The Canal Pond is set in the South Lawn at Chatsworth and was dug in 1702-3. It is set a few inches higher than the lawn, creating the illusion that the house rises out of the water when viewed from the far end of the canal.
There had been a fountain at the north end of the canal since the pond was completed. Originally named the Great Fountain, it is flanked by two reclining river gods, created by the sculptor Nadauld. The gods can just be seen in this photo, one of them behind a lady photographing the dog structure:
When it became known that Tsar Nicholas 1, Emperor of Russia, would visit Chatsworth in 1844, the Great Fountain was replaced by the Emperor Fountain. Commissioned by the 6th Duke and created by Joseph Paxton, it was so named as a welcoming gesture to the tsar. Unfortunately, Tsar Nicholas never did make that visit but the fountain kept the name anyway.
Although the original Great Fountain had been the highest in the country, the new Emperor Fountain exceeded its reach and is on record as having reached 90 metres/295 feet. It was powered by the pressure of water dropping 297 feet through a 16 inch cast-iron pipe. It was the tallest gravity-fed fountain in the world for 160 years.
To provide enough water to power the new fountain an 8-acre lake, aptly named Emperor Lake, was dug up in the surrounding moorland of the Peak District. (This was in addition to the three existing lakes already providing the immense volumes of water needed by the house and its surrounding grounds.) Emperor Lake was finished in only six months in 1844.
The following painting, which I used in my earlier post on Chatsworth House, gives some idea of the height of the land behind the house and grounds:
If you look closely at the hillside, you will spot a small building. That is the hunting lodge, situated in Stand Wood on the edge of the hills and moors of the Peak District. Emperor Lake can be seen from the lodge, should visitors choose to wander up there.
A two and a half mile channel was dug across moorland to gather rain that fell on the high ground. As mentioned above, the fountain was powered by the pressure of water dropping 297 feet through a 16 inch cast-iron pipe. In places, trenches up to almost 15 feet deep were cut through the rock to maintain the gradient.
In 2014 two new nozzles were made for the fountain. One is the same diameter as the original nozzle and the other is a little narrower, the aim being to create a column of water similar to the one that Paxton achieved. With the new narrower nozzle and a new debris grid in Emperor Lake, which supplies the water, the fountain can still reach 62 metres/200 feet on a still day.
Although this may not be the most attractive fountain in the world, the height it reached so long ago and the story about Tsar Nicholas, certainly make it interesting.
This is the second part of a post I wrote a few weeks ago about Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The first part was already rather long, so I thought I’d leave this short piece for another time.
A final note: Writing this has set off a discussion in our house about the spelling of tsar. I’ve always spelled it this way, but my husband argued that if should be czar. Well, after looking it up it seems there are three spellings of the word: tsar, tzar and czar. So it seems to be a case of ‘take your pick’!
Over the Bank Holiday weekend last year (August 23-26) the world’s biggest Steampunk festival returned to Lincoln for the 11th time. Held along the cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter, in the grounds of Lincoln Castle and in parts of Bishop Grosseteste University, the festival celebrates the steam powered world of the late nineteenth century and attracts people from all over the world. A number of events keep visitors entertained over the three days.
This was our first visit to the festival and we didn’t realise what a fun event we’d been missing. In fact (being from the Stone Age ourselves) we weren’t entirely certain what steampunk was all about. So for anyone else similarly uncertain, here a a few definitions:
Steampunk is an inspired movement of creativity and imagination. With a backdrop of either Victorian England or America’s Wild West at hand, modern technologies are re-imagined and realized as elaborate works of art, fashion, and mechanics. If Jules Verne or H.G. Wells were writing their science fiction today, it would be considered “steampunk.”
Steam is a central element of steampunk. The technology featured in this universe is generally just as advanced as that of our modern world, but it uses steam as its energy source instead of electricity, gas or oil. As a result, steampunk technology takes on a retro look reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution era. As Douglas Fetherling so aptly put it, “Steampunk is a genre that imagines how different the past might have been had the future come earlier.”
We saw some interesting looking machines and vehicles in and around Lincoln Castle that day. These are just a few of them:
Can you still call it steam-PUNK? Punk in the seventies was a rebellion against contemporary society. We are most definitely rebelling but we are making a stand against: throwaway society, poor manners and antisocial behaviour, homogenisation and commercialism. We are punks who are polite, friendly, care about the environment and the past and encourage creativity.
The costumes are terrific and so creative, and in Lincoln – as I imagine there are in many cities and towns – there’s at least one shop that sells ready-made costumes for steampunks. Several people we chatted to had made their own costumes. With temperatures of 31-33 degrees (Celsius) it must have been unbearably hot inside some of the costumes, especially for those wearing gas masks and other weird head coverings, or items of clothing such as thick cloaks and coats, long boots or tight corsets!
We also saw this character wandering around chatting to everyone. By golly… it’s Captain Jack!
