Greenwood: Its History and Collections: “Remembering Percy Nobbs”

Memories of Scotland by Percy Nobbs, 1938.
Percy Erskine Nobbs was born in 1875 in Haddington, Scotland. Although he spent much of his childhood in Russia, where his father was a banker, he returned to Scotland to pursue his studies before establishing himself in Canada. This mural was painted by Nobbs in the late 1930s and depicts his birthplace. The pink and blue tones of the painting mirror the wooden details of the ceiling of the summer sitting room where it stands above the fireplace. According to Nob Photograph, Percy Nobbs.
Percy Erskine Nobbs: Architect, athlete, outdoorsman, and resident at Greenwood. (Greenwood Collection) Gouache Painting of the Kremlin by Percy Nobbs, 1896.
In addition to being a well known architect, Percy Nobbs was also an accomplished artist. His watercolour gouache painting of the Kremlin commemorates the coronation of the last Tsar of Russia, Emperor Nicholas II in 1896, which Percy attended while masquerading as a press artist for a fake American newspaper. The painting is signed PE Nobbs May 1896, Moscow. This depiction of the Kremlin also illustrates Russia's use of electrical lighting for the fi Ceremonial Mug.
As a guest at the coronation festival of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, Percy Nobbs obtained this ceremonial mug from Russia May in 1896. In his unpublished memoirs currently on display at Greenwood, Percy recounts his experiences at the coronation. According to Percy the enameled mugs were presented to workers and peasants along with rye bread loaves, salt, and a lottery ticket for a cow, in honor of the coronation. (Greenwood Collection)
Victorian Bowed Roll-Top Desk.
Made during the Napoleonic wars, this eighteenth century Victorian bowed roll-top desk was brought to Greenwood from Russia by Nobbs. Although he was born in Haddington Scotland, Percy spent most of his childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia, and returned several times as an adult. (Greenwood Collection)
Wedding of Percy and Mary Cecilia and Saint Mary's Church.
Percy Nobbs and Mary Cecilia Shepherd were married at Saint Mary's Church in Como on June 12, 1909. A man of many talents, Percy designed the bridesmaid dresses for the ceremony. Located just a short distance from Greenwood, St. Mary's Church shares a historic connection with the Greenwood Centre. Mary Cecilia's grandfather, Captain R.W. Shepherd, co-founded St. Mary's Church in 1867, and later Percy designed the St. Mary's pulpit, stil China Cabinet.
Percy Nobbs designed this mahogany china cabinet in 1909 as a wedding gift for his wife Mary Cecilia (Cecil) Shepherd. A very personal piece of furniture, the armoire is embellished with carved flowers and a monogram of Percy and Cecil's intertwined initials, PEN and MC. The armoire remains in excellent condition and has a companion piece in the upstairs bedroom. (Greenwood Collection)
Marriage Bed.
Nobbs designed a marriage bed made of oak for Cecil and himself, to accompany the china cabinet. The bed contains the engraved initials of Percy and Cecil, as well as the date of their marriage (June 12, 1909). The bedposts are twisted columns crowned by a cupid and pelican representing human love and Christian love. Engraved in the headboard are symbolic plant forms flanked by a maple and an acorn. The engraved thistle, fleur de lis, and rose symbolize Scotland, France, and England. The bed Geoffrey Plantagenet, Limoges enamel by Percy Nobbs, 1900.
As a student, Percy sketched this watercolour gouache drawing of the twelfth century duke of Normandy, Geoffrey Plantagenet, founder of the Plantagenet dynasty. The original enamel is located the Tessé museum in France. Percy's version was measured and drawn at Paris, September 1900 and now resides at Greenwood. The piece was part of an Owen Jones Studentship submission and shown at an exhibition as student work, probably at the South Kensington Design by Percy Nobbs, 1937.
Percy Nobbs was offered the MacDonald Chair of Architecture at McGill in 1903, despite his young age (he was only 28 years old at the time). His presence can still be felt on and off the McGill campus since many of the buildings he designed still stand today. These include the University Club on Mansfield in Montreal and what is now the McCord Museum. Nobbs was one of the very few architects who established the Arts and Crafts style in Canada after being inspired by development Summer Reading Room (Nobbs Room).
Greenwood has undergone many transformations since it was first built in 1732. One of the last additions to the residence took place in the 1930s under the direction of Percy Nobbs, husband of Cecil Shepherd. His summer reading room, now called the Nobbs room, is decorated in the Arts and Crafts style. This style developed in the 1860s as a reaction against the industrialisation of Victorian Britain and spread to Montreal and Canada when Nobbs emigrated in the early 1900s. Percy as a Military Man.
When the First World War broke out, Percy was in Montreal, working as an architect. As a small boy in Russia, he had been fascinated by the bayonet exercise of the St. Petersburg garrison. This experience was probably what inspired him to take on other fighting sports (boxing and fencing). During wartime, Percy served as a bayonet instructor (he himself never fought overseas because of his impaired vision, the result of an accident some years earlier). After the war, on a crowded t An Artistic Pairing.
Percy Nobbs' many talents often overshadowed those of his wife, Cecil Shepherd. Nevertheless, she was a gifted artist in her own right, despite the fact that her husband's work received much more exposure than her own. While Percy produced watercolours of landscapes, his wife preferred portraits and her medium of choice was pastel.  As Cecil was a member of the Delesderniers-Shepherd clan who owned Greenwood for five generations, the house contains artwork from her childhood, early The Birds by Percy Nobbs, 1934.
Percy Nobbs married Cecil Shepherd in 1909 and in 1924, took on ownership of Greenwood. For their 25th wedding anniversary in 1934, Percy created a wrought-iron sculpture of birds. It now stands on the East side of the Greenwood gardens. Designed in the Arts and Crafts tradition, it depicts the entire Nobbs family in three dimensions. At the top is daughter Phoebe, wings spread and already far from the nest. Chiding from below is her husband Andrew MacKellar. Younger brother Salmon Tactics by Percy Nobbs, 1934.
In 1934 Percy Nobbs published Salmon Tactics, his first of three books. His goal was to encourage the protection of salmon fishing in Atlantic Canada, which was already being threatened by the increase of hydro-electric dams and pollution. To further his cause, Percy also created the Atlantic Salmon Federation in 1948 which today is still an active and important organization funding research for salmon conservation and habits. In 1952 Percy earned the Outdoor Life Conse Fencing Tactics by Percy Nobbs, 1936.
Published in 1936, Fencing Tactics was the second of three books that Percy Nobbs wrote during his life. He declares in his unpublished memoirs that he had always "taken an interest in 'antagonistics,'" otherwise known as boxing, wrestling, fencing, bayonet fighting, etc. After picking up the foil in 1900 and winning the first Canadian Fencing Championship ever held, he was permitted to go to London for the 1908 Olympics as the lone fencer for the Canadian team Hunting and Fishing in the Canadian Wilderness.
Percy was an avid outdoorsman and would often take trips up North in the Canadian wilderness. In his unpublished memoirs, he recounts some of the adventures he shared with his guides. In one, Percy describes how he fell through thin ice and was stranded in freezing water until his Native guide started up a fire. The Native Elder pastel portrait above is dedicated to Percy Nobbs and is thought to be by Nicholas de Grandmaison.  The inscription on the bottom le Percy's Letters.
The Greenwood archives contain many of Percy's personal correspondences, including several letters addressed to his daughter Phoebe, Greenwood's last resident. In a letter written on March 1934 while Phoebe was studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Percy expresses trepidation towards Phoebe's upcoming marriage to the Captain Andrew MacKellar. Her father's word seems to have carried some weight since Phoebe postponed her marriage to the Captain in order to comp Family Tree.
Many people have lived at Greenwood since the 1820s when the Delesderniers family purchased the house and transformed it into the first General Store and Post Office in the area. It is helpful to carry a family tree when touring the residence simply because there are so many names to remember. For instance, Percy Nobbs married Mary Cecilia Shepherd in 1909. She often went by the nickname Cecil. However, there is another Mary Cecilia in Greenwood's long history; the first and only child of Am

