York Minster

Posted: September 5, 2018 in History, UK, York
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The Abbey of St Mary’s in York is built on the north side of the river Ouse about half a mile from York Minster. It dates back to 1055, but its prominence begins in 1088 when it was refounded as a Benedictine community on the permission of William the Conqueror. It quickly grew into one of the pre-eminent monastic houses in the North of England and also quickly developed a reputation or its rather lax and lavish lifestyle. In 1132 Prior Richard, together with 13 monks, left St Mary’s to join the Cistercians at Fountains Abbey as they felt that the lifestyle at St Mary’s did not fit their monastic vows. In the 12th century, the now wealthy order built a large extension to the monastery, including a new church and a crenellated enclosure wall.

Part of the Abbey's enclosure wall along the banks of the river

Part of the Abbey’s enclosure wall along the banks of the river

Remains of the Church

Remains of the Church

Remains of the Church

Remains of the Church

It may be that this new wall was partly built as a response to the tensions and troubles that have broken out between the monastery and the town over rights and privileges and these problems seemed to dog St Mary’s during its entire history so that when in 1539 it was dissolved by Henry VIII, it is said that there was no public outcry at its dissolution.
Initially, the buildings were used as a royal palace when the king visited in 1540, but they soon fell into disuse and disrepair.
Today the remains of this once enormously powerful abbey are found in the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum.

The Hospitium - originally either a guest house or barn in the Abbey.

The Hospitium – originally either a guest house or barn in the Abbey.

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This eighth century Anglo-Saxon helmet was found at Coppergate in York. It is only one of four found in the UK. It was made for member of the Anglo-Saxon royal family called Oshere and his name is inscribed above the nose guard.

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It is in very good condition and was found late in a wooden box, suggesting that it was deliberately placed there rather than discarded. Possibly Oshere had grown old and had no longer any use for it or maybe it was to hide such a valuable item people who might steal it.

The Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Eoforwic came to an end in the ninth century when the Vikings overran the kingdom and made York their capital, Jorvik.

Look at York part 2

Posted: September 3, 2018 in Announcements

I am travelling again for the next fortnight so I am continuing our look at the wonderful city of York.

 

Perhaps the most famous memorial in the Cathedral is to William Shakespeare, who performed many of his plays at the Globe Theatre, a few hundred yards from the Cathedral.

The Shakespeare memorial and window which contains characters from his plays

The organ, the font and some roof bosses from the 15th-century wooden roof

In the SW corner are a fragment of the original Norman church and the memorial to the Marchioness Tragedy in 1989, which happened on the river not far from the Cathedral

Medieval tombs in the Cathedral

 

Last night Sue and I did an evening tour of Southwark Cathedral.

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Southwark Cathedral sits at the south end of London Bridge. Its pre-Norman origins are mostly legends with very little historical proof. It has been claimed that its foundation as a church was in 606, but this seems highly unlikely. Another story claims there was a nunnery here in pre-Norman times and also a college of priests founded by a noble lady called Swithene. Some historians have actually suggested that a more likely founder was actually Bishop Swithern of Winchester, who held office from 852 to 863. Certainly, there must’ve been an established church here as the Domesday book (1086) records the ‘Minster at Southwark’, controlled by Bishop Odo of the Bayeaux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror. However, it was the Bishop of Winchester who founded a Priory dedicated to the Virgin Mary on this site, close to his London Palace, in 1106. Its actual dedication is to St Mary Overie (St Mary over the water) to distinguish itself from the churches of St Mary in the city of London on the other side of London Bridge.

The Priory was damaged by fire in 1212 and 1390 and in 1496 the stone ceiling of the nave collapsed and was replaced by a wooden one. However, despite all of these calamities, repairs were carried out and in 1520 Bishop Fox installed a new altar screen, which is still present today, at the west end. The Priory closed in 1540, as part of the dissolution of the monasteries, and the church was first leased to, and later granted to, the people of Southwark for use as a parish church. It seems however that the cost of upkeep was beyond the parish and by the 19th century, much of the church was in a bad state with only the west end in use. A major effort was made to restore the church to its former glory and much effort to ensure that the Victorian rebuilding was done in the style of the Medieval original. Thus today when you look at it, there is a continuity between the 13th-century elements and those added by the Victorian rebuilders. In 1905, with the expansion of population south of the river, a new diocese in the Church of England was created and the church was redesignated as The Cathedral Church of St Mary Overie and St Saviour.

Countryside in summer

Posted: August 29, 2018 in Landscape, Natural History, UK
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Some photos by Sue

 

 

This statue was placed in St James’ Park in 1903 as a memorial to the Royal Marines who had died during the actions in South Africa and China. During world war 2 it was removed for safekeeping and in 1945 was relocated to a site in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, moving again 3 years later to its current site in the Mall.

