Tea and Tattle Christmas Fun

“Hello and welcome to the Tea and Tattle tearoom and Arthur Probsthain bookseller! Our story starts over 100 years ago when our bookshop was founded. Since then four generations of our family have been helping our customers to find an amazing selection of books, and more recently art and music. In June 2010, we decided that we wanted to offer our lovely customers something more and so, the Tea and Tattle tea room opened its doors.” (T&T website)

APT&T

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Chelsea Physic Garden : Where Plants Really Matter

On Friday my sister arrived to join me for the weekend and we checked into our hotel just behind Harrods. This was a relatively new area for us. We had decided to avoid the Central London and City areas as the London Marathon on the Sunday meant big crowds and closed roads and limited access everywhere.

So, being in the Belgravia area seemed a good opportunity to visit lesser known places in the Chelsea area. For many years I’ve wanted to visit the Chelsea Physic Garden but haven’t been in the right place at the right time. Friday being beautifully warm and sunny we decided to step out down Sloane Street and Royal Hospital Road where, next door to the Royal Hospital (think, Chelsea Pensioners), we found the high walls surrounding another oasis of peace and calm.

CPG Rock gdn

The rock garden of basalt rocks is a listed monument

Tucked away beside the Thames, Chelsea Physic Garden is a celebration of the beauty and importance of plants. This walled Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants and it became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world. Today, as an independent charity the Garden relies on the support of visitors and Friends to help protect and nurture the Garden for future generations.” [From the website]

tangerine dream

The Cafe in the 17th century curator’s house

There are free tours every half hour with a volunteer guide so we decided to join one of these first, before having lunch outside the Tangerine Dream Cafe.

CPG gates

The Gates lead to the Chelsea Embankment and beyond that to the River Thames which was so important to the Garden bringing boats alongside with their cargoes of exotic plants

volunteers and gardeners at work

Gardeners and volunteers at work in the Systematic Order Beds

It was impossible for our introductory tour to include all of the gardens on the site :

Garden of Medicinal Plants
The Pharmaceutical Garden
World Woodland Garden
The Garden of World Medicine
The Garden of Edible and Useful Plants
Historical Walk
Botanical Order Beds
Island Endemic Flora

[Each garden is explained on the website.]

so after lunch we visited most of the rest – the greenhouses, the new world woodland garden and had a closer look at the two information point caravans devoted to Sir Hans Sloane and the Swedish plantsman Linnaeus.

Sloane and Linnaeus

Each cart contains information about Carl Linnaeus and Sir Hans Sloane

Hans Sloane

Sir Hans Sloane (a copy of the original)

Dr. Hans Sloane, after whom the nearby locations of Sloane Square and Sloane Street were named, purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne. This purchase of about 4 acres was leased to the Society of Apothecaries for £5 a year in perpetuity. Sloane was also a founder of the British Museum.

‘Curse or Cure?’ is the title of the 2015 temporary outdoor art installation created for the Garden by ceramic artist Nici Ruggiero. It consists of a trail of 15 inscribed apothecary jars displayed on metal spikes amongst the plants and a larger display of 21 jars against the wall.

curse or cure descrip

Description of the Installation

curse or cure jar

A Jar on a Spike

curse or cure jars

The 21 Jars

Read here an article by Lisa Jardine which appeared in the Financial Times Magazine in 2013. You may need to register to read.

 

 

 

The Cloister Cafe Great St Bartholomew’s

There are three new Quiet London books. In the volume “food and drink” there are lots of ‘new’ listings. Flicking through I noticed that a cafe has now opened in the cloister of St Bartholomew The Great church, West Smithfield. Over the years I’ve stayed half a dozen times at 45A Cloth Fair one of three Landmark Trust properties in Central London.

cloister

Last week a friend of mine was staying there and invited me to join her on Thursday afternoon. I travelled down that morning for a big event on Saturday (more later). We decided to try out the cafe and it was indeed quiet. But then it was a lovely warm day and there were plenty of people in the churchyard having their offices lunches in the sunshine.

Gatehouse

Enter the beautiful Great St Bartholomew’s church by passing underneath the Elizabethan gatehouse” writes Siobhan Wall.

