American Museum and Gardens
The American Museum
|Established||July 1, 1961|
|Location||Claverton, Bath, Somerset, England|
|Website||American Museum and Gardens|
The American Museum and Gardens (formerly American Museum in Britain) is based at Claverton Manor, near Bath, England. The manor house, believed to be the third manor house constructed at Claverton, was designed for John Vivian, a barrister who had purchased the manor in 1816, by Jeffry Wyatville in 1820 and built on the site of a manor previously bought by Ralph Allen in 1758. Wyatville's construction replaced an earlier manor house built for Sir Edward Hungerford in c.1588, the design of which has been attributed to John of Padua. The first manor house at Claverton was built by Ralph of Shrewsbury around 1340. The current manor house, built in 1820, is now a Grade I listed building.
The museum was founded by two antique collectors; Dallas Pratt (August 21, 1914 – May 20, 1994), an American psychiatrist from New York and heir to a substantial Standard Oil fortune; and John Judkyn (1913 – July 27, 1963), a British designer and antiques dealer. The museum was opened to the public for the first time on July 1, 1961, and remains the only museum devoted to American decorative arts outside the boundaries of the United States. The museum’s mission today stays true to the ambitions of its founders; to increase knowledge of American cultural history in order to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. The museum remains a very popular attraction with well over 3 million visitors to date.
Collection and exhibitions
The museum collection is displayed in the manor house and includes a variety of American cultural artefacts, decorative arts and antiques, as well as a series of Period Rooms covering a historical period from circa 1690 to 1860. These rooms are reconstructions of those from a variety of historic American interiors, including a late seventeenth-century Puritan home, an eighteenth-century tavern, and a sumptuous New Orleans bedroom dating from around the eve of the American Civil War in 1860. The museum’s collection also includes world renowned Shaker furniture, an extensive collection of over 200 quilts and textiles (50 of which are on permanent display), a collection of over 200 antique historical maps, and the most significant collection of American folk art in Europe. The museum collection includes works by a variety of artists, such as Susan Powers as well as the portraitists John Brewster, Jr., Ammi Phillips and William Matthew Prior. There are also carved eagles by Wilhelm Schimmel and Frederick Myrick.
The museum also hosts a different exhibition every year exploring more recent American history. These exhibitions are situated in the museum’s external gallery, located in a separate building to the manor house. The museum’s gift shop is also located in this building.
The museum gardens include extensive renovated areas representing trends in both English landscape and American garden design. The American Museum originally employed Lanning Roper to design a mixed border, but since the museum opened in 1961, the 30 acres around the house have been developed to include a replica of George Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon, as well as a Lewis and Clark trail, and an arboretum that includes a collection of American trees.
The Mount Vernon Garden, which is a re-creation of a part of George Washington's garden at Mount Vernon, is situated away from the house on the site of a former Italianate garden and was opened on June 26, 1962. In 2018 the Mount Vernon Garden was restored to replicate more closely the original layout implemented by George Washington.
With the addition of the New American Garden, officially opened on September 15, 2018, as part of a £2 million project to renovate the lawn and Herb gardens immediately adjacent to the manor house, the museum grounds now boast the largest collection of American horticultural features in the United Kingdom. This project was the first European commission for the American landscape architects based in Washington D.C., Oehme van Sweden (OvS). The planting in the New American Garden follows the free-form style made famous by the firm’s founders, Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden. Native American shrubs, perennials, and bulbs feature heavily, but the garden is designed to work with the steep terrain and enhance the view over the Limpley Stoke Valley, which is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The new garden path, known as The Winding Way, is a fully accessible pathway encircling the lawns and American Rose Collection, as well as the natural amphitheatre, which has become the museum’s outdoor theatre and events space.
- Historic England. "Claverton Manor (The American Museum) (1214609)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Alvi, Nas. "The History of Claverton Manor". americanmuseum.org. American Museum & Gardens.
- Garden Visit website
- Scott, Shane (1995). The hidden places of Somerset. Aldermaston: Travel Publishing Ltd. pp. 16–17. ISBN 1-902007-01-8.
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- "Claverton Manor (The American Museum)". Images of England. Archived from the original on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2006-12-16.
- Biographical notes on Dallas Pratt
- Wendorf, Richard (2012). Director's Choice: The American Museum in Britain (1st ed.). London: Scala Publishers Ltd. ISBN 9781857597721.
- Personal recollections of John Judkyn by Dallas Pratt
- "Folk Art". American Museum in Britain. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- Bond, James (1998). Somerset Parks and Gardens. Somerset Books. p. 51. ISBN 978-0861834655.
- Alvi, Nas. "New American Garden and Mount Vernon". americanmuseum.org. American Museum & Gardens.
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