The Denney Edition: Celebrating an icon of 20th century style

Black and white photo of Conde Nast photographer and former Rainham Hall tenant, Anthony Denney posing in a giant vase at the Vogue Studios in 1953.

Discover the world of Anthony Denney: a fashion photographer, interior designer, art connoisseur and style icon who exerted enormous influence on post-war Britain.

The Denney Edition, celebrating the life and work of Anthony Denney (1913-90) reopens at Rainham Hall on Saturday 1 February 2020.  Denney lived at the Hall between 1964 and 1969 and is one of the building's most intriguing former residents.

In partnership with creative company The Decorators and a host of designers and local craftspeople, the Hall has been transformed into a ‘living magazine’ to showcase Denney’s life and work.

Vogue cover image, October 1950
Vogue cover image from October 1950 by Anthony Denney
Vogue cover image, October 1950

Denney, the decorator

He studied painting at the Royal College of Art, but later turned to photography. During the Second World War, Denney served in the Royal Engineers, eventually becoming a Captain in India and involved in military intelligence. During this time, some of his published images attracted the interest of then British Vogue editor, Audrey Withers. Denney was one of Condé Nast’s chief photographers from 1947 and his work featured in British Vogue magazine (where he acted as Decorations Editor) for nearly twenty years and House and Garden magazine as well as other influential titles.

" ...Anthony Denney, whose name stands among decorators like Fabergé among jewellers..."
- Hugh Johnson, Queen Magazine, 1968

His other projects included designing the interior of at least two yachts and the ‘G Plan gallery’ in Hanover Square, London, which was a showroom for the G Plan company’s furniture ranges. Denney collected modern art, and supported up-and-coming artist of the time. He built up an impressive modern art collection, including works by Burri, Dubuffet, Fontana, Appel, and Imai.

Denney at Rainham Hall

In 1964 Denney responded to a National Trust advertisement seeking a new tenant for Rainham Hall. He set about a programme of interior repairs, first ‘installing a butler to supervise the day to day running of the household’ and then appointing a team of decorators. Denney’s décor scheme was designed to reflect the early 1700s (three decades prior to the actual construction of the Hall). He collected antique furniture, including eighteenth century pieces which he used to furnish the Hall alongside more modern pieces. As a tenant Denney was obliged to open it to the public by written appointment – if you visited during this time we’d love to hear from you.

" The Trust was lucky enough to find [Denney], the one man who could restore the house in every detail, not pedantically, but passionately to its original state"
- Hugh Johnson, Queen Magazine, 1968

Despite all the effort to achieve his refurbishment project, Denney didn’t stay at the Hall very long and left in 1969. Today only some of Denney’s paint schemes still remain, particularly in the entrance hall with the gilding and marbled paint work that he added. Rainham Hall changes its major exhibition programme every 18-24 months and The Denney Edition is the third reimaging of our spaces. Supported by an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant, The Denney Edition has been made possible by the contribution of local makers and students, who have played a key role in creating pieces for display and co-curating rooms, which has included everything from creating paint effects, ceramics, and flower arrangements.

Page 42, September 1958, House & Garden
Page 42, September 1958, House & Garden
Page 42, September 1958, House & Garden

Exhibits will include objects and photographs from Denney’s personal life, with the Hall presented as if it were a magazine with spaces including the gardens representing themes of fashion, jewellery, arts, interiors, food, gardening, and travel. Visit to uncover the different sides of Denney’s character, as an influential tastemaker, master of still life, art collector and patron, photographer and ‘the Dior of interior decorating’.

Opening times:

The Hall is open Wednesday - Sunday 10:30 - 16:30. The Stables Cafe and Garden are open Wednesday - Sunday 10:00-16:30 (Cafe and Garden open 7 days from April - September)

Residents living in RM13 can visit the Hall for FREE every Last Saturday (10.30 - 16.30) of the month.