The Greenwood Centre for Living History is not your typical museum. Donated in 1994 by Phoebe Nobbs Hyde to the Canadian Heritage of Quebec, this dynamic historical property will capture your imagination as you learn about the families who have called this place “home” for almost 300 years. Located in the beautiful town of Hudson some fifty kilometers West of Montreal, Greenwood provides a unique glimpse into the past where visitors are able to travel through time as they move from room to room.

Currently, Greenwood is celebrating the life of Percy E. Nobbs, a talented architect and athlete who was also the father of Phoebe Hyde. Although Percy, his wife Cecil, and their two children had a house on Belvedere Road in Westmount, Greenwood was used as their summer retreat. It had been in Cecil’s family since the 1820s and was given to her by her father, Doctor Francis Shepherd. In the 1920s, Percy added a summer reading room to the East side of the house, which he decorated in the Arts and Crafts style; a style that he himself had established in Montreal after being exposed to the movement in Scotland. Today, Percy’s presence is still very much felt at Greenwood: his watercolours and sketches still line the walls of his old study while the Archives hold some of his personal letters and family photographs. A beautifully crafted china cabinet and marriage bed, both wedding gifts to his bride Cecil, can still be seen by visitors, as can his wrought-iron sculpture of birds, again in the Arts and Crafts tradition. Copies of Percy’s three books, Fencing Tactics, Salmon Tactics, and Design are also on display.

Although Percy Nobbs played a significant role in making Greenwood what it is today, he is only one of the many interesting and influential Canadians who have left their mark on this historic site. Along with the Percy Nobbs Collection, the Centre houses countless other treasures that are just waiting to be discovered. From authentic beaver top hats to delicate Wedgewood china, from First Nations artefacts to embroidered fire screens, each item on display at Greenwood has its own history and significance.

After a tour of the residence, wander through the lakeside gardens. The flower beds, designed by Percy Nobbs, brim with colour from spring until fall and the lawns are often used for summer events, including theatrical productions.

Greenwood Centre for Living History