Charleston Need Us

Charleston Need Us

Words Mark Hooper

Photographs Susan Bell

In 1980, the Charleston Trust was set up to save Charleston Farmhouse from disrepair and restore it to its former glory as the artistic country outpost of the influential Bloomsbury Group. The former home of artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, Charleston played host to some of the greatest minds of the 20th century – including Bell’s sister Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry and John Maynard Keynes.


Left: A washstand decorated by Duncan Grant in the Spare Bedroom. Right: Clive Bell’s bedroom; curtains are taken down and rested on the bed.


It has come to represent a certain type of lifestyle – bohemian, pansexual, liberal and groundbreaking. It is also hugely significant location in the story of modern art. Roger Fry, for instance, launched the first exhibition of Post-Impressionist art in Britain – while the habit of Grant and Bell for painting directly onto their walls and furniture – as well as creating sculptural items for their home – is a key moment in the blurring of the boundaries between decorative and fine art.


The view from John Maynard Keynes’ bedroom with covered ceramics on the walls.


When Susan Bell photographed Charleston for Hole & Corner’s Nest issue, she captured it as few see get to see it – under wraps for the winter during the ‘close season’. Now, however, it is in danger of remaining like that forever. Once again, the Charleston needs saving. With the UK closedown happening a matter of days before the Charleston Literary Festival (its largest annual source of income) was due to take place, there is a real chance that it may not survive.


Left: Covered furniture and ceramics in Vanessa Bell’s bedroom assume a ghostly appearance. Right: A mirror hangs near the front door.


As a charity that operates with no government funding, Charleston has now launched an Emergency Appeal to ensure its survival. Please do all you can to ensure that this epitome of a ‘Hole-and-Corner’ is able to keep its doors open.


Donations can be made at: 


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