Detmar Jellings BLOW1867 - 1939 (72 years)
Name Detmar Jellings BLOW Born 1867 Sydenham, London  Gender Male Census New 02 Apr 1871 Cambridge Lane, Sydenham, age 3  Census New 05 Apr 1891 3 Park Hill Road, Croydon, age 23  Census New 02 Apr 1911 12 Kings Bench Walk, Temple, age 40, architect  Died 7 Feb 1939 Gloucester, Gloucs  Buried 11 Feb 1939 Painswick, Gloucs 
- Parish of Upton St Leonards (source: Gloucestershire Archives)
Newspaper Report 18 Feb 1939 Painswick, Gloucs  Newspaper Report 27 May 1939 Gloucester, Gloucs  Notes
- Enduring love
Designer's muse Isabella Blow and her husband Detmar blazed a delightfully eccentric trail through the world of fashion. In a frank and poignant interview only days after her death, he talks to Rachel Cooke about life with a true style original
The Observer, Sunday 13 May 2007
Bereavement makes people behave strangely, and Detmar Blow is no exception. At Hilles, the Arts and Crafts house which was built by the architect grandfather after whom he is named, the wind rattles the windows and the rain taps at the glass like ghostly fingers. The house, built into the side of a valley so that it feels like the prow of a ship, looks over thousands of acres of Gloucestershire and, in spite of the squally weather, this is where we are heading right now - out into the dripping green. 'I need a walk,' he says. 'I need to get outside for a bit.' He has just made me a cup of Earl Grey tea - I am straight off the train from London - and he now decants it from china cup to stout mug. 'You can take it with you,' he says. 'Yes?' In a flagged hall, he picks out two coats: a red mackintosh for him, a lead weight of tweed for me. 'I won't give you one of Issy's coats. That would be too macabre.' So, off we go: me, Detmar - four days into his grief and still far from acclimatised - and Detmar's pug, Alfie, who rasps like an old steam iron. The air is as bracing as a slap.
After 20 minutes, we return to the house - Wuthering Heights on a withering budget, as Issy always used to call it - where we sit in the gloom in front of a smoking fire which Detmar periodically attacks with a pair of creaking bellows. He tells me that he feels a bit better, now. 'I wanted to make it lovely for you,' he says. 'Light a fire! Get a few lights on!' But it's not really working. When someone has died, there is nothing you can do to make a room cheery and, on a day like this one, it is probably not even worth trying. Better to get on with The Arrangements. Detmar has spent the morning with the Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, where the funeral for his wife, the fashion stylist, Isabella Blow, will be held on Tuesday (it's the only possible place; he and Issy were married there in 1989). It will be only for family, but there will be a memorial service in July. 'Conde Nast [the owners of Vogue and Tatler, where Blow used to work] want it to be in Hanover Square, but that church is too small. I'm thinking of the Guards Chapel. Philip [Treacy, the milliner] says it should be the Abbey.' He laughs.
It's exhausting, I say, all the stuff you have to do in the days before a funeral. 'Oh, I know what to do,' he says. 'My father died by his own hand when I was boy. I know what to do.' The service will include Faure's Requiem; a rousing chorus of 'To Be a Pilgrim', which the Blows always have at weddings and funerals; and a reading from the Book of Matthew: 'Why do you worry about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.' It was Isabella's niece who put her on to these verses - the same niece whose photograph she sent to Sarah Doukas, the model agent who discovered Kate Moss, days before she died. That Isabella loved these verses tells you, I think, a lot about her obsession with fashion. She adored clothes, from the moment she saw her mother trying on a pink hat when she was a little girl. But perhaps they - perhaps everything - came to matter to her too much.
Detmar told the world that Isabella had died of ovarian cancer. But everyone knows that she had been battling depression, and that she had told people this was a war she did not believe she could win. Two years ago, she jumped from a London bridge, breaking her legs and smashing her feet so badly that she could no longer wear her beloved high heels. (I used to work with Blow and what I remember about her more than anything was her shoes: her favourites then were by Jeremy Scott, and were shaped like a cloven hoof, so that she resembled no one so much as Mr Tumnus the faun.)