There were plenty of stalls selling steampunk clothing and other items, in both the castle grounds and around the Cathedral and the top of Steep Hill:
One of the main events of the day was the Parade, featuring a very young Queen Victoria and a variety of individuals and groups, including nurses and soldiers – even some mounted on their trusty steeds (i.e. dinosaurs). Visitors lined the road through the castle grounds to watch the procession walk there and back – and guess who we spotted amongst the spectators:
We were hoping to go again this year, but unfortunately all events are cancelled. I can only hope things are back to normal by August 2021.
Chatsworth House is probably the best known of the stately homes in Derbyshire and has been voted Britain’s favourite country house several times. It is situated nine miles west of Chesterfield and three and a half miles north-east of Bakewell.
The house stands on the east bank of the River Derwent, looking across to the hills between the Derwent and the Wye valleys.
The magnificent yellow-stoned house, set in expansive parkland and backed by wooded, rocky hills rising to heather moorland, is the seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and has been passed down through sixteen generations of the Cavendish family.
The original Tudor House was built in 1552 after the estate was acquired in 1549 by Sir William Cavendish. Sir William died in 1557 with the house partly constructed and it was left to his formidable wife, Bess, also known as Bess of Hardwick, to complete it. Little of that original house remains today.
Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here at various times between 1569 and 1584, and although the rooms of her apartment have since been rebuilt, two rooms are still called the Scots Apartment.
After Bess’ death in 1608, Chatsworth passed to her second son, also named William. In 1618 he was created the first Earl of Devonshire and in 1694 the fourth Earl was created the first Duke of Devonshire. (For anyone who doesn’t know, a duke/duchess is higher in the ranks of nobility than an earl/countess. A duke/duchess comes after prince/princess who is second to king/queen).
Between 1686 and 1707 the first Duke rebuilt Chatsworth in Classical style and between 1720-64, the park was landscaped by the fourth Duke. The famous ‘Capability’ Brown was hired to reshape the then formal gardens to how we still see them today. The stables and the bridges over the Derwent were also added in the 18th century.
The library and north wing were added to the house by the sixth Duke between 1790 and 1858.
On entering the house through the North Entrance, we made our way to the Painted Hall and Great Staircase. There were a lot of people in the room, but we managed a few photos during a relatively ‘quiet’ time. This is a magnificent hall, the artwork on the walls and ceiling being particularly stunning. Our photos don’t do it justice due to the glare from the many lights.
We continued along the Chapel Corridor, with lots of sculptures, paintings and other items of interest to look at…
…which, unsurprisingly, took us to the Chapel. This is another fabulous room, richly ornamented with a colourful ceiling.
Next to the Chapel is the Oak Room. No prizes for guessing why it is called that:
Though it lacks the colour of many of the rooms, the Sculpture Gallery contains some really beautiful pieces.
Other rooms in which we managed to take photos include the Great Dining Room, the State Music Room, the Library, the State Bedchamber and one of the Guest Bedroom. I’ve added a mix of these rooms to the gallery below, including a few of the many paintings on display. The images showing wallpaper are included because, as in a few other stately homes we’ve visited, many wallpapers were of a Chinese design and hand painted. I believe the imitation European versions were called Chinoiserie, and although the first were seen in Europe in the 16th century, they were particularly popular in stately homes in the 18th – 19th centuries. A dictionary definition of Chinoiserie is: a decorative style in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century, characterized by the use of Chinese motifs and techniques.
Great Music Room
Great Music Room
Statue at the entrance to the Great Dining Room
Hand painted wallpaper
Great Music Room
Ceiling in the Great Chamber
Hand painted wallpaper
Last year (2019) Chatsworth was celebrating all things ‘dog’. It was officially titled, The Dog: A celebration at Chatsworth. It explored the Cavendish family’s enduring love of dogs. Around the site are a variety of dog sculptures, paintings, drawings and photos, some from the Devonshire collection and others on loan from public and private collections. These are just a few of them:
Surrounding the house, the extensive parkland, farmyard and playground would take more that a day to fully explore and we had little time to see much of it during our visit. What we did see was impressive, but we would have loved to have got down to the Arboretum and Trout Stream. In the afternoon, we spent some time wandering around the immediate lawns and kitchen gardens. We had planned another visit this year – but I think that will now have to wait until next year.
These are some of the many photos we took around the immediate grounds and gardens:
There are plenty of places to eat at Chatsworth, and a number of talks and activities are available. Chatsworth is a place for family days out as well as for couples, singles, and anyone who loves a good dose of history or lovely scenery. Chatsworth is not a National Trust property and entry prices for both house and grounds are not cheap and can be as much as £17.50 per adult for last minute bookings – as was ours. However, many local families come to just enjoy and picnic in the grounds, which is considerably cheaper. All I can say is that Chatsworth is a truly fabulous place and, at very least, well worth a visit. This amazing fountain has a history all of its own. But I’ll leave that for another post.
The Deep is a public aquarium in the city of Kingston-upon-Hull (often referred to simply as Hull) in East Yorkshire, and it’s a great place for a family day out.
