The most detailed account of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett at work as ‘house designers’ is, as far as I have been able to establish, recorded in the diary of the composer, Hubert Parry. He was their close friend and in May 1876 stayed with them for a fortnight in 2 Gower Street, afterwards writing in his diary:
’To live in their house is a very great deal of happiness in itself. The quiet and soothing colour of the walls and decoration and the admirable taste of all things acts upon the mind in the most comforting manner. I was quite excised of the vulgar idea that everything ought to be light & gaudy & covered with gilt in London. All these are a sure element of discomfort in a house, ones eye wants rest & nothing shows the dirt & dust of London so soon as light colours & gilding’.
Later in 1876 Rhoda and Agnes were commissioned to decorate Parry’s new house in Phillimore Place, Kensington.
In 1881 Parry chose to build his country house, Knights Croft, just across from the back garden of Rhoda and Agnes’s cottage in Rustington, Sussex.. There he provided members of the Garrett circle with many evenings of musical entertainment. In my first draft of Enterprising Women I included the suggestion that while reading Chapter 4 – that discussing Rhoda and Agnes’s careers as interior designers – a background accompaniment of Parry’s Songs might be appropriate. This suggestion was excised by a (prosaic) editor and I did not have the gumption to remonstrate.
Here, however, I can now suggest you listen to some excerpts from ‘Parry’s English Lyrics’.
Don’t you think that they add another dimension to a study of the work of ‘R & A Garrett’?
This music, so fluent, so English, was made to be played in the rooms that the cousins designed, composer and decorator each in their own way bringing comfort and harmony to the middle classes. The music also speaks of the patriotism and imperialism that was dear to the Garretts and their circle.
For more about Rhoda and Agnes Garrett and their work see:
Elizabeth Crawford, Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle, published by Francis Boutle
Click here for details