Inside St Barts

After slowly wandering round its hallowed interior,  find a table in this tranquil cafe to the right of the main porch.”

main porch

Main Porch

higgidy pie

There aren’t many places where you can sit and have a slice of chocolate cake [or a Higgidy pie, for that matter] among fifteenth-century cloisters, but the ancient surroundings make this one of the nicest cafes in London to have afternoon tea.”

green tea

Fresh mint tea is served in white china pots, and with the pale green light filtering through the leaded glass windows this is one of the most peaceful corners in England.”

A Beautiful Oasis of Peace and Tranquility in the Heart of Durham City : Crook Hall and Gardens

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral from Crook Hall Tea Room

Writing this on a warm sunny Easter Monday it’s hard to believe that last Tuesday in Durham I managed to avoid snow showers whilst meeting a friend from my online book group for a day out at Crook Hall and Gardens in Durham.

Crook Hall

This fascinating house and garden deserve another visit in the summer time when there will be more colour and a less forbidding sky. However, we did manage to visit each garden and delighted in what we saw.

The Hall

 

Beams

The Hall is 13th century and provides a spectacular backdrop to the stunning gardens. It’s a short walk from the bustling city centre to this oasis of peace. There’s a tea room in the Georgian wing served by the house kitchen and you can visit many of the rooms in the house including the medieval hall with exposed beams.

The Orchard

The Orchard

Shakespeare garden

The Shakespeare Garden inspired by a book on plants in Shakespeare’s plays

Shakespeare in his garden

Shakespeare in his garden

Moat

The Moat Pool

Cathedral garden

The Cathedral Garden : the beds echo stained glass windows

Monks in garden

Durham Cathedral from the Cathedral Garden: the Topiary Box represent the Monks

Be entertained by Clare Balding as she takes a walk with the owners of Crook Hall and finds out about the history of Crook Hall and Gardens :

Crook Hall on Ramblings

Constable Country : Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

We’d planned to make one excursion from Colchester and that was to nearby Constable Country to Dedham in Essex and Flatford in Suffolk. On our first visit to the Tourist Information Office we picked up a lovely little brochure “A Visitor’s Guide to Constable Country in the Dedham Vale”. Across the centre fold is a sketch map of the area showing footpaths and locations where John Constable (1776-1837) painted scenes.

Brochure

That evening we noticed this at the bottom of the page :

“Take the Train…
Did you know it only takes 40 minutes to walk from Manningtree Station to Flatford, and around
40 more from Flatford to Dedham? Avoid the traffic and enjoy a relaxing day out by train.”

Manningtree

The perfect way to go, we thought. The next day we travelled to Manningtree and the walk began well along a country lane until we reached the first actual footpath. Horror! It was a mud bath. We managed to manoeuvre ourselves along the overgrown edge but it soon became impossible. In addition, all the footpath signs after leaving the station were broken off. A sad state of affairs. In the end we took a raised path, still very muddy in places, alongside the River Stour to the A137. Luckily there’s a pavement along the road back to the railway station.

River Stour 1

River Stour 2

River Stour

Our second attempt was more successful. We decided to take a short detour from our route up to Norwich.

Dedham main st

First stop was the pretty, large village of Dedham, still in Essex. The main street is lined with Georgian buildings. We did a little shopping and had lunch in the Arts and Craft Centre which occupies a former historic church on the edge of the village.

Dedham church

Dedham Parish Church – Dedicated to St Mary the Virgin in 1492

The main parish church is well worth a visit. An excellent colour guide indicates the main points of interest. The modern pew ends are a particular feature of the church. They have distinctive carvings and inscriptions and dedications. They were made by Mabbitts of Colchester over more than a decade.

Dedham pews

Musical

moon pew

These insets commemorate the first Moon Landing

Sherman window

At the top of the window are fragments of 17th century glass.

Dedham window

In the apex of the window above the Webbe Tomb are some fragments of old glass showing the initials E.S. commemorating Edmund Sherman who, at his death in December 1600, left his house opposite the church to the Governors of the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth for a school to teach boys to ‘read, write and cast accounts’, that is to become local tradesmen rather than aspire to enter university or a profession.

Edmund Sherman, with his elder brother Henry and their father – also Henry, were named as Governors of the Grammar School when it was endowed in 1571 and were also nominated in the Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth four years later.

