After moving at what seemed like snails pace on the M1 this morning I was glad to slip onto the Fosse Way and make my way to Cirencester a lovely mellow stone Cotswold town with Roman (and even pre-Roman) origins. My goal was to visit the Corinium Museum to see the mosaics and other treasures of the town. With my Art Pass I gained free admission.
The Corinium Museum
Abberley House and Corinium Museum was built by John Cripps as a town house in c.1765. It was purchased in 1936 by the local Bathurst and Cripps families and given to Cirencester Urban District Council to house the Museum.
Including the mosaics Corinium Museum lists Ten Treasures as you go round the displays. Two Roman Tombstones were discovered. Soldiers of the Roman Army who died in service were awarded full military honours but they had had to pay a small sum out of the pay packet towards this. Families who wished to have a more elaborate memorial to their sons could pay the extra. The tombstones found near Cirencester were two such memorials.
Tombstone of Dannicus found in Watermoor, Cirencester in 1835
Tombstone of Genialis dates to 60AD and also found at Watermoor
“The Museum is famed for its mosaics. Chief among these are four fine (though damaged) mosaic floors, each with striking picture panels set within patterned borders.”
Mosaics (and Hare) in the Museum Foyer – a taste of what’s to come!
This virtually complete mosaic was found in a Roman town house at The Beeches, Cirencester. It dates to the 4th century AD. The hare motif is unique as a centrepiece in Britain.
Hunting Dogs Mosaic Pavement found in Dyer Street in 1849
The Jupiter Column
The Jupiter Column has an original carving of the Greek god Bacchus and his drunken companions. The rest of the column has been reconstructed, and gives a hint of the size and grandeur of Roman public building even in this distant part of the Empire.
The Roman Garden
This small patch of garden has been planted out as might have been by Romans. The Museum is currently advertising for a volunteer to help keep the garden in shape.
John Coxwell (1516 – 1618)
Finally, in the Museum, as we moved away from the Romans we arrived at the last room where the displays are concerning the growth of Cirencester as a very significant wool town. John Coxwell played a big part in the history of wool on the town.
The Museum describes his painting :
“An old man looks directly at us. Now aged nearly 100, he is dressed in costly black and carries what appears to be a prayer book. During his life, wool had made him rich; and the wool trade had brought the wealth to build churches and grand houses throughout the Cotswolds.”
When I left the Museum I realised that I still had enough time to visit the Parish Church of St John the Baptist to see The Boleyn Cup.
The Parish Church Tower
Cirencester parish church is one of the biggest parish churches in the country. It is an historic Wool Church and is sometimes confused with the former Cirencester Abbey which was situated nearby. The tower was erected in 1400 with funds taken from the rebellious Earls of Kent and Salisbury arrested by the townspeople and executed in the market place. Built on the site of an old Roman ditch it needed the support of flying buttresses. [From the church leaflet]
The Boleyn Cup
The Boleyn Cup was made in 1535 for Anne Boleyn and given first to her daughter Elizabeth, then by the Queen to her physician, Richard Master, who lived nearby, and finally, by him to the church.
The Fan-Vaulted South Porch has rooms above. It was built in 1500 for the Abbey but after the Reformation it served as the Town Hall.
The significance of the March Hare Festival only dawned on me when I looked closely at the Hare in the church and noticed that it had been designed by Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen (of TV fame).
The LLB Hare
I then saw this hare by Kaffe Fassett in the window of a men’s outfitters shop.
The KF Hare