A new exhibition celebrating the painting, drawing and needlework of Lord Montagu’s mother, Belinda, Lady Montagu, will open in the ancestral family home of Palace House at Beaulieu from Easter.
The Art of Belinda, Lady Montagu – her story in stitches will feature previously unseen pieces, as well as work for her family, the Beaulieu attraction and ecclesiastical commissions.
The new exhibition in the former private wing of Palace House will show the wide range of her work, from colourfully painted house interiors and fittings to a beautifully detailed applique screen for the nursery. Her rich and varied designs have taken inspiration from nature and her surroundings, as well as her imagination.
Ornate boxes, cushions, wall hangings, picture frames, drawings and handbags will add detail to the exhibition, while family fancy dress costumes designed and made for parties will form bold centrepieces.
Lord Montagu said: “For my sister Mary and me, it will be a great pleasure to stage this in recognition of all the wonderful work my mother has created through the decades.”
After growing up on the Cadland Estate near Fawley in the New Forest, Belinda Montagu (nee Crossley) studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London from the age of 15 and continued with mural painting at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. She began her career as a commercial artist, one of her first jobs being an assistant to Alfred Wurmser, the supplier of captions and animated graphics for BBC television.
When she married Edward, Lord Montagu in 1959, one of her first tasks was to apply her artistic skill to painting an old merry-go-round which was used as a stage at the renowned Beaulieu Jazz Festival. In the decade that followed, she undertook a wide range of work for the family business, designing posters, souvenir tea towels, mugs, menus and displays for the Montagu Motor Museum. She also researched, compiled and illustrated To the Manor Born, a book of family recipes which was recently reprinted and is sold in the Kitchen Shop at Palace House.
After enrolling at Southampton College of Art to study for a City and Guilds course in embroidery, Belinda, Lady Montagu began a prolific period in designing and making embroidered textiles. She became a member of the Embroiderers’ Guild and was a founder member of the Sarum Embroidery Group, which specialised in ecclesiastical commissions including kneelers for Salisbury Cathedral and altar frontals for St Luke’s Garrison Church in Soest, Germany.
In 1979, she was commissioned by the New Forest Association to create a 20ft long applique embroidery to illustrate 900 years of New Forest history. With the help of 60 volunteers, it took two years to complete and is on display in the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst.
The was followed by Belinda’s largest commission, a series of seven embroidered wall hangings, recounting the story of Beaulieu Abbey from its foundation in 1204 to its dissolution in 1538. The hangings, which took seven years to complete, can still be seen in the Abbey Domus on a visit to Beaulieu.
Other examples of her work can be found in the chapel at Buckler’s Hard where her delicately coloured, sea-themed altar frontal and kneelers are on permanent display. These were made to mark the marriage of her daughter Mary to Rupert Scott in 1998.
Other commissions have included presentation cushions for HM The Queen, HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, HRH Prince of Wales and kneelers for the wedding of HRH Prince Edward to Sophie Rhys-Jones at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
The Art of Belinda, Lady Montagu – her story in stitches can be seen as part of a visit to Beaulieu throughout 2019.