Later, she took an overdose. An inquest into her death, which opened last Friday, revealed that traces of the weedkiller Paraquat had been found in her body, and some newspapers have reported that she told her weekend house party guests that she was going shopping, but that they later found her collapsed. Detmar, however, is sticking to his official line, and I don't blame him. 'I've steered people away from the prurience,' he says. 'She had cancer. That's it. She's dead now. We can't change it. But we can celebrate her life, and our love for her.' In the hours after her death last Monday, Detmar spoke to Geordie Greig, the editor of Tatler, where Isabella had been fashion director. 'He was talking about all the obituaries, who would do what. I couldn't understand it at the time. But he was right. They're so comforting. I lie in bed and stroke the pictures. Poor Issy. I am going to be so lonely.' He picks up a book, the diaries of Wallis Simpson. Inside, his wife has written her name and the date: 1 May 2007. 'Look. So poignant. This is the ninth, and she's dead.'
Detmar Blow met Isabella Delves Broughton (her grandfather, Sir Jock Delves Broughton, was accused of the White Mischief murder of Lord Erroll; he was acquitted, but later killed himself) on 24 September 1988, just a week before his 25th birthday. She was five years his senior. They were at a wedding. 'She was with my sister [Selina Blow, the designer]. They walked straight past me. I noticed Issy talking like a little bird; that lovely voice. We came out of the cathedral. "I love your hat," I said. And she said: "I love your coat and I wish I was wearing my violet shoes for you, but it's muddy", which was so unlike her.' Did she ever put practicality before fashion? Didn't she wear wellies when she was here at Hilles? 'Of course not.' He looks at me as though I'm mad. 'Anyway, we went to the reception. She had 100 people round her and, of course, I had no one. So I waited for my moment, and then I leapt in: "Please come to Hilles," I said. Cheeky boy! And then: "Can I have your phone number?" Only her work number. But cool! I was having palpitations. On the Thursday, I rang. I said I was going to cook lamb and marinade it with apricots. She lived round the corner from me in London, in a house belonging to the literary executor of Tennessee Williams. So she came for dinner.
'Silver skirt, little bandana: the Pam Hogg look. Amazing figure. I thought: phwoar! I'd a girlfriend at the time, bit older than me. She was flashing daggers at Issy. Then Issy went upstairs to the drawing room. I rushed after her, closed the door and ...' He throws himself dramatically on top of me, so we're both lying prone on his creaking sofa (I told you grief makes people act strangely). What did she say? 'She said: "Get off me you silly Sri Lanki [Detmar's mother is of Sri Lankan extraction]." So then we went off to the second dinner of the night because, you know, getting Issy at short notice was tricky. When we got there, there weren't enough chairs, so I said: "Do you mind if Issy sits on my lap?"' His relationship with his girlfriend, who spent the evening slamming doors, ended that night and, the following weekend, he enticed Isabella to Hilles (Detmar, a barrister turned art dealer, does not own the house; his mother does, but he pays the bills, and is the sitting tenant). 'I asked her if she liked it. She told me afterwards that she said "yes", thinking: this will pay off my overdraft. Ha. I didn't have any money! On the Monday, I rang her. I said: "I'm coming to London to have my hair cut, and I've got something to tell you that I've never told anyone else before." When she came round, I was very nervous. I said: "I don't want to have an affair with you. I want to marry you."' Did she say yes immediately? 'Of course she did.' Blow pulls his upper lip over his teeth. He looks like the cat that got the cream.
Sixteen days from first meeting to marriage proposal; they married the following year, Issy in - of course - a Philip Treacy hat. Detmar was certain of his wife's talents as a stylist and muse, and determined both to give her a platform (Hilles where, effectively, she could run her salon) and to be her patron. She was notoriously bad with money and he was now on hand, so far as he was able, to bail her out. 'I saw Issy as a supertalent, but also as very nervous and insecure. I put a stop to that. But she was naughty.' He giggles. 'When she was the fashion director of the Sunday Times, she would get an advance on her expenses for the shows. But no sooner would we arrive in Paris than the designers would appear, the money would all be gone [spent on clothes]. So then it would be: "Is my credit card OK?"' What was it like being seen with her? Answer: he loved it. 'This is my mother,' he says. He shows me an old photograph of an extraordinarily beautiful woman in a coat with a collar that is straight out of Blake's Seven. 'We're theatrical. My father used to dress up in armour and stuff. This is my life! This house is a theatre set!'
