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After the failure in casting Stephen’s figure in the garden I realized that Norland Square was not the right place for building a foundry. I also got a nasty shock in the London studio pouring aluminium; I ended up with some molten aluminium in my boot which was extremely painful and a number of fires on the floor. I realised it was time to move on. I asked Noel Carrington about finding a cottage in the country. He knew of 3. I choose Sheepdrove Farm which was a very pleasant house with a good view and a barn and sizeable garden. I managed to arrange to rent it from Mr Hosier, the inventor of the Hozier Method for 32 shillings a week it was a delightful weekend pad not that far from London on the summit of the Lamborn Downs.

The Cottage had probably not been lived in for 20 years but still all the windows were intact, the structure was sound and it had water. It had no electricity we were too isolated for that. We gradually built it up to include a very Heath Robinson shower and a fireplace for heating the water. Joe Dixon came for a week-end and insisted on digging a sceptic tank for the waste from the sink. Previously it had driblbed away into the chalky landscape.. We were happy with the outside loo but eventually added a loo into the sceptic tank as well.Joe, a good friend from the staff at Camberwell, loved physical work, it was good for his asthma.

( Many years later he visited me in Casole at the time when Wolpe was there. Joe fell on his knees before Wolpe who had taught at Camberwell and had been deprived of his position because he could not keep order. Joe was furious that a great typographer could be treated so. Until that point I had not recognised this important gentleman, he did typography for Faber and many others. He designed our terracotta sign while he was here.)

The barn was a corrugated extension to a lovely old hay barn on those mushrooms of stone. The extension was perfect for a bronze foundry. With the help of Erno Szegedi, a brilliant sculptor and a ‘56 refugee from Hungary who I had met at the Royal College of Art but whose Soviet type talent did not fit with English taste of the time, we built and worked a pretty satisfactory foundry there. He had only one arm but that did not stop him from making sculpture and casting it in bronze. Together we must have cast 4 of 5 figures of life-size or greater. He also made a 50 foot cement yatch, which I helped to build on two strenuous days, it took him years and alas he drowned as a result of an accident from it years later. Sadly I have no photographs of these activities or him.

Some years later Hosier died and the whole property was sold to the Milk Marketing Board and we were turned out of the cottage. Fortunately Richard Cowdy with his wife Susan had just moved to the West Country near East Kennet; they had a whole row of corrugated iron barns so we transferred the equipment there and Richard became the main partner in a business which he ran successfully for most of his life.

I invented a means of firing the moulds which I had never seen used elsewhere. It was using a preheating coil for an oil burner creating a big flame and what I did was feed the flame from a tank at the top of a ladder so that the pressure was provided by the height. It works remarkably well. Meaning we did not have to stay up all night stoking the kiln with coke. Also we built the firing kiln below ground so we could pack the fired moulds in situ. This was a great saving of effort as the moulds were big and we had no equipment for moving them.

It was this problem of moving the moulds that had worried me about Cellini's Perseus, an over life-size figure with a raised arm and an extra head that he moved from the kiln to the pouring pit. The big difference between him and us was that we were using basic plaster and grog moulds and his was a simple coating of terracotta over the wax which became much stronger and lighter when fired. When it came to getting the bronze into the mould he packed drain pipes in sand where we were incorporating the runners and airs inside a much larger mould. His method was also used by the ancient Greeks I am sure because cylindrical pieces of terracotta were found in the pouring pits which the archaeologists could not explain. The ceramic shell is a modern return to this sensible antique method.

All my Greek discoveries where the result of my being among the first sculptors who did their own casting since Cellini. After Cellini sculptors had manly relied on bronze casters in artisan foundries who did a very good job but as it was based on slow hand work it was very expensive, when I came to the need for bronze the choice was obvious.
I started a small foundry at Wimbledon and the idea spread to quite a number of young sculptors of that time who decided to do there own casting as well. I also taught bronze casting on a very small scale here in Italy in the early years. Since then I have used Italian foundries because casting bronze is a job for strong young men. I have no reason to regret the amount of time and effort that it cost me. The discovery of Life-casting is also related to my use of wax which I originally got to know through the need for waxes for the Lost Wax process used for most sculpture in bronze.

