooms we will see are:

– the oak-panelled Stone Hall
– the Dining Room, lined with tapestries
– the Old Kitchen
– the principal Bedroom
– the Queen Anne room
– the 29 metre long Gallery, with centuries of family portraits and memorabilia
– two secret Priests’ Holes

We then move on to GAINSBOROUGH’S HOUSE, the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough in 1727. The elegant Georgian fronted townhouse and exhibition gallery show an outstanding collection of his paintings and drawings.

The Hills room will be ours for the afternoon. After a sandwich lunch there, the GAINSBOROUGH HOUSE guides will lead us through the rooms, telling us about Gainsborough, his family home and the paintings in the collection.

Each of the rooms of the house take a theme around Gainsborough’s life and art. The hall and stairs are filled with portraits of the Gainsborough family. Alongside the paintings are various beautiful pieces of furniture and items from Gainsborough’s day.

There will be two temporary exhibitions:

The Etchings of Samuel Palmer. Throughout his life, Palmer alludes to the poetic inspiration in Gainsborough’s drawings. All Palmer’s etchings will be on display.

Designing Georgian Britain. This exhibition is based on the work of Gravelot, Gainsborough’s drawing-master and one of the most influential designers of the eighteenth century.

After the guided tour, there will be time for more detailed study of the art and artefacts, a walk round the beautiful garden, or a return to our peaceful room for tea and a piece of cake before returning home. Travel by coach.

Tues 12 Apr: Towner Art Gallery & Farley Farm House, Home of the Surrealists.  The morning will be spent at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne.  We will have a guided tour of the Art Store which offers a fascinating and engaging introduction to Towner’s impressive art collection where we will learn about the story of the collection – from the original Victorian narrative paintings bequest in the 1920s through to some of the recent acquisitions of works by contemporary artists.  In addition we will have a brief introduction to two collections which will be on display in one of the main galleries before looking at the works at our own pace:  Eric Ravilious, the British watercolourist, and Recording Britain which is a touring exhibition from the V&A.  This unique documentary project was initiated by Sir Kenneth Clark and funded by the Pilgrim Trust at the start of the Second World War.  More than 90 artists, young and old, men and women, renowned professionals and gifted amateurs were commissioned to make “sympathetic records” of vulnerable buildings, landscapes and lifestyles, rural and urban environments under threat not only from bombs but the effects of ‘progress’.   The collection of drawings and over 1500 watercolours, of which 49 are on display, has survived as a remarkable visual record of lives and landscapes under threat. After lunch at the gallery we will continue to Farley Farm House, the home of the Surrealists Lee Miller, photographer, and the artist Roland Penrose.  During the 35 years they lived there they built up a collection of contemporary art treasures which are on display to visitors.   It was a meeting place for the leading figures in the world of modern art and Picasso, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miro amongst others visited. There will be a guided tour of the house which is for the main part exactly as it was when occupied by the Penrose family and an opportunity to visit the sculpture garden surrounding the house with wonderful views of the South Downs. Cost per person:  £49 including coach, coffee and lunch.

For full details of the day and how to book click here Towner Art Gallery and Farley Farm House Visit


Thursday 9th June : La Piscine Museum & Villa Cavrois Roubaix France

This visit is offered by Folkestone DFAS. Contact Jean Howlett – 01303 255981.  Cost £48 to include coach, guide and driver’s tip


Thursday 16 June : British Museum Exhibition – Sunken Cities : Egypt’s Lost Worlds