Their marriage was, he says, incredibly happy and close, though Issy deeply regretted the fact that they had not been able to have children ('We were like a pair of exotic fruits that could not breed when placed together,' she once said). Then, three years ago, it all went wrong. 'I was heart-broken when we separated. I couldn't understand it.' So why did he allow it to happen? 'It was all Issy. She got fed up with my mother.' Detmar's mother was engaged in a battle to winkle him out of Hilles, a battle he has since won (according to Detmar, she wanted Selina, who has children, to live there). 'Issy said: "We should just go." But I said: "No, I'm staying and fighting. This is my home." She couldn't do it. She didn't have the stomach.' Isabella had faced parental rejection before. In 1994, her father disinherited her, leaving her only £5,000 of his £6m fortune; her husband believes that the idea of going through something similar again was too much for her. So, she left. 'I wrote her these letters saying I was heartbroken: I love you so much, I can't bear it, blah, blah, blah. But her reponse was [he adopts a mafiosi voice]: "You just don't get it. It's over."' Her sisters reported that Issy had told them she had not received his letters, so the next time he wrote, he took the precaution of photocopying his note, sending one to Isabella and one to her sisters. 'When I told her this, she said: "Same old shit, huh?" So naughty of Issy!'
So, in London, Detmar moved to Shoreditch, and had a 'really good time'. Among other things, he had an affair with the lesbian writer Stephanie Theobald. 'I used to be envious of all those boys who had all those girls. But then I realised: oh, it's not so hard. Everyone seems to like me. I'm very loveable!' Was Isabella mad and jealous? 'Oh, Ye-es! But then she got depression and her psychiatrist rang me and said: "You're the key to her."' There was a rapprochement. 'Issy was the sexiest, you see. Of all the girls I've made love to, Issy was always the best. She was super-sexy! She had the most beautiful knickers! One of my great aunts, Aunt Minette, said to me: "You have to have brains as well [to be sexy]." She was my soul mate.' Two tears roll down his cheeks. 'I had my bachelor time; I know what's coming now. And the people I love are always with me: Issy, my grandparents. But I am going to be so lonely.' He wipes his face, and seems to make a conscious decision to pull himself together. 'I am a bit addicted to drama,' he says. 'But let's carry on. I'm talking about the person I love.' Isn't he worn out? Grief is exhausting. 'No, I'm all right. People ask me: what can we do to help you? Well, give me money, or give me sex! Otherwise, just write to me, and let me grieve.' He laughs, naughtily. This is known, I think, as putting on a show.
I ask him if Isabella felt let down by the designers that she supported; a free frock, after all, is not the same thing as a job. 'Yes, she did. Though it wasn't about money for her, even if she did have fantasies about private jets. But Alexander [McQueen, probably her biggest discovery] paid her hospital bills, and he never made a fuss. Did you see the film of her on Channel 4 news? She was wearing a black and white Dior coat. John [Galliano, the designer of Dior] gave her that. She said: "I love it, but I can't afford it." They told her she could have it. "When we had no money you helped us. Take whatever you want."' A coat, though, doesn't put food on the table. In the midst of her depression, Isabella became convinced that she would end up as a bag lady. She knew how it felt to be seriously hard up. When she and Detmar first met, she had accounts at Fortnum's and Berry Bros, so that when the money ran out, she would still be able to eat - and drink - at least for a while.
It's time for me to leave now; a taxi is waiting, and Detmar has a thousand things to do. We go out through an immense panelled hall - ordinarily, I bet it's perfect for parties, but today it is so dank, it's a place to be dashed through - and into the kitchen, where Isabella's sister, Lavinia, sits at a table, looking poleaxed at the shock of it all. Issy's niece is here too, and a handsome young man who, I'm guessing from the look of his trousers, works in fashion or, perhaps, as a photographer (Isabella tried to turn every handsome young man she met into a photographer and, sometimes, she succeeded). On the floor, Alfie and two pug puppies have formed a kind of dog-knot. Detmar looks disdainful; he has eyes only for Alfie, now his best companion.
Time slows down in the days before a funeral, and here it feels like everyone save for the pugs is moving through invisible jelly. Or perhaps this is just the timeless power of Hilles, whose architect - like his grandson - went through life aiming for a certain kind of effect. Hilles helped Detmar to bag his bride, and now it will help to send her off in style. We go outside. I get into my car. The last thing I see as I drive off is Detmar. He's hopping up and down (he always did remind me of a penguin) and waving and trying to tuck his shirt into his trousers. 'Good luck finding Swindon!' he shouts. 'It's over there somewhere! Ha ha ha!' He is laughing wildly, which is exactly what Isabella would have wanted.
Blow by blow: Detmar's story
Family Sri Lankan mother; historian father killed himself by drinking weedkiller; grandfather was the Arts and Crafts architect Detmar Jellings Blow. Direct descendent of the composer Purcell.