The building was designed by world class architects, Sir Terry Farrell and Partners and opened in 2002. Perched right on the confluence of the River Hull and the Humber estuary, it still looks pretty modern today. It’s 5 minutes walk from Hull Marina and a short distance from the city centre.
The Deep In Kingston-upon-Hull from geog.org.uk. Author Philip Pankhurst. Creative Commons
The Deep in KIngston-uopn-Hull, viewed fron the base of the River Hull tidal barrier. Author Immanuel Giel. Public Domain
Our visit to The Deep was on a rainy day last year and we’re very glad we went when we did, especially as we’d been considering going for some time. Unfortunately, like so many museums, parks and historic sites we like to visit, the aquarium has been closed since March this year due to Covid-19. We can only hope this wonderfully educational resource can survive financially to continue in the future.
The journey through the aquarium begins with taking either the scenic lift or the stairs – eight flights of them – up to the third floor, where the main cafe (Castaways) is located. We chose the stairs (and my knees will never forgive me). The ‘scenic lift’ is very very popular and queues to get in it were quite long when we were there.
The winding route down takes us through over 4 billion years of ocean history.
The first display is The Awakening Earth, which comprises hands-on activities and 4D screens showing creatures that would have been swimming around in the oceans up to 400 million years ago. These included Dunkleosteus (370 m years ago) Ichthyosaur (240 m years ago) and Xiphactinus (80 m years ago).
There are also living starfish to see, a species which appeared on Earth around 450 m years ago. Starfish typically have five arms but some have up to forty! Those we saw all had only five:
This freshwater creature was also around almost 400 m years ago. It is called a tiktaalik and it grew to 3m in length, had sharp teeth and looked like a cross between a fish and a crocodile. It was, however, technically a fish and it lived on a continent called Laurentia, which was around the equator and had a warm climate.
The Lagoon of Light is a lovely display, being an open stretch of blue, tropical water filled with aquatic life found in a mangrove lagoon. Hundreds of colourful, tropical fish, rays and small sharks delight all visitors and are particularly popular with children.
There are information boards along the route, some specifically aimed at children, others for older visitors. They are all so useful and informative, like these about the importance of mangrove swamps:
There are also smaller tanks with living sea creatures of all types from specific environments of today, including Coral Reefs.
Lovely and colourful, and home to 25% of marine life on Earth, the variety of life on coral reefs is equal to that of the Amazon rainforest. It includes tiny plankton to predatory sharks – all of which depend upon each other for survival. Worryingly, coral is very sensitive to environmental change, pollution and overfishing and the future of these fabulous reefs remains severely threatened.
The Kingdom of Ice is intended to give visitors a glimpse of life in the polar realm and its importance to the ocean food chains, global warming, ocean acidification and so on. The Gentoo penguins proved popular with adults and children alike and it was difficult to get close enough to the glass to take photos. We managed a few in the end.
There are so many different ocean environments as well as displays of some species in the Amazon Flooded Forest to visit. To show them all here would mean a very long post, so here are a few random photos, including a few information boards. There are tanks full of clown fish for all Nemo fans to enjoy, but the little fish must have been hiding in the anemones when we were there. Not surprisingly, another name for them is anemonefish. (The photo of the information board below is rather blurred, unfortunately.) At feeding times, the hiding clown fish readily emerge from amongst the stinging tentacles.
The main tank, called The Endless Ocean, fills the centre of the building, extending from the ground floor to the top, and can be viewed through large ‘windows’ on several levels, including an underwater viewing tunnel. The tank is filled with 550,000 imperial gallons of water (660,000 US) and 87 tons of salt. A variety of sharks can be seen, including White tip, Grey reef sharks and Zebra sharks, rays, and the only pair of Green sawfish in the UK. Turtles and rays swim past regularly, too. And although it wasn’t feeding time when we took these photos, we caught a glimpse of a diver in the tank, too.
The Endless Ocean can also be viewed from the Tunnel, which is 10 m below the surface. The tunnel is made is 6 inch thick acrylic and can take the weight of three elephants. It was very hard to take photos through, so the few we took aren’t very clear:
The Deep is a wonderful place for a day out, or for anyone on holiday in the East Yorkshire area. Children are fascinated by it and spend lots of time on the hands-on activities. There are cafes and picnic areas (some outside for when the weather is good). On rainy days the aquarium does get quite packed but it all adds to the fun. We had a great day there and learned a lot about the oceans and some of the hundreds of species that live in them.
The following quote from the ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ website sums up the objectives of The Deep:
‘The Deep is an environmental and conservation charity, not run for profit, and is dedicated to increasing the knowledge and interest of the world’s oceans through its participation in vital research and conservation schemes around the world.‘
Built between 1851 and 1876, the Victorian model village of Saltaire is located in Shipley, a commuter suburb and small town in the City of Bradford Metropolitan District in West Yorkshire, UK.
