Mad March Hares in Cirencester in July

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.

Corinium sign

The Corinium Museum

Museum entrance

Museum Entrance

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

Tombstone of Dannicus found in Watermoor, Cirencester in 1835

Tombstone of Genialis

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 1

Mosaics (and Hare) in the Museum Foyer – a taste of what’s to come!

Hare mosaic

Hare Mosaic

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

Hunting Dogs Mosaic Pavement found in Dyer Street in 1849

column

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.

Roman garden

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

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.

Parish church

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]

Boleyn cup

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.

Church gate

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).

LLB hare

The LLB Hare

I then saw this hare by Kaffe Fassett in the window of a men’s outfitters shop.

K Fassett hare

The KF Hare

The Secret Life of Wormington Grange

Wormington Grange

As you drive down the avenue of trees approaching Wormington Grange in Gloucestershire it appears as an elegant and serene Cotswold stately home.  Built of typical warm Cotwold stone and fronted by a smooth green lawn nothing gives a hint of what is going on in the stables and out-buildings behind the house.

Wormington Store

The impressive stable block store

Wormington Grange is the home and work place of John Evetts The Landmark Trust’s Furnishings Manager and on Friday 9 August I had the honour and pleasure to have been included in a small group of Landmark Patrons and their guests at a private and ‘magical‘ tour behind the scenes. We were shown the store of furniture and furnishings and the workshops and told the history (accompanied by amusing anecdotes and asides) of the collection and of the house and grounds by Mr Evetts himself.

JE in garden

We started our tour behind the house at the impressive set of stable buildings.  John explained the history and architectural features and then … the moment of revelation … he unlocked each of the large heavy doors to reveal the furniture delights held inside.

Ann at Stables

So much of it was familiar to us as devout Landmarkers! Here were ‘container’ pieces – chests of drawers, wardrobes and the like. There were shelves of towel rails and hook upon hook of picture frames and brass lanterns. Another former horse box was piled high to the rafters with kitchen chairs – and not just any old kitchen chairs – each one had been chosen for its shape and stretchers. John is on the lookout everywhere for the right furniture and suitable pictures. Years ago he bought ‘brown’ furniture at a higher price than today. Currently it is out of fashion. When Landmark acquire a ‘new’ property John is asked to provide suitable furniture, soft furnishings, pictures and often adapts items for new purposes or builds completely from scratch pieces to fit – like here in the kitchen at the Clavell Tower:

Clavell Interiors JMiller Oct 2008 (4)

Photo source.

As he travels up and down the country from Landmark to Landmark John is always on the look out for suitable pieces to add to the collection. He has special sources abroad – he finds suitably large bed heads in Italy and fabrics in France at the Marché St Pierre in Paris.

Inside Stable Store

Inside the Stable Store

Towel rails

How many towel rails?

Chairs

A Choice of Chairs

Brass lanterns

Brass Lanterns Abound

Picture frames

Picture Frames Galore

Prints

Prints for the Hanging

More frames

More Picture Frames – the Hogarth frames (left) for prints (currently being collected) for Belmont.

In the past soft furnishings were made up here, too. These days the orders are shipped off to Bideford in Devon where a specialist company can perform the ‘magic’ at a more reasonable price than can be done in house. The same for the actual sofas and easy chairs (I use the term guardedly!). These are now made to order by an upholstery company in Nottingham.

Soft furnishing fabrics

Rolls of Furnishing Fabrics

Easy chair and sofa covers

Easy Chair and Sofa Covers in Waiting

Sofa ready to go

Sofa Ready to go

After the tour we were invited into the house – equally as elegant and serene as it appears on the outside – for a buffet lunch. Here we could enjoy the Dining Room, Sitting Room and Hall and have a chance to meet other members of the group and talk Landmarks.

The dining room

The Dining Room

The sitting room

The Sitting Room

John Evetts’ grandfather was Lord Ismay former Chief of Staff to the Ministry of Defence 1940-46 and as chief military assistant to Winston Churchill during the Second World War he served on the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Ismay and Churchill

Lord Ismay and Winston Churchill

So it was interesting to see in the ‘Throne Room’ the chairs sat upon by Lord and Lady Ismay at the Coronation of our Queen in 1951.

The Throne Room

And even That Woman had connections here.

That woman she gets everywhere

I now view Landmarks and their furnishings with added insight – from the lamps and light bulbs through the towel rails and cushions to the double beds and sofas! Ann and I continued our Landmarking theme by staying at Saint Mary’s Lane in Tewkesbury that night where we were able to put our newly found knowledge to the test. Thank you, Ann, for a wonderful day out!

