Old, New, Mostly Borrowed And One Blue

Old, New, Mostly Borrowed And One Blue Blog

Are you Claire????

The exhibition is now in it’s 4th week and it has been staggering how well it has been received.I have been at the Hall most Wednesdays carrying out some interviews with visitors and I have met some really interesting and extremely entertaining people.  Although we have a ‘comments book’ in which visitors are encouraged to write in, it’s always good to sit down with the visitors and get an idea of what they really think.  So, this is what I do:  I stand outside the Long Gallery (hiding my little tape recorder behind my back) and wait for someone who looks ‘interesting’ – I can usually tell who will have some good stories to tell simply by the way that they are dressed or how animated they are.  Then I pounce!

Once settled in the Tent Room, I start to have a little chat about what they thought about the exhibition and then ask them a little about their own wedding day.  One lady who I interviewed last week was visiting with her sister and she loved the exhibition. However, when I asked her about her own wedding she replied ‘what one …. I’ve had 5″.  After a short silence, I asked her “well what one was the best” to which she replied “oh they were all great” followed by a great guffaw of laughter by her, me and all of the other visitors who had gather round to listen to her – she was having the time of her life.  At the end she said to me “thank you for asking me those questions …. I had forgotten what great experiences I’ve had”.  It was a pleasure Mrs Smith … not her real name of course!

Whilst at the Hall yesterday, I was stopped by a wonderful couple who asked me ‘are you Claire’ to which I replied “no”.  My answer didn’t phase them (more on this below) and they carried on to tell me a little bit about themselves.  The gentleman had been a lecturer/tutor in fashion at Lincoln College – the department has since moved to the University of Lincoln.  It then emerged that he had designed and made his wife’s wedding dress ….. how amazing is that?  To have your  husband that … so romantic and where do you find men like that?  Are there catalogues?  I stopped them talking .. not because I didn’t want to hear anymore but because I wanted to catch them on my little machine’.  Off they went, and I caught up with them about two and bit hours later.  We had a long chat about the dress and his life and it then emerged that they had also made the curtains that hang in the Long Gallery … and guess what … they are still hanging … he was very pleased to see them!   Everyone’s heard of the great Antonio Berardi … my husband went to school with him and I have eaten in his family’s  cafe in Sleaford …. but this man taught him and told me a rather funny story about a school trip … I am keeping it to myself but rest assured it was very funny and I am still laughing today!

Antonio Berardi

Going back to my last paragraph, I was asked once if I was Claire (who owns Doddington Hall) whilst giving a talk on the Hall and when I replied “no”, the lady who asked the question said “well if I’d known that I wouldn’t have come out on such a filthy night” (it was the middle of winter).  Later into the talk, I pointed out Claire who just happened to appear in one of the slides and, at the end of the talk, the same lady came up and said “she is much prettier, than you will ever be” ….. from her comments, I got the faint impression she wasn’t pleased by the fact that Claire hadn’t turned out to give the talk in person…… you just can’t please some people.  Very funny though, don’t you think?

We are bracing ourselves for the Bank Holiday weekend …. lots of visitors for me to ‘pounce’ on ….. what fun!



When I say still standing, I am talking about the mannequins!  I am not sure about our band of volunteers in the Hall who have had to deal with the large amount of visitors to the exhibition!

On the evening of Thursday 5 August, the Lincolnshire Artist Supporters Society (LASS), held their summer reception at Doddington.  Some 60 guests enjoyed drinks on the West Terrace followed by a private tour of the house and exhibition.   LASS was formed in 1973 and its Committee is made up of women from across the County of Lincolnshire who are dedicated to raising money for arts.  The Committee raises funds by hosting lunches and dinners at country houses and stately homes in Lincolnshire and offers sponsorship to artists in all disciplines.