The British Museum is to stage a major exhibition on two lost Egyptian cities and their recent rediscovery by archaeologists beneath the Mediterranean seabed. Opening in May 2016 for an extended run of six months, the exhibition will be the Museum’s first exhibition of underwater discoveries. It will show how the exploration of Heracleion and Canopus, submerged at the mouth of the River Nile for thousands of years, is transforming our understanding of the relationship between ancient Egypt and the Greek world. It is often assumed that the mix of the two cultures diluted and weakened both worlds. This exhibition demonstrates the opposite. 300 outstanding objects will be brought together for the exhibition, including more than 200 spectacular finds excavated off the coast of Egypt between 1996 and 2012. Important loans from Egyptian museums never seen before outside Egypt will be supplemented with objects from the British Museum’s collection. Founded during the 7th century BC, Heracleion and Canopus were busy, cosmopolitan cities that once sat on adjacent islands in the fertile lands of the Egyptian delta. Heracleion was Egypt’s main port for international trade and collection of taxes. The exhibition will reveal how cross cultural exchange and religion flourished. By the 8th century AD, the sea had reclaimed the cities and they lay hidden several metres below the seabed, the location and condition unknown. Although wellknown from Egyptian decrees and Greek historians, past attempts to locate them were fruitless. After a chance discovery in 1996, divers have spent sixteen years painstakingly dredging the deep sand. 98% of the site remains unexcavated. Thanks to the underwater setting, a vast number of objects of great archaeological significance have been astonishingly well preserved: pristine statues, hieroglyphic tablets, fine metalware and intricate gold jewellery will reveal how Greece and Egypt interacted in the first millennium BC. These artefacts offer a proof of the quality and unique character of the art of this period and show how the Greek kings and queens who ruled Egypt for 300 years adopted many Egyptian beliefs and rituals to legitimise their reign. The exhibition will feature a number of extraordinary, monumental sculptures. A 5.4 metergranite statue of Hapy, a divine personification of the Nile, will greet visitors as they enter the space. Masterpieces from Egyptian museums such as the statue of the bull god Apis built from the Serapeum in Alexandra will be exhibited alongside magnificent recent finds from the sea. One such piece is the stunning sculpture from Canopus representing Arsinoe, eldest daughter of Ptolemy who became goddess beloved to both Egyptians andGreeks after her death. The posture and dark stone are typically Egyptian, but the transparent garment is reminiscent of Greek masterpieces, making this statue a perfect combination of Egyptian and Greek style.

Sir Richard Lambert, chairman of the British Museum, said, “It’s hugely exciting to be welcoming these important loans to London. We are delighted to be working with our Egyptian colleagues to bring the extraordinary story of these cities to life.”

 For full details of the day and how to book click here Sunken Cities Egypt’s Lost Worlds Visit


Monday 26th September: The New Tate Modern – Georgia O’KEEFFE

After coffee in our private room, we will enjoy a one-hour private lecture from an expert Tate guide, exploring the exhibition themes and in-depth analysis of key exhibition works. We remain in our room for a buffet lunch. We will then visit the exhibition, a major retrospective of the American modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe, a century after her New York debut. This is the first important exhibition of the artist’s work in the UK for a generation. This ambitious and wide ranging overview will review O’Keeffe’s work in depth and reassess her place in 20th century art, indicating her influence on artists of subsequent generations. Born in the 1880s, O’Keeffe secured a central place in the mainstream art world from the 1910s. A single-minded character who identified her ambition to become an artist when she was still a child, O’Keeffe excelled as  a landscape artist. “This summer exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s sumptuously erotic paintings meld sensuous dreams of flowers & flesh and radiate tropical heat” The Mail on Sunday We finish the day with a private tour of the new Tate extension. Opening in June, the new building is a twisting ten-storey pyramid-like shape designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, giving a striking combination of raw industrial space & refined 21st century architecture. It’s dramatic angles are set to lead people into the galleries, while the spectacular new roof terrace will give 360-degree views over London. Travel by coach.


Friday 11th  November: Turner Contemporary, Margate – “Turner: Adventures in Colour”

We will start our day in Kent by dipping into Quex Park for coffee. Quex Park contains Quex House, a much extended Regency mansion with outstanding gardens, and the PowellCotton Museum, winner of the 2014 Most Inspiring Museum award. The cakes are pretty good too. Once refreshed, we have a very short journey onto the Turner Contemporary at Margate. Here we will visit the major exhibition “Turner: Adventures in Colour”. This is the first exhibition to examine the theme of colour in Turner’s works, exploring the familiar outline of his art in a new way. Colour is the essence of Turner’s work. His distinctive, sometimes eccentric, use of vibrant colour was central to his artistic success. Featuring over 70 of his oils and watercolours, thus exhibition begins with Turner’s “Old Masters” aesthetics then highlights his development and exploitation of new materials. We will be guided round the exhibition by the Curator, with time for questions afterwards. After a private sandwich lunch, we will view John Akomfrah’s “Vertigo Sea”, a 48 minute film which was much acclaimed at the Venice Biennale. The film is an essay on our relationship with the sea, shot on the Isle of Skye, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Norway. It was inspired by two books, “Moby Dick” and “Whale Nation”. Travel by coach.