At least eleven descendants of old Henry and these two sons, Henry and Edmund are known to have emigrated to New England between 1633 and 1640. They and their descendants included a co-founder of Rhode Island; a signer of the Declaration of Independence and framer of the Constitution of the United States; the famous General W.T. Sherman of Civil War fame and his brother, Secretary to the US Treasury; a Vice-President of the USA 1908 to 1912; and two famous Admirals in the Second World War, one of whom later became Chief of Naval Operations for the USA.” [source]

Dedham Constable

The church displays a Constable painting “The Ascension” originally commissioned for Manningtree church and currently on loan from the Constable Trust.

The church tower is particularly fine and very high – over 40m: perhaps the largest medieval flint tower ever built. It appears in many of Constable’s paintings including his ‘Dedham Mill Lock’. It was completed in 1519 and is unusual because it has an archway underneath it. This is sometimes called a ‘Galilee’ to remind worshippers of how Christ led his disciples into Galilee after His resurrection. If it had been a summer weekend we’d have climbed the 132 steps to the recently completed viewing platform.

Dedham church twr

Dedham arch

The ‘Galilee’ with Tudor heraldic symbols on the ceiling

Before leaving Dedham for Flatford we walked to Dedham Mill the scene of one his paintings.

dedham-lock-and-mill-1820

Constable’s Dedham Mill (1820) – and there is the church, too [source]

Here is the much-expanded and changed Mill today :

Dedham Mill 1

Dedham Mill 2

Dedham Mill Today – now prestigious flats

Dedham Lock today

Dedham Lock today

Flatford, just in Suffolk, is now owned and managed by the National Trust. It wasn’t ‘open’ on the day of our visit but there were a lot of staff and volunteers around probably preparing for the new ‘season’ which was to begin the following week (i.e. this week).

There’s a path/lane from the car park to Willy Lott’s House and the site of Constable’s famous painting ‘The Hay Wain’. I could vaguely recognise it as it is much less changed than Dedham Mill.

The Hay Wain

The Hay Wain, by John Constable

Hay Wain scene

The Hay Wain scene last week

Flatford Willy Lotts

The house on the left hand side of the painting and photo is Willy Lott’s House.

Boat Building at Flatford

Another Flatford scene Constable painted in the open air was ‘Boat Building at Flatford‘. Many Constables also owned Flatford Mill. There’s an article on the NT website about the Mill ownership and the Constable family here.

K at F Mil

Flatford Mill

Before leaving we walked over the bridge to join the footpath we should have arrived by on the Wednesday. We definitely made the right decision!

A Further Selection of Colchester Landmarks

There is, of course, more to Colchester than just recycled Roman bricks. Peake’s House is in the Dutch Quarter which was named after the Flemish weavers who settled here during the 16th century.

Heritage route

 Heritage Trail Route

St Helen’s (just a few steps from East Stockwell Street) was first recorded in 1097 but its history goes back to the 3rd century AD. It was founded by Empress Helena (St Helena is Colchester’s patron saint). She was the daughter of King Coel (of Old King Cole nursery rhyme fame) and mother of Emperor Constantine the Great who was born in Colchester.

St helen's Chapel

Since 2000 AD the chapel has been a Greek Orthodox parish church of the Patriarchate of Antioch. Inside the tiny church the walls are hung with icons to the various saints including Saint Helena and Saint Barbara.

Saint Barbara

Next to the chapel on one side is a former Quaker burial ground and on the other a line of black bricks leads slightly uphill to a window through which you can see some of the remains of a vast Roman theatre that had been capable of seating 3,500 people. A mural on the wall shows an artist’s impression of the theatre when it was in use.

Theatre and reflection

The Roman Theatre Foundations – a Reflections of the Street

Roman theatre

Plan of the Roman Theatre superimposed onto a modern street map

Nearby, on West Stockwell Street, is the former home of Jane and Ann Taylor who were famous for writing verse. Jane Taylor wrote the nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ in 1806.

Twinkle house

Home of Jane and Ann Taylor

about taylors

We read about the Taylors in Colchester Museum

Twinkle twinkle

Colchester Town Hall on the High Street has an impressive tower designed by John Belcher and opened in 1902. It rises 50m above the street and is surmounted by a statue of St Helena and other historical figures connected with Colchester including Queen Boudicea of the Iceni. She led a rebellion against the Romans in 60 AD.

