ty isaf, then and now: part one

Last month I received an unexpected  letter from Martin Ferguson Smith, Emeritus Professor of Classics, Durham University. In it Martin explained that he had seen my two Artlog posts about the author Rose Macaulay living at Ty Isaf in the early years of the twentieth century, and he was writing because his late father was her first cousin, his mother being a younger sister of Rose’s father, George Campbell Macaulay. He added that he had a collection of glass-slide photographs taken by his grandmother’s brother, William Herrick Macaulay, among which were six made during the time the family lived here. Martin kindly offered to send me modern transparencies generated from the original glass-plates, and from those we’ve been able to make images that with his kind permission, I’m posting here.

Below: Ty Isaf from the paddock. The photograph is undated, but the Macaulays moved here on December 5th 1901 and departed on October 3rd 1906. Chicken-houses and runs can be seen where today we have a double loose-box for the horses. The woodland behind the house is made up almost entirely of larch, whereas today it’s largely deciduous.

Martin writes of the photograph below:

I expect that the boy playing croquet on the tennis court is Will rather than Aulay. If the year is 1904, it must be, because Aulay went off to India in Feb 1904, but the exact date of the photo is not known. 

(Martin later confirmed the young man as Will, the name having been found written on the original glass-plate.)

I reply:

‘The terraced bed to the tennis lawn is a revelation in your photograph. When we arrived that had been completely covered in mature conifers. We cut them down and dug over and reconditioned the slope, re-terracing it and building a rustic path that now winds down through mounds of rock-roses, euphorbia, irises and poppies. The pretty tennis pavilions have long gone, and we’d hesitate to recreate them because to do so we’d have to remove a number of lovely flowering trees. So the space is more rustic and plant-based these days, softer around the edges. When we arrived there were hideous concrete-paver-steps marching down to the grass. We removed them and added the path curving down to emerge further along the lawn, unknowingly tracing the route of the formal terrace visible in your photograph. However we see now that there were straight steps that pre-dated the concrete ones, something we hadn’t suspected. If the Macaulays were to return I like to think that while they’d find the garden changed, they’d recognise the topography and would approve the planting. It’s restful and beautiful, and though the tennis pavilions are gone, Will would still find good use for his croquet mallet, for the game is still played here.

 Martin writes of the photograph below:

The young woman standing with her left hand on the fence and looking away from the camera is, I guess, Margaret, but possibly Jean. I am sure she is not Rose. 

(The identity of Margaret, too, has been confirmed from her name on the original glass-plate.)

Here may be read parts one and two of my earlier Rose Macaulay posts. For the real Rose Macaulay enthusiasts I recommend Professor Smith’s recent edition of a previously unknown collection of  her letters, Dearest Jean, published by Manchester University Press and available HERE.

More photographs from Professor Smith’s Macaulay family collection will be posted here next week.