Wednesday 18th January: A day at the Courtauld Gallery

Based at Somerset House, the Courtauld Gallery’s collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts comprises world-famous masterpieces ranges from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. “Three floors of treats, separated by very beautiful stairs”, is the description given by Hilary Gaster, our tour guide for the day. Hilary is the art historian who some of you may remember as our wonderful Dulwich guide on our first visit of 2016. We will also visit the Courtauld exhibition “Rodin’s Dancers”. From the very beginning of his career, Rodin insisted that his models move around his studio rather than adapt static classical postures. His fascination with movement evolved into a fascination with dance, and this relationship is the focus of this exhibition of drawings and sculptures. At its heart are the “Dance Movements”, a series of small-scale works found in Rodin’s studio after his death in 1917. These are gorgeous little things, sculpted in terracotta and plaster and improbably kinetic. “These are joyous works: enough to lighten the darkest of winter afternoons.” Culture Whisper.


Monday 3rd April: The Old Royal Naval College and the Fan Museum, Greenwich   –   NB Change of date from previously advertised

The old Royal Naval College, birthplace of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, has a fascinating history that stretches back over 500 years and is one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in England. The Painted Hall was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor. The ceiling, painted between 1708-1727 by Sir James Thornhill, is the tour de force of the complex and has been described as the Sistine Chapel of the UK.

It is one of the U.K.’s most important painted interiors. Over the past 2 1/2 centuries the paintings have seen 10 restorations, with 22 restorers leaving their mark. In 2013 the first phase of the latest restoration project was completed, 560 m² of the paintings were cleaned and restored to dramatic effect.

The College is now embarking on the next stage of its ambitious plans to restore the Painted Hall to its former glory: over the next three years the remaining 3700 square meters will be restored to the highest standards. No further intervention should be necessary for at least 100 years. Thousands more visitors are expected every year.

During the project, visitors will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to access a special observation deck and see the vast Lower Hall ceiling at close quarters. We hope to be one of the first groups to be allowed onto the observation deck.

We will also enjoy a guided tour of the other parts of the College which are available at the time of our visit. These may include the Chapel, the Jacobean Undercroft, the Victorian skittle Alley and some of the grounds, depending on the progress of the builders.

We will then move into the Fan Museum in Greenwich, for a sandwich lunch in their Orangery which, according to the Daily Telegraph, provides one of the top ten afternoon teas in London. We may have to try a scone or two while we are there! The Fan Museum, opened in 1991, was the first fan museum in the world. It is located within two beautifully restored grade 1 listed houses built in 1721. It holds a world renowned collection of over 1,000 fans, with examples from all over the world, from the 12th century to the present day. It is particularly strong in 18th and 19th century European fans. We will have a guided tour and learn about fans and the art of fan making.

Travel by coach.

Please note that this visit will include some stairs. For full details of the day which you can print off, including how to book, please click here Greenwich Visit Programme


Thursday 4th May: Provender House & the Huguenot Museum    –   NB Change of date from previously advertised

