Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Two Cotswold Villages



Many people who visit the Cotswolds head for the well known places such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water and Broadway -  all very nice in their way but much too crowded for us. Though I have to say that Broadway has the most wonderful delicatessen - we bought various delicious things there and had them as a picnic lunch later on:) However we soon moved on to the delightful villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. Above is the 12th century church of St Peter in Upper Slaughter. It's a pity that the day was rather cloudy so the photo is rather dreary looking especially with the two yew trees at the front of the church. This is an entirely false impression as the church and the village are both very attractive. There are an awful lot of people buried in that churchyard, apparently it stands six feet higher than the church itself!


This is the lovely 14th century font made even nicer by the flower arrangement standing on the font cover.


The font stands below the Norman archway at the western end of the church which forms the entrance to the church tower.


A walk down the lane that runs by the side of the church brings you to the pretty little ford crossing the River Eye. This joins with another small river further down and eventually runs into the River Windrush at Bourton-on-the-Water. There is a small stone footbridge over the river as well. One thing you won't find in Upper Slaughter is a war memorial. It is one of only fourteen villages in England and Wales where every one of the soldiers who went to fight in the two World Wars returned safely, 25 in WW1 and 36 in WW2.


On the way to Lower Slaughter we passed this beautiful Elizabethan manor house - Upper Slaughter Manor..


The River Eye runs through Lower Slaughter as well and there are several of these stone slab bridges crossing it. It's a lovely village and although there were a few more visitors here than in Upper Slaughter it was still quiet and peaceful. The name Slaughter actually has nothing to do with killing anything - it derives from the Old English word 'sloughtre' which means a muddy place. The level of the river is so near the level of the road in both villages that I can well believe that it in past centuries it was very muddy indeed in winter. And probably in spring and autumn too!


I loved this tiny front garden, it makes the most of every bit of space and everything blends beautifully.


This 19th century mill with its restored water wheel was still working until 1958. The mill house now houses a tea room, small museum and gift shop. It took us about 30 seconds to decide it wasn't our kind of place:) The words 'tourist trap' spring to mind! We, of course, are not tourists but travellers:)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ancestral Trail


I've been tracing my family history for many years and have known for a long time that my great grandmother was born in Evesham Workhouse  in 1851 and that her mother's family lived in Aldington which is a hamlet a couple of miles from Evesham. Since we were visiting the Cotswolds I wanted to visit the places that Amelia and her mother and grandparents would have been familiar with. Amelia was born in the Workhouse as her mother was unmarried and this is where single women often went to have their babies at this period in time. Amelia's mother was Robina Pugh who was born in 1828, she was baptized in Badsey Church which is in the photo above. Aldington was too small to have a church of its own so the people who lived there walked to Badsey, which was only a mile away, to be hatched, matched and despatched. Both Badsey and Aldington were poor rural communities until the late 19th century when market gardening brought prosperity to the area - too late for my ancestors who had all left by 1871.


The church was built in 1120 with additions in 1325 and 1450 and it then seems to have suffered 400 years of neglect until major restoration took place in 1885.This is the outside of the north wall with its blocked up Norman doorway which is the only remaining part of the original Norman church


 The churchyard seems to have suffered a similar fate, oddly until 1866 the churchyard belonged to the Lord of the Manor who obviously took very little interest in it. The Rev.Thomas Hunt, who was vicar from 1852 - 1887, wrote

 'Nettles are growing up everywhere. The sheep turned in and left all night plough up the turf from the newly made graves'.

This doesn't conjure up a particularly attractive vision of the place where Robina's 23 year old brother was buried in 1863! Things improved once the church bought the churchyard in 1866 however and it's now well kept. I don't know how old the yew tree is but I would guess that it might go back to medieval times. It's certainly on the list of ancient and veteran yew trees.