The name Saltaire is derived from the surname of industrialist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Titus Salt, who had the village built, and the River Aire which flows through it.
Every year, hundreds of visitors come to Saltaire to visit the village itself, and/or take a look round Salts Mill, the woollen ‘supermill’ that Titus Salt had built in the town. To do justice to both village and mill ideally takes (at least) a whole day. There is much to see and plenty of places where visitors can buy drinks, snacks or meals when required – both around the village and inside the mill.
Saltaire is situated by the River Aire, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the Airedale railway line, all ideal for the import of raw materials for Salt’s woollen mill and export of the manufactured goods.
Titus Salt cared about the welfare of the workers for his planned new mill on the edge of Bradford. He wanted to create a community in which they could live healthier and happier lives than they had in the slums of Bradford, where cholera epidemics were frequent. Saltaire was 3 miles from central Bradford and surrounded by open countryside with plenty of fresh air. In addition to these evident health benefits, Salt installed the latest technology in his mill, intending working conditions for his workers to be far better and safer than they were in mills elsewhere in the country. Undoubtedly, such improvements would also benefit output from his mill.
Salt employed local architects Henry Lockwood and Richard Mawson to design his new village. The first building to be finished in 1853 was the mill itself, while building work on the rest of the village continued until 1876.
When the mill opened in 1853, on Titus Salt’s 50th birthday, he threw a huge party for all his workforce. It was the biggest factory in the world, four storeys high and the room known as ‘The Shed’ measuring 600 feet in length. The mill employed 3000 workers and had 1200 looms. Over a period of twenty-five years, 30,000 yards of cloth were produced per day. The noise from the machines would have been deafening and the workplace very hot. Yet working conditions for employees in Salt’s Mill were still far better than in most other textile mills.
The following photos of the working mill were taken from a video playing inside the mill:
Salt’s enormous success in the textile industry was partly due to his use of the wool from alpacas. He combined it with other materials to create new varieties of worsted cloth. Wool worsted cloth as well as wool/cotton and wool/silk worsted cloths already existed for making men’s suits. In Salt’s day it was fashionable for ladies clothing. Most ladies would have wanted (but many couldn’t afford) expensive silk – and Alpaca made a light, smooth fabric with the lustre of silk, but was more affordable.
Architecture in the village was of a classical style, inspired by the Italian Renaissance. The rows of neat stone buildings were all terraced, arranged in a grid pattern. All streets were named after members of his family, such as Caroline Street after his wife. In total there were 823 houses, shops, a school, two churches, a school an adult education institute, park, hospital, and almshouses for the aged. The streets also had gas lamps. Each house had its own outdoor toilet – a luxury for the working classes in of the nineteenth century.
Salt also had a wash house and baths built in the village, the wash house because he objected to seeing lines of washing hanging in the back yards. Dirty washing could be brought to the wash house on Mondays to Thursdays. There were six washing machines powered by steam engines and four rubbing and boiling tubs using hot and cold water. Clothes were put through the wringing machine and dried in a drying closet before being mangled and taken home. The whole process took an hour.
There were 24 baths for public use with separate entrances for men and women. There was even a Turkish bath. The baths were open every day but Sunday from 8am to 8pm. Salt’s care for the health of his workers is evident but, unfortunately neither wash house nor bath house was popular and the building was converted into housing in the late 19th century. The houses were demolished in the 1930s and replaced by garages which were demolished in the 1950s. The site is now a small community garden.
Saltaire Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church) was one of Lockwood and Mawson’s finest works and is set in a spacious landscaped garden. Salt was a staunch Methodist and insisted his workers attended chapel on Sundays. He also frowned upon gambling and the drinking of alcohol. A mausoleum beside the church is where Titus Salt was buried.
The Victoria Hall is also worth a look inside:
Robert’s Park, alongside the River Aire is a pleasant, open space to spend a little time. The alpaca statues are a reminder of the importance of their wool to the continuing success of Titus Salt, whose statue is also in the park.
Salts Mill closed as a textile mill in 1986 and was bought the following year by Bradford entrepreneur, Jonathan Silver who had it renovated. Today it houses a number of business, commerce, leisure and residential concerns. The main mill is now an art gallery, shopping centre and restaurant complex. There is a fish restaurant and Salts Diner, a cafe which serves a variety of dishes.
The 1853 Gallery takes its name from the date of the building in which it is housed and it contains many paintings by local artist David Hockney. A bust of Titus Salt welcomes visitors through the door.
Today, Saltaire is a popular place to visit, as an educational experience or simply e a lovely village in which to spend some time. Families come for many reasons, and boat rides along the canal seemed popular on the day we were there. Oddly enough, one of the boats was called Titus. I wonder why…
World Heritage status was bestowed upon Saltaire in 2001. It is described on an information board in the village:
Our visit to Saltaire was three years ago now. We had planned to go back again sometime this year. But as they say, ‘All the best-laid plans of mice and men…’ Perhaps next year, then…
Eyam is a village in Derbyshire, U.K. and lies within the Peak District National Park:
The village was founded by the Anglo-Saxons and, as in many limestone areas of the Peak District, lead had been mined in the vicinity since Roman times. In the early and mid-17th century, the industry employed many of Eyam’s inhabitants.