Town Hall

Colchester Town Hall

We sought out Tymperleys the former home of Dr William Gilberd a scientist and physician to Queen Elizabeth I. It’s now a tea room and until very recently had housed a large collection of Colchester-made clocks. Bernard Mason who had collected the clocks and lived at Tymperleys left the entire collection and the house to the borough. Now only a very small selection may be seen in the Colchester Museum.

Tymperleys

Tymperleys

You can’t miss Jumbo! It’s a huge brick water tower built in 1882 and named for a famous elephant at London Zoo. The Rev John Irvine who lived in his rectory on the site of the present Mercury Theatre was not happy about the giant structure erected at the bottom of his garden and described the monstrosity as a Jumbo. The name stuck and the builders added a brass elephant to the weathervane as a reminder to the unhappy clergyman.

Jumbo and theatre Balkerne

Jumbo and the Mercury Theatre seen through Balkerne Gate

In addition to the Heritage Trail we also followed the Town to Sea Trail : Colchester and its historic port, the Hythe. “A unique art trail, designed for walkers and cyclists, follows the tidal River Colne through some lesser known areas of Colchester”.  We followed the whole of the 2 mile trail from its start at firstsite, an arts centre near the castle, to the end at the Hythe, a mixture of deserted or renovated quayside warehouses and modern out of town flats and shopping centre. We had a coffee in B&Q at Colne Causeway.

Firstsight

firstsite

oyster shells

oysters

Information Board : Colchester Oysters are the best!

R Colne in its heyday

The River Colne in its Heyday

The Hythe

The Hythe today

Tidal river colne today

The Tidal River Colne Today

The highlight of the walk, but on a slight detour, was the Church of St Leonard at the Hythe; preserved by the Churches Conservation Trust its opening hours are limited but we were lucky again.

St leonard

St Leonard-at-the-Hythe

Interior

Interior : Early 20th Century Wall Paintings above the Arch once covered the whole Church

Windows St leon.

Early 20th Century Stained Glass : Sts Osyth, Helena and Ethelburga

Door musket holes

The Medieval door of this old port church still bears the holes made by troops to put muskets through during the English Civil War.

“Perhaps it is little known that Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star actually consists of 5 verses, with the fifth verse rarely sung. Here’s the complete 5 verses, taken from the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd edition, 1997), with the repetition of the first two lines added to fit the melody.” [source]

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
****
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
****
Then the traveller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
****
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
****
As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveller in the dark,—
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

Birmingham Architectural, Historical and Modern Gems, 2

As I said already, the jewels and gems of Birmingham don’t stop in the Jewellery Quarter …

There is also the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which houses one of the best collections of fine and decorative art, historical artefacts and archaeological treasures in Britain today; all displayed in an elegant Grade II* listed building. The collection is particularly strong in Pre-Raphaelite art. There is also a permanent display of items from the Staffordshire Hoard. [Adapted from Art Fund Guide]

Egg-travelling

Travelling Companions by Augustus Egg (1862) one of my favourite Victorian paintings is in the care of BMAG

On Sunday afternoon we were on the trail of the gold and gems of the Staffordshire Hoard. No photography allowed.

Discovered in 2009 and acquired jointly with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent with assistance from the Art Fund, this treasure trove of 7th century Anglo-Saxon art features 4,000 pieces of gold and silver displaying intricate filigree and cloisonné work. Since October 2014 a new permanent gallery interprets the story of the hoard and its context within Anglo-Saxon history. Beyond the richness of the materials and the exquisite decoration, the hoard is significant because of its strictly masculine nature. These are exclusively military items created for Mercia’s best  fighters.” [Art Quarterly, winter 2014, p.31]

St Chad's and roads

St Chad’s Cathedral or Traffic Circle

Birmingham has two cathedrals both gems of their type. The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad is a little out of the immediate city centre but we could easily walk there. How many times did we remark to each – “Car is King in Birmingham”? Pedestrians must wait at lights, use underpasses and walkways and over-road links. The RC Cathedral appeared to be sited in the middle of the road. Access is not easy. However, we made it safely through its doors on Monday morning and into another world. A world of peace and calm and of glorious art. No photography was allowed but I had already taken this one before I saw the sign.

St Chad's

The Nave, St Chad’s Cathedral

A significant stopping-off point on Birmingham’s Pugin Trail the Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral to built in the UK since the Reformation. The superb original internal decorations and fittings were made by skilled craftsmen re-introducing skills of the Medieval era.  John Hardman plate and windows; Herbert Minton tiles; William Warrington chancel window. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin also supplied original Medieval furnishings from his own collection including the stalls and pulpit. His rood screen was removed in 1967.

