The Fan Museum (2)

…and through the arched window…

I’ve already covered the Fan Musuem, but since Jemma was specifically asking about it as a venue for functions, I thought I’d nip over and check out the facilities. Of course this did involve having to see the latest exhibition at the same time. It’s a tough job…

Every inch of this place is exquisite – not a corner nor, presumably, a backroom store cupboard out of place. In fact the only place that even vaguely begins to touch it for sheer loveliness was the old Polka Children’s Theatre in Wimbledon when Richard Gill ran it – a place so magical that it was like a combination of cuckoo-clock, treasure chest and toy box all in one. The Fan Museum I’d say was ormolu clock, jewel-chest and chocolate box – but in essentials much the same…

First the exhibition. I am always astounded that there are so many themes for one tiny, single-issue museum to follow. They manage two or three top-quality exhibitions a year – each time coming up with a fresh topic, and managing to find enough exhibits to fill it. I mean – I like fans as much as the next phantom, but this must be some kind of delightful obsession for the curators here – and long may it continue to be so.

This one is Fanning the Senses – a study of fans and their relationship with perfume. Fans and fragrance were an essential part of a lady’s toilette – especially in the days before people actually washed – the perfume to mask one’s own whiffy person; the fan to waft away everyone else’s. The fans, as always, are fabulous – my particular favourites include Love Knot from 1870, a charming Victorian vision of 18thC court life, Love’s Retreat, from the 1890s which focused on roses and lovebirds and the Allegory of the Senses from 1700, which does what it says on the tin. The perfume bottle also displayed were lovely,too, but part of me rather wished that there was a way we could smell the fragrances too. A Scratch & Sniff card, perhaps?

I was intrigued by the perfume advertising fans from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, especially the Olympic Fan from the games in the 1920s. Now there’s an idea for a souvenir for 2012…

But I sense I’m losing a few male readers here. Onto the functions (though I suspect I won’t win back too many boys with that one either.)

Jemma, I recon that the Fan Museum would be utterly lovely as a venue, checking it out with that specifically in mind. The garden’s in two specific parts – a Japanese style tea garden at the back and a French Parterre design in the foreground. It’s large and lovely enough to take a fair few guests, and secluded enough for you to feel you weren’t in the centre of town. The orangery tearooms are just beautiful – charmingly hand-painted and with those lovely mirrored doors at the far end.

I have two reservations. I know nothing about their standards of catering – or whether you could get your own caterers in (probably at an extra charge) – in which case, Hand-Made Foods and Theatre of Wine are your guys.

My other slight concern is what happens if it rains. The orangery is gorgeous, but it’s not enormous and if all 80 of your reception guests bowl up into the conservatory it might be a squeeze. They can do sit-down in the orangery for 30 and they DO have a marquee that will seat 50 – but that is the end of your beautiful garden reception. I detest marquees (though that’s probably a personal thing, I know not everyone does.) In the evenings you get the run of the museum; presumably during the day you have to share it with visitors.

This is one of the few places I have come across where the corporate charges are less than the private – Corporate starting at £ 200, private hire at £ 250 (both plus VAT.)

Personally I think this would be a wonderful option for a small reception. Larger venues get less personal the grander they get and this place is almost edible in its boudoir-beauty.

If you go there, Jemma,will you give us a review?

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