Downhill Demesne

Yesterday we visited Downhill (or what’s left of it!), which is in County Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

Built by the bizarre English aristocrat Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry – yes, he was both – the house is now a ruin, but the Mussenden Temple perched on the cliff at the edge of the estate survives. It is said he kept his mistress there.

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Cartier: The Exhibition

Cartier The Exhibition National Gallery of Australia Canberra

Just a little bit too much?!

Australia’s National Gallery, which is here in Canberra, has had some pretty amazing “blockbusters” recently (however I’m worried about the new director coming in soon).

The last big one I went to see was the Versailles exhibition, where So Much stuff from the Palace of Versailles, and so many historically significant pieces, were brought out from France for a few months.

Now, we have the Cartier exhibition – which is ending in a few days. We went to see it on Saturday.

And – wow. For starters I can’t believe that there was no security of any sort when there were billions of dollars of diamonds and other precious jewels on display.

They weren’t just any diamonds either; these were pieces from Britain’s royal collection, things the Queen wears, tiaras from royal weddings (e.g. the one Kate Middleton wore for hers), and crowns worn by Queen Victoria’s daughters. And these were pieces from Hollywood: jewels that belonged to Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly etc. There was even a clock belonging to a US President.

These heiresses were seriously rich!

It was also fascinating to see how much money was coming from Gilded Age New York. So many obscenely enormous sets of jewels belonged to the American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy – just like in shows like Downton Abbey, and in all those books I read.

There were also other things, like costumes from the Ballet Russes (the NGA bought most of the world-famous company’s costumes many years ago, before anybody else thought to), and pieces belonging to Victorian/Edwardian opera star Dame Nellie Melba.

I was told that two hours wasn’t long enough to see everything, and I thought that was ridiculous: after all how many diamonds could there possibly be?

It turns out two hours was nowhere near long enough.

DIamond Tiara Cartier The Exhibition National Gallery of Australia Canberra

I’ve seen crown jewel collections in a number of countries in Europe. I’ve been whisked past a handful of crowns at the Tower of London on a travellator a few times. Nothing I’ve seen anywhere else is close to what is on display in Canberra at the moment.

This is how close we got to things – even with a weekend crowd. This is Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara:

I’m really hoping the new director realises what an amazing gallery we have here. His “vision” for the gallery’s future sounds, frankly, like garbage. I want more Versailles and Cartier and Impressionists exhibitions, please. Not “homegrown modern art”!

On this day: Australian sport’s first international tour

Aboriginal_cricket_team_Tom_Wills_1866 Photograph of the first Aboriginal cricket team with coach and captain Tom Wills outside the MCC pavilion of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. December

The team photographed in December of 1866.

The first Australian sporting team to ever tour internationally was a cricket team from the colony of Victoria.

Tom_Wills_1857The team was made up of Aboriginal stockmen (people who work with livestock on Australian farms), and overseen by Tom Wills from the British colony of New South Wales. Cric

Tom Wills in 1857

The team was made up of Aboriginal stockmen (people who work with livestock on Australian farms), and overseen by Tom Wills from the British colony of New South Wales.

The team toured England between May and October in 1868. This newspaper article is from the 16th of May edition of The Sporting Life.

Sporting_Life,_London__16May1868The Sporting Life, London. 16 May 1868. The arrival of the Australian Aboriginal cricket team in England.