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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tissington Well Dressing

Last week DH and I (and Bilbo Baggins of course!) went to Tissington in Derbyshire to see the Well Dressing. Perhaps it would be truer to say that I went to see the Well Dressing and DH and BB came along for the ride:) Here is a link to a post I did in 2007 which gives the history of well dressing and a brief explanation of how the panels are made. Tissington dresses six wells and it has a history of doing so since the mid 14th century with very few breaks. Tissington escaped the ravages of the Black Death in 1348-49 and the villagers believed that this was thanks to the purity of their well water. Above is the first of the wells on our tour which is known as Hands Well. You will see more detail if you click on the photos to enlarge them.

A one way system is in place during the well dressing week and we parked in a field and were given a little map of the village with all the wells marked. Just up the lane from Hands Well was this fabulous stone trough which has probably been there nearly as long as the wells.

This is Coffin Well and if you look at the shape of the well you can see why. 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Flying Corps which eventually became the Royal Air Force in 1919.

DH took a photo of Coffin Well which shows the shape more clearly than mine does. He's a much better photographer than I am:)

This is the village pond - spot the ducks:) There's no doubt that Tissington is a remarkably pretty village but it was jam packed when we were there as it was the first warm sunny day since March.

This was my favourite well dressing by a long way - I love The Gruffalo stories and so do all my grandchildren. Two elderly ladies who were looking at it didn't know the story so I gave them a brief outline and they said I should be telling stories on television! I don't think so......

Yew Tree Well - if you look at the sides of the main picture you will see the emblems of England - rose, Scotland - thistle, Ireland - shamrock and Wales - leeks.

Tissington Hall which I shall go back and visit one day when the village isn't so busy. Built in 1609 by Francis Fitzherbert it is still lived in by his descendents.

Hall Well which unsurprisingly is across the road from the Hall. I love the seahorses and shells on this one. This was B Baggins favourite because a channeled stream runs down the side of the road from here so he was able to lie down and cool off and have a drink though we always carry water and a small plastic dish for him in hot weather.

St Mary's church dates back to about 1100 and is another place to go back to on a quieter day, it is probably a lovely interior but it was so full of chairs, a screen and video equipment and various other stuff that you could barely tell it was a church at all. They were having hourly film shows about Well Dressing hence not only the normals pews but the extra chairs.

I did take a couple of photos but had to just stand where I could find a space so none of them are very good. This is a monument to Francis Fitzherbert (lower section) who died in 1619 and his son John Fitzherbert (upper section) who died in 1642 - I'm not sure whether this is a tomb or a memorial. Francis is the one who built Tissington Hall.

There is a wonderful Norman chancel arch but this is all I can show you because the rest was covered by the film screen!. It has the typical chevron decoration of the period. I did a course on recognizing diffrent periods of church architecture last year and though I don't remember much I can always pick out Norman windows and arches now:)

The simple tub shaped font is carved with rather rustic looking animals but it's over 900 years old which makes it rather special I think. I crouched on the floor wedged between a chair and the entrance to take this, I couldn't get round it or move further back so it is what it is.

The last of the wells was the Children's Well which is decorated by the children from the village school. I imagine that many of the adult well dressers will have learnt their skills as children. It is a skill too, making one of these pictures is time consuming and fiddly.

Finally on the way back to the car we passed this lovely old barn. There were lots of lovely old buildings in Tissington and a really fantastic shop called Edward & Vintage so we shall be going back at some point. I shall be gone for a few days now as early tomorrow morning I'm off to Suffolk to spend the Jubilee weekend with my son Neil and his family. Have a great Bank Holiday weekend if you are in the UK and just a great weekend if you are elsewhere in the world. Many Commonwealth countries will be celebrating Her Majesty the Queen's 60 years on the throne with us of course, it will be a great occasion .

