This charming and unusual casket injects a romantic atmosphere into any interior. It has survived in impeccable condition with acceptable wear to the painted surface which signifies its age and use. It is a conversation piece, a piece of acting history, bought by Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier for their home. They were the King and Queen of stage and screen and their romance is an iconic love story. She was the raven-haired, green-eyed, feline temptress who won the most coveted female role in cinema history as the wilful Southern minx, Scarlett O'Hara, in the most celebrated film ever made, Gone With The Wind. He was the impossibly handsome, dark, and brooding Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, acclaimed as the greatest actor of the 20th century and the youngest to be knighted. It is not known when they purchased this casket, whether together or as a gift for the other, but its romantic charm would have harmonised with the romantic interiors they created at Notley Abbey.
The triangular lid painted on both sides with a large centralised poppy surrounded by stylised berries and floral sprays with red and white peonies. The front and back painted with a stylised tulip with two large red peonies either side and berries. The sides painted with stylised red and white peonies and berries. The casket retains its original iron strapwork decoration on the lid, front, back and sides. The original lock and later key. The interior retains a fragment of the original lining paper, white with gold squares and circles. The paintwork has some wear on the front and sides of the lid where it has been handled over time and developed a patina.
Notley Abbey: "Of all the houses I've lived in over the years, Notley is my favourite. It was absolutely enchanting, and it enchanted me. At Notley I had an affair with the past. For me it had mesmeric power; I could easily drown in its atmosphere. I could not leave it alone, I was a child lost in its history. Perhaps I loved it too much, if that is possible." Laurence Olivier
'Oh the hundreds of times my beloved Larry and I have wandered here in wonder and grateful amazement at the beauty all around us.' Vivien Leigh
Notley Abbey, named after the local nut trees, was an Augustinian abbey founded in the 12th century near Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire which became one of the largest and richest Augustinian monasteries in the Oxford region. The abbey was visited by Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VIII who dissolved it in 1538. By 1937 only the abbot's house and portions of the western and southern claustral buildings were relatively intact and the Abbey was excavated.
In 1944 Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh purchased Notley Abbey and the L-shaped, two-storied Abbots Residence became their marital home until 1960. They transformed Notley into a romantic haven hosting some of the greatest parties attended by the celebrities of the day such as Douglas Fairbanks Jr, John Gielgud and Peter Finch. The Oliviers also left an imprint on the garden with their planting schemes and Olivier planted a romantic nut tree walk at Notley, which survives today, as a gift for his beautiful wife.
'An attitude circulated that these weekend parties were in some way exclusive gatherings of a small and somewhat superior theatrical clique. It was never like that. Vivien adored her home and she was never happier than when she could share the peace and beauty of Notley….I think Larry would have appreciated their being on their own a little more. But Vivien was one of those people who must have people around her. They were not wild parties nor in any way particularly unusual-except possibly that they gave us a chance to relax and be ourselves far removed from the artificiality that surrounds much of the life of the theatre… Larry, I remember, spent his time enjoying his hobby of tree pruning. I spent one glorious afternoon employed on nothing more glamourous that cleaning out a stretch of clogged up river.' Peter Finch, Gwen Robyns, Light of a Star
Vivien was devasted when, due to their impending divorce, Notley had to be sold in 1960 and describes her sadness at the thought of having to sell Notley in 1960.
Notley - Feb 19 1960 'It seems as if Notley is sold. I can hardly write the words. A Canadian couple saw it some weeks ago, made an immediate and perfectly good offer and want to move in at the end of April. It doesn't seem possible, does it? Of course it is looking particularly beautiful. We have had the most glorious crisp and dazzling winter days…I walk from place to precious place and gaze at the beloved views with tears pouring down my face. What memories for all one's life-such unbelievable rare happiness, sweetness and quietude there has been here. I don't forget the other times too, but they seem to me outweighed by blissful togetherness. Dear God it is a heartache…the fact that we have known for some time now that it would have to go doesn't seem to help in the least.It is fifteen years-a great part of one's life. Shall you ever forget our walk on that misty moonlit night? Oh the hundreds of times my beloved Larry and I have wandered here in wonder and grateful amazement at the beauty all around us-the feeling that we were a little responsible for creating it too made it all so doubly dear. It is hard to imagine life without such an oasis. To think that YOU will not see it again seems quite untrue. If you have felt hurt at my not writing you now know the reason why-for what such upheavals shake one's life in every direction it is difficult to assemble one's thoughts and communicate freely…Do not blame Larry for not writing, he has had a tremendous amount to do and I think, is feeling, in his own way, as uncertain and unhappy. Tarquin Olivier, My Father Laurence Olivier:
Provenance: Deceased estate of Suzanne Farrington (only child Vivien Leigh & Leigh Holman), Vivien Leigh, Notley Abbey, Most likely that described, Notley Abbey Inventory, April 1948, p. 14, drawing room, 'An old English varnished wood workbox with floral and figure decorations 10½' wide' (The Vivien Leigh Archive, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, THM/433/6/1).
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