The 16th century Badsey Manor House. Originally there was a house for the ill and infirm monks of Evesham Abbey on this site but after the dissolution of the monasteries it was acquired by Sir Philip Hoby. In 1587 Richard Hoby rebuilt it in the Elizabethan style and it's thought that he incorporated some of the walls of the former sick house into the new manor house.


From Badsey we went on to Aldington. I have no way of knowing which of the cottages my 3xgt-grandparents lived in of course but it's very likely that it was one of these. There were only 19 houses in Aldington in 1841 and since the Manor House, the Mill, 2 farms and a house occupied by a solicitor are out of the equation it doesn't leave many to choose from.


The final place on the family history hunt was the little village of Childswickham now in Worcestershire but formerly in Gloucestershire. This was the birthplace of my 3xgt-grandmother Sarah. I can't give her a surname because I now need to visit Worcester Record Office to search the parish registers for her marriage to John Pugh and for various baptisms and burials. Neither John nor Sarah were buried in Badsey and my guess is that both ended up in the Workhouse and are buried somewhere in Evesham. They weren't married in Badsey either so Childswickham is a good bet there or failing that Evesham. St Mary's is another old church with Norman origins that had to be pretty much rebuilt in the 1870s. The list of vicars goes back to 1283 though.


Sarah was born around 1797 well before the church was restored but this is the 17th century font where she would have been baptized.


Sarah would have known the 15th century village cross which stands at the old village centre 300 yards from the church.It has its original medieval base but the cross was destroyed by the Puritans (they have a lot to answer for!)and was replaced in the 18th century by a classical urn.


As with many workhouses the one at Evesham eventually became the local hospital but the buildings that existed in 1851 are now demolished and lie under the car park. Robina and her father John, who was also born in Evesham,would have known this lovely old 14th century building though. It is the Almonry which once housed the Almoner of the Benedictine Abbey which was founded in the 8th century. The Almoner was responsible for distributing alms to the poor.


The stocks were originally in the town hall jailhouse but were moved here in the 1920s. The stocks were a form of punishment involving public humiliation, they would be used to punish people who were drunk or tradesmen who had tried to cheat customers and other minor offences. The criminal had to sit on a low bench with their feet locked between the two wooden boards for several hours and sometimes longer. People passing by would jeer at them and often throw rotten fruit or eggs at them.  In severe weather the exposure sometimes resulted in death even though this wasn't intended.


This ruined archway once led to the cloisters of Evesham Abbey. Although it was demolished when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries there is still quite a lot of stone work visible on the ground this is the only remaining section of walling though. It's possible that Lady Godiva was buried here in the Church of the Blessed Trinity which  is no longer there having presumably been demolished along with the rest of the Abbey. This church was founded by Lady Godiva and her husband Earl Leofric.


Closer inspection of the archway revealed these weatherworn carved stone figures. They must have been rather splendid in their heyday.


I would really like to visit Evesham again and spend more time there,it's a very historic place and has a lot to see including this wonderful 15th century timber framed house which is now the local Nat West Bank. Originally it was a Tudor merchant's house.


All the Evesham photos were taken on the first evening as we had a quick look round on our way to dinner at the Royal Oak. The frontage is a modern sham but the building itself is 16th century and so is genuinely old and is Grade 2 listed. Apparently it's haunted too! The key thing though is that the food is really excellent, we only intended to eat there on the first night but we enjoyed it so much that we returned on the other two nights as well.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Shakespeare and Stratford - Act Two


We had much better weather for our second visit to Stratford and arrived early which gave me chance to take a photograph of the house on Henley Street where William Shakespeare was born without hordes of tourists in front of it. Shakespeare lived here with his parents until he married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18 and the couple then spent the first five years of their married life here.


Taking photographs was really difficult as the house was absolutely packed so there was neither time nor space especially as the rooms were quite small to begin with. There didn't seem to be any individual guide books to the houses only one book which covered them all so I don't really know what this room is but I'm assuming it was the kitchen.