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back To My Roots

Last Saturday I drove over to Cheshire for an Open Day at the Old Medicine House near Goostrey. Very close by stands the Jodrell Bank telescope which is the third largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world. On the night of the Apollo 11 moon landing there was a huge screen at Jodrell Bank where people could go and watch events as they happened and I was one of those who was there on the night of July 20th 1969. It was so much more exciting than just watching at home on TV.

This is The Old Medicine House, it's an early 16th century timber framed house which originally stood at Wrinehill about 17 miles away. It was derelict and about to be demolished when the author Alan Garnerand his wife Griselda bought it for £1! They had it dismantled, repaired and re-erected next to their home Toad Hall at Blackden near Goostrey.The two buildings are linked by a connecting passage.

This is Sue Hughes with a wonderful display of herbs showing their uses in cooking, medicine, dyeing and folklore. Along with Elizabeth Musgrave she will be tutoring a herb day that I'm attending at the Old Medicine House next month and this display has made me even more keen to go.

These quatrefoil symbols are on the gable end of the house and were put there to repel witches!

This shows both the Old Medicine House on the right and Toad Hall on the left. Toad Hall is medieval three bay timber framed house and is original to the site. The Old Medicine House gets its name from the fact that it was built originally for an apothecary. Intriguingly in the spring following the move to Blackden various wildflowers and herbs started to appear round the house having been dislodged from the cracks in the old timbers during the move. As a result the Garners decided to plant an Elizabethan herb garden around the Old Medicine House. There will be a post about this after my herb day:)

About three miles away from Blackden is the village of Over Peover. My great grandfather was born there and so were at least six previous generations of my family so I decided to combine my visit to the Old Medicine House with a visit to the church of St Lawrence, Over Peover. The idea was to try, armed with the grave number, to find the grave of my 6xgt grandfather Edward Wright. The photo shows Peover Hall which was the home of the Mainwaring family. It's other claim to fame is that during the Second World War this was General George Patton's HQ in the lead up to D-Day.

Over one entrance to the Hall is a stone carved with the coat of arms of the Mainwaring family and the date 1585 which is when the house was built. If you click and enlarge it the date is quite clear.

Over the main entrance is a stone relief of an ass's head and a coronet. Apparently a Mainwaring fighting in the First Crusade at the Siege of Jerusalem had his horse shot from under him and the only replacement he could find was an ass which he promptly mounted saying 'Devant Si Je Puis' which became the family motto. At that point in time of course the aristocracy spoke Norman French:) The words mean 'Forward if I can'.

This is the stable block, on the far left are the Carolean Stables which were built in 1654 (Carolean refers to the reign of Charles II though the stables were built a few years before he was restored to the monarchy in 1660). The newer stables and the coach house on the right date from 1760.

The church of St Lawrence taken from the garden of Peover Hall, originally this was the private chapel of the Mainwaring family.

The font is 15th century and this is where William, William, Joshua, Isaac and Edward Wright were all baptized. For some reason my great grandfather Arthur was baptized at the nearby Chelford church although his two elder brothers were baptized here.
On the wall behind the font are the Royal Arms of Charles II, from the Restoration until the 19th century all churches were required to display the Royal Arms as a sign of loyalty to the Crown.

The three arches are the entrance to the mortuary chapel of Sir Philip Mainwaring, it was built in 1648 by his widow Ellen and has never been used for services. Originally there was a wall with small iron gates between the chapel and the church but this was knocked down and replaced by the arches in 1884.

The marble monument shows Sir Philip in the full plate armour which he would have worn as Captain of the Light Horse of Cheshire. Can you see that his head is pillowed on an ass? The second photo gives a closer look at Sir Philip and his wife Ellen. I couldn't do any better than this without either standing on a chair or being a foot taller:)

Hanging on the wall of the mortuary chapel is the actual armour that belonged to Sir Philip, I don't know whether the swords were his or not but it seems likely that they were.

