Wednesday, 9 September 2020

A Short Break






St Mary's Church, Hitchin
We have just spent a few days in Hertfordshire, an area that we moved away from more than 20 years ago. The visit was specifically to see our sons and hopefully some of our grandchildren - we have missed them all so much. We decided that perhaps it would be best if we stayed in a local hotel, and chose one that in a former life had been a Carmelite Priory.
Very little of the original Priory founded in 1317 remains, but brief glimpses of its former self can still be seen. The Priory was built from flint, rubble and clunch and in appearance its walls would have looked very similar to those of the local parish church above.
Example of flint and stone clunch used in a typical checkerboard pattern.
The Radcliffe family took up residence upon the dissolution and establishment of the Church of England in Henry Vlll's reign. The family bought the Priory Estate in 1548, remaining there until 1965, during which time they played an important part in the social and cultural development of the town. Most of the buildings that replaced the priory were built by the Radcliffe's during the Georgian period.
One of the particular delights of this property is the way that the local River Hiz meanders in and around the property. At the front of the property it forms an area similar to a duck pond having arrived at this spot through a series of pretty Georgian brick built bridges courtesy a chalk fed spring whose source is in the nearby village of Charlton. Where the ducks are swimming is the last complete view seen of the river before it disappears beneath the town. It then flows through an underground canal, built in the 1920s, but emerges briefly from time to time especially as it flows along the back of the churchyard. The canal continues the rivers journey to the northern side of the town where it finally departs to eventually meets up with the River Ivel.


Lovely old Georgian brickwork together with some of the remains of the original flint and rubble walls from the old priory.
I love these old bricks with their interesting colouring and shapes, but why don't we see lovely brickwork like this used today?


The Georgian home built by the Delmé Ratcliffe family.



35 comments:

  1. You have such beautiful historic places overthere. Glad to read the further informations about them. Good for you to see the family again!

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    1. It was lovely to see and be with them. We managed to see one our granddaughters at my eldest sons house, and our only grandson at my youngest sons house. He travelled up from London by train to surprise us, which indeed he did.

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  2. Hello Rosemary, Sometimes I am not sure whether you are sharing your life in England, or just trying to make us insanely jealous. I always wonder about buildings that have water lapping their foundations, and the level of dampness inside the building. Not many rivers disappear so gracefully, but if you think about it, most built-up areas used to have a maze of rivers and creeks meandering across them, and these must still exist channeled and underground, except possibly for a few that were rerouted.
    --Jim

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    1. I personally would be concerned about having a building built on water or with it lapping around the property, but there are many examples of it both here and on the Continent. I think of places such as Winchester Cathedral built in 1079, and sited on wet sedimentary soil in a valley of the River Itchen.

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  3. I think I would make a return visit and use a chance to see the kids as an excuse to stay there again! It reminds me of a time when Miriam and I spent the a night in a seminary in Colombia, where they had no "matrimonial rooms" as they called them, and we were each assigned to a little cell exactly as the priests would have with a single bed and very spartan furnishings. I suspect your accommodation was a little more sumptuous, Rosemary!

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    1. Staying in a place that is so unique has given you and Miriam lasting memories - I know of several convents where you can stay in Rome - not quite so spartan as your experience as they are run by nuns, but the big advantage is that you stay in the very heart of the city.

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  4. Dearest Rosemary,
    Even though there is little left from the original priory, you sure stayed at a wonderful location.
    Happy for you for having been able to visit with your family!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - the virus is on the rise again, but seemingly amongst just the young, so it looks as if we just got away in time. We have another short trip booked very soon, so will have to wait and see how current events and rules unfold.

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  5. Aha! Familiar scenes to me of course, though I've never stayed at the Priory but was a fairly frequent visitor to the Priory Park for various events. I've always loved the mixture of materials used in the construction of the church, particularly its tower.

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    1. You can still walk through the Priory grounds - there is a grassy pathway that goes up the lefthand side of the building, looking at it from the front. I believe it takes you up to the bridge that crosses over the bypass near The Three Moorhens.

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  6. Gorgeous photos, especially that closeup of the brickwork!

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    1. The medieval builders used whatever materials they could find close to hand.

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  7. I echo what everyone else has said, and can only add my thanks for your taking such enjoyable photos of a very scenic historical site. What good news that you were able to visit with family...I admit that my frequent phone visits to mine leave a lot to be desired.

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    1. Dear Barbara - I really do hope that you too get to see your family soon.

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  8. So glad you were able to get to see more of your family. What a lovely place to visit.

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    1. Having left several years ago, I think that I now see the historical part of town with renewed eyes.

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  9. It's all beautiful and water is always wonderful, do love the arches.
    Take care.

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    1. Those low brick arches reflected in the water look like a pair of eyes.

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  10. So beautiful! Lovely place and lovely pictures Rosemary :)
    Have a happy weekend now...
    Titti

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    1. Thank you Titti - hope you too enjoy a lovely weekend.

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  11. You are lucky, Rosemary, to be able to see your grandchildren! The photos are stunning - I especially love the close-up from the brick- wall. Thank you! Britta

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    1. It was lovely to see our sons, their wives, and some of our grandchildren Britta - it has felt like a long time.

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  12. You find rivers I've never heard of before, and such wonderful stories of so long ago.
    Hope all well and that you had a fun time with family Rosemary.
    Mary x

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    1. It was lovely to have a short break Mary - one more to come, and then who knows what the coming winter months may bring to us all.

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  13. I was able to see my grandchildren this summer and I cherished every moment. That is quite a nice reflection of the beautiful brick bridge on the surface of the water.

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    1. It is difficult when all of the family are dispersed around in various locations - that reflection looks like a pair of eyes to me!!!

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  14. What a delightful place to stay and even more delightful to see your family members. The Radcliffes certainly had a beautiful home - water seems to add an extra layer of interest to architecture. My husband and I have wondered why we don't build things to last today the way people did in days gone by. Will our towering glass and steel structures hold value and interest in the centuries to come? I personally doubt it.

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    1. Our ancestral builders were extremely artistic and cleverly understood how to build properties that lasted.
      I have a friend that lives in a Tudor house close by the R.Severn, and whilst nearby contemporary properties often get flooded, her house does not. The reason being, that the medieval builders built it on an imperceptible mound, which cleverly keeps it safe from flooding.

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  15. Must have been so good to be with your family again , but you found yourself a wonderful place to stay , and surely a wise choice for everyone's safety . ! I agree with you on the bricks , would be so nice to see them used more in buildings today. When I moved to my actual home 4 years ago I pulled out an old brick wall from a layer of plaster and I just love it :-)

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    1. How lovely to have an old brick wall in your home Jane, they have so much more character and texture than the modern bricks used today.

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