Besides the good fortune of Sheepdrove there was an incident that happened to me while creating an orchard at my mother's Weather Down Farm, Lamborn, which could have ended in death. I had hired a man with a tractor and bucket to dig the holes for the trees. All went well until he suggested that he could use the bucket to pushing in the stakes for the trees into the ground; I didn't like the idea at all but he reassured me that he had done this many times before. However, as I was holding a stake while the bucket was pressing down. The stake must have hit a rock or something anyway it's suddenly snapped and the piece that I was holding threw me forward just in time to get a sharp knock on the back of my head from the bucket; as I was moving forward and downwards the knock didn't do more then stun me for a few moments, those moments must have giving the tractor driver a horrible shock but I got up really none the worse for the incident. I think the roundness of the bucket spread the shock between my shoulders neck and head.

After Geoff died Lorna moved to Lamborn just down the road from the Carringtons at Long Acre Farm. It was a happy choice as she and Catherine were great friends, at the time we were still in Sheepdrove about 3 miles away. Lorna stayed on in Lamborn even after the Carringtons retired to Steyning. She was very self contained, gardening, sun bathing and reading; with many friends around; including Michael Ayrton a painter/sculptor best at writing, who regularly complained of the quality of her brandy.

This reminds me of another real estate coup that I made on behalf of the family. Weather Down Farm in which Lorna was living was a simple, small house with a concrete drive up to it. It had a small garden back and front. Nearby was a whole farm complex - a big modern barn built by Paul Carrington an old barn a yard and a stable for 2 horses. This being farm property it was sold when Paul moved to Australia. Years later a fire raged through the modern barn destroying the part closest to the house. The wind must have been from the North at the time because the two compartments to the north furthest from the house were still standing and even the roof was more or less intact. The owners at the time of the destruction wanted to demolish all the farm buildings. I suggested that we might buy them and we did at a knock down price. I restored the two northern compartments to make a studio that I imagined I might one day use because it was the moment when we were leaving Stert. It would have been a lovely place to work but in fact Casole took all my efforts and I chose to live there, so I never used it. But adding this large portion to the Weather Down estate made it, I guess, twice as valuable when it was finally sold, the house and garden, now plus farmyard, orchard and studio.

STERT near Devizes

During the time I was working with Richard he bought an ex-railway cattle box for his donkey. I thought it looked wonderfully strong and just the sort of thing I needed. The Cowdys were wonderfully hospitable but I was embarrassed to invite myself at my convenience and I thought it would be good to have a separate place in which to visit them. So I asked if they would allow me to buy another to put at a distance from the donkey’s that I could use as a kind of camper. They refused but instead told me of a Mill Cottage sitting in its own mill pond at Stert which was about 10 miles away. I went to look at it and immediately fell in love with the whole, surroundings in particular; they reminded me of Mr Marshes brook where I had spent many happy hours as a child of 6 damming.

So I went to see the owner who was a wonderful old yeoman-farmer suffering from gout and drinking whiskey out of a tumbler. He offered me one and I took a small portion. We talked and after a bit he asked me - well what are you going to give me for it. As I had heard of someone buying a cottage in Cornwall for £150 I offered £150. He said “go on - it's worth double that, go away and have a think about it.” So the next morning I offered him £250 and he agreed. We drew up a plan traced off a map onto a piece of bronco lavatory paper which was semi-transparent; we made up a very simple statement of the sales to go with it. Many years later when my solicitor got to see it he congratulated me on drawing up a legally binding document.

The next day Janet and Jesse came down to have a look at it. Janet must have been pregnant with Hannah, she was horrified but said nothing. Jesse who was I think under three at the time said “Daddy throw it away it's rubbish” it was nearly rubbish covered in mares tails and looking very much the worse for wear after having not been lived in probably since the war. I had no real intention of doing anything other with it than using it as a studio and perhaps as a camp site so that I could prepare my bronze moulds there.

Some weeks later I dug out an existing ditch and then came to a drain pipe that was absolutely full of willow root. I must have spent about an hour pushing it backwards and forwards not getting very far until suddenly something gave way and I pulled out an immense snake that must have been 3 m long and and the size of the 4-inch diameter pipe. This was followed by a squelching sound and water flowed continuously out of the tube. From then on the mares-tails gradually died off and the cottage itself although it had a trickle of water permanently running across the main room floor gradually dried out. (We later built a holocaust floor in the cottage over the top of the stream which worked perfectly.)

At this stage a man came wandering across the fields and asked me if I wanted any demolition done. I told him no I was building it up rather than demolishing the house, which is what I think most of the locals assumed I was going to do. Anyway we decided that he would put some hardcore down on the long drive which came steeply downhill to the cottage and was more or less impassable by car at that stage. He and his mate Michael brought bricks in the boot of a small car and laid them a brick at a time up and down the drive. They looked beautiful but when the car went over them going uphill the car simply shot the bricks out the back and it wasn't very much better than it had been before as far as getting a car up and down. I stood it for a year or two, then got tarmac put down over the top and that really solve the problem.