On the opposite side of the church stands the South Chapel built in 1456 as a chantry chapel for Sir Randle Mainwaring . The story goes that Sir Randle wished to be buried in the churchyard and his widow Margery carried out his wishes and then built the chantry chapel over the tomb! They both lie in the tomb surmounted by life size effigies and Sir Randle, like Sir Philip, has an ass as a pillow.The chapel was originally joined to the church but not part of it.

The stained glass in the windows is medieval and this image shows St Thomas Becket in the robes of a monk, he is the figure on the left. This is very rare indeed as Henry VIII considered Becket to be a traitor and ordered all windows depicting him to be destroyed and only a very few survived.

A 15th century preaching cross stands in the churchyard, the base is original but the cross itself dates from 1907.

I was remarkably lucky to visit when I did, Peover Hall is never open on Saturday as a rule but May 19th/20th was their annual opening for the National Gardens Scheme. Apparently if the house is closed then the church is locked too so I wouldn't have been able to go inside and I wouldn't have found the kind gentleman who took me into the vestry to show me the graveyard plan. Without that plan I would never have found grandfather Edward's grave. As you can see it's covered with moss and much of the inscription is hidden. However once I knelt down and looked closely I could just make out ..ward Wri... and by tracing the shapes with my finger I could make out the complete name. The whole inscription reads:

Jeffrey Wright of Over Peover April 9 1639 left £10 the interest to be paid to the Minister of Over Peover for ever. Also Edward Wright of Over Peover May 19 1767 aged 77. Also Martha Wright of Over Peover 14 December 1835 aged 71. Also Peter Wright husband of the above April 26 1837 aged 77.

I haven't discovered who Jeffrey was yet but I think he must be Edward's gt-grandfather as there is a gap of one hundred and twenty nine years between the two burials. Peter Wright is Edward's grandson though a different line to me. I think grandfather Edward has been looking over my shoulder and helping things along here and it hasn't stopped as earlier this week I found the burial entry of his wife Catherine in 1776, much later than I expected. If she was around the same age as Edward who was born in 1690 then she must have been around 85 when she died. I'm rather hoping that Edward is going to continue nudging me in the right direction:)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Irish Journey - Part The Second

On Thursday we drove up to The Burren again with a special purpose in mind. My friend had brought her husband's ashes with her from America to fulfil his wish that they be scattered in Ireland. After a special commemorative lunch in Ballyvaughan we drove to Poulnabrone, an ancient portal tomb dating from about 2500BC. When the site was excavated in 1985 they found sixteen burials here both adults and children - the name Poulnabrone means 'hole of sorrows'. It stands in a field beside the road from Ballyvaughan to Corrofin and it had seemed the perfect place until we got there and discovered that what had once had been a quiet and peaceful place was now thronged with people! It was decided that we needed a Plan B!

We drove on, still with the occasional stop to admire the scenery, I love this stone wall with a squeeze style leading into the field.

Finally we found a beautiful place for H to rest, O'Heyne's Church which is part of the monastery of Kilmacduagh founded in the 7th century by St Colman Mac Duagh. This building dates back to the early 1200s and is really lovely inside though there are no photos of this for obvious reasons. We held a short ceremony and after C had scattered H's ashes I read an ancient Irish Blessing very appropriate for both the place and the moment.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

We looked around the rest of the site before going down to O'Heyne's Church,above is the ruin of the Oratory of St John which dates back to the 10th century.

The round tower is also 10th century and it isn't my photograph that isn't quite straight - the tower actually leans two feet from the vertical! It served as a belfry, a treasure house, a watch tower and a place of refuge for the monks from Viking and other raiders.

Here we have the ruin of Kilmacduagh Cathedral with the round tower beside it. Notice where the doorway of the tower is, it stands 26 feet above ground level. In times of trouble the monks scrambled up a wooden ladder and then drew it up after them leaving the would be raiders with something of a problem:)
I think there must be a good deal of archaeology under the grass and the gravestones as there is no sign above ground of the refectory and dormitory buildings nor of any cloisters.

