Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tale of two Victorian ladies

I went walking and photographing along the waterfront trail with a friend recently, loving
every rich moment of the golden fall afternoon. Along Dundas street (the 'detour' on the waterfront walk) I stopped to snap 'the old Couldery place' and share with B___the story of her association with Glanmore.

It's a lovely story of serendipity which led to Belleville's receipt in 1955 of an outstanding collection of 1600 pieces of fine art and furnishings from the estate of English collectors, which is now housed in stately Victorian splendour at Glanmore National Historic Site.

But back to the tale of the two 'ladies'. These days, the Couldery house is living in genteel poverty; I worry about the state of her health and her life. The house looks closed, and badly in need of attention. Her good aristocratic bones show: the profile of the fine chimney against the sky, her verandahs for taking the country air, her stately windows and gables, but the house is in decline. How different life is for Glanmore: supported by all levels of government, beautifully maintained, in good architectural health, her handmaidens the museum staff and the Friends of Glanmore ensuring that her exquisite plaster ceilings, her collection of fine artwork and furnishings, her story of Victorian elegance are preserved and shared with the community and the world.

Long ago, in the early 1800's, the lives of these two houses crossed in a wonderful accident. Bertram and Celia Couldery, collectors and artists from England, were delayed on their Canadian train journey, and spent the night in Belleville. The owner of the (now infamous, once esteemed) Docter's Hotel near the railway station toured them around the town, and soon after they set up a second home on the western edge of town, the now-aging Couldery House (photo above right). On their return to England they took Ann, one of the Docter children back with them as a companion to Celia. Ann grew up, married well, and when she and her husband died, part of their estate, an important collection of "fine European antiques, paintings, ceramics and decorative objects," which included many of the Couldery's own important animal paintings, arrived in 1955 Belleville. Ann Docter Salaman also provided a bequest to house the collection, which led to the establishment of Glanmore as a museum.

(It wasn't uncommon for informal adoptions like this, which provided 'advantages' to deserving young people, raising them above their station. Mr. and Mrs. John Philpot Curran Phillips, builders/owners of Glanmore also took in a young woman, and provided her with a good education, entree into society, and ultimate role of heiress of Glanmore.)

There's a lot of history behind the front doors of these two old homes.

Facts and quotation above from Glanmore published in 2001 by the Friends of Glanmore.

1 comment:

  1. Pleased to be along on that walk and to hear the stories. It certainly was a good day.