Image: All images, unless stated, courtesy Sarah-Joy Ford.
Delight of my heart, My sweet love, My Beloved, My B
A new exhibition, Beloved: Crafting Intimacies with the Ladies of Llangollen, presents a site-specific installation of quilted and textile artworks created by Manchester based artist Sarah-Joy Ford after a period of artist residency at Plas Newydd Historic House and Gardens in Llangollen. The embroidered intervention is inspired by the deep and lifelong intimate relationship between the Ladies of Llangollen and the extraordinary home that they created together.
Image: photo courtesy Plas Newydd
Plas Newydd was home to Lady Eleanor Butler (1739–1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755–1831), who captured the imagination of Regency society when they eloped from their families in Ireland to begin a life of exquisite retirement together, escaping the confines of their gendered fates of marriage and the convent. After a tour of Wales, – they chose to settle on the outskirts of Llangollen, in the small cottage they christened Plas Newydd in 1780. Here they lived together as life partners, with their maid and friend Mary Carryl who helped them escape from Ireland and create their extraordinary rural domesticity, including caring for a kitchen garden and a myriad of animals, among which included a dog called Sapho.
Over the years, they transformed Plas Newydd into a Gothic fantasy of patchwork stained glass and elaborately carved oak. This beloved cottage orne, situated within the picturesque landscape of North Wales, attracted a stream of visitors including Anna Seward, Caroline Princess of Wales, Dorothy and William Wordsworth and the lesbian industrialist Anne Lister.
The exhibition will be the first of its kind to make an intervention into the house through a radical re-designing of the domestic textiles of the home including quilts, cushions and curtains. The techniques used to create the new artworks directly reference Sarah Ponsonby’s own creative practice which included sketching, watercolour painting and embroidery. Through a combination of handcraft and digital techniques Sarah’s artistic legacy is woven back into the fabric of the house.
The new works are a loving intervention, and embroidered embellishment of this extraordinary tale of women who lived, and loved, differently despite enormous societal restrictions.
Plas Newydd Historic House and Gardens, Llangollen, is open to the public every day from 10AM - 4PM throughout the summer months.
Beloved: Crafting Intimacies with the Ladies Llangollen will be on display from April 30th 2022 - October 30th 2022.
For more information about visiting Plas Newydd: www.plasnewyddllangollen.co.uk