Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Greys Court

The de Grey family came over from France with William the Conqueror in 1066. First mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 Greys Court lies at the head of a tranquil Chilterns valley in Oxfordshire.  
The current mansion dates from the 16th century but walking around the grounds reveals a patchwork of history going back to the 11th century
The house was given to the National Trust by Sir Felix and Lady Brunner who bought Greys Court in 1937.  The house is still full of family possessions so no photographs are allowed inside.
However, I discovered this photo on the internet. It shows the interior of the room with the large elegant bow window, image above, which was added to the Tudor wing during the Georgian period - the room has exquisite 18th century plaster work
and this tiny photo of the delightful kitchen with its pretty pink breakfast table and chairs

The remains of the original medieval building built by the de Grey family resembles a romantic folly in the garden
Arbutus andrachnoides "Cinnamon Bark Tree"
A small walled courtyard dominated by the original Norman Great Tower
At the side of the house is an intriguing donkey wheel which dates from the 16th century and was in use right up until 1914
The 19 foot diameter wheel is the largest to survive in England 
The donkey drew water from the well for the house.  The 12th century well is 200 feet deep and would have been laboriously dug by hand.
The platform inside the wheel where the donkey walked
As the donkey walked and the wheel turned a container was pulled up from the well where it then caught on an iron hook before tipping water into the tank overhead
Greys Court is a cross country journey to Reading. The Brunner family kept a herd of Guernsey cows. H's father managed a pedigree herd of Guernsey cows which he would take to auction at Reading Market. Is it possible that some of H's father's cows could have ended up at Greys Court, they are a very rare breed of cattle?
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Towers and walls overlooking the valley from the 11th century revealing a habitation and legacy that has lasted for a thousand years  

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Welcome Stranger

Absent for years, a flower finally emerging in the conservatory - seen only twice during the last 15 years.  She was purchased in full bloom at the exotic flower market on the island of Madeira, then dormant for 11 years until she honoured us with a second visit. Many are the times that it has crossed my mind to abandon her altogether, but her little green leaves always get the better of me, and I assume that where there's life there's hope. Now it appears the virtue of patience is about to be rewarded once more.
Two weeks later and she is taking her time
Another two weeks and this beautiful lady is not going to be hurried
The watch word is "patience" but rest assured she will be worth the wait
It is now 2 months since I first noticed her - it is looking very much as if she will finally say 'hello' before Christmas
 5 more days and suddenly she is almost here
Lady's slipper orchid - Paphiopedilum gratrixianum - she is known to flower at Christmas. During December she is a popular orchid on sale in the Funchal flower market Madeira. I have several orchids but this one is special as she reminds me of the island where I purchased her
I love everything about her - the way her exotic flower slowly emerges from such a small unassuming bud, her unusual colour combination, and her curious  bizarre shape - she will now grace us with her presence for several weeks

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Horsley Towers

Having arrived at the hotel in the dark, and following a hearty English breakfast next morning, we set off on foot to explore the surroundings. It looked as if it would be a beautiful late November day once the mist had lifted her veil
For H's birthday we stayed in the grounds of a large Gothic mansion designed by Sir Charles Barry in the early 1820s. Barry eventually went on to design the Palace of Westminster 20 years later. 
The house was built for William Currie, a distiller and banker to replace an earlier building. Currie wanted the house loosely designed in the style of a Bavarian castle complete with turrets and towers. After Currie's death in 1829 the property was then acquired by the lst Earl of Lovelace who was married to Ada, the daughter of Lord Byron, the romantic poet.
Ada was a distinguished mathematician who worked with Charles Babbage on an early mechanical general purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Due to this, she is often described as the world's first computer programmer.
Is this a Folly, a Dovecote or an Ice House?
After having had several distinguished owners the house became a girls' school in the 1920s owned and run by a Miss Isaacson and Miss Maule (a rather forbidding name for a teacher). It stood empty for three years and was then turned into a conference and management centre. The rooms and restaurant are now in what was the conference centre within the walled gardens. The Gothic mansion is used for weddings and special receptions
Amazon local deals are one of the best things that I have discovered during 2014. They have taken us to many different and interesting locations. Here we enjoyed a delicious three course evening meal, a bottle of wine included, and a great breakfast in the morning. Through the 'deal' we enjoyed a 60% reduction off the normal price. I don't know whether other countries do these deals but they are well worth investigating. This is a personal opinion, I am not endorsing any products.
Travelling on over the 'Hog's Back' to our next port of call we caught glimpses of the Surrey landscape - H's land of his forefathers

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Aphrodisias - Jewel of Antiquity