Today the pretty Derbyshire village attracts visitors from around the world, not only due to its location within the National Park, but because of its fame as ‘the plague village’. In addition, hundreds of visitors flock into Derbyshire from spring to autumn each year (though not this year!) to see the fabulously ‘dressed’ wells in many of the villages, Eyam being one of them. I did a post about Well Dressing here
The plague that hit Eyam in 1665-1666 is referred to as ‘The Great Plague’. It was not ‘The Black Death’ – the outbreak of plague that reached England in 1348. The plague that occurred in both periods was basically the same bubonic plague, the different names denoting the different times in which it struck. In the 300 years between the two, numerous other outbreaks of plague occurred across the country and some small settlements disappeared altogether.
Bubonic plague is a disease carried by several rat species, most commonly the black rat, also known as house rat or ship rat.
The fleas that live in the rat’s fur are carriers of plague bacilli and when they feed on the rodent’s blood they leave the bacilli in its body, causing rapid death. If the number of rats plummets, infected fleas will take the blood of humans or other small mammals.
In London alone in 1665-6, almost 70,000 deaths were recorded during this outbreak of plague, though it is thought the real number was closer to 100,000. Many towns and villages across England also suffered. In Eyam, 260 of the estimated population of 1,000 died.
The plague in Eyam is believed to have been caused by fleas that had got inside a bale of cloth brought to Eyam from London for a travelling tailor’s assistant named George Viccars who was lodging with Mary Hadfield and her family. When he unfolded the cloth it was damp, so he laid it out to dry – and the plague-carrying fleas jumped out.
George became the first man to die of the bubonic plague in Eyam. More deaths soon followed and within days, the disease had spread through the village, affecting many households.
The most well-known effect of bubonic plague are the buboes, the massive, tender swellings which form in the lymph nodes, generally in the armpits or groin:
There are various other effects, too – fever, vomiting, headaches and delirium being just a few of them. The lungs can also become infected, causing pneumonic plague. This is less common but much more dangerous, due to the ease in which it can spread through sneezing. A third form of the disease is believed to be septicaemic plague, a life-threatening infection of the blood.
Having no scientific knowledge enabling them to account for the outbreak of the plague, to the villagers the disease could only be explained in religious or supernatural terms. The wrath of God inflicted upon sinful people could only be pacified by prayer and repentance. Many devout villagers refused to take preventative measures for fear of angering God further. Others relied on herbal and other age-old remedies. Between the September and December in 1665, 42 villagers died.
There is no record of how many villagers actually left Eyam and it is now believed the number was higher than originally thought. But it is known that most were wealthy landowners and mine owners – all of whom would have had somewhere else to go.
A few families sent just their children away to safety, as did William Mompesson, the recently elected reverend, and his wife, Catherine:
Few of the poorer, tenant farmers and labourers could abandon their livelihoods and just pack up and leave, but in a bid to escape almost certain death, a few poor people chose to try their luck elsewhere. Some built makeshift homes on nearby Eyam Moor or in fields or on hillsides.
There is also plenty of evidence of poorer refugees of the plague being barred or violently driven away from their chosen places of refuge. The people of the city of Sheffield, approximately 15 miles away, erected barriers and posted guards. The picture below shows an Eyam woman being chased out of the nearby village of Tideswell as she attempted to mingle unnoticed with shoppers at the market.
Mortality rates over the winter 1665-66 saw a drop, primarily due to the rats nesting in warm places like thatches on the roofs. There would also be ample foods for the rats in the unhygienic homes of the times. Comfortable, warm rats would provide plenty of food for the fleas, so they would have no need to seek out alternative sources of blood.
Nevertheless, death rates were still well above the normal winter average, and since the villagers knew that plague was a summer disease, the number of deaths was expected to increase with the rise in temperatures in the spring of 1666. After a slight lull in casualties in the May, a sudden and dramatic increase occurred in June, and it became clear to the newly appointed reverend, William Mompesson, that something needed to be done. Together with a former rector of Eyam, Stanley Thomas, a three-fold plan was devised.
Firstly, there would be no more organised funerals and church burials. Families would be responsible for burying their own dead in their gardens, orchards or fields.
Secondly, the church would be locked and future services held in the open air.
The third part of the plan was the greatest and toughest of them. A ‘cordon sanitaire’ would be imposed around the village in an attempt to stop the disease spreading further afield. In other words, the village would be quarantined – a condition to which all villagers needed to give their consent. Quarantine would mean that, shut away from the world, many people in the village would meet the inevitable end.
Mompesson promised to do all in his power to get essential foods and medications into the village. A boundary stone was erected, separating Eyam from the nearby village of Stoney Middleton. The stone had specially made holes in its top, which were filled with vinegar, which acted as a disinfectant. Eyam villagers could put their money into these holes in exchange for supplies. The stone is still in its original place today and visitors can find it by following the signs around the village.
