Minding the Women: reflecting Caroline Wedgwood
Tying in with an exhibition about the plant hunters at Leith Hill Place, two local artists researched Caroline Wedgwood who is thought to have been the driving force behind planting the woodland garden on Leith Hill in the mid 1800s. Working in two different media, artists Julie Hoyle and Philippa Weaver exhibited new work reflecting their research into the life and times of Caroline.
Legacy of a family
Josiah Wedgwood III bought Leith Hill Place in 1847 to make a home for his family with his wife Caroline (nee Darwin). They moved from Staffordshire with their three young daughters, possibly to be nearer to Caroline's brother, Charles Darwin, who had taken up residence at Down House in Kent. Little is known about other motivations that the couple (who were in their mid to late forties) may have had for moving to Surrey. What is certain, is that they took pride in creating gardens as, when they moved to Leith Hill Place, they brought their gardener, Mark Cook, with them. Annecdotal evidence links Caroline Wedgwood with the planting of the Rhododendron Wood.
Caroline Wedgwood was wife to Josiah Wedgwood, sister to Charles Darwin and grandmother to Ralph Vaughan Williams. Reading her letters reveals a gentle and genteel woman who was family and community focused. She was educated and knowledgeable on subjects such as botany and politics. She was vehemently anti-slavery and pro-education, setting up and running a local school. She is thought to be the person responsible for the stunning Rhododendron Wood adjacent to the house. Caroline gave birth to four daughters after a late marriage. She lost her first child in infancy and she suffered great sadness as a result. This exhibition is a response to Caroline Wedgwood’s life, an indomitable character of Leith Hill Place.
Meet the artists:
Julie Hoyle is a contemporary printmaker and installation artist based in Great Bookham, Surrey. Following her residency at Leith Hill Place in 2018 she has returned to the house to research Caroline Wedgwood with the help of The Darwin Correspondence Project,
Cambridge, The Wedgwood Museum, Down House and the National Trust’s work experience history student, Gemma Dolan.
Julie founded Ochre Print Studio, one of the foremost independent printmaking facilities in South East England. She personally tutored, mentored and editioned work for artists of all abilities during her Directorship. As well as an exhibiting artist, Julie tutors and coaches extensively, including working successfully with adults who have learning difficulties.
Philippa Kate Weaver
Philippa Kate Weaver is a conceptual sculptor and film maker based in Ockley, Surrey. Philippa uses art to encourage and inspire connectivity between people and provide a way to identify, and make explicit, experiences that are difficult to articulate.
Philippa wants to develop ideas around collaborative art making for mental health using her psychotherapy training alongside her art practice. The Cave Garden at Leith Hill Place provided an example of her collaborative approach to art. Philippa is interested in the manner our bodies carry the pain and joy of our lives and uses the body as a representation of experience. Her response to Caroline Wedgwood referenced both the genteel mother and the educated botanist, using the body to represent the life experience.
'Minding the Women' at Leith Hill Place closed on 30 June.