Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Bateman Arms, “Mangelwurzels” and Strawberry Hill Gothic ...

To the border country, diagonally across middle England, my trusty steed of four wheels took me ... before Bateman’s Arms in Herefordshire welcomed me to stay awhile ...
The Bateman Arms

The Inn has recently been taken over by a local couple and is already thriving ... it helps having a social outlook with good contacts ... the pub had been allowed to drift downwards ... so was ripe for some rejuvenation.

A cousin of my mother’s lives nearby and is not able to travel, hence my visit to see her ... having not been up since last year, when I picked Jenny up (another cousin of theirs) to drive her down to Cornwall for the Memorial Service.

The Coach House - bedrooms

I recognised “my garage” in Leominster – and from then on the spiral of tiny lanes made sure I lost my way numerous times ... “that garage” constantly appeared to at least give me a handle that I was still in the right vicinity!

The bar's fireplace
The pub was very welcoming ... and had very good food – so much so ... that I was able to arrange a private room for my cousin and I to have a quiet lunch ... courgette soup with a parmesan crisp and home-made bread, followed by mushroom and tomato risotto, with a side salad – plenty for small eaters ...

The somewhat dumb waiter ... and glass stand

As befits an architect (not me!) a copy of Pevsner’s Guide to Herefordshire appeared and we thought a quick visit to Shobdon Church warranted a walk ... this was unrealistic as it happened being considerably further than anticipated and thought not prudent in the circumstances of elderliness ... 

I know that we would both love to see the Church, as it has recently been refurbished to its previous amazing glory.  Strawberry Hill Rococo Gothic style church it certainly is ... it calls me for another visit sooner rather than later!

Shobdon Church pulpit
Church website

The Strawberry Hill type of architecture came about for the church style here at Shobdon, as Lord Bateman was great friends with Horace Walpole, of Strawberry Hill House fame at Twickenham – a place that was in the process of being refurbished (2010) ... and now that needs a visit ...  

To get back to The Bateman Arms ... Lord Bateman’s history will need to be told another day ... it is woven into English history – that at times I despair of ... so convoluted! 

Monkland Blue cheese
Suffice to say ... talking about 
  • a salad of Monkland blue (cheese), poached pear and candied walnuts, or 
  • Ham Hock and white bean terrine with home-made piccalilli, or 
  • “Mac’s” whitebait – which I decided on ... taking me back a few decades ... as a starter – delights me far more – less taxing on my brain!

My "Mac's" whitebait ...
Or ... sharing platters for two could be had – this seems to be the trend in this country ... mix and match ... 

  • marinated baby artichokes, scorched peppers, blush tomatoes, olives and mozzarella with a dressed salad, oil and bread; or 
  • flakes of poached salmon, home-cured mackerel, crayfish tails, smoked salmon, smoked prawns served with aioli, tartar dressing, salads and bread, or 
  • how about a platter of Trealy Farm charcuterie, home-made piccalilli, chilli and balsamic oils with warm bread and a salad ... now I’m hungry!

Trealy Farm charcuterie for sale

... then for the mains there was plenty of choice ... pies and mash: vegetarian, fish, chicken or beef; a slow-cooked lamb shank with mash, honey roasted carrots and parsnips and a tasty herby gravy ...

My beefburger ... 

... home-made lasagne, steaks various – depending on your appetite, all served with field mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and heaps of triple cooked chips!

I had the homemade Herefordshire beef burger ... without the bap (remember: the same large soft roll I mentioned during my Gospel Burger post), coleslaw, home-made tomato chutney, garnish of salads and a basket of fries ... positively delicious!

as it says on the label
Desserts ... Lemon Tart, Cheesecake or ice-creams were on the menu, as well as home-made apple pie ... and coffee ... this section I didn’t partake in ... but I did have a cider or two, couldn’t miss out on some Herefordshire ‘zider’!!

“Mac’s” whitebait were requested to be added to the menu by Tracy’s son, 7 or 8 ... discerning taste-buds in the offing ... they were very good Mac – so thank you for suggesting that addition to Chef Jim for his menu ...