Career A former barrister turned art dealer, Detmar is the director of the Blow de la Barra gallery in London's Mayfair, founded with Isabella and Mexican curator and artist Pablo Leon.
Isabella The couple met at a friend's wedding in 1988, became engaged 16 days later and married the following year at Gloucester Cathedral. Separated in 2004; Detmar had an affair with novelist Stephanie Theobald and Isabella with a Venetian gondolier. Reconciled 18 months later. Doted on their pug, Alfie.
She said 'I'm having my body cut up when I die and I'm leaving my heart with Detmar in a heart-shaped box.'
He says 'She was a substantial person. She was extraordinary, dynamic, beautiful and loyal.'
- Detmar Jellings Blow (1867–1939) was a British architect of the early 20th century, who designed principally in the arts and crafts style. His clients belonged chiefly to the British aristocracy, and later he became estates manager to the Duke of Westminster. The fiction that he was a descendant of the English restoration composer John Blow was started in 1910 by Detmar Blow's wife Winifred, a member of the aristrocratic Tollemache family, as a means of obtaining a licence from St. Paul's Cathedral for the marriage of herself and Detmar.
1 Life and career
1.1 Patronage of the 2nd Duke of Westminster
2 Notable works
3 See also
Life and career
Blow was one of the last disciples of John Ruskin whom as a young man he had accompanied on his last journey abroad. Blow was patronised by the Wyndham family, who at their country house Clouds in Wiltshire created a salon frequented by many of the leading intellectual and artistic figures of the day, known as The Souls, who welcomed Blow into their midst admiring his romantic socialist views.
Blow's architectural work was very much influenced by his mentors Ruskin, William Holman Hunt and Philip Webb, the architect of Clouds (1886). In his early career he adopted the role of the wandering architect, travelling artisan-like with his own band of masons from project to project. He married the aristocratic and intellectual Winifred Tollemache, and began to be patronised by the higher echelons of the British aristocracy. While much of his early work was, like that of his contemporary Lutyens, in the Arts and Crafts style, his later work was dictated by the whims of his aristocratic patrons. At one point during his career he and Lutyens contemplated entering together into an architectural partnership.
Amongst the buildings designed by Blow were Hilles, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, the mansion he built for himself after 1914, very much influenced by the ideals of Ruskin, Webb and William Morris (Blow was present at Morris's death and organised his funeral procession, driving the flower-strewn hay-wagon carrying the coffin, dressed in a farm worker's smock). In 1908 he rebuilt Bramham Park for the Lane Fox family; however, this commission was a restoration of the former Baroque house which had been severely damaged by fire in 1828.
Horwood House, designed by Detmar Blow in an William and Mary style in 1912
Detmar Blow's grandson, also Detmar Blow, was married to the fashion stylist Isabella Blow, and lives at Hilles, Harescombe, Gloucestershire.
Patronage of the 2nd Duke of Westminster
Blow designed various properties for Hugh "Bendor" Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, including Château de Woolsack, a hunting lodge in Mimizan, France, near Bordeaux. In due course he became a great friend of the duke, which led to the latter appointing Blow in 1916 to manage the Westminster estates. These covered vast tracts of Belgravia and Mayfair in London, a position given, to which the quixotic Blow was completely unsuitable. As a result of the demands of overseeing the properties, Blow allowed his architectural career to dwindle. This proved to be a catastrophic mistake, when his reputation was later destroyed.
The popular and wholly untrue version of Blow's fall from service with the 2nd Duke of Westminster is that the architect became the target of the jealousy of the duke's third wife, the former Loelia Ponsonby, who convinced her husband that Blow was embezzling money from the estate, a claim Blow vigorously denied. Following a vindictive campaign of hatred by the Westminsters, the architect and his family were shunned by society. He was driven by the scandal to insanity.The truth of the matter is that the Duke tasked a Grosvenor trustee, Sir Vincent Baddeley and a leading solicitor, Arthur Borrer of Boodle Hatfield, to look into Blow's conduct as the Duke's secretary. They found such strong evidence that Blow had been defrauding the Grosvenor Estate that Blow offered to pay some of the money back. He defaulted on this promise and was dismissed.