William's father, John Shakespeare, was a glover by trade and the house was also his workplace. I found this display of the glovers tools and the various styles of gloves really interesting. Notice the rabbit fur which was used to line gloves for cold winter weather.


I'm afraid that we didn't stay very long in Shakespeare's Birthplace, it was so crowded that there wasn't a great deal of pleasure in it. Instead we decided to walk along the River Avon to Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare was baptized, married and buried. The day was pleasant and warm and once we got about 200 yards along the riverbank there were very few people which is amazing since the part near the town centre was packed.


Holy Trinity is a very ancient church, there was a wooden Saxon church on this site as early as the 8th century. The Normans rebuilt the Saxon church in stone but the core of  the present building dates back to 1210 when the Norman church was rebuilt. Holy Trinity has other interesting features apart from Shakespeare's grave. The photo above is of the Clopton Chapel which is the finest Renaissance tomb in England, here lie Sir George Carew and his wife Joyce Clopton. Sir George was Master in Ordnance to King James I hence the canon on the lower part of the monument The Chapel is actually named after Sir Hugh Clopton a native of Stratford who became Lord Mayor of London in 1491/92. He wanted to be buried in what was then the Lady Chapel where he had built an ornate tomb for himself. Unfortunately he was in London when he died so was buried there and it is later members of the family who are buried in Holy Trinity. As with several of these photos you will see more detail if you click on them and enlarge them.



The church has a wonderful set of twenty eight 15th century misericords.  They show a variety of real and mythical animals and scenes from daily life which, judging from some of the carvings, must have been decidedly interesting!


 Shakespeare died on St George's Day - April 23rd - 1616. This funerary monument was erected on the north wall of the chancel within a few years of his death and is said to be a good likeness.


The graves of Shakespeare and his wife Anne lie side by side in the chancel of Holy Trinity. Following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII the tithe income privileges of the church were sold off. The duty of employing a priest and looking after the chancel went with the privileges. In 1605 Shakespeare purchased a share in these privileges for £440 . It was this, and not his ability as a poet and playwright, which gave him the right of burial in the chancel. The curse which is inscribed on the grave was to dissuade anyone from digging up his bones and putting them in the charnel house - a frequent occurence in earlier times although I'd be surprised if the bones of those buried in the chancel of the church itself would be disturbed.


Very close to Holy Trinity stands Hall's Croft which was definitely our favourite of the houses we visited. It belonged to Dr John Hall who married Shakespeare's daughter Susanna in 1607. It's a really lovely house. Dr John Hall was a physician and was skilled in the use of herbs


This was my favourite room in the house - the parlour. Notice the beautiful carved Elizabethan child's high chair on the right.


There's an interesting exhibition of the equipment used by an Elizabethan apothecary - the jars would have held various liquid preparations, dry ingredients, pills and lozenges and so on. Some of them are really attractive.


There's a lovely garden at the back of Hall's Croft which I suspect would once have been where Dr Hall grew the medicinal herbs for his practice. We were lucky in having the garden virtually to ourselves although several people came out just as we were leaving. There were surprisingly few people in both the house and garden especially compared with the crowds in the Birthplace on Henley St.

We passed these wonderful old almshouses on our way back to the town centre, The plaque in the photo below gives their history.



A quick visit to Marks and Spencer's provided us with a picnic lunch which we ate sitting in the sunshine by the river before setting off on the journey home.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Shakespeare and Stratford - Act One


My daughter and I recently spent a few days in the Cotswolds and this has enabled me to fulfil a long held ambition to visit Anne Hathaway's Cottage and some of the other places associated with William Shakespeare. On the way down we went to Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Ardern's Farm and on the way back we stopped in Stratford itself and visited the Shakespeare Birthplace, Hall's Croft and Holy Trinity Church.


