Thursday, May 29, 2014

Patchwork of the Crosses

We have been working on Lucy Boston blocks for several weeks now, and, I thought you might like a little information about Lucy herself.

Lucy Maria Wood was born Dec. 10, 1892 in Lancashire, England.  She was the fifth of six children with two older brothers, two older sisters and one younger brother.  In her own words, from her memoir Perverse and Foolish, Lucy describes her home life as “a typically solid and affluent middle class Victorian family of committed Wesleyans.”

Lucy’s father, James Wood, was an engineer and sometimes mayor of Southport.  He was a bit of an eccentric, but Lucy adored him and very much admired him.  He was a small, dynamic man with a great sense of humor, very religious, and 20 years older than his wife.  Supposedly, Lucy bore a striking resemblance to him.

Lucy’s mother was only 20 when she married James.  She was one of seven daughters of a Wesleyan minister, and the marriage was more of an arrangement to get one of the daughters married off than a love match.  Lucy described her mother as extremely sensitive and delicate.  She bore a child every year as was expected of a dutiful Victorian wife, but had very few maternal instincts.  Lucy always felt her mother should have been a nun – she was very gentle, but extremely rigid in her religious views and in the inerrant truth of Scripture.

Prior to their marriage, James had a house built for the family he intended to have.  It was quite a house with religious friezes and Bible verses painted in every room.  The “triumph of his eccentricity” was the study.  James had visited the Holy Land and brought back many things with the idea of creating “a holy and uplifting room.”  The walls of the study were painted in a continuous frieze of the landscape along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  From the ceiling hung lamps similar to those that would have hung in Solomon’s temple. Recesses in the walls were divided with Moorish onion dome arcades.  Glass fronted cupboards held beautiful brass objects and other rarities.  It didn’t look as garish as it sounds, but was more like the gentleman’s room of a near lunatic according to Lucy.

What a strange couple they must have been.  James, passionate and highly religious but with an appreciation for the aesthetic side of life, and Lucy’s mother with her devout, abstemious ways.  In her role as wife of the mayor, Lucy’s mother would have been expected to do a lot of entertaining -something that must have been very difficult for her especially since her idea of food was that it was a sad necessity.  Apparently after her husband’s death, she began to think it wasn’t even necessary and there were many times when the children went hungry.  As Lucy grew up she seems to have inherited the passionate side of her father’s nature as evidenced in her own passion for art, music and nature, while much of her development into a young woman seems to have been partly driven by a need to cast off her mother’s repressive influence.

Lucy’s father died when she was only six and his death marked a huge change in the family fortunes.  Laws of the day left the widow with only enough money to keep the house together while each of the children was left with a small fortune to be spent on their education.  Consequently, all the children were sent to school.

His death also resulted in the family’s move to the countryside.  The move was supposedly made for her mother’s health, but whatever the reason, the children loved being out of the city.  The new house was on an estuary of the river Kent where they were free to wander woods and fields exploring the cliffs and coves of the river.  And so it was that at an early age Lucy developed an awareness of plants and gardens that fueled her passion for developing the beautiful gardens of the Manor at Hemingsford Way later in her life.

When her schooling was complete, Lucy enrolled in college to become a nurse, but left the University of Oxford after only two terms to work in a military hospital in France during World War I.  She was great with the wounded soldiers, but almost lost her job when the American charge nurse became outraged to see her sitting on the bedside of one of the patients!

Lucy married her cousin’s stepson, Harold Boston, who was a flying corps officer, in 1917. After the war they lived in Cheshire where Harold was the director of the family tannery.  Their only son, Peter Boston, was born in September of 1918. The marriage ended in 1935 after 18 years.

After the divorce, Lucy left England to study painting in Austria.  With the outbreak of World War II she returned to England and rented rooms in Cambridge where her son Peter, who was now 19, was an undergraduate. When she heard the house was available, she purchased the Manor, Hemingsford Way, which is near Cambridge.  With Peter, who had become an architect, she slowly restored the decaying house and gardens with a passion that she likened to falling in love.

She lived at the Manor for over 50 years until her death at age 97 on May 25, 1990.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for the historical background on Lucy Boston! It's always interesting to learn about the person behind such a creative design. Suspect that Lucy's son's becoming an architect was in part inspired by his mother's remarkable use of shapes and colors. Annie