Wednesday, 17 September 2014


Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire was founded by Saxons, extensively developed by Tudors and lies within a giant loop of the River Severn. It is famed for its castle, spires, abbey, and half timbered medieval buildings. Fortunately the city has mostly managed to avoid the modern day blight of developers bulldozing down old buildings in favour of new, and retains a good proportion of architectural styles from down the ages.
We visited the city partially in the hope of finding the gallery which sells youngest son's linocut prints
which we discovered down one of the many narrow alleyways
only to find that the day we chose to visit was their weekly closing day
A visit to the Tourist Information Office informed that there was a church designed by Edward Pugin, son of Augustus Pugin, for the Earl of Shrewsbury with magnificent stained glass windows by the Arts and Crafts designer, Margaret Rope. 
The visitation
Edward's designs show Gothic influences he must have received from his father  

The 'Lady Chapel' - all that remains of the old church of St. Chads dating back to the 8th century - St. Chad was the first Bishop of Mercia in the 7th century. A wonderful early Saxon arch with crude infilling to give support. To my eye it is an architectural crime that it has not been done more sympathetically.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Derbyshire gems

Hidden down narrow leafy country lanes, the Old Manor, Norbury and the church of St. Mary and St. Barlok are worth the hunt - the seeker is well rewarded by the treasurers that they find.
The Old Manor, the former seat of the Fitzherbert family, is a rare example of a medieval hall house built c.1290.
The Fitzherbert family built a Tudor house adjoining 
The Old Manor in the mid-15th century, rebuilt in c.1680 but still retaining many of its original features. 
The present church has undergone various stages of development. The first church being Anglo-Saxon and the second a Late Norman Church built by the Fitzherbert family in c.1179, later alterations and additions were made during the 14th and 15th C. The church has some splendid medieval features, one of its crowning glories being eight very rare grisaille stained glass windows dated c.1306.
The early stained glass together with many splendid coats of arms represent a display rarely seen in any Parish church
This window shows the saltire (heraldic symbol) of Robert de Bruce, b:1274, Earl of Carrick from 1292, King of Scotland 13O6, d. 1329
The ancient arms of France shown in one of the windows reveals the limitations of the glazing techniques used during that early period 
Window showing three lions passant England - King Edward l (1272 - 1307)
Great East Window
This splendid window has been described as a 'Lantern in Stone' with the light pouring through it. Sadly, although old, much of the glass is not original. Throughout its history a variety of restoration work has been attempted from, at times, indifferent restorers, as can be seen in the bottom lefthand corner.
The shafts of Saxon crosses discovered during restoration work dating from c.900
Effigy of Sir Henry Fitzherbert - it is often mistakenly assumed that an effigy with crossed legs indicates a Knight Templar who fought in the crusades. However, nearly all stone carvings during the mid 13th century have crossed legs - it was simply the style at that time
In the Chancel lie the Alabaster Fitzherbert tombs which are considered to be amongst some of the finest in the country. They are carved in Chellaston alabaster from the Nottingham School (probably Tutbury) and were originally richly gilded and coloured. The details are wonderfully and faithfully carved with great care and are thought to have been done in c.1491.

Nicholas Fitzherbert, llth Lord of Norbury died in 1473 having 10 sons and 7 daughters by his two wives.  He is shown in full plate armour. The children and his two wives are shown as 'weepers' on the sides and end of his tomb
On the north side of the chancel lie the effigies of Ralph Fitzherbert, 12th Lord, son and heir of Nicholas beside his wife, Elizabeth. On the sides are shown their children as 'weepers'. Two vandalised angels
support Elizabeth's cushion, Ralph's head rests on his helmet.
Hanging around Ralph's neck, can be seen a Yorkist livery collar of alternating suns and roses, which importantly shows the White Boar livery badge of the English King Richard lll as a pendant. The badge was an important symbol of political affiliation in the Wars of the Roses'.
This copper-alloy boar was found in October 2012 on the Thames foreshore near the Tower of London. Experts believe it might have been have decorated an item of leather once owned by a supporter of Richard lll, or possibly even the king himself.
 Sitting on top of the lion at Ralph's feet is a Bedesman praying on his rosary for the souls of the departed
Here in the church of St Edmund, King & Martyr, lies Thomas Beresford and his wife Agnes
Thomas Beresford fought at the battle of Agincourt under Henry V in 1418. He settled at Fenny Bentley and married a wealthy heiress Agnes Hassall who between them raised a family of 21 children. The 16 sons and five daughters are all shown around the sides and ends of the tomb in shrouds or as we would call them today 'body-bags'.
Why are they shown in shrouds?
The tomb is said to have been made 100 years after their deaths
Some believe the sculptor lacked the necessary skills to carve their effigies or that he did not know what they look liked, but
the Beresfords were a wealthy family and there would have been paintings showing their likeness.
There are more question marks surrounding this village tomb than there are answers
Leaving Derbyshire behind, we crossed over the county of Staffordshire and headed into Shropshire for a few days.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Childhood Haunts

a nosegay, tussie-mussie or posy of Convolvulous tricolour Royal Ensign from the garden 
are on the agenda but I will be back soon♡

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

An Engineering Masterpiece

If you go down 
to the woods today
You're sure of a big
Could it be a teddybears picnic?

illustration by Molly Brett

No, its
bridge that is
150 years old
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859)

Whilst travelling along the road that runs beneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge that links the Avon Gorge, I have often thought how lovely it would be to visit it and see the view. Usually we are on our way to catch a plane or travelling down to the West Country for a holiday. Looking in my National Trust membership handbook I discovered that a walk through the forest seen on the left gives access to the bridge. So, on the last day of August, clutching our picnic basket, off we trekked through the woods,
and at the end of the trail this is what we found
The River Avon is a fast flowing river with a great tidal range - at low tide, as seen here, the water recedes almost completely to sandy mud. To navigate it is essential to have daily up to date charts and tide tables. 

When we crossed the bridge to the Bristol side people were relaxing and enjoying the late August sunshine.
It was from the Port of Bristol that Cabot sailed in 1497 in the 'Matthew' to land in Newfoundland. It is possible to visit a sea-going replica berthed in the floating harbour at Bristol, and you can also visit
Brunel's SS Great Britain which sits alongside the Brunel Institute. The institute houses one of the world's finest maritime collections.