Potato trailer ... 

To tie all this in ... chuntering along in my trusty steed behind great trailers of potatoes ... reminded me of “mangelwurzels” ... and the Wurzel’s song “Combine Harvester” ... potatoes were dropping and bouncing all along the lanes ... 

Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham

Thankfully that garage at Leominster regularly turned up and I managed to find my way back to the Arms of Bateman ... in the village of Shobdon, with its Strawberry Fields Rococo style church ...

It was a good stay - thank you Tracy and Simon – I then went on and met up with a couple of blogging friends, one from the States ... more to follow ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 23 September 2013

Where there’s muck ... there’s a very large house! Tyntesfield.

I’ve been wanting to visit Tyntesfield in north Somerset ever since I heard about its purchase for the nation by the National Trust and others ...

The house was created by William Gibbs, the richest commoner in England in the mid-1800s, as a statement of prosperity and confidence, fervent faith and family fortunes.
The stables in use now!
In this post I'm using mostly my photos ... and they only show the parts that interested me, that I had time to and was allowed to take photos ... so the Chapel, the main parts of the house will need to follow ... 

He was in muck – the guano type found in Peru – which revolutionised Victorian agriculture and horticulture, providing rich fertiliser for the land at a time when all members of English society were interested in their gardens ...

The Cow Barn Kitchen below ... the
Home Farm and entrance to the Park,
to get to the house are from this level

... from the landed gentry to the florist clubs (early 1800s), established by the men in the towns ... before women really got a look in ... see my earliest post.

The Gibbses’ fortunes rose ... then declined with the 1929 Wall Street Crash and subsequent Great Depression ... and continued that gradual deterioration – along came the 2nd World War – and though the family, always philanthropic, tried to restore the lands, they were unable to build their estate back up.
Lathe and plaster needing repair

The last Gibbs, Richard (1928-2001), took over the management of the house and estate, focusing on the kitchen garden and surrounding land.  He lived alone, had never married, and had none of the household staff necessary for such an enormous property.

? 1920s wall paper in servants'
quarters showing damp

The use of the house, by necessity, gradually shrank into fewer and fewer rooms ... and by the time he died, unexpectedly, the main reception rooms were mostly shuttered and closed up, but kept well ordered.

The butler's boots - he had 'dressing
rooms' etc in various places around
the house, as he often had to change
Brief details surrounding the National Trust purchase can be found set out in Wikipedia ... but thank goodness it has been saved for us to be able to visit, and as a historical record of Victorian life, and wasn’t bought by some celebrity for private use.

The house was opened within 10 weeks of purchase by the NT in 2002 – pretty amazing to put it mildly – and now 11 years later it is still undergoing preservation, cataloguing, etc etc ...
One of the butler's rooms
downstairs, away from the
kitchen, but from which was used
as a pantry (when necessary)
and where the silver safe, china
etc were safely stored 

We left things rather late, after a lazyish morning and dog walks, with our visit and went the long way round – the motorway on a Friday is not always the best way to travel, and then one of the side roads we intended to take was closed – so that entailed another deviation.

Having parked up ... little did we know how far the actual house was – but first the important elements of existence ...

The butler's telephone 'book' -
with a note on conservation of
paper by the NT
... a comfort break ... and sustenance ... ... via the stables, and cow-barn ... as the Home Farm is used for the Visitor Centre ... food, muck (sorry!), shops and garden centre ....

Once sustained, with by now the rain falling in gentle stair-rods ... we set out – over what is amazing parkland ... with not a huge amount of time ... (there is a courtesy bus – but we’re not that sort, yet)...

There was stained glass every-
where .. this was in a corridor
When we’d bought the tickets we were offered a separate tour in the servants’ quarters of an interesting art project ... incorporating bird-song ... but that will need some explanation – while the room photos I can show.

On deciding to take the servants route ... we only had time to ‘skip’ through the parts of the house that were open – posts to follow at some stage – well as you can see from the photos in Wiki it is a huge place.