Only after dropping in to St Philip’s Cathedral on Sunday afternoon and deciding to stay for Evensong – more members of the choir than members of the congregation and followed by a brief organ recital – did I read this suggestion in my LV City Guide 2012 Birmingham, London, Dublin :

Birmingham Cathedral

St Philip’s Cathedral [source]

Sunday in Birmingham : Attend a service in 18th century Birmingham Cathedral which has a number of stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones. Colmore Row.”

Looking_down_on_bar_3536

Old Joint Stock Bar [source]

Opposite the Cathedral is the famous Birmingham pub The Old Joint Stock Pub and Theatre. Just a few paces from the Cathedral we decided to pay a visit. Unfortunately the theatre wasn’t open that evening but the island bar was impressive. Also from my LV Guide :

Old_Joint_Stock_External2_3539

Julius Alfred Chatwin was primarily a designer of Birmingham churches … But there were exceptions to his church work and the opulent interiors of the Old Joint Stock, opposite St Philip’s Cathedral (in which he had a hand), showed that he could be moved to great things in the temporal sphere as well. Completed in 1864, the building first belonged to the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. It was converted into a pub in 1997. Under a glass domed ceiling, beside an island bar and with sumptuous interiors, this is one of the grandest pubs in the city. Upstairs is an 80-seat theatre, minimalist in decor, but the sort of facility few pubs can shout about.

ET ad

ET Mural

Tea Room Mural

On Monday we returned to The Art Gallery to the highly recommended Edwardian Tea Room for a light lunch before heading to our raison de visite The Library of Birmingham.

Few other tea rooms in the world can boast a stellar gathering as was here under the ornate ceiling and glass canopy in May 1998. The G8 Summit was being held in the city and for a short time a group that included Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair (and their interpreters) sat around a table commissioned from David Linley for the occasion, surrounded by a pick of the museum’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings hung here especially for the event. Even without the table and the paintings, The Edwardian Tea Room is still a grand setting for tea, coffee, snacks and lunches.” [LV Guide]

Wedding Cake

The Library Building Decorated on the Exterior to Represent Rings and Birmingham’s Jewellery Heritage

The Giant Wedding Cake, as the library is affectionately known, offers pre-bookable guided  tours to the building and its contents on Mondays at 2.15.  The building was officially opened by Malala Yousafzai in September 2013.

We took the glass lift up to the 9th floor from where we had long-reaching views of the city  and beyond from the Skyline Viewpoint. Also on the ninth floor is the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

Shakespeare

Shakespeare in his Memorial Room

“This original feature from the city’s Victorian library was designed by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. Since then
it has changed home twice, moving to Central Library when it was built in the early 1970s, and to the Library of Birmingham almost forty years later. It originally housed the Birmingham Shakespeare Library, which is still available at the Library of Birmingham. The Room is wood panelled with glass printed shelves inspired by the Elizabethan age with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by noted woodcarver Mr Barfield, and the brass and metal work is most likely crafted by Hardmans. The Shakespeare Memorial Room has been painstakingly reconstructed by local craftsmen A. Edmonds & Co. Ltd and the Victorian Cornice Company whorestored the elaborate ceiling. The books and memorabilia you see on the shelves are interesting items from the Library’s general collections (the Shakespeare collection outgrew the room as early as 1906).” [source]

70s library

The old Central Library seen through the rings

We then descended floor by floor visiting two gardens on our way down including the Secret Garden and The Discovery Terrace.

secret garden

The Secret Garden on the Seventh Floor

Lift and escalators

Looking down into the Library and the Book Rotunda

Book Rotunda

The Book Rotunda – Shades of The British Museum and Waterstones Book Shops

Children's Library

The Book Browse Fiction Library

Here is a Library buzzing with enthusiasm and offering its readers so much more than books (although I’d be happy with just the books). The What’s On programme that I picked up lists Exhibitions (we visited The Voices of War during our tour), Films, Music, Activities, Performances, Dance, Poetry and Workshops. Lucky Birmingham to have this facility in the heart of the city I hope the citizens make good use of it and what it offers.

Despite a packed two days and two half days we  are sure that there are many more Birmingham gems still to be visited!