When I was reading about Kilmacduagh later I discovered that St Colman is actually buried there and a certain amount of investigation leads me to believe that I took a rather poor photograph of his grave without realising what it was! I'm not absolutely certain so am open to correction if anyone knows better.

On Friday morning we headed for Connemara stopping on the way at the 16th century tower house of Aughnamure in Co Galway. It stands six storeys high and would originally have been surrounded by an inner and an outer wall though most of the inner one is gone now. Apparently this area was the territory of the O'Flaherty clan - one of my aunts was a Flaherty, I wonder whether there's a connection:)

The interior was less than riveting I'm afraid, this is the huge fireplace in the third floor room where the family members would have spent their days.

On the outer wall of the castle is the ruin of what was once a thatched banqueting hall where guests would retire to drink sweet spiced wine and eat sweetmeats after the main meal.There are two remaining windows with lovely stone carvings on the arches.

The rest of the day we drove round Connemara stopping twice to take photos, this is somewhere in Connemara.......

.....and this is somewhere else in Connemara. Where exactly we were I have no idea! As you can see the weather wasn't that great but the scenery was beautiful.

Back in Galway we finally stopped at Kylemore Abbey which apparently has a wonderful walled garden and a very good pottery. Unfortunately we arrived too late to see either and anyway it was pouring with rain!

Final day of the trip and an early start - we're off to do the Ring of Kerry.C and I at a view point along the way - it may be Caherdaniel or it may not. It really bothers me that the whole of this trip I spent most of the time not knowing quite where I was or what I was looking at! It isn't the way I usually travel.

This is Valentia Island where we finally stopped for a late lunch, if I'd known how long it was going to be before I got my next meal I'd have had something more substantial than soup and a roll!! This is the western most point in Ireland - next stop America.(Edited to add that apparently it isn't the western most point! A Heron's View lives in Ireland and tells me that this is actually on the Dingle Peninsula - must check facts more carefully!!) The first ever transatlantic cable was installed here in 1857 connecting Valentia Island to Newfoundland and the first telegram was sent by Queen Victoria to US President James Buchanan in August 1858. There's a Heritage Centre called The Skellig Experience on the island but sadly we weren't there long enough to visit it.

There's a nice little harbour and a car ferry runs across to Portmagee on the mainland although we used the road bridge.

The village of Portmagee, I love all the pretty coloured houses, it would have been nice to have a little wander round there. However we were off again to do the Ring of Skellig which is a superb drive along steep narrow, winding roads that follow the coast.

We stopped once at Bolus Head from where you can see the two Skelligs on the far right of the photo. The view was really stunning and on a clear day must be even better.

The islands are 9 miles off the coast and the smaller one is an important seabird sanctuary. The larger one is Skellig Michael which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Right on the summit of the island is a 7th century monastery which was occupied for over 600 years. Living there in winter in little stone beehive huts must have been quite an experience! Those who are both good sailors and fit enough to climb about 750 feet up the steep steps to the Monastery can visit the island - I fear that I wouldn't qualify on either count especially the good sailor bit:) This is a very poor photo as my zoom wasn't really sufficient for the distance.

The final photo is one of the Lakes of Killarney and no, I don't know which one! We arrived in Killarney itself around 7.30pm and had a very nice (and very welcome!) meal in an Italian restaurant. As the American party were leaving Caher House around 4.30am for an early morning flight and my flight wasn't until 7.15pm on Sunday evening my luggage had accompanied us round Kerry and I was dropped off at the Bunratty Castle Hotel on the way back to Caher.
This whole post is very grey and lacking in vibrant colour but since both the weather and most of the buildings were this colour for most of the time there isn't a great deal I can do about it I'm afraid:) It was lovely to be in Ireland again though and there are many places I'd love to go back to and explore properly someday.