Online exhibition 'Greece Recreated: Classical Inspiration at Belsay Hall' launches

17 December 2020

"The hope is that the online exhibition will capture people’s interest and encourage them to visit both the Great North Museum and Belsay when things open up again..."

Sir Charles Monck (1779-1867) © Middleton Archive
Sir Charles Monck (1779-1867) © Middleton Archive

A new online exhibition – Greece Recreated: Classical Inspiration at Belsay Hall – has launched.  

The exhibition is inspired by the vivid Mediterranean travelogues of Sir Charles Monck, architect of Northumberland’s Belsay Hall. They recount an epic honeymoon to Greece in 1804-5 and an adventurous winter tour of Sicily in 1831.   

Recorded diary excerpts, sketches, 19th-century artworks and photographs illustrate the journeys, exploring the links between Monck’s encounters with Greek and Sicilian antiquities and landscapes, and the redesign of the house and gardens at Belsay.   

Alongside this, the exhibition presents details and images of artefacts in the Great North Museum: Hancock’s Shefton collection associated with the sites Monck visited, illuminating key aspects of the Greek world he found so fascinating.  

Some rarely seen items from the English Heritage Belsay repository also round out the story of Monck’s inspiration. 

Created in cooperation with English Heritage by Dr Susanna Phillippo and Dr Sally Waite of Newcastle University alongside Andrew Parkin, Keeper of Archaeology at the Great North Museum: Hancock, the project was funded by a Public Engagement Award offered by the Institute of Classical Studies, London.  

Dr Sally Waite, Senior Lecturer in Greek Art and Archaeology, said: 

“The constraints of Covid have actually led us to explore the potential of the online format to reach a wider virtual visitor audience. The hope is that the online exhibition will capture people’s interest and encourage them to visit both the Great North Museum and Belsay when things open up again, to find out more.”   

Dr Susanna Phillippo, Senior Lecturer in Classics, said: 

“The story of the Moncks’ travels carries contemporary resonance for the present difficult times. Travel for the Moncks was an uncertain and often dangerous business. Their journey to Greece was undertaken during the Napoleonic Wars – disrupting their route both ways – and they were frequently held up by quarantine regulations and outbreaks of serious infection.  

“At one point in early 1805 they feared they might not make it to mainland Greece due to an outbreak of ‘plague’. Luckily for us and for Belsay, they weren’t easily deterred and circumstances turned in their favour!”

South Italian Fish-plate, 400-300BC, Shefton Collection 183
South Italian Fish-plate, 400-300BC, Shefton Collection 183

Andrew Parkin, Keeper of Archaeology, said: 

“I’ve welcomed the opportunity to work with colleagues from Newcastle University and English Heritage to highlight objects from the Shefton Collection and provide something new for the Great North Museum's audience.” 

The exhibition is best viewed on desktop and laptop PCs. It is available now at: greece-recreated.com  

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