In addition, in exchange for their promise of obeying the cordon, the Earl of Devonshire from nearby Chatsworth House, freely donated foods and medications to the people of Eyam. These were left at a place known as Mompesson’s Well.
The highest number of deaths was recorded in August 1666, as many as 5 or 6 deaths per day. In the heat of the summer, the fleas were more active and the disease rapidly spread. Households became deserted, communal tasks left unfinished and cattle wandered unattended. Nevertheless, few people attempted to leave (only 2 known). Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six of her children, though she remained unaffected herself. Their graves are known as the Riley Graves, after the name of the farm on which they lived. Like the boundary stone, these graves can be visited today.
William Mompesson’s wife, Catherine, worked tirelessly, visiting the sick until falling victim to the plague herself in late August, 1666. Her tomb can be seen in the churchyard.
By Christmas 1666, after 14 months and the deaths of 260 people, it was all over. Life in the village slowly began to return to normal. In an effort to stop further outbreak of the pestilence the following summer, there was ‘a great burning’ of everything in Eyam that could have harboured the ‘plague seeds’. Mompesson set the example by burning everything of his own except the clothes he was wearing.
To finish with, here a few photos we took around the village. With the exception of the one buboes (which is from Wikipedia) those shown above were all taken in the little Eyam Museum, which is well worth a visit.
Also of interest, with plenty of information about the Great Plague at Eyam, are Saint Lawrence’s Church, and the Plague Cottages. Eyam Hall – which is a 17th century, grade 2 listed historic house – is also well worth a visit. In the churchyard are Catherine Mompesson’s tomb and a fabulous Anglo-Saxon Cross dating from the 8th-9th century.
Inside the church, there is a famous stained glass window depicting scenes connected to the plague and a record of those who died from the disease.
Newstead Abbey is a beautiful historic house in Nottinghamshire, UK:
Set in over 300 acres of fabulous parkland and gardens, it was founded in 1170 by Henry 11 and, despite it’s name, it was never an abbey at all but an Augustinian priory called St. Mary of Newstead. The stonework of parts of of the old priory can still be seen today and a useful model helps visitors to visualise what it looked like:
The cloister of the old priory is the home for several beautiful peacocks. The photos were taken through rather hazy glass:
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, the priory was given to Sir John Byron of Colwick by Henry V111 and it was Sir John who started converting it into a house.
Between 1808 and 1814 Newstead was the home of the poet, Lord Byron. Byron was a colourful and flamboyant character, probably best known as much for his wild lifestyle and ill-fated marriage as his writing. Visitors to Newstead can learn a lot about both man and poet at this lovely house, as well as the history of the house itself.
Below are three portraits of Byron from around the house. The middle one shows him wearing Albanian dress, which he acquired while on a Grand Tour of the Mediterranean in 1809. (For anyone interested in Lord Byron’s life but can’t get to Newstead, there is plenty of information online).
Byron’s private apartments can be visited today, including his bedroom which is at the top of a narrow spiral staircase. For financial reasons, Byron only furnished his own private parts of the house, leaving the rest in the sad state of repair it had been when he inherited it. He used some of those rooms for his numerous sporting activities, including pistol shooting practice, fencing and wrestling in the Great Hall, which he hadn’t decorated and furnished. (The first picture below shows how it looks today). But there is much more to Byron than wild living and writing, which can be learned on a tour of the various rooms. He was a supporter of many causes, some of them abroad.
Restoration of the rest of the house was undertaken by future owners, starting with Thomas Wildman, an old university friend of Byron’s, who bought the property in 1818 when Byron was forced to sell for financial reasons. Most of the house today is of a Victorian setting.
The gardens are lovely and include a couple of lakes, one very rectangular one and the other a more natural shape with lots of water lilies. There is a small walled garden and a number of differently themed gardens, such as the Japanese Garden (my favourite) the Spanish Garden, American Garden, Subtropical Garden and so on. There are some interesting statues here and there, too – I loved the one of Pan, and there’s also one of ‘Mrs Pan’. Butterflies flutter and bumble bees buzz in the herbaceous borders and gardens, and close to the house, peacocks appear now and then to delight the visitors. These are just a few of the many photos we took around grounds and gardens last year.
We had a second visit to Newstead Abbey last year in December. The house was beautifully decorated for Christmas, though whether it will be again this year, I don’t know. This year has been dreadful for all of us, and many of our favourite sites (like Creswell Crags, which I posted about a couple of weeks ago) are suffering great financial loss and struggling to survive.
I may well share the Christmas photos sometime in December but, until then, here is just the one from outside:
Many – or perhaps most – lovers of early medieval history will probably have heard of The Alfred Jewel. As a writer of novels set in the mid-late 9th century during the lifetime of Alfred the Great, it stands to reason that I should mention this fabulous jewel at some stage. That mention comes in the last chapter of the final book of the Sons of Kings series: King of the Anglo Saxons.