Aphrodisias lies in the upper reaches of the Meander Valley, the most fertile area on the Turkish west coast. The marble quarries situated in the region gave rise to a flourishing industry extensively exploited during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The sculpture school in Aphrodisias became famous in the Roman world, and it is where many fine examples of exquisite statuary have been unearthed. Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, a pagan Temple dedicated to her stood at the heart of the city.
Tetrapylon, the entrance gate to Aphrodisias
The Stadium at Aphrodisias is 270 meters long and has 30 tiers of seating with space for 30,000 people. It is not only the best preserved ancient stadium in the world but also the largest. Built in the first century AD to house traditional Greek athletic contests such as running, jumping, wrestling, discus, and javelin throwing.
During the Roman period the stadium was used for gladiatorial combats and wild beast fights. Numerous inscriptions carved on the seats of the stadium provide information about the spectators. Some reserve spaces for groups of associations - The Tanners and The Goldsmiths, and others are reserved for specific individuals. Men and women from Aphrodisias and also nearby Antioch would attend the stadium 
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The ionic order of the Temple of Aphrodite was begun in the late first century BC and completed during the reign of Augustus. In the second century AD, the temple was enclosed in an elaborate colonnaded court framed by a two storied columnar façade on the east, and by porticos on the north, west, and south
Around 500 AD the temple was converted into a Christian church. The conversion was an enormous undertaking in which many of the columns were removed from their original positions and used to extend the northern and southern colonnades. It changed the proportions of the pagan temple into an enormous church which remained in use until the Seljuk conquest in 1200 AD.
The Bath of Hadrian at Aphrodisias was originally richly decorated with marble ornamentation
It is difficult today to appreciate the splendour of the building from the surviving unadorned sandstone and marble blocks
The South Agora was a park like public square with Ionic marble colonnades that surrounded an ornamental pool. The double wall of the pool housed pipes that carried water under pressure to feed several fountains. The north portico of the square carried characteristic mythological masks and garland friezes dedicated to emperor Tiberius AD 14-37. The west end was enclosed by the Hadrianic Baths.
This unique pool and its fountains which measures 170m has recently received funding to excavate the remaining earth fill and research its function and water system with the hope of eventually restoring it.
Antonius Claudius Dometeinos - was a local magnate, honoured by the city with a public statue at the entrance to the Bouleuterion. He wears civic dress and a heavy priestly crown, decorated with busts of Aphrodite and Roman emperors

The best preserved version of the cult statue of Aphrodite from her temple. Her head was veiled and she wears a heavy casing on which are (a) Three Graces, (b) Moon and Sun (c) Aphrodite on a sea-goat, and (d) Eros figures sacrificing
The Three Graces stand in their familiar hellenistic composition. They were handmaids of Aphrodite and appeared in this form on the decoration of her cult statue above. Their names evoke their character: Euphrosynē - Joy, Aglaia - Splendour and Thaleia - Bloom
Meleager sits on a rock tying his sandal. Below him lies a fierce hunting dog with a broad collar. On the left side a god or another hero crowning Meleager (arm missing). On the other side stands the huntress Atalante, Meleager's lover: she wears a short dress and quiver, and lifts her cloak at the shoulder in a gesture of modesty and flirtation
The two princes stand like statues, naked, wearing cloaks. The left figure holds the orb of the world in one hand, a symbol of world rule that indicates he is the imperial heir, and in the other an ornament from a ship's stern, a symbol of naval victory. They are probably Gaius and Lucius, the grandsons of Augustus, or Nero and Britannicus, Claudius' heirs
The swaddled baby Dionysos is handed from one nymph to another for suckling. A bearded Slienos gestures excitedly with his arms and taps his foot as though singing or about to dance. The scene is set at nearby Mysa in the Meander valley, where Zeus had his gifted child Dionysos, born to him by Semele, brought up in the wilds out of view of his wife Hera
Bellerophon was a Lykian hero, and was claimed as a founder at Aphrodisias. He holds his winged horse Pegasus. The carving is considered poor: the sculptor apparently learning his craft
The on site museum at Aphrodisias is exceptional with several very large rooms filled with wonderful marble statuary found at Aphrodisias - this is just a brief glimpse. The statuary gives an indication of the magnificence that was Aphrodisias.
Aphrodisias was a special city beloved by Augustus. Due to this it was exempted from paying taxes - Zoilos a good friend and a former slave of Augustus was from the city - Aphrodisias, was an artisan city whose Sculptors made statues for emperors and commanders from all over the Roman Empire
A letter written by Emperor Augustus to Stephanus - Governor of Laodicea
"Greetings.
You know my affection for my friend Zoilos.
I have freed his native city and recommended it to Antonius.
Since Antonius is absent, take care that. No burden falls upon them.
This one city, I have taken for my own out of all Asia.
I wish this people to be protected as my own townsmen.
I shall be watching to see that you carry out my recommendation to the full."

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This is the last post from Turkey 2014, but I am including one final image. This is for Gina at the lovely blog Art and Alfalfa who noticed it in a collage and asked if I would show it in full
Early morning in Antalya