Hailes Abbey Walk

HA Route map

Our Route : The Pink Diamonds indicate The Cotswold Way

Tewkesbury is only a few miles from The Cotswolds so on Sunday my sister and I chose the five mile walk “Thomas Cromwell and Hailes Abbey: how an important abbey was destroyed by a King’s Commissioner”. We drove the few miles to Hailes Abbey and parked up by the church. We decided to have our picnic lunch in the Abbey grounds after the hike.

Hailes Church

Hailes Church (undedicated)

After a short distance back-tracking down the lane we headed off the road along grassy field paths to the village of Didbrook. We were surprised that this village had a primary school besides the honey-coloured stone church and houses. The school does serve a largish catchment area though, not just the village.

Didbrook

Acorn Smithy in Didbrook

Didbrook Church

St George, Didbrook

After Wood Stanway, which we approached along quiet country lanes, we joined the Cotswold Way which is a National Trail and indicates to us a well-marked route with its acorn-topped wooden marker posts. After quite a climb we were pleased to see a wooden bench and enjoy the view towards the Malvern Hills and possibly the Welsh Mountains too.

The Cotswold Way

After passing the ramparts of an Iron Age fort (Beckbury Camp) we came across a bizarre little stone pillar with a niche carved out of it. According to local lore it was from here that Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall) watched the destruction of Hailes Abbey in 1539.

Thomas Cromwell's niche

A half-mile deviation from the Cotswold Way lead us to the hamlet of Farmcote with its tiny chapel and herb and chilli peppers farm.

Farmcote Chapel

St Faith’s Church, Farmcote

“The body of this beautiful little chapel is Saxon and fairly early Norman, though the round Saxon apse was destroyed in the early nineteenth century. It has massive windbraces and huge cross-beams, still bearing the axe marks of pillagers. It is thought that the Saxon builders of the Chapel made have made use of an earlier, possibly even Roman building. The Chapel has a Norman rectangular nave and a tiny chancel linked to it by a narrow Saxon arch. the chancel houses a Jacobean canopied oak pulpit and arcaded reading desk, oak benches of 1597, fine altar rails of the Seventeenth Century and an altar itself of the Fifteenth Century with the original Mensa slab scratched with the five crosses, symbolizing the five wounds of Christ.” BBC Domesday

St Faith's interior

St Faith’s Farmcote : Interior

From Farmcote we descended steadily down the track (Cotswold Way) to the road and Hailes Abbey where we flashed our National Trust cards and settled at a picnic table for our well-earned tasty lunch! After lunch we walked around the Abbey grounds studying the information boards and the museum artefacts and discovering just how important this lonely ruin off the beaten track had once been.

Welcome

Welcome to the Cistercian Abbey of Hailes

Museum

Hailes Abbey Museum

As it was

Hailes as it was

Ruins

Ruined Cloister Walls, Hailes Abbey

Culverts

The Drainage Culverts Established by the Monks – Still in Use Today

Abbey through tree

Goodbye Hailes Abbey

An Abbey and a Chapel in Tewkesbury

Some of my weekend based in Tewkesbury was spent researching some of my family history in Worcestershire. In addition, staying in a house so close to Tewkesbury Abbey, how could I not visit it several times? Close by there was also a curious little chapel which is probably much overlooked by its towering neighbour. I didn’t get inside as it was closed. It’s in one of the very many little courts and passageways that run off the main Tewkesbury streets and  down to the River Avon.

SML and Abbey

See how near the Abbey is to no. 32

Old Baptist Chapel

Chapel sign

It may be overshadowed by its neighbour but The Old Baptist Chapel in Tewkesbury still manages to be included in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches. It is even nearer to number 32 than the Abbey.

Chapel Court

Tucked away down an alleyway it was converted from a medieval timber-framed house in about the 1620s and is still used for services today. The key is available for visitors wishing to see inside the chapel from the Museum over the road in Church Street.

Burial ground

Beyond the chapel lies a peaceful, overgrown, (perfect town habitat for wildlife and plants) burial ground and beyond that is the river and a view of the Severn Ham.

Overgrown

Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewks Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey fully deserves its five star status as awarded by Jenkins. During the one weekend I must have visited at least five times. Even the last morning before packing the car for the journey home I nipped across the road to admire once more the beautiful Thomas Denny windows. You see, for the first time since my arrival, the sun was shining and sunshine adds another dimension to the windows.

T Denny 1

T Denny 2

Photographs just cannot do justice to the real thing. This is what it says about the windows on a notice nearby :

“These windows have been funded by the Friends of Tewkesbury Abbey to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the arrival of Benedictine monks from Cranborne, Dorset in 1102 to the new monastery at Tewkesbury. The windows were dedicated by the Bishop of Gloucester at the 900th Anniversary Festival Service on Saturday 19th October 2002.”