The fireplace in the Billiard
Room (The Gentlemen's
Suite) - a heated billiard table
connected to the hot water
system ... an adjacent lathe
room and Gentlemen's toilet
with the latest ceramics!
We definitely want to go back ... preferably on a sunny day ... and take our time ... the Gibbses were great sustainers – starting with William, who was a committed Christian, and spent his fortune funding churches, on his charitable work, and on the family home.

Each of the next three generations left their mark on Tyntesfield, keeping the estate running as a unit.  Each made changes to the house and estate, but these were achieved with sensitivity, adding to and not undoing the work of their predecessors.

An electric scoreboard alsoconnected
to the billiard table (i.e. automated)
It is this that makes Tyntesfield so fascinating, the house, Chapel, servants’ quarters and most of their contents, as well as the exterior buildings and their collections have survived largely intact ...

... we saw this as we walked round ... in the garden and particularly in the house – as we were happy to be inside and out of the incessant rain.

The Chapel is the piece de resistance
it is full of glass that glows ... it too
has an interesting history (from Wiki)

Some rooms have been conserved and now reflect life as it was ... while others still need that work to be done – we saw one bedroom, where ‘things’ were piled high waiting for conservation ... prams, tables, chairs ... it is obviously a mammoth task ... again see Wiki for further info.

So this posting gives a glimpse, via the few photos I took together with some from Wiki, of the wonders of Victorian and Edwardian fortunes, through the subsequent 20th century decline to the work that we are able to do in the 21st century: giving Tyntersfield back its glory ...

The stiarcase gallery fromWiki
We will definitely go back ... to see the reversal of fortune that the National Trust, the public and volunteers are brining to Tyntersfield ... showcasing life though the last 160 years ...

As a note ... Christies, the auction house, had been called in by Richard Gibbses’ Trust and the family, to prepare the house for auction ... so the exact placement of some of the contents is now out of context – but essentially many of the items will be returned, as best possible, to their original placement.

Wikipedia page on Tyntesfield

My earlier post on a brief history of florist clubs to those we know today – e.g. Chelsea Flower Show

As a grammatical note ... the use of "Gibbses'" I took from the National Trust's guide book

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A Digger’s Life ... and the Petrie Museum ...

The ‘father of scientific archaeology’ is how William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853 – 1942) is known – more commonly as Flinders Petrie – and as a pioneer of the systematic methodology in archaeology and preservation of artefacts.

potsherds, faience, beads ... 
Petrie’s immediate forebears endowed him with much talent, while encouraging him too as he studied at home ... his father was an electrical engineer, who developed the precursor to the electric light bulb ...

His mother was the daughter of Matthew Flinders, surveyor of the Australian coastline, who spoke six languages and was an Egyptologist ... you can see their son’s life’s work laid out before him ...

Wooden Astrolobe - Ottoman period
(probably made for teaching rather than actual use)

His father taught him how to survey accurately, laying the foundation for his archaeological career.  He learnt French, Latin and Greek in those early formative years ... and was opinionated!

When friends visiting the Petrie family were describing the unearthing of Brading Roman Villa in the Isle of Wight ... which they described as the rough shovelling out of the contents- young Flinders, aged 8, (that’s what I want to call him!) was horrified and protested that the earth should be pared away, inch by inch, to see all that was in it and how it lay.

Case 31!  There were more - let alone
the ones on display in the cabinets
When Flinders Petrie, in his late seventies, noted that “All I have done since, was there to begin with, so true it is that we can only develop what is born in the mind.  I was already in archaeology by nature.”

I expect many of us would love to be so decided in life ...

This “Digger” had great encouragement from Amelia Edwards (1831-92), a successful writer, novelist and Egypt enthusiast who became Petrie’s self-appointed patron. 

She provided Petrie with contacts in the press and helped finance his excavations.  She eventually launched Petrie’s university career by using her fortune to endow the professorship at University College London that he took up in 1892.