Anne Hathaway was the daughter of Richard Hathaway a well to do yeoman farmer who lived in the village of Shottery just outside Stratford.The right hand part is the original farmhouse built around 1460. In the early 17th century Anne's brother Bartholomew Hathaway added the taller lefthand section. The Hathaways were close friends of the Shakespeare family which included their son William. In August 1582 there was a particularly good harvest and it would seem that 26 year old Anne and 18 year old William joined in the harvest celebrations a little too enthusiastically. On November 27th 1582 there was a rather hurried wedding at Holy Trinity Church closely followed by the baptism of their daughter Susanna on May 26th 1583!


I love the beautiful stone flagged floor and the drop leaf table in this photo. The vast hearth includes a bread oven with a wooden peel for getting the loaves into and out of the oven.


Shakespeare's Courting Chair is traditionally thought to have belonged to William Shakespeare and is said to have been given to the Hathaway family by his granddaughter Lady Elizabeth Barnard. It's an early 16th century chair so is certainly of the correct period but there does seem to be a degree of doubt about whether it really belonged to Shakespeare.


My favourite rooms in old houses are almost always the kitchens and pantries. I would give a good deal to own those wonderful pancheons and the lovely wooden butter churn.

Our next stop was Mary Arden's farm at Wilmcote, the home of William Shakespeare's mother. Wilmcote is the area traditionally known as the Forest of Arden famous as the setting for the play 'As You Like It' although even in Shakespeare's time the forest was long gone. Here we have the shepherd on the right and the falconer on the left passing the time of day. Both were charming and interesting to talk to, the sheep is a Cotswold which an old breed of sheep that would have been farmed in this area in Shakespeare's time.


My daughter isn't a fan of looking round historic houses but she does like animals so was much more enthusiastic about Mary Arden's farm. Here we have an English Longhorn and her calf.


My daughter's new friend:) He's a Mangalitsa, a rare breed long haired pig originally from Austria/Hungary and similar to the wild boar that would have been around in the Tudor era.


As we walked back towards the farmhouse we saw the falconer at work so we stopped to watch. He's flying a beautiful Lanner falcon. In Tudor times falconry was a very popular sport with both royalty and the aristocracy.


Having flown in a very spectacular manner and having - eventually! - returned the falcon has gained his reward and is guarding it with wings spread. I love this photograph. Later we discovered that the falconer also had ferrets and we were allowed to hold them. They are incredibly wriggly and you need to keep a firm grip on them without hurting them or they'd be gone. I've always liked ferrets.


This is the farmhouse which was Mary Arden's childhood home although this has only been discovered fairly recently. Previously the house now known as Palmer's Farm was thought to be Mary Arden's house. Fortunately the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust owned both properties and this farmhouse is now used more as a museum. There's a lovely garden outside filled with borage, St John's wort, lemon balm and other herbs and cottage garden flowers which Shakespeare would have known well. He mentions flowers often in his plays -

"Here's flowers for you;
Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram."

from The Winter's Tale. Not that I'm an expert on Shakespeare's plays ! I have a lovely and very useful book called Shakespeare's Flowers which is full of quotes.


Palmer's Farm is very close to the Arden's farm and belonged to Adam Palmer who was a close friend of William's parents and grandparents. This house is furnished and is used as a living history setting. It's a wonderful building with walls that bend and bow out but in spite of this it has stood here since the 16th century.


This is the best room in the house which was not only a place to eat and relax but was also the master bedroom - much warmer down here where there would be a fire to warm the room.


Rather less luxurious upstairs where the children slept!


The small dairy - cheese was being made here and the smell was really strong.


As with many very old houses there is a passage that runs right through from front to back. The kitchens etc are to the left and the family's living quarters are to the right. I suspect that originally the arrangement would have been animals living on the left and people on the right! This was usually the case with medieval longhouses but I don't know whether Palmer's Farm really did start out this way.


This is the back of Palmer's Farm showing the woodstack and the farmyard. I should finish here really but I can't resist adding.....


the Tamworth pigs.....



the goats - there were three of them but this one was definitely in charge!.....

and last but not least Ellie the horse:)