A rerun of our sell-out visit to 14th century Provender, where our guide is the owner Princess Olga Romanoff, & then the new Huguenot Museum in Rochester. Provender was probably named after its first owner, the 13th-century Elias de Provender. He had become rich in the service of King Henry III, from whom he received a pension of one penny a day – a princely sum for the times. Just a few beams and roof trusses of Elias’s impressive aisled hall house remain. In the 14th century the de Viennes – wealthy local landowners – bought Provender and added a private wing, including a magnificent vaulted ‘solar’ with beautiful carved crown posts. This, recently restored under the direction of Ptolemy Dean and English Heritage, is now called the Crown Post Room and is at the heart of the current house. Over the following six centuries, Provender’s architecture reflected England’s history on a human scale. Adventurers, explorers, heiresses and princesses have lived here, each refashioning the house or adding wings to make it their own. It was sold to James Huguesson, ‘merchant adventurer’, in 1633, and remained in his family for nearly three hundred years. The pattern of development in the 18th-century wing, for example, reflects the differing wishes of Sir William Huguesson’s two wives. His daughters died without heirs and the house was inherited by Mary Huguesson’s son, Edward Knatchbull-Huguesson, 9th Baronet and first Lord Brabourne. Jane Austen would have visited from her brother’s home nearby in Godmersham. Perhaps she was checking out Provender’s Edward Knatchbull-Huguesson as a potential husband for her favourite niece, Fanny Knight. Fanny did indeed marry Edward, and lived at Provender for 30 years after his death, fretting that its 30 rooms would be inadequate for her seven family members and twelve servants. Her son, Lord Brabourne, edited the first edition of Jane Austen’s letters, having found them, along with an original copy of ‘Lady Susan’ in Jane’s hand-writing, ‘in a box at Provender.’ Provender is now the home of Princess Olga Romanoff, the daughter of Prince Andrew Romanoff, the eldest nephew of the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The Knatchbull-Huguessons rented  the house to Princess Olga’s maternal great-grandmother in 1890, and sold it at auction in 1912 to her Finnish grandmother Sylvia McDougall, born Borgström in Helsinki.  During the Second World War, Provender was requisitioned, and was one of Field Marshall Montgomery’s Headquarters. Prince Andrew Romanoff married Sylvia’s daughter Nadine in 1942, and after the War Provender was returned to them. When Princess Andrew died in 2000, the house was almost derelict, but a programme of careful restoration has revealed a wealth of historical and architectural detail. This makes Provender a fascinating record of English life over seven centuries. Now only the interior of one wing remains unrestored, awaiting new funds! We will be shown round by Princess Olga, who will tell us about the building and her father’s life in pre-revolutionary Russia. As well as having a guided tour by the Princess, we will see rooms not open to the general public. In the afternoon, after lunch, we will visit the new (July 2015) Huguenot Museum in Rochester. Many of the artefacts have never before been shown to the public. This is the first and only museum dedicated to the history of the Huguenots. It tells the story of the array of crafts, trades and skills the Huguenots brought to Britain. We will hear a lecture on the history of silk, and enjoy a guided tour of the galleries. It is a small but fascinating museum. Travel by coach.


Wednesday 21st  June: Watts Artists’ Village & “Iona” on the Wey   –   NB Change of date from previously advertised

Watts Gallery and Artists’ Village is a unique nineteenth and early twentieth century gem nestled in the Surrey Hills. The Gallery was opened in 1904 by the Victorian artist George Watts and his wife Mary Watts, a ceramics artist. It includes over 250 paintings, 700 drawings and 1000 sculptures. Many of the works are famous worldwide: for example the drawing of Hope inspired Barack Obama to title his recent book “The Audacity of Hope”. The work depicts a blindfolded girl astride the globe playing an instrument with only one string, yet still making music. The Gallery also has a continuous programme of temporary exhibitions. For more information on the Watts please click here Watts Gallery and Exhibition

Over recent years a number of other buildings have been restored and opened to the public. The breathtaking chapel is a grade 1 listed arts and crafts masterpiece, every inch rich in symbolism, a unique example of Art Nouveau, Pre-Raphaelite and Celtic designs. The Pottery Workshops, originally built by Mary Watts to encourage apprentice potters, still offer hands-on experience. The Studios, newly restored in 2016, show the workspaces of the Watts, unfinished canvases, new works on loan from the Tate and conservation studios.

After coffee in the Old Kiln, we will enjoy a guided tour of George & Mary Watts’ winter home Limnerslease House, completed in 1891. “Limner” is old English for “Artist”, “lease” – “to glean hope for the future”. It is one of the most celebrated houses designed by Sir Ernest George. Entry is by pre-booked tour only. We will then have some free time to explore the rest of the village, set in landscaped woodland. We are recommended to wear flat comfortable shoes!

In the afternoon we take a short coach-hop to Godalming Wharf, where we have chartered England’s last horse drawn barge, the “Iona”, for a two-hour private cruise along the river Wey. We will traverse both river and canal, including one lock. The “Iona” is a 72ft traditionally painted narrow boat. We will have a cream tea while on board. Travel by coach. For full details of the day which you can print off, including how to book, please click here Watts Village and Iona Programme


Tuesday 26 Sept: Mediaeval Churches of Romney Marsh.

The Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust will guide us round four awesome Marsh churches, at Lydd, Old Romney, New Romney & St Mary in the Marsh. A pub ploughmans lunch included.

Wednesday 15 November: “Cezanne Portraits”, National Portrait Gallery.

After a private lecture, we will visit the exhibition of over 50 Cezanne portraits, brought together for the first time from collections across the world. Travel by train.


Monday 29 January: “Van Eyck & the Pre-Raphaelites”.

This National Gallery exhibition explores how Van Eyck’s 1434 ‘Arnolfini Portrait’ was one of the beacons by which the Pre-Raphaelites forged a radical new style of painting. Works by Rossetti, Millais, etc. With a private lecture. Travel by train.