By this time the council had got wind of what I was doing down there and insisted I brought it up to proper inhabitable standards. They offered me a very handsome grant to do so, so I did.

We used it for about 16 years for school holidays and weekends Jesse was very helpful in the garden in his early teens but at 16 he fell in love with his future wife Rose and the help stopped abruptly. They wanted to get married when he was 17 we refused permission of course, so they got married when he was 18 and no longer needed our permission. (We attended the wedding but things went cock-eyed soon after. We were not on speaking terms for years.)

I got the Spanish patron I've written about soon after so I was unable to go on using the Cottage as we did before. I lent it to two good friends of Jan's (Tony Barson) he was an excellent painter and his wife was also a very attractive person. They looked after the place very well. I was sad to hear from Jan that they thought they should have been offered the place when we decided to sell. They did not seem to have the money we were asking; there was nothing to stop them making an offer. I never got round to buying one of Tony’s paintings, which I regret. He made great compositions of Spanish landscape with trucks belting through and that cut-out bull on the horizon advertising brandy, they were very impressive and original.

When my Spanish adventure collapsed I needed to sell the cottage and after 2 or 3 months of showing people around the estate agent himself bought the Cottage. He said he suddenly realized it was Shangri-la. I had just over £40,000 to spend in Italy. The summer before Janet, Hannah, I and Lorna took a holiday in Italy when we looked for a suitable premises to rent or buy to create a summer school of sculpture. I was immediately shocked by the enormous hike in prices between Spain and Italy. We looked around for a month and on the penultimate day I told Susan Wrightson who had been showing us round that I was sorry we I had wasted her time but we had found nothing. She immediately rang round her friends to see what else she could find and on the last day I was shown the premises which became the Centro d’Arte Verrocchio. I offered the price of the cottage we had to sell and it was accepted.

I knew we would have to sell Norland Square as well to pay for the repairs but by that time it was clear we could not afford to go on living there. By good fortune the mews cottage immediately behind became available so we were able to combine it with the studio and sell the rest at what seemed then a fortune. But the value accelerated upwards for many years after but I have never regretted the great life expanding move.

Janet did not enjoy living in Queensdale Walk, there was a French woman she particularly detested so after a short time she decided to move back to 41 where she did a spectacular conversion of the top floor and roof garden. Trouble with the builders caused her great pain but it turned out well eventually. Meanwhile I was fully occupied with Casole and Hannah was living with Romola where she was studying history in a sixth form college as an entry to Oxford, treading in the footsteps of her cousin Madeleine, who had gone to Cambridge by the same route the year before.

I was worried that Hannah was too slow a reader to read history which requires a massive reading programme, otherwise she had the right cast of mind. Though she gained an entry to Oxford she must have come to the same conclusion and decided to change direction to Psychology, which of course required a new set of A levels!

She managed to do them and gained entry to Bristol University to study Psychology. While we were doing up the Centro she also did an Italian course at Perugia, which has proved a really good investment as she now runs the Centro and the Italian has reemerged after a 20 year gap. We both agree that there is no future for the Centro after covid 19, an artists' community seems a possibility. See the final chapter “A Dream” for the other possibility which came to me.

Our cousins the Farquharsons – Romola, Jan, and Annabel lived at Heathside, East Heath Road, the the other side of the heath to us. It took about half an hour to walk there. Their house looked over a triangle of heath on the south side of which was Willow Road and it seems that almost everyone we knew in Hamstead lived overlooking that triangle; the Mollers also in Hamstead were not far away. There were the Boswells who were cousins of the Farquharson and further down there were the Bacherachs then the Goldfingers living in Erno’s own designed house and at the bottom the Carringtons who lived with a kind of muse cottage behind their house in which Joanna Carrington worked as a painter even at the age of 10 or 12 with her sister Jane. As adults Joanna became a very good painter and Jane worked at the BBC. Joanna did a Chagal type painting of Janet and I on a flying machine with birds wings as a wedding present, I love it. I was experimenting with man powered flight at the time.

Paul Carrington was the youngest and my friend over many years. He farmed with his father till he moved off to Australia. Recently he has suffered a second disaster there; his house was burnt down this year. I fear many Carrington paintings may have been lost in the fire. Many years earlier another farm of his was washed away by a flood after 4 years of drought.