A name tag attached to a mummy - probably used
at the time 30BC - 37AD to identify mummies at the
time of mummification

Edwards donated her collection of several hundred Egyptian antiquities, many of historical importance ... however the collection grew to international stature in scope and scale thanks mainly to the extraordinary excavating career of the first Edwards’ Professor, William Flinders Petrie.

In his teenage years, Petrie surveyed British prehistoric monuments in attempts to understand their geometry and at 19 produced the most accurate survey of Stonehenge.

A child's shoe
He travelled to Egypt in early 1880 to make an accurate survey of Giza, making him the first person to properly investigate how they were constructed ...

... his triangulation survey report, and his analysis of the architecture of Giza was exemplary in its methodology and accuracy and still provides much of the basic data regarding the pyramid plateau to this day.

So why do we find Ancient Egypt so fascinating?  Mummies, pharaohs, gold, hieroglyphs, pyramids, strange gods ... these are what people often think of when ancient Egyptian civilisation is mentioned.

An Armana glazed floral necklace (reconstructed) 
The forms, shapes, colours and decoration of Egyptian objects are immediately recognisable and seem to summon up the culture of ancient Egypt in an instant.

Yet to talk of the ‘culture of ancient Egypt’ is a little misleading – ancient Egyptian civilisation was made up of many different periods and changed enormously over a huge era of time.

Egyptians in the reign of Tutankhamun were as far away in time from the pyramid builders as we are today from the Vikings ... all of 1,200 years ...
Carnelian and Garnet beads from a royal tomb

Ancient Egypt is continually in dialogue with the modern world – yet, Petrie’s work and Victorian legacy has left us with the marvellous Petrie Museum ... letting us follow that journey back with the 80,000 pieces in the Collection ...

... giving researchers an exceptionally well-documented ‘objective archive’ – an unsurpassed resource for scholars the world over.

A Head cover was put over the mummy not only to
emphasise that this was a real person, but to show in
the afterlife the person was transformed into a
perfect god-like form

The Museum tells the story of the Nile Valley from prehistory to the rise of the Pharaohs to the emergence of Islam.

What makes the Collection unique is its extensive collection of everyday objects, such as hair combs, clay bowls and textiles, which provide insight into their daily life ...

... there are spectacular art works, sculptures of Kings, mud toys, fine ceramics alongside rat traps, jewellery alongside everyday garments, socks and sandals ...

Modelled foot coverings were on occasions
 also added to mummies
... there are coffin faces and masks, three full-length coffins, and the best-preserved example of a pot burial (3,000-2,000 BC), a large, highly prized, group of Roman Period mummy portraits ...

We can also see ancient Egyptian garments as worn, notably three dresses, five thousand years old, (including a rare bead-net dress of a dancer and a linen tunic), life-size statues, the stone lions from Koptos (c 3,000 BC) ...

An early lute made from materials
readily available - from SimSim, Gaza
Those rich colours of garnet, cornelian, kohl, Egyptian Faience ... the potsherds and limestone shards, the sintered-quartz ceramics displaying surface vitrification which creates the bright lustre of various blue-green colours ...

Egyptian Faience was perceived as a substitute for the blue-green materials such as turquoise, found in the Sinai peninsula, and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.

Today it has proved impossible, much like the Blaschka’s glass models, to find the techniques that the Egyptians used in their workshops ... but with copper, gold and other minerals available, clay widely used, ‘workshops’ were found in close proximity – allowing much experimentation to occur.

.. yet another case or cabinet full of curiosities
from the Egyptian era .. the faience blue object ...
also the pair of human inlay eyes in limestone
with glass pupils

This Digger thankfully brought us so much knowledge from the Nile dynasties ... and faithfully recorded it for posterity – it is still being used today ... the guide taking us round Durham Castle, and the Museum Education Officer for the Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition ... both had undertaken study work at the Petrie Museum ...

His other claim to fame was to be a populariser ... through his early writings he brought Egypt to life, which he then supported through his research work and diggings in the field, letting the public have insight into Egyptian history with his vivid anecdotes and stories.