Monday 12 March : Heath Robinson Museum, Pinner.

Opened in Oct 2016, the museum combines original artwork with books, photos, film & digital media to tell the story of Heath Robinson’s artistic career. We will have it to ourselves for the day, with a curator’s talk & tour.

Tuesday 1 May: PICASSO 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy

A month by month journey through Picasso’s ‘year of wonders’, an extraordinary intense creative period in the life of the 20th century’s most influential artist. His three greatest works that feature his 22 year old lover Marie Therese Walter are shown together for the first time since they were created over a period of just five days in March 1932. The myths around Picasso will be stripped away to reveal the man and the artist in full complexity and richness. You will see him as never before. This exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Musee National Picasso, Paris. It will bring you face-to-face with more than 100 paintings, sculptures and drawings, mixed with family photos and rare glimpses into his family life.Travel by coach, coffee, private lecture, buffet lunch, exhibition ticket.  £62, with reductions for Artfund and Tate members.

Wednesday 6 June:  Copped Hall and Greensted Church

Copped Hall is a fine Georgian mansion that is currently under restoration. It is superbly cited on a ridge overlooking its landscaped parkland. The mansion is visible from the M25 (between junctions 27 and 26) as the motorway passes through a corner of the park. The mansion and gardens are situated on a site of ancient human habitation. In the 1950s, historic mansions like Copped Hall were being demolished at the rate of one every two and a half days. No-one wanted them. Once the M25 was built, Copped Hall became visible, accessible, and very attractive to developers. From 1986 to 1995 a campaign was successfully fought by a few dedicated individuals against repeated large-scale aggressive development proposals for the mansion and parkland. Three of these individuals set up the Copped Hall Trust – which finally saved the mansion and gardens by purchasing them on 30th June 1995. On 1st July the site would have been sold to developers. The Corporation of London had already saved the surrounding parkland by purchasing it in 1992. One of the purposes of the Copped Hall Trust, in purchasing Copped Hall, was to restore the mansion, ancillary buildings and gardens according to strict criteria. Considering the appalling state of the place, great progress has already been made with further work on-going. Copped Hall and its gardens are strictly private. We will be privileged to have a private tour of the house and gardens by Alan Cox, who helped set up the trust.

After lunch at the Green Man in Toot Hill, rebuilt in 1907 after a fire destroyed the earlier hostelry, we move on to a guided tour of Greensted Church. Greensted Church is the oldest wooden church in the world and the oldest wooden building standing in Europe. There has been a church here since the seventh century. It is the only wooden church to have surviving Saxon nave walls, erected from1060 to 1063. Later parts date from Norman work to the twentieth century.

To view and print-out if desired the programme for the day click HERE


Wednesday 26 September: The Charterhouse and the Postal Museum

The grade 1 listed Charterhouse is a former 14th century Carthusian monastery and burial ground for victims of the Black Death. Since 1348 it has served as a monastery, private mansion, boys school and an almshouse, which it remains to this day. Elizabeth 1 met the Privy Council there before her coronation in 1558 and James 1 used the Great Chamber to create 130 new barons before he was crowned. In 1611 Thomas Sutton bought the mansion and established a foundation in his will, providing for up to 80 Brothers as well as Charterhouse school. Governors include James 1, Wellington, Gladstone and Cromwell. William Makepeace, Thackeray, Robert Baden-Powell and John Wesley attended school here. When the school moved to Godalming in 1872, the Brothers remained at the Charterhouse in Clerkenwell.Having been hidden from view and closed to the public for over 650 years, the Charterhouse is now open for visits. As well as visiting the museum and chapel, we will join a professional guide led tour to see the highlights of the Charterhouse, taking in the Great Hall where the Brothers sit together to eat their meals, the Great Chamber where Queen Elizabeth I held court during the first days of her reign, Wash-house Court associated with the medieval monks of the Charterhouse and Master’s Court which reveals the opulence of Lord North’s Tudor mansion. Our expert guides will explain the history of the site and pull out some highlights from the collection. The Charterhouse has just won Visit England’s 2018 Gold Award for Visitor Attraction of the Year.