Of course, I first saw T. Denny’s work in an article in Intelligent Life and shortly afterwards at Bolton Percy Church in North Yorkshire.

At Sunday Evensong the music is equally superb. The choir and clergy may outnumber the congregation several times over but the effort and result is just as striking as if the church had been full to overflowing as I am sure it is on high days and holidays. There is also a large choice of services on a Sunday and the evening was particularly cold. The abbey is heated by huge Gurney Stoves.

Gurney Stove

“Tewkesbury Abbey has two Gurney Stoves which were installed circa. 1875 when the Abbey underwent a major restoration by the Architect George Gilbert Scott. The stoves were converted to gas firing in 1987.”

Mrs C Memorial

In Tewkesbury Abbey there is also a memorial to the “Victorian authoress Dinah Craik (1826–1887) [who] visited Tewkesbury in 1852, and later set her most famous work John Halifax, Gentleman (pub. 1857) in the town, calling it Norton Bury in the book. There is a “Craik House” in Church Street, near the Abbey, but Mrs Craik never lived there and had no other connection with Tewkesbury. There is a memorial to her in the Abbey’s south transept.” [source]

 


The Battle of Tewkesbury: The Bloody (Muddy) Meadow

32 St Mary’s Lane

32 SM Lane

Last weekend, to break my journey between South Wales and home in Leeds, I stayed in the lovely old town of Tewkesbury. 32 St Mary’s Lane is tucked away between the main road through town and the River Avon. Beyond the river is a large expanse of flat, grassy land called Severn Ham (‘Q’ mentions it in his poem ‘Upon Eckington Bridge‘) bordered on the other side by the River Severn. The two rivers meet at Tewkesbury and it’s liable to flooding sometimes in summer.

Severn Ham

River Avon and Severn Ham

Beyond the main road, on the other side, is the great edifice of Tewkesbury Abbey which dominates the town in the nicest of ways.

Tewkesbury Abbey

The house in St Mary’s Lane was formerly a framework stocking-knitter’s home dating back to the 17th century. The row of cottages, of which no. 32 is one, were in a parlous state by the 1970s and The Landmark Trust stepped in to help a local conservation group who were unable to raise the funds required to restore the houses. No. 32 only joined Landmark’s collection of properties to let in 1982.

32 Kitchen

Welcome to St Mary’s Lane : The Kitchen

SML Sitting room

The First Floor Sitting Room

It’s a lovely warm and comfy house on 4 floors each of the upper floors accessed via steep, narrow, twisting staircases; but you soon get used to them! On the ground floor is the kitchen and a cloakroom (and there’s a backyard with picnic table for the summer months), on the first floor is the sitting room, above that is a bedroom and a bathroom and on the fourth floor is another bedroom with magnificent view of the Abbey through one tiny window.

upstairs day view

The Abbey from the Top Bedroom – by day

32 upstairs window

The Abbey from the Top Bedroom – by night

In fact there is another Landmark Trust property in Tewkesbury – The Abbey Gatehouse.

The abbey gatehouse

To Battle!

Battlefield-Trail-949x1024

The Battlefield Trail at Tewkesbury (photo)

On Sunday morning, having found a Battle Trail leaflet at the house, I decided to leave its cosy confines and venture out into the cold, windy fields on the edge of Tewkesbury to discover the location of The Bloody Meadow – scene of the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 between the House of York and the House of Lancaster saw the death of 2000 soldiers, including Edward, Prince of Wales, who was just 18 years old. It was a defining battle of the Wars of the Roses.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey from The Battle Trail

Crossing the main road and taking Gander Lane behind the Abbey I soon found the first Battle Trail sign. It was easy to follow and well-waymarked BUT there were some very very muddy parts and at one point I was unable to reach the exit gate from the Bloody Meadow due to two rather frisky-looking ponies. I had to take a detour, give them a wide berth and climb over a fence. There’s an information panel at the Meadow itself and towards the end of the trail is a monument to the town recording important events in the history of Tewkesbury.

Battle Trail

The Bloody Meadow

The Bloody (and muddy) Meadow

Info Board

Muddy Field

Horses and Mud block the Trail

Tewkesbury Monument

The Tewkesbury Monument and Abbey at the end of the Trail

Close-up of panel

Close-up of the Monument

Tea at Lock Cottage

I was pleased to get back to St Mary’s Lane for a wash and brush-up before heading up the M5 to partake of afternoon tea with Landmarking friends who just happened to be staying at Lock Cottage which lies between locks 31 and 32 of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Lock Cottage

I have to concur with the comment in Lock Cottage Log (Visitors) Book, namely, that “Sitting in the cottage with a cup of tea and watching the boats go by is infinitely preferable to jumping on and off a boat watching the cottages go by.”