How can a narrative environment design make visible the neglect of women’s perspectives in recorded history and inspire visitors to reflect on what it means to be remembered?
Abandoned Grace is the degree project of Diane Dwyer for MA Narrative Environments, Central Saint Martins
Abandoned Grace is set within Hampton Court Palace. Located along the Thames to the southwest of London, Hampton Court became a royal residence during the reign of Henry VIII. It was used as a pleasure palace by various monarchs for over two centuries. The royals left Hampton Court for the last time in the mid-18th century after George III decided it was not to his liking.
Queen Victoria opened the site to visitors in the mid-19th century. Now managed by Historic Royal Palaces, it remains a major heritage tourism site.
the rest remain as they were when their last resident vacated, empty and abandoned.
Apartment 23, located within the gatehouse of Hampton Court, served as a grace and favour residence from 1766 to 1992.
The residents' biographies are strikingly similar. They list the accomplishments of their fathers and husbands, but hold hardly a scrap of information about the women themselves. Their lives are reduced to their dates of birth and death and their roles as daughters and wives of men.
The story of the past is told to us from a patriarchal perspective, effectively eliminating the point of view of women. This phenomenon extends from our history books to our streets; in fact, less than 3% of all statues in the UK are of historical, non-royal women. To put this into perspective, Edinburgh has twice as many statues of dogs.
Hampton Court Palace is undoubtedly a stunning site, from the carved beams in the Tudor great hall to the elaborate symmetry of the privy garden. Even more fascinating, however, are the disused apartments lying dormant throughout the palace.
Most people know of Hampton Court Palace as Henry VIII’s pleasure palace, or for Christopher Wren’s baroque redesign. Far fewer know of the palace’s long history as home to residents of grace and favour.
When George III moved out, he allowed the palace to be converted to apartments for subjects who had performed an act of service to the crown and their dependents. These subjects were given warrants to live in the palace rent-free. The practice, known as grace-and-favour, continued from the mid 18th century to the mid 20th century.
The practice peaked in the 19th century with as many as 100 residents and their 200-300 servants. The palace population began to dwindle after the world wars, with the last warrants given in the 1960s. Today, many of these apartments have been converted into exhibition spaces, offices or storage...
Abandoned Grace responds to this issue of women's representation in history. The way we speak about women of the past affects what we expect of women today. That is why the installation aims to
inspire guests to consider:
Our lives have been reduced to our roles as wives and daughters.
Like most women who have come before, our voices have been lost to the patriarchal way history is recorded.
You are as close to us now as you can be. We lived and breathed, walked and sneezed within these walls, on these floorboards.
Imagine us here.
Imagine if your life was recorded by the accomplishments of your father and partner.
How would your biography read?
Who might we have been? What ambitions, regrets, hopes, fears, achievements might we have had?
The lack of representation in history is even worse for women of lower classes, women of colour, queer women, disabled women, and so on...
There are consequences to the loss of our voices.
It has led to a lack of female role models and to constrictive expectations for women today.
How do you want to be remembered?