Adrian Jones, the sculptor, had first hand experience of the campaign in South Africa. He had qualified as a Veterinary Surgeon and joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, serving in Abyssinia, Ireland, Egypt and South Africa before retiring with the rank of Captain in 1890. He then decided to pursue a career as a sculptor and perhaps his most famous piece of work is ‘ Peace in her Quadriga’ which sits on top of the Wellington Arch.

Wellington Arch. Photo by Matt Brown (https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/)

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A Day of uncertain weather forecasts saw me visiting Keith on his home patch along the River Medway in Kent.

Starting at Abbots Court the lakes were rather sparsely populated, but we were soon welcomed by a close flying Sparrowhawk, which having sized up flew off to look for more manageable prey. This was to prove the only highlight as we walked down to the estuary as the horse fields were empty (apart from the Horses). There were a number of Migrant Hawker Dragonflies and a single Common Darter.

Migrant Hawker (left and top right) and Common Darter (bottom right). Photos by Keith

Large numbers of Small White Butterflies were present along with Meadow Brown, Small Heath and Common Blue, but the best sighting was a single Small Copper.

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Small Copper. Photo By Keith

The tide was high as we turned north along the estuary towards Kingsnorth. A Thames Barge was moving up river towards Chatham and was seen later moored mid-channel.

There were large numbers of Greylag Geese on the fields and a small party of Canada Geese were seen flying away. Ahead we could see a Common Kestrel hunting over the fields.

It started raining but the showers soon passed over and we found this feather illustrating it’s waterproof qualities

Turning South we headed towards Hoo Marina. I spotted a bird that we flushed from the path but annoyingly it kept heading back into the path side vegetation before we could get a good look. This must have happened 4 or 5 times but each time we saw a little more and concluded it was a juvenile Yellow Wagtail. This was the only migrant passerine we were to see on the whole walk. On the waters edge were some little Egrets and Gulls, mostly Black-headed. One Black-tailed Godwit in flight plus a couple of Northern Lapwing were the only wading birds we encountered.

As we approached Hoo Marina we passed the boat graveyard. Many of these boats have been here for many years and some have become part of the landscape.

After Lunch at the Marina, we walked into Hoo village visiting the church and a small stream, but all we added was Stock Dove before we adjourned to Keith’s garden for refreshments

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Western Yellow Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla flava)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
Common Linnet [sp] (Linaria cannabina)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Small Copper [sp] (Lycaena phlaeas)
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus Lucorum)

Eustace the Monk

Posted: August 24, 2018 in History, Medieval History
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Today is the 801st anniversary of the Battle of Sandwich, fought off the coast of Kent between the English and French navies. It also marks the day the English finally captured and killed one of their biggest characters of his age, Eustace the monk.

Eustace had been born around 1170, somewhere near Boulogne any in France. He trained as a knight, but through his extensive travels also learnt the skills of seamanship. But his life was to take an unexpected turn when he turned his back on the military life and entered a Benedictine monastery. Records do not recall any reason for this sudden about-face in Eustace’s life, but it is clear that it had little to do with the reformation of his character. Many un-monastic acts are attributed to him: encouraging his brothers to eat when they should have been fasting, cursing during the services and urging them to “fart in the cloister”. Eustace left the monastery, but the short stay earned him the epitaph by which he would be known for the rest of his life. He next took up a job in the court of the Count of Boulogne, but was soon accused of financial misdeeds and fled into the countryside where he set himself up as a bandit. He and his men pursued a life of thievery and violence. In 1206, seeing a unique opportunity, he allied himself English King, John, who was involved in a struggle with the French about control of the Duchy of Normandy. Eustace was given command of a flotilla in the channel and set about wreaking havoc in French shipping. The pirates seized the island of Sark and used this as a base to launch their raids. But Eustace soon started attacking ships of other nations including those of his ally, the King of England. In1214 King John ordered a raid on Sark and although many of Eustace’s men were captured, Eustace himself escaped. By 1215  Eustace appeared again, this time at the French court. King Philip Augustus recognised the value of Eustace’s experience and his knowledge of the English. He was appointed as the French Admiral and played a major part in the French invasion of England in 1216.

A medieval manuscript showing Eustace in a sea battle ( Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

When this invasion faltered, the following spring,  it was Eustace who broke through the English blockade to rescue Prince Louis, the king’s son, who was trapped in the town of Rye. Eustace was able to reunite the prince with the remainder of his army. The campaign continued to go badly for the French and by May, the Prince found himself trapped once again, this time in London. Reinforcements and much-needed supplies were gathered in France and Eustace set sail for England. However, on the 24th August, this large French fleet was intercepted by the English navy off of Sandwich and heavily defeated. It is recorded that Eustace died on the deck of his ship fighting the English.

Eustace the monk would be well remembered but not for his holy monastic life!