The Petrie Museum is a researcher’s paradise ... and with the techniques we have available to us today ... once again opens new doors into ancient Egyptian civilisation through its collections and Museum displays.

Note - I'm off again to the Welsh borders ... back later in the week!

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Oars at the Ready ... Sporting the Oaks ... 1513: A Ships’ Opera and the Jubilee Horns ... and Lenny!

My brain is telling me the outer door is closed ... yet more information keeps coming at me ...

Sporting the Oaks - the
two doors ... the outer
one is open, showing that
occupant inside welcomes
a knock from a visitor 
Sporting the Oaks is a term I had not come across (and interestingly does not feature in Wikipedia ... no I’m not putting it in!) ... but when the Norman Gallery architecture page appeared on the Durham World Heritage site ...

... this phrase popped right out at me ... as too did seeing the oars suspended on the walls in the Norman Gallery – the River Wear has cut deeply, forming an incised meander, into the “Cathedral Sandstone” bedrock on which the Cathedral and Castle were built centuries ago ...

Norman Gallery in Durham Castle - not open on the tour ...
but the oars can be clearly seen hung above the doorways
c/o World Heritage Site
 ... as with the University Boat Race on the River Thames each year between Oxford and Cambridge ... I hadn’t realised a similar race occurs between Durham and Newcastle universities on the River Wear.

My father and uncle were oarsmen at college in Oxford and we had an oar suspended in much the same way at home ... well our room wasn’t a Norman Gallery, nor was it so big!!

Sporting One’s Oaks I feel applies to me now ...I’m betwixt and between ... loving the blogging, yet swamped with ideas to write about ... and I’ve been away again, and go off in a couple of hours to the west country ... and generally have rather a lot going on ...

Racing on the River Wear, Durham
Sporting One’s Oaks – a distinctive ‘old universities’ tradition, refers to the precursor of ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs.  When the outer door is ajar, like the one in the picture is, it means that the occupant is in and does not mind being disturbed; but if it is closed ... it means ‘do not disturb’.  I’m so pleased I came across the phrase.

An iphone photo from the
Guide Book of the Black Staircase
In keeping with the theme of oak and the flying staircase from my previous post – that featured very, very dark oak ... with the softer wood being painted black to match ...

... oak wood is very dense with great strength and hardness – with a very high tannin content – which darkened as it aged – hence the name ‘black staircase’ ... softer wood was used for the carving, but was painted black to match. 

Certainly dark wood in houses and buildings of older eras is something I relate to ... personally I prefer light oak, or yellowy-gold colours for my furniture ...

Buckingham Palace paper cup ...
no bone china on offer!
As I mentioned I’ve been around recently!  I went to London to see the Coronation Exhibition at Buckingham Palace last week, and we mellow yellowed looking at some Gauguins at the Courtauld Gallery ...

... then yesterday I went to London again to see a photographic exhibition in the walkway of Tower Bridge ... of 20 iconic bridges in the world.  That trip will be worth doing in the future as they are replacing the floors with glass ... so visitors can see ships passing underneath – and watch as the bascules are raised and lowered.

Flags billowing in the wind
above Tower Bridge
I then went to see the “Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum” exhibition at the British Museum ... fascinating and I’m so pleased I went.  I must order the book ... but if I’d bought it there – I’d be on my knees by now ... it was so heavy, lugging it back would have finished me off!

Why I went to London yesterday and not Saturday as I’d originally intended was because this week The Mayor’s Thames Festival is on ... and on Saturday the annual Great River Race took place ...

Lots of craft and people
c/o The Metro

... 22 miles of river racing that starts in Docklands and heads west to Richmond ... it is an incredible event (that I hadn’t picked up on) with 350 boats of all shapes and sizes taking part ...

.... it has become London’s other marathon – and is one of the biggest and most prestigious boating events in Europe with 24,000 competitors ...

Lots of events are occurring ... but what caught my eye was the Opera: 1513: A Ships’ Opera ... a symphonic maritime performance begins at sea ... while an armada of historic vessels from the age of sail, steam and diesel will perform a live, moving, operatic concerto of ships’ steam whistles, bells, horns, hooters, sirens and cannon as the centre piece of the 2013 Thames Festival ...