Marie-Therese Pumfrey, who is a member of the Committee, as well as having own wedding dress in the exhibition, was very emotional when seeing her dress on show first the first time in many years.   You have no idea how much trouble we had trying to find a mannequin to fit her dress.  We finally had to hire in a mannequin equivalent to an aged 5-6 year old child!   Present that evening was Abbey, the student who has been sponsored this year.  LASS have had a long association with the University of Lincoln and it was just wonderful to have three dresses in the exhibition which are connected to the University.

I spent the day at the Hall yesterday and everyone appeared to be enjoying the exhibition … not sure about the long suffering husbands who had been dragged along.  One man I spoke to (who sitting outside apparently enjoying the sunshine) said “I’ve seen her dress once before and it got me into a lot of trouble so I am staying away this time”.

A few of the ‘donors’ of the dresses had popped in as they hadn’t been able to make it to the opening.  This was great as it that some of the paying visitors were able to meet them.   So thank you to Pam Withers, the Fords and Henrietta Reeve for spending time answering questions etc.  I am sure that whilst I haven’t been at the Hall, other ‘donors’ have visited as I have found little tell-tale signs like photographs…. so thank you to Gabriella Parkes – your photo has now been framed.  Gabriella’s dress has been, so far, the most commented on dress.  If you visit the exhibition, you will find out why!

Yesterday was ‘dress up day’ when any visitor who turned up wearing a wedding dress or bridesmaid’s dress was given free entry to the Exhibition.  I was very disappointed that no men turned up.  However, one little girl named Coco, got into the spirit of the day – I will upload a photo of her once my PC starts behaving itself!

One exhibit was missing yesterday:  Louise Fairburn’s Lincoln Longwool dress.  It had been taken to the Isle of Man and I hear that it was very well received at the Royal Manx Show.  It will be returning to Doddington on Wednesday.

If you are not too tired about me rambling on, you might like to listen to me when I featured on a couple of BBC Radio Lincolnshire shows.  If so, here are the links



Thank you to Mark Ellis of Sound Delivery for ‘cutting me down to size’.



Old, New, Mostly Borrowed and One Blue opened to the public at 1 pm on Sunday 1 August 2010.  However, an hour before the opening we had a ‘PV’ to which all of those who had helped with the exhibition had been invited.

I was still upstairs ‘tweaking’ when the doors were opened – everyone seemed to arrive at the same time.  The guests were invited to wander round the exhibition and then make their way down to the West Terrace for drinks where they would be served by two stunning models which Caroline Chamberlain of Caroline Chamberlain Bridal Couture had kindly provided.    I did manage to say ‘hello’ to a few people but to those I didn’t .. I wasn’t being rude.  I think everyone enjoyed seeing their personal dress on show and it was lovely for the ‘donors’ to be there and for guests to be able to speak to them in person and get the story behind each of the dresses.

‘The Waitressess’

You may (or may not) have read about the Schools Competition ‘A Designer Dress for a Doddington Wedding’ which was won by Kimberley Van Haden from Boston High School.  Second prize was awarded to Jasmine Clarke also from Boston High School.  Jasmine’s prize was to spend a day in tnohe workshops of the Fashion Department at Lincoln University.

The Boston High School ‘Team’

Jasmine Clarke (2nd from the left), Francesca Ulanoff and Mrs Stubbs their teacher on the far right

I was lucky enough to have seen the winning dress but everyone else would have to wait until the opening…. Kimberley’s mum had also seen it.  When it was unveiled at the exhibition, everyone had a really hard job of taking in the fact that Kimberley was only 14 years of age.  Here she is with her proud parents:

Jess Winney

one of the Graduates who worked on the winning dress in the Schools Competition

In the Holly Bedroom you will find a stunning ‘Worth’ dress which has been made by a wonderful girl called Claudia Aliffe (I hope I have spelled her name correctly … I have already been told off once for getting it wrong) and here she is with her partner, Daniel.  They cycled from Lincoln to Doddington and not a hair was out of place!

Daniel and Claudia

Here are a few of the people who have helped me bring the exhibition to fruition.