So what is this jewel, why it is of special interest and why it has been linked to King Alfred, shown in images below?
The Alfred Jewel is a rare and magnificent piece of filigreed gold enclosing a tear-shaped slice of clear quartz over a cloisonné* enamel plaque of green and blue. It is about 2.5 inches long and 1.2 inches wide, its purpose being to hold a pointer that could be attached to a page of a manuscript and moved down to facilitate reading of the text. Such implements were referred to aestels in Anglo-Saxon times. Several others have been found, all fabulous finds, but none as exquisite, or colourful, as the Alfred Jewel.
Gold Anglo Saxon pointer terminal, late 9th century. Photographer: Amy Downs, British Museum 2008
Gold and filigree, beaded and plain wires. Approximate date: 800-900. Found in York area. Photographer: Amy Downes, West Yorks Advisory Service.
Complete early medieval gold terminal mount in the form o an animal’s head. Found in Norfolk and dated 800-900. Photographer Norfolk county Council, Gary Crace, 2016
The image on the plaque of the Alfred Jewel is of a man with prominent eyes, holding two floriate stems. It could be a picture of Alfred himself, the pope, one of the saints, a figure of Sentient Man or Christ Incarnate. Modern thought favours the last two. The back of the enclosing gold is flattened for smooth sliding over a page (as with all aestels) and is decorated with an intricate design, thought to represent the Tree of Life.
The gold thickens at the base of the ‘tear-drop’ to become a dragon-like head. Inside the creature’s mouth is a cylindrical socket/hollow tube designed to hold a pointer. Most pointers were of wood but other materials were also used, notably ivory. The pointer was held in place by a rivet. Around the edge of the jewel is the inscription, ALFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN, which means ‘Alfred ordered me to be made’.
The jewel was ploughed up in a field on land owned by Sir Thomas Wroth at North Pemberton in Somerset in 1693. The site is a mere eight miles from Athelney, where Alfred built his stronghold in order to defend his kingdom from Guthrum, and his invading Danes in 878 (Sons of Kings, Book 3, Wyvern of Wessex). We took his photo from an information board at Athelney:
The jewel was bequeathed to Oxford University by Sir Colonel Nathaniel Palmer (1661-1718) and today it is in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford – where it has been described as ‘a matchless piece of goldsmith’s work’ by the British Archaeology Collection at the Ashmolean Museum
*Cloisonné is decorative work in which pieces of enamel, glass or gemstones are separated by strips of flattened wire placed edgeways on a metal body.
From spring to autumn of most years we have a day out on a Sunday, visiting scenic or historical sites which are close enough to drive to and enjoy in a single day. We’ve been to Creswell Crags many times and at various times of year, and it’s always worth a visit. So, because we haven’t been able to go anywhere at all this year, I thought I’d show some photos of Creswell from our day out in May 2019 and add a little bit of information about the attractions and importance of the site.
Creswell Crags is a beautiful magnesian limestone gorge situated on the border between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in England.
It is popular with families, walkers and horse-riders as well as academics interested in the appearance and use of the gorge and its caves in the distant past. The route down to the lake (i.e. the widened stream) from the Reception is a pretty area with delightful trackways with picnic areas, open meadows and children’s play areas.
The ‘YOU ARE HERE’ in the plan below is to the side of the Reception / Visitor Centre.
The gorge itself is known throughout the world as an outstanding Ice Age archaeological site. It was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1981 and as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1985. The caves were seasonably occupied during the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods (from around 11,500 – 6,000 BP) and there is evidences of Neanderthal, Bronze Age and post-medieval activity. The caves contain the northernmost cave art in Europe as well and a series of 17th and 18th century witches marks.
The gorge provided a valuable summer camp for our Ice Age ancestors. It was a place where people could meet, there was food to hunt nearby and caves in which to shelter and prepare for their return to their winter territories across Doggerland to mainland Europe.
There are six main caves along the gorge at Creswell Crags in addition to many smaller fissures and solution hollows. Excavations in the larger caves have provided a rich fossil record, “a time capsule spanning thousands of years”. Neanderthals visited 55,000 years ago, as did the earliest, modern humans 29,000 years ago. Remains of various animals have been found. Before the Ice Age, exotic animals like hippopotamus and rhinoceros wallowed in the warm waters of the river that flows through the gorge. As the climate cooled to Ice Age conditions, lions and hyenas used the caves as dens, and were joined by woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and reindeer. Skulls and other bones of various species can be seen in the small museum at the Reception – including lions, hyenas, bears, woolly rhinoceros and mammoth, plus several smaller mammals.
Baby hyena skeleton (named ‘Eric’)
Here are a few photos taken of the caves and general views during our walk around the lake:
Hunter gatherers continued to use the caves long after the end of the Ice Age. Burnt hazel nut shells, cattle bones and small flints have been found. 6,000 years ago the caves were used for burials. Urns have been found as have bronze pins,which were used to hold the burial shroud. A human collarbone was found in Church Hole Cave.
