The European Connection: By Maria Wynne
Sidelines Writer Across the Pond
I was introduced to the wonderful Lindsey Knapp, CEO of Victoria Sporting Art Gallery in Cheshire some years ago via the extraordinary artist Daniel Crane. Daniel and his beautiful, fun, infectious wife Ali had recently bought my horse as a hunter, having heard about him on the grapevine. Daniel and Ali only buy a certain “type” of horse and they are few and far between. They have to look good whether hunting with the Beaufort, the Belvoir, The Cottesmore, The Cheshire, The Wynnstay, or any other pack and cross the country in phenomenal style. My boy was one such horse – a 17 hand, dark bay, big fronted, upstanding, well-mannered, snaffle mouthed, powerful, scopey and oozing presence. Daniel and Ali looked over his door and simply said, “We’ll have him.”
Part of the transaction took the form of a personalized original watercolour and it was this that I took to Lindsey Knapp of Victoria Sporting Art Gallery for advice on framing. I did not, at this point, truly understand what an important artist Daniel was (and is) and despite living locally I had not yet met Lindsey. Wisely, Lindsey subsequently advised me to never part with this unique and treasured piece of art under any circumstances. Daniel’s star is in the ascendency and he is ranked in the top three Sporting Artists in the U.K. This painting is an important part of the legacy that I am leaving for my son.
Lindsey and her Gallery are a vital port of call for anyone, be it in person (prior notice required), online by visiting the website or Facebook page, or by telephone. Lindsey regularly ships items to the U.S., Australia and Europe and has a loyal client base of repeat customers, all of whom know that Lindsey will find what they are seeking.
I arrived at Victoria Gallery in the stunning grounds of the ancestral Cholmondeley Castle on a bright, crisp and cold hunting morning. The Estate itself is beautiful and open to the public during the summer months. The Marquess of Cholmondeley is still in residence and is generous in allowing various fundraising events to be held in the grounds of her home. Victoria Gallery is sequestered away in a quiet corner, overlooking the parkland, surrounded by the area known as Cholmondeley Park. A tranquil and yet vivid corner of Old England and now home to the most extraordinary collection of Sporting Goods and memorabilia circa 1870 onwards.
Lindsey herself greeted me at the door, and immediately she epitomized for me the true meaning of the word Gentlewoman. Refined, dignified, graceful, welcoming and warm, with a hearty sense of humour. And she has a shy but knowing way of peeking at you to judge your response to her hint of devilment. Charming describes her perfectly.
Entering the Gallery can only be described as being allowed access to a wonderland, a treasure trove. Every shelf and every cabinet holds things of delight. From hunting horns, stirrup cups, sculptures, miniatures, to huge original oil paintings adorning the walls, or tiny comedic hunting scenes carved in wood. Anything you could dream of is there. Ruby fox eyes wink at you from stock pins, and hunting hounds in full cry stream across the dining room table in the form of menu holders. Even the 1954 Ascot Racing Pass of Lady Munnings (wife of the late and lauded artist Sir Alfred J. Munnings) sits in a cabinet, with the ink inscription, written in fountain pen, barely faded by the years.
Lindsey’s tremendous sense of humour is reflected in many of the other items. Cecil Aldin is a particular favourite, and her knowledge of him and his work is extensive. There are examples of his quirkier pieces of work in the form of coasters, plates, bowls, as well as the beautiful paintings that he is so well known for; The South Berks Hounds streaming across the country, with each individual character clearly recognizable because of certain characteristics that Aldin so cleverly portrayed after days of studying them in the field. He sketched for hours from horseback when hunting, and committed to memory the idiosyncrasies of his fellow followers.
Lindsey has an eye for rare and sought after pieces, yet also manages to cater to enthusiasts who want to buy her treasures for practical purposes. Hunting flasks, boot pulls, stock pins, exquisite Essex crystals, it can all be found and if it is not already in the Gallery, Lindsey will find it for you via her huge network of contacts in the art world. Victoria Gallery also boasts a bespoke service whereby new leather cases can be made to fit any article, hand stitched by a lady who according to Lindsey, “Is quite simply unrivalled in the quality of her work.”
Much of Lindsey’s eye for a good piece stems from her practical working anatomical knowledge of the horse. If a sculpture is not right, it will not be bought. This knowledge was garnered during her 20’s and 30’s when she worked extensively with horses on a practical level, carving out a niche in the royal county of Berkshire.
Lindsey’s husband was Simon Knapp, veterinary surgeon to HRH The Queen, who then and today is involved with Her Majesty’s horses in the Royal Mews, Racing Polo and Stud Work. Equally, her knowledge of the canine form and her love of our faithful four legged friends is reflected in the more humorous pieces that she delights in finding.
When you enter the treasure cave that is the gallery you have to expect to be accompanied by a very handsome and affectionate Pointer named Roly and a small sidekick Terrier by the name of Pepperpot and the inimitable Alan, Lindsey’s other half, without whom, “The entire show would not be on the road.” His swift repartee and repertoire of jokes lightens any day and his humorous and vigorous presence adds to the delight of visiting Victoria Sporting Art Gallery.
The price range of goods caters for anyone who appreciates quality combined with history, from £60.00 (approximately $98) upwards.
For further information please visit www.victoriagallery.co.uk
About the writer: Maria Wynne lives in the UK and has spent her entire life with horses and her family background is steeped in them. She is a proud (single) Mum of the an adorable 4 year old son named Theodore Denman, who is named after the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup Winner.