1513: A Ships' Opera - by Richard Wilson
(see details here)

... here you can access the Julibee Horns piece (and read more) ... which is a fabulous evocation of life on the water over the centuries, yet through it we can imagine the traffic of trade of the boatmen on the river highway ...

So without further ado ... I’m Sporting my Oaks ... and will get to your blogs once my race is run!

By the way – I’ve just had a lovely email from Lenny, who keeps in touch with Linda, one of the ladies up at the Nursing Centre, who I still visit ... so I copied out his email for her to read ... and when I next go up there will be a package for us too!  Good old Lenny ... he certainly knows how to inspire ... but I thought you’d be interested to know I’d heard from him ... young lads have plenty of other things to do!!

PS:  A bap is a soft bread roll ... so easier to eat - as no crusty crumbs splattering out!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 6 September 2013

Durham Castle ...

Never breached – the fortress has stood the test of time – yet wear and tear has taken its toll and in the late 1920s a major shoring-up operation was required to the west side to underpin and secure the mud and sandstone foundations.

The Castle entrance to the Great Hall,
buttery and Medieval kitchens; from here (to the right)
is found the stone tower for the black staircase
and gallery passages to the rest of the Castle

Founded soon after the Norman Conquest, the Castle has been rebuilt, extended, adapted to changing circumstances and uses over a period of 900 years ...

... from being a key northern fortress, transforming itself into a comfortable palace for the Bishops of Durham; and since 1837 as the founding college for the University ...

The Castle, containing the Norman Gallery leading to
Tunstal's Chapel, and on the lower floor to the back -
the incredible Norman Chapel

... where students and dons live and study, to the more prosaic bed and breakfast accommodation in such an imaginative setting ... one I think I may take up for my next visit.

The buttery and kitchens have been in use for over 900 years ... adapted over the centuries and today, in term time, the meals for 300 members of the college are prepared and served from here.

see paragraph in text of blogpost

This picture shows the kitchen as it probably looked in the late 19th century ... the two great fireplaces seen here, and another at the opposite end, together with the roof, brickwork and windows have remained unchanged since Bishop Fox refurbished a twelfth-century building already serving as a kitchen, in the late 1400s – very early 1500s into the medieval kitchens we can still see today.

The Great Hall - full of international
students, who were treated to
a real English Christmas dinner
c/o the staff - they didn't travel
home as it was too far.
c/o The Journal

The Great Hall is now the dining-hall of University College – a huge and wonderful space ... which was refurbished in 2011 affording the opportunity to add additional layers of pictures to the walls, mirroring the style favoured in the early years of the University ...

... the portraits include a series of late 17th C Spanish representations of Saints ... that were apparently ‘lost’ or ‘stolen’ in the early 1800s ... they are not valuable ... but the gold leaf on one of the frames is of more value! 

The black staircase - my
photo from guide book
The window in the great hall has historical value  ... and was recently cleaned over six weeks, at a cost of £10,000.

The Black Staircase built in the early 1660s, is 57 feet high, and except for the intricately carved side panels, which are of soft wood (painted black to match), is made of oak.

It was the first example of a flying staircase ... and now sits a little like the leaning tower of Pisa ... but has been propped up permanently with plain oak cylindrical columns ... it (understandably) does groan ... you can see the crack in the soft wood panels, the pineapple stand in the distance, while the plain column can be seen seated onto one of the pineapple stands - where the pineapple was removed.

Norman stone work in the long gallery
c/o Durham World Heritage site
Bishop John Cosin responsible for building the Black Staircase and who contributed significantly to the wider architecture of Durham, including his library, encouraged a style of woodwork unique to the area ... a sumptuous fusion of gothic and contemporary Jacobean forms.

The decorative elements include ... pineapples, which only the super wealthy could afford in the 1660s ... so the artist mocked up the design as he had almost certainly had never seen one in real life ... then there are dragons, acanthus leaves, and grapes ... the dreams and desires of the nobles.

