Transcript: The Farm at Warham Podcast

The Farm at Warham podcast

An Interpretation of Brian Hatton’s painting ‘The Farm at Warham’

by Robin Thorndyke

This delightful farmhouse scene, illustrates various elements of rural life in Edwardian England.  I have heard it dismissed as a ‘chocolate box’ image but in fact it is a straight  forward portrayal of round the back of a farmhouse in the early 1900s.

I am told the House had a roof of stone slates when Brian came to paint it and that it is of 17th century origin.  So it was already 300 years old when he set up his easel in the orchard. Brian could have walked here from his home in Broomy Hiill but most likely he arrived by pony and trap as the easel, the painter’s stool, the prepared board and all the paraphernalia would have been cumbersome to carry.

Setting up to paint in the morning sunlight, he had to cope with a breeze but  the sunlight on the grass and foliage promises a good day in which to finish his work and to dry the washing.

He was painting out of doors, in oils, in the tradition of John Constable with the sunlight on his back and the breeze blowing through the orchard. The apples around the base of the tree suggest that it is late summer. Perhaps the ducks, whilst bringing a picturesque, even sentimental, content to the scene, were something of a nuisance around his feet.  Ducks are naturally curious and would have come to investigate his workbox and his lunch. At the least their constant low contact calling would provide company throughout the day. (quack, quack, quack)

My photograph, taken in August 2009, just a hundred years after Brian painted his picture shows that hardly any change has taken place at all to the structure of the building- However, the roof has been red-tiled, the outhouse slated and galvanisedsheets used to patch over leaks.  The far gable-end has had its brickwork painted white and a television aerial strapped to the chimney.  That’s all superficial in a hundred years. 

The tall trees in the background may have been elms for they have been felled.  The apple trees remain. Apples on the ground and the cider barrel under the tree are evidence of the cottage industry of cider making and possibly links with Bulmer’s. The barrel would provide a cosy home for a pair of ducks.  It was common for farmers’ wives to keep ducks and chickens and perhaps geese in the orchard, for fresh meat and eggs.  It’s simpler to purchase from the supermarket now.

On the surface, the scene remains as tranquil and as peaceful as it did one hundred years ago when Brian painted it - perhaps even quieter now as television keeps us indoors. 

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