Ian and Louise Fairburn (The Lincoln Longwool Dress)

Beryl Toule

Ian Macalpine-Leny

Caroline Chamberlain

Owen Davies and Paddy Killer

James Birch (owner of Doddington Hall)

I would just like to finish off by thanking Rick and Nikki of Blink Media (www.blinkmedia.org.uk) who produced the virtual tour so that our disabled visitors will be able to enjoy the exhibition.  They also produced the DVD of the making of the winning dress.

Rick Holland and Nikki Toye of Blink Media

Claire Birch (owner of Doddington Hall) being interviewed by Rick and Nikki


I did start this write up last week but never had time to finish it.  I hope you still want to read about ‘behind the scenes at the exhibition’ and it started so:

Well it’s now Friday and I am not sure where the last week has gone…. can anyone tell me.  The exhibition opens in two days …… HELP!   Early on Tuesday morning, Paula and I started to really get to grips with the setting up.  Paula was around last year to help me with the embroidery exhibition, so I knew that I could leave her to crack on with the jobs that needed to be done.  So, after much moving of dresses, unzipping bags, unpacking boxes and steaming, we started to see an exhibition taking shape.  Lots of people whose dresses would be on display were popping in which exciting, as you never knew who was going to pop their head round the door.  Judy Theobald, never one to miss an opportunity, also popped in as she wanted to interview a selection of the lenders.  Claudia Allife, a student of Fashion and Design at Lincoln University arrived to drop her exhibit off and ended up staying for about 7 hours … thank you Claudia!

Paula ‘working’

I left her to this whilst I had to go, armed with a horsebox to the University of Lincoln, to collect the mannequins.  Once these were in place, we could then start to hang more dresses.    The Long Gallery looked like a kind of headless cocktail party … I swear that they started talking when we left the room.  At 8 pm, we had done enough but would be back bright and early the next morning to crack on.

On the Wednesday morning, it was a case of hanging more dresses, getting the creases out of them and deciding the correct position for them and we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Karen Shanahan from Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum was also on hand to help .. it was MuBu Joint Operations!  Karen, when it is your turn to host an exhibition, I would love to help but hopefully I will be in warmer climes by then!!!

The winning dress from the Competition ‘A Designer Dress for a Doddington Wedding’ was also being delivered as well as the dress designed by Joanne Tsouvallaris, finalist in the Bridal Buyers competition 2010.  Out of 299 entrants, 14 entries went through with Joanne finishing in the final 6.   The fabrics were sponsored by Ian Stuart.

By late morning what we were doing started to resemble an exhibition of wedding dresses.

It is now Thursday and the day that Princess Mary’s dress is due to arrive.  It was due to arrive at Doddington Hall around 1pm but delivery was early and arrived around 12.30.  We had a group visit in the Hall when it arrived, so it was lovely for the visitors to see a little piece of history in the making!  Personally, I couldn’t actually believe it was actually at Doddington.  We all put on our gloves and set to work taking it out of its travel crate and into the cabinet which had been specially made.  Eva, the Curator from the Royal School of Needlework was also on hand as she had delivered a dress from the Collection of the Royal School of Needlework.  Let me say, the dress looks stunning and has to be one of my favourite exhibits.  We are very grateful to The Earl and Countess of Harewood and the Trustess of Harewood House Trust for allowing the dress to come to Doddington.

On Friday we were ready to number the exhibits and finish off the catalogue which was a mammoth job … roll on Sunday!


About this Sponsor

A wonderful and exciting collection of interesting and historical wedding dresses dating from the 1820s to the present day.  Many of the dresses have been loaned by private collectors as well as national museums.  A number of the dresses on show, have been loaned by a number of the great houses of England:  Burghley, Belvoir Castle, Somerleyton Hall to name just a few.

The interesting dresses will include one made from the fleece of a Lincolnshire Longwool sheep, loo paper and a complete knitted dress include the sandwiches and cake destined for the reception.  Canine wedding dresses will also be featured.