ART IMITATES LIFE
THE OWNERS OF THIS HOUSE HAVE EMBRACED THE TASK OF RESTORING EARLY COLONIAL PAINTER JOHN GLOVER’S HOME.
Carol and Rodney Westmore have set about restoring colonial landscape painter John Glover’s Patterdale Farm in Deddington, northern Tasmania.
WHEN CAROL AND RODNEY WESTMORE bought Patterdale Farm in Deddington, northern Tasmania, in 2004, they weren’t planning to take on a heritage restoration project involving one of Australia’s most important early colonial artists. Farming for 35 years, Carol and Rodney, a retired eye surgeon, had simply found the farm they’d been longing for. Although attracted by the fact that it once belonged to British landscape painter John Glover, they were mostly swayed by the proximity of Patterdale — a working farm producing superfine merino wool — to Launceston, a 45-minute drive away. “At that time, we didn’t really think about doing anything with Glover’s legacy,” explains Carol. “We had a farm employee living in the house. Damaged walls were sheeted over, but it was livable.” But 2004 also saw the inauguration by the John Glover Society of the Glover Prize, an annual art prize awarded for paintings of the Tasmanian landscape. The society — a volunteer-run community initiative based in Evandale — honours Glover (1767–1849) who lived and painted in the area from 1832 until his death. Carol, a passionate art collector, has been a member since its inception. As the Glover Prize gained momentum, people started asking Carol and Rodney if it was possible to visit Patterdale (named after a small village in the English Lake District) to see “Glover Country” — the name given by Australian artist Tom Roberts to the plains and hills south of Evandale where John Glover chose to live so he could paint them. “People used to knock on the door to look at the garden,” says Carol. “They came so frequently our tenant would ask for a gold coin donation! We had tour groups from Australia, and one international from the Yale Centre for British Art. It was clear there was tremendous burgeoning interest, but the >
house was pretty ordinary — it wasn’t smart or even warm — so not exactly a beacon for visitors.” A couple of years after purchasing Patterdale, the Westmores bought a neighbouring farmhouse and property (where they now live), which they spent a year restoring. Nile Farm, built before Glover’s house in 1826 by Robert Pitcairn, is a two-storey brick building in the old colonial Georgian style facing the Nile River with views of Ben Nevis. A painting of Nile Farm in the National Gallery by William Delafield Cook mistakenly attributes it as ‘Glover’s House’. As a result, “a lot of people come past thinking Nile Farm is Glover’s,” says Carol. “At least once a week!” At Nile Farm, Glover Country is on view in four directions from the house. “It’s a beautiful skyline,” says Carol. “And the house is very comfortable, bigger than the Glover house.” The couple’s lifelong love of art and farming comes together at Nile Farm. It is a marriage of contemporary and colonial taste: art works from Philip Wolfhagen to John Glover. Carol regards Tasmania as a great place to view colonial art, with two large galleries and reputable local dealers. Her love turned to contemporary art when she joined Hobart-based Bett Gallery’s art buying groups — the Tamar Art Group and Derwent Art Group — for a time during the 1980s and 1990s. (Carol is currently vice president of Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Foundation.) After their farm employee moved on and Glover’s house became vacant, the Westmores were encouraged by then Glover Prize curator, Jane Deeth, to set about restoring Patterdale, and commissioned a Conservation Management Plan by heritage architect Graeme Corney. In 2016, the couple successfully heritage listed 4000 hectares of the original land grants of Pitcairn and Glover. >
And for the past 18 months, Carol has researched and managed the meticulous restoration of both Glover’s house and studio by Launceston builders Anstie Constructions. Plans for Patterdale are constantly evolving, and work on restoring and recreating the Glover garden will begin as soon as they’ve waved farewell to the builders’ vans. In the meantime, Carol has established a trial bed that she intends to fill with some of the plants in Glover’s well-known 1835 painting, A view of the artist’s house and garden, in Mills Plains, Van Diemen’s Land. “We can’t be too literal,” says Carol. “There are mature trees in the frame now, particularly a number of elms that Glover would’ve planted.” Carol loves sharing their project with visitors. Initial plans are to open the house for accommodation, establish an artist’s residency program, and hold occasional events and functions in the studio. During the Glover Prize in March, Carol hopes to display the story of Patterdale’s restoration in the newly rebuilt exhibition room, which the couple has been restoring with the help of a small government grant. Glover’s former property will also be open for people to view the sites of some of his paintings just 10 minutes from the house. “You can look at the painting in front of you, look up and see the landscape exactly as it was over 180 years ago when he painted it,” says Carol. “Everyone is blown away by that, seeing it exactly as Glover would have seen it. It’s the clearest view and the closest you’ll see the landscape. It’s magical. Now we have the heritage listing, the distant hills will stay like that — hopefully for another 200 years.” The Glover Prize exhibition is open from March 10th–19th. For more information, visit glovercountry.com.au or johnglover.com.au. Follow the Patterdale restoration on Instagram @glovercountry