I don't know how my parents got to know Noel and Catherine but they became great friends. I think they went on honeymoon together to Ireland. Noel was a very good amateur photographer and most of the photographs of Geoff and Lorna together where taken by him. There was one in particular that impressed me at the age of 13 when I found it in a family album where they are dancing together naked on the beach on honeymoon. Nudity was an important symbol of liberation for their generation Noel’s elder sister Dora was a famous Bloomsbury painter and was well known for an episode of nudity at a party in Oxford. Noel and Catherine had been on the fringe of the Bloomsbury set when young. We went to the Hamspray sale together, Catherine sitting in front bought many items that I might have bid for had she not. We did get a kitchen cupboard painted by Dora and one of her patchwork bedcovers; both gone the way of all flesh. There was a magnificent carved double bed which I bid for but it went far beyond my means partly because it had a very lush mattress I think. Many years later I found what I call El Greco’s bed in a local second hand shop, truly identical to El Greco’s. I carved a missing rung, which is difficult to spot.

Though we didn't see the Carringtons that often in London I remember several occasions going to their cottage – Pentico, driving down with Noel in his rather battered car, the passenger door being held closed with string. Noel had a big vegetable garden and had dug a tiny swimming pool to cool in, it was fed by a natural trickle. Afterwards they moved to Lambourn to farm at Longacre where I also helped with hay-making and the like. In fact I think it would be true to say that I saw more of Noel than I saw of Geoffrey as I grew up, we even found our cottage on the Lambourn Downs through Noel. I very much admired his austere mode of life. He was always self-sufficient in vegetables and as a farmer reared cows and chickens as well. The Carringtons more or less lived on exquisite quiches made by Catherine with eggs produced by Noel. He would ask how many cigarettes someone smoked and then tell them how many weeks holiday they could have in Spain if they gave up.

Catherine was a very close friend of Lorna’s always. When Lorna retired to Lambourn they met almost every day. They shared the same literary tastes, Virginia Wolfe in particular. Catherine was quite outstandingly beautiful, so was Joanna. When told so by an admirer Catherine would say “oh, stale buns” with considerable irritation, she would have preferred to be admired for her intelligence.

I remember once when we were on holiday in Greece we went to a special restaurant that was advertised as serving 14 or 15 separate dishes for a very modest price in the Piraeus. By the time we had eaten two or three light courses Noel said he would really have preferred just an omelette and by the time we had got to number 7 or 8 even I was pleading with the waiters to stop bringing us food. We more or less had to stand up in order to to get the message across that we had had more than enough. Another episode on that Greek holiday when we were staying at Naplion a very beautiful fishing-port village in which the swimming and the museum were lovely. At breakfast I noticed Noel was not with us and Catherine admitted that he had caught the early bus to Sparta; probably 3 or 4 hours of bus drive from Naplion and nothing much to see for the ordinary tourist but a spiritual home for Noel.

Noel’s day job was at Penguins, he was the editor of their Puffin series for children. He was a very well educated man, well read and I guess had studied greats, that is is Greek and Latin at school. He had been wounded in the First World War and I think had been senior enough to become a major before he was invalided out; His left arm was seriously withered and only 50% useful I would guess. This did not stop him from farming when he retired, He edited the loving exchange of letters between Dora and Mark Gertler and wrote at least one book on design. I admired Noel and Catherine a lot and in a way I think my style of living has been based more on their style than on Grandma's which was more opulently arty. I have dug 3 swimming pools in my life, planted 3 orchards and decorated my flats in a similar way to the Carringtons. Catherine had been at the Slade and illustrated many of her letters beautifully. Spanish or Breton plates and pots were a big feature of their kitchen. I still cherish one Breton plate, they were a lot more expensive and not nearly so good when we bought it. We had plenty of studio pottery around, both Janet and I loved the Leach tradition, Lucie Rie in particular who we got to know through Barbara Gomperts. Barbara’s collection of Lucie’s pots was magnificent, now in the Ashmolean.

Another interesting fact that Gemma reminded me of was that at Wildwood Rise we had two nude statues in the hall and on the stairs - the Epstein Pola included her breasts and halfway up the stairs a wooden sculpture by Losoff a torso with head which I didn't match like and which Geoffrey swapped with Wolly for his “Lady Godiva” which I loved and which still adorns the library here in Tuscany. Gemma who was in school in Highgate never brought her friends to the house because of them. My school friends were all too far away to meet in the holidays but I gues I would have been proud to show off our modernity. In fact we spent school holidays mostly at Angermering with Grandma

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