When I visited Magnus at the start of October, I made an excursion to Penrhyn Castle, a nearby National Trust property. I often have mixed feelings about these big old country piles. The present edifice is not medieval but an example of Neo-Romanesque architecture from the early 19th century and roughly contemporaneous with St Clement’s. Both draw on the same Norman revival inspiration and are rather blocky on the outside but, whereas the interior of St Clement’s is quite understated, Penrhyn is crammed with overwhelming details. I found the result intricate but also quite oppressive.
It was opulent but didn’t warm my heart. Instead, I reflected on the contrast between the (often dissolute) life styles of the early owners and the huge number of people trampled on and left in poverty for them to get there. The counter argument would be that such a place created employment and opportunity but I can’t imagine that ordinary peasants from bald Welsh hills felt much benefit or warmth from the place.
That aside though, it was a fascinating place to try drawing. I found a spot on some stairs where I could sit and work up an image responding to the decoration at the top of the main stairwell (see photo). I didn’t have time or inclination for a detailed study but started with a blind drawing to map out the main shapes and then elaborated with indications of some of the detail. I’m quite pleased with the result, which has a certain energy and also, perhaps, reflects my disjoined emotional response to the place.