Our afternoon venue is also proving a winner: the Postal Museum is one of five museums shortlisted for the £100,000 Art Fund museum of the year prize for 2018. The prize will be awarded on the 5th of July. The Postal Museum opened in 2017 to bring five centuries of communications history to life. It contains the surprising story of the first social network, with an amazing collection: interactive galleries, superb modern research facilities, a fascinating museum and, the star attraction, a ride on the world’s first driverless electric railway. The Mail Rail is a 22 mile subterranean network of two-foot narrow gauge track which runs from Paddington to Liverpool Street. It operated from 1927-2003, ferrying four million letters across town every day. When it closed, a staff of 220 was reduced to three caretakers. Now specially-commissioned trains with windows will trundle us along on a 20 minute ride. It’s a huge hit in London, said to be impressive and exciting, and booked up for months in advance. The two main collections, at the above ground museum and the underground depot, abounds with impressive artefacts, including the actual Queen’s head bust, a whole sheet of original Penny Blacks (unique on this planet), an early post stagecoach complete with the weaponry which protected it, the twelve days of Christmas, even a chance to try sorting the Mail aboard a fast-moving train.

Travel by coach, coffee, guided tour of the Charterhouse + Museum entry, admittance to the Postal Museum and Collection + a timed ticket for a ride on the underground Mail Rail. £55

Thursday 8 November: East Sussex Art & Architecture

Hastings Pier won the RIBA Stirling Prize, the biggest award in British Architecture, in 2017. The ‘masterpiece of regeneration’ project cost £14.2 million. The project, described by the judging panel as an example of ‘subtle effortless design’, included the restoration of the pier’s 19th century structural iron work & the transformation of the surviving Victorian pavilion into a glazed cafe bar. The pier deck was rebuilt as a vast uninterrupted flexible expanse, with a timber clad visitor centre & rooftop viewing deck. The architects used timber throughout the project, much of it reclaimed from the original pier: the visitor centre makes a feature of its scorched wood cladding. The reclaimed timber was also used to create the pier’s striking new furniture, manufactured locall to give employment. The decision not to place any building at the end of the pier is an extremely powerful move. The large open space provides a sense of calmness, with a strong connection to the sea. The RIBA president ‘the stunning new pier will delight & inspire’.

Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, opened in 2012, sits next to the fishing beach in Hastings’ historic Old Town. It received the 2013 National RIBA Award. The exterior is covered with 8,000 black tiles, hand glazed in Kent to shimmer with an oily iridescence which evokes the tarred boards of the nearby fishermen’s net huts.The Jerwood collection, developed over 25 years, focuses on great British artists of the last century. The collection continues to grow by featuring contemporary works by artist Maggi Hambling, who laid the Gallery’s foundation stone in 2011. We will have a guided tour of the permanent collection, & time for the current exhibitions:

– “The Quick & the Dead: Hambling, Horsley, Lucas, Simmons, Teller” is an exhibition of five groundbreaking artists who have portrayed each other. As Hambling says, ‘A portrait is like a love affair – an intimate, challenging and complex thing.’

– Barbara Walker’s “Vanishing Point”. Barbara Walker’s figurative drawings and paintings tell contemporary stories in a range of medium from small embossed works on paper to paintings on canvas and large-scale charcoal drawings.

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill ‘Established 1935. Modern ever since.’ We shall enjoy a private guided tour of the Modernist building, followed by free time to explore. The mode of construction, the materials and techniques used in 1935 were pioneering: concrete and steel, with large glass windows, cantilevered balconies, clean lines and terrazzo floors. The interior design was just as cutting edge: the £80,000 project provoked controversy throughout the UK. By the 1990s, after war damage and neglect, the Pavilion almost became a Wetherspoon’s pub. Its supporters, the Lottery Fund obliged, and in 2005 the restored building opened to 10,000 visitors in its first weekend. The exhibition ‘A Tale of Mother’s Bones: Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff’ bringstogether paintings, drawings, writings and biographical ephemera to tell the story of this odd couple. Many of the artworks are borrowed from the Tate. From the day they met, in1935, Grace and Reuben were rarely apart. Reuben, 29, was a poet and artist fascinatedby surrealism. Grace, 52, a surgeon in the First World War, was researching the treatment of juvenile delinquency. Involved with surrealism and psychoanalysis, they coined a new term, Psychorealism, a marriage of the aesthetic and the scientific. After returning to the UK in 1946, Grace worked as a consultant psychiatrist at the Portman Clinic in London, with Reuben as her assistant. They were inseparable until her death in 1971. He died afew months later.