The original Norman stone-
Le Puiset's entrance
The Long Gallery is a mix of 900 year old stone work, reckoned to be one of the finest examples of late Norman stone carving in England ... it has recently been restored ... but is in extremely good condition as it was included within a new Medieval outer wall and so was protected from weathering.

The chevron stones would have been brightly painted giving the archways rich overtones against the grey-tan-brown sandstone of the defensive walls.

Later great Flemish tapestries were hung in the galleries ... these today, together with the maps, are carefully stored away, while the paintings are better left in situ ... this decoration would have served a few purposes – reflecting the medieval art of the day, giving a barrier against the cold stone walls, and reminding all visitors of the Bishopric’s wealth and standing in society.
Tunstal's Chapel where a revival of
 medieval and renaissance music was being performed

The Long Gallery was built to provide a covered entrance to Tunstal’s Chapel, erected in the 1540s ... this small intimate chapel has been sympathetically altered over the centuries in keeping with its original intent.

There is another chapel ... the Norman Chapel ... which is one of the oldest parts of the Castle, dating from about 1080 ... and over the year has been used as a dump!, crypt and storage ...

The Norman Chapel
... the early-Norman sculpture on the capitals of its six columns is a privilege to see ... some depict foliage, animals, grotesque masks ... including a Mermaid – the earliest known image of this female form ...

The chapel is constructed within the original huge outer wall ... but from inside ‘the defence’ is less secure – and was possibly incorporated in case of need for an escape route ...

My photo from the guide
book - showing the capitals
on top of the columns
Remembrance Services are held in this tiny chapel for members and family of the Durham Light Infantry ... the regiment has a revered history ... having served with great valour particularly during the Crimea and the Great War (1914-1918) ... the DLI’s main chapel is now within Durham Cathedral.

From this Chapel there is an entrance to the Keep, which was restored by the architect Anthony Salvin (1799 – 1881), renowned for his knowledge and restoration of medieval buildings.  The Keep now retains its outer shell, while the interior has been completely remodelled to accommodate 21st century residential living.

The Keep - looking from the Palace Green, with
a 20th red telephone box ... probably also now
historically out of date!

There were parts of the Castle, as the Keep, that we were unable to see – but which the guide book alerts us to ... all similarly and faithfully restored as can best be done in the 21st century.

So this Castle that has ‘morphed’ with the times from a Norman defence, a military fortress, to a lavish palace, as Bishops were wont to call their residences ... before the Bishops moved out to Bishop Auckland, originally their hunting lodge in the magnificent forests and countryside about 12 miles from Durham.

The entrance to the castle from
the Green - the Cathedral entrance
is directly across the Palace Green
Once the military significance of the Castle finally vanished in the 17th century ... the ensuing Bishops seemed determined to make the castle a worthy reflection of the high status and enormous wealth of their office.

Repairs were made, porches and buttresses were added, new extensions extended, interiors remodelled, state rooms added, and alterations to the external walls and finally a reconstruction to the Castle Gatehouse ...

By then the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, Victoria came to the throne ... societal norms and expectations were rapidly changing ... the University was established in the 1830s ...

Looking south from the Keep across Palace
Green to the Cathedral - the alms houses
are on the left
... the early ambitious plans were to build on the Palace Green ... but in the end thankfully the Green is still a green open space between the Castle and the Cathedral ... surrounded by medieval buildings, but not built upon.

Further refurbishment has occurred in the last 180 years to accommodate the transition from Castle to University ... the University has expanded way beyond the Castle – but this fortress remains the focal point of University life in Durham ...

... and holds some student and teaching staff quarters, and in addition it provides the dining hall, common rooms, library and administrative offices ... while offering a splendid setting for many of the social and official functions of the University.

It is still adapting ... hosting wedding receptions, visiting conferences, Royal visits, as well as those more humbly wanting bed and breakfast as paying guests ...

... however - don’t forget to close and latch the gate of this multi-functional building  behind you .... is it too heavy for you??!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories