Grass Seed in June by John Martin Robinson - review by David Watkin

David Watkin

Monks and Monuments

Grass Seed in June

By

Michael Russell 175pp £16.95 order from our bookshop
 

From the very first words, ‘I have never lived anywhere commonplace’, the reader is gripped by this frank and intensely aesthetic account of a unique career. Dr John Martin Robinson, known to his countless friends and admirers as Mentmore, is Maltravers Herald Extraordinary, Librarian to the Duke of Norfolk, prolific author, architectural historian, and campaigner for the preservation of historic buildings. He leads us entertainingly and thoughtfully through the first twenty-five years of his life, beginning with a relatively impoverished childhood on a remote farm, moving to a truly grim public school, then to St Andrews University where he achieved a First in mediaeval history, followed by a tour of Baroque monasteries in Germany and Austria to celebrate his twenty-first birthday in 1969, and finally to Oriel College, Oxford, as a post-graduate student working under Howard Colvin.

Explaining that ‘as a family we were Tories and Catholics’, he describes the various activities in which its different branches were involved, including farming, a grit stone quarry, cotton mills, recycling metal for Japanese industry, and a manufactory for iron bedsteads and munitions. In the narrative of his childhood, with

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