To view and print-out if desired the programme for the day click HERE


Monday 4 February: Westminster Abbey

A treasure house of paintings, stained glass, textiles &other artefacts, steeped in more than a thousand years of history. We will tour the Abbey &visit the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, new in 2018, in the medieval triforium never opened to the public, with magnificent views & 300 of the Abbeys greatest treasures.

Friday 22 March: Cobham Kent

Cobham, Kent, is an attractive old village which contains over 450 listed buildings, an impressive 13th century church famous for its almost unparalleled collection of mediaeval brasses, 14th century almshouses, a superb mansion and a 17th century yeoman’s house now owned by the National Trust. The name is Anglo-Saxon. We have engaged the historian Christoph Bull to be our guide around the village, ending with a tour and tea at Owletts. We shall pause for earlier refreshments at the Dickensian “Leather Bottle Inn”.

Charles Dickens delighted in Cobham and its environs as he loved to walk from his home through Cobham Park to work through the story lines of his novels. The Leather Bottle Inn, built in 1629, was renamed about 1720 when a leather bottle containing gold sovereigns was found in the premises. It was immortalised in The Pickwick Papers and was much frequented by the great author himself. Today the pub retains the charm that no doubt attracted Dickens and houses a fine collection of Dickensian memorabilia.

The village stands at the end of the Lime Avenue that leads to the great Cobham Hall, one of the finest and most beautiful houses in Kent. Dating from 1584, the Hall demonstrates an extraordinary combination of Elizabethan, Jacobean, Carolean and 18th century styles. It includes work by Inigo Jones, James Wyatt and the Adams brothers. It is set within the 150 acres of grounds of Cobham Park, laid out by the famous landscape architect Sir Humphry Repton and gradually being restored. Originally the home of the de Cobhams, in 1715 the land passed by marriage to the Blighs, who were created Earls of Darnley in 1725. The Hall became a public school in 1957 and is only open to the public during Summer holidays. Our guide has obtained permission to give us a talk on the Hall from our coach parked in the grounds.

Early in the 13th century, the de Cobhams provided money to rebuild the existing church – only the 1220 Chancel survives. The period 1360-1370 was a period of intense building to produce an exceptionally large parish church: a new nave, aisles, roof, porch and finally the tower, all with advice from the King’s Master Mason Henry Yevele, architect of the naves of Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. St Mary Magdalene’s Church contains one of the rarest collections of monumental brasses in the world, dating from 1300 to 1529. Fifteen of these form a ‘pavement’ in the chancel. Their survival is astonishing: most churches lost theirs between 1560 & 1660. An 18th century traveller records seeing them bundled up in an old chest. They were relaid in the 1860s.

Behind the church lies the 16th century Cobham College and picturesque almshouses, retaining the remains of the original foundations of the chantry college founded by Sir John de Cobham in 1362 as a home for 5 priests who would pray for his soul. The chantry college was dissolved by King Henry VIII, and subsequently abandoned. In 1597 Sir William de Cobham left money for the ruin to be rebuilt as almshouses for the poor of the village, with a processional gateway built so that residents could walk to church services under cover. The College is today a very desirable residence for the elderly, with flats arranged around a central courtyard.

The National Trust property Owletts lies at the west end of the village street. Built in 1684 for a successful yeoman farmer Bonham Hayes and his wife Elizabeth, the house passed by marriage to the Baker family. In 1862 the renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker was born here, and in later life made numerous alterations. He left Owletts to the National Trust in 1946 on condition that it should be occupied by tenants who would show it to the public and enjoy it. His great-grandson David Baker is the current tenant. In 2013 the house re-opened to the public after a £1million renovation project on both the inside and outside, and conservation of the 900 objects in its collection. Highlights include an ornate Carolean plasterwork ceiling, rare 18th century wallpaper, specially commissioned furniture and a bird bath which Sir Herbert made from a Corinthian column left over when he re-built the Bank of England in 1929.

To view and print-out if desired the programme for the day click HERE

Tuesday 30 April: Stonor Park

Home to the Stonor family for 850 years. Discover art &treasures collected from across the globe, view historic maps & documents that reveal generations of service to the country. We will have a private tour of the house & chapel &access to the gardens.

Wednesday 5 June: Louvre-Lens, France

Five low, spectacular glass & aluminium buildings house over 200 priceless works from the Louvre, plus special exhibitions. Travel by coach. Date to be confirmed.

Please note that all visits must be booked and paid for in advance. Cancellation refunds will only be given where tickets can be re-sold.