All Saints' Church, Avon Tyrell (for Lord Manners, with murals by Phoebe Traquair, 1906)
Amesbury Abbey, Wiltshire
Billesley Manor, Warwickshire
Bramham Park, Yorkshire (restoration for the Lane-Fox family, 1908)
Breccles Hall, Norfolk
Château de Woolsack, Mimizan, France (a hunting lodge for the 2nd Duke of Westminster, 1912)
Eaton Hall (Cheshire) (alterations for the 2nd Duke of Westminster)
Happisburgh Manor (St Mary's), Norfolk
Hatch House, Wiltshire
Heale House, Wiltshire (for the Hon. Louis Greville)
Hilles, Harescombe, Gloucestershire (for himself)
Holcombe House, Stroud, Gloucestershire
Horwood House, Little Horwood, Buckinghamshire
Lake House, Wiltshire (1898)
Lavington Park, West Sussex
Little Ridge (for the Morrison family)
Schloss Kranzbach, Krün, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (for The Hon. Miss Mary Portman)
Stanway House, Gloucestershire (for Earl of Wemyss)
Wilsford, Wiltshire (for Edward Tennant, 1st Baron Glenconner)
Wootton Manor, Polegate, Sussex (for the Gwynne Family) 
- Detmar Jellings Blow was born in London on 24 November 1867, the son of Jellings Blow, a City of London merchant. He was educated at Hawtreys and at South Kensington School of Art, where in 1883 he formed a long-standing friendship with his fellow student Lutyens. In 1885 he was articled to Wilson, Son & Aldwinckle with whom he stayed for four years, attending the classes of the Architectural Association from 1887. He won both the Association's Silver Medal and travelling studentship and the Royal Academy's Silver Medal and travelling studentship, enabling him to undertake an extended continental study tour, initially with Sydney Cockerell. At Abbeville in 1888 they met Ruskin who first supervised their studies and then took Blow on a tour of Italy in the autumn and winter of 1889. On his return to London he worked with the Bond Street art dealer Arthur Collie and made the acquaintance of Sedding, Morris, Lethaby, Reginald Blomfield, Sydney Barnsley and Ernest Gimson. On Ruskin's advice he spent almost a year with a working mason in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, learning the practical business of building before completing his articles with Philip Speakman Webb, whose repair and restoration work on East Knoyle Church he supervised in 1891-93.
In 1892 Blow won the Pugin Prize and was admitted to the Art Workers' Guild. In the previous year he had been commissioned to advise on work on Hugh Fairfax Cholmeley's Gilling Castle estate, and he was formally appointed its architect in 1893. A London office shared with Alfred Hoare Powell was opened at 21 Old Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, but he continued to operate a peripatetic architect-craftsman practice with a caravan until 1906 when he formed a partnership with the Frenchman Fernand Billerey, born 1878, who was eleven years younger. Billerey was Ecole des Beaux-Arts trained and much of the practice of Blow & Billerey thereafter took a French eighteenth-century character, their principal client being the Duke of Westminster.
Blow married in 1910 Winifred Tollemache, second daughter of the Hon Hamilton Tollemache of Helmingham Hall. This consolidated his high society connections, but with the advent of the First World War the practice began to run out of work. In 1916 he became the Duke of Westminster's private secretary and manager of the Grosvenor estates, although his partnership with Billerey was to continue until 1924, Billerey retaining the practice title of Blow & Billerey. Part of Blow's financial arrangements with the Duke was the gift from him of seven leases in Mayfair, the sub-leasing of which financed the Blows' lifestyle at Hilles, Gloucestershire, which they had built in 1914-17. In 1933 these arrangements turned sour with largely unfounded allegations of financial mismanagement of the Grosvenor estates and the sub-leases in particular. Although Blow repaid the monies from the sub-leases, further allegations continued to be made: Blow thereafter retired completely to Hilles where he died on 7 February 1939. Billerey survived him, living on until 1951. 
Person ID I7014 Freeman-Culpin Last Modified 1 Dec 2015
Father Jellings BLOW, b. 27 Sep 1830, St Pancras, London Mother Johanna Antoinette, b. Abt 1839, Bremen, Germany , d. 1924, Pimlico, London (Age ~ 85 years) Family ID F2228 Group Sheet | Family Chart
Family Winifred Gertrude TOLLEMACHE, b. 1882, Kensington, London , d. 27 May 1954, Gloucester, Gloucs (Age 72 years) Married 1910 London  Children 1. Clare D BLOW, b. 1914, Pimlico, London 2. Living 3. Living 4. Living Last Modified 11 Oct 2015 Family ID F2230 Group Sheet | Family Chart
Event Map = Link to Google Earth
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