Hundreds of protective marks, known as witches’ marks, have been discovered in caves at Creswell. They date from medieval to modern and are scratched into walls and ceilings over dark holes and large crevices. Originally thought to be graffiti, they are now believed to be the the largest collection in the UK. Prior to their discovery, the largest collection was held to be in Somerset, with 57 marks. The number at Creswell far exceeds that number – there are hundreds in one cave alone.
Ritualistic protection marks were most commonly found in historic churches and houses, usually near to entrances such as doorways, windows and fireplaces, to protect the people living there from evil spirits. The most common sign is VV, believed to refer to Mary, Virgin of Virgins. The one shown below is not from Creswell. We didn’t go inside the caves last year when the Witch Marks tour was opened for the first time.
Another common symbol is PM, referring to Pace Maria. Other signs, include diagonal lines, boxes and mazes. Many appear to have been added over time, possibly indicating a need to strengthen protection in periods of unexpected sickness, death or crop failure.
Although closed at present due to Covid-19 restrictions, Creswell Crags is usually open all year. There is no cost to walk round or visit the shop or cafe. Entrance to the exhibition/museum is £3 and cave tours start at £9 for adults and £7 for children. for a single cave.
This past weekend saw Viking reenactors from Regia Anglorum groups across the country gather at a place known as Thynghowe in Sherwood Pine Forest Park for the annual event known as ‘The Spring Thing’.
At 3,300 acres, Sherwood Pines is the largest park in the East Midlands of England. Lying close to the historic village of Edwinstowe in Nottinghamshire, it is a part of the ancient Sherwood Forest and was originally known as Clipstone Heath. It was acquired by the Forestry Commission in 1925 and replanted with pine trees as part of a response to a shortage of wood following the First World War. Today, activities are offered throughout the year, including cycling, mountain biking and segway, camping, walking, jogging, a park run, orienteering and bushcraft, a children’s adventure trail, tree climbing and ranger activities. There is also a Robin Hood hideout and Kitchener’s Trail, a café and visitor centre, and the site is perfect for a family day out – even when no event is scheduled (which in addition to the Viking Spring Thing, include various concerts and musical events as well as outdoor activities).
So, why is this spot in Sherwood Pines a perfect site for Viking gatherings and reenactments every year, and what is Thynghowe?
Thynghowe, meaning ‘thingsite’, is the name given to an important Viking Age open-air assembly place situated at the top of Hangar Hill on the western edge of Sherwood Forest, so is very close to the site where this event is held. It was (re)discovered in 2005. Vikings met at such sites for their annual ‘Thyng’ – which generally lasted for several days – during which time disputes were settled, laws were signed, punishments for crimes decided upon, marriages arranged and such like. Each community had its own Thyng/Thing/Althing, most likely dominated by a local, powerful family or families. Thyngs were often festive affairs, with tents, stalls/booths set up so goods could be bought and sold, including plenty of ale and mead.
Several such sites are known across the Viking world, including the famous Thingvellir in Iceland and Tinwald in the Isle of Man, both of which I’ve visited, plus others in the Faroe Islands, the Shetland and Orkney islands, the Scottish Highlands (Dingwall), the Wirral in England… In other words, wherever Vikings chose to settle.
The gathering at Thynghowe was an equally festive affair, with lots of tents and stalls set up to demonstrate the Viking way of life, including cooking methods and a number of important occupations and crafts. These are a selection of photos we took around the camp as we walked round:
Here is a very short video we made of the wood turner, who was making spokes for cartwheels, while the stall next door made the actual wheels.
The stall holders/reenactors were only too happy to answer questions and chat in general. The happy-looking man in the picture below spent some time explaining not only about how Viking shields were made, but about the fabulous reenactment goup, Regia Anglorum.
This delightful, hard-working lady below also deserves our thanks for taking the time to explain and demonstrate how she was creating bast from lime wood for use in rope making. Rope made from lime bast fibre was not only important for many things around the village, but the fact that it didn’t shrink when wet (unlike rope made from hemp) made it perfect for use in the building of ships. In the photos she is stripping the bark off lime tree trunks to obtain the strands of fibre behind. After a good soaking in water, the bast is rendered soft enough to twist and plait together to make rope.
And this Viking warrior was obviously having a bad hair day. His hairdresser/friend was giving his hair a good comb, while he complained about his unruly, frizzy hair. Oh, the vanity of men! Naturally, I just had to have a feel of such frizz.
In the morning we were treated to preparatory bouts and skirmishes before the big battle planned for the afternoon. The commentary was excellent throughout, with explanations of the moves and battle tactics of the warriors, weapon use and so on. In the afternoon, there were three arena events to watch. The first was a demonstration of horsemanship.
The second an archery competition and finally, the actual battle.
To finish off, here’s a cute mini-warrior who made me smile: