York House Gardens on Twickenham riverside is one of those beautiful places I like to pass through now and then, usually on the way to Orleans Gallery, or walking to Richmond. Not much happens in the usually quiet gardens, save a few lunch time office workers eating their sandwiches; maybe a tourist or two in the Summer, astonished at how pleasant everything is. Me and the kids have a favourite bench where in the holidays we stop to eat the sweets we bought on Church Street, before I drag them to an exhibition, or they drag me to the playground.
Gentle Summer fun. I’m looking forward to it coming upon us again. But the other thing about York House Gardens is the spectacle of the naked ladies. Made from marble, they initially failed to find a permanent home after their first owner Whitaker Wright dramatically committed suicide in court, where he was being tried for fraud, and they wound up in Twickenham, still in their boxes, in the early 1900s. Their new owner, Sir Ratan Tata (worth mentioning just for his name!) set them up in the gardens. When he died, they were left to their own devices, and subject to vandalism for years (7 naked ladies cavorting in a fountain? – one can only imagine what they put up with), they almost fell into ruin.
A ‘spirited’ local woman named Elizabeth Bell-Wright saved them in the late 80s. They still look pretty good, though chilly, and they are wonderfully cheeky and characterful. I had a good time drawing them, and chatting to the gardener at the same time.
At some point I realised that my hands had turned as cold as those naked sea nymphs, and so I headed to a trendy coffee shop to order… a good old cup of tea. The lovely hipster young man advised me on the ‘brew time’ for my chosen tea (English Breakfast), as though maybe I had never drunk tea before. I giggled, and thanked him, and his tea did turn out to be delicious. A man was watching me, smiling, and continued to watch me over the top of his laptop while I sipped my tea. It’s OK – before I went home, I went back to the naked ladies and told them where to get a nice trendy coffee to warm them up.
That’ll give him something to look at.
Bonus picture of the crazy horse statues which look after the naked ladies. I’m not making this up, the whole arrangement is completely bonkers.