Friday 21 March 2014

Aspects of British Coasts: 2014 A – Z ...

Aspects of British Coasts is my theme for this year.  The twenty-six posts will, no doubt, be as eclectic as usual ... but I will make an effort to be short ...

Cornish Coastal Path

... I suppose this allows me to elaborate on them at a later date ... when I can add more salt to the sea, send more sludge down the rivers to spruce up the land ... 

... watch more cliffs crash down, let the long-shore currents deposit their sediment forming a spit or sandspit ...

River Nith Estuary opening
into the Solway Firth
Q I have found, J I’ve got, X will be interesting and I might well be asleep for the usual Zzzzing, when I’ll probably summarise or ‘glossarise’ – who knows – and as I have yet to write ... we will all see.

Lands End

Where does the coast end and the sea begin?

The photos show a few of my early ideas ... 

Enjoy the A- Z everyone and I'll see you around ... how many bloggers are involved now - 1380+ and counting ... ?!

Satellite photo of Barra, Vatersay
and surrounding islands

Thanks to Lee for instigating the Challenge, and the main co-hosts Alex, Tina, Damyanti, MJ Joachim, Nicole of MadLab, AJs Hooligans, PammyPam, Stormy's SideKicks ... 

A-Z Co-hosts can be found here 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 15 March 2014

St Alfege Church, Greenwich ...

The Church with a Millennium of history ... as the Guide Book says “since 1012 when St Alfege witnessed to his faith and justice for the poor; there has been a church on this site in Greenwich”.  I described the manner of his death in my previous post ...
John James'
Tower (Hawksmoor's
was too expensive)

The manor of Greenwich had been under the protection of the Benedictine St Peter’s Abbey, Ghent in Flanders (Belgium) since 918 and was under the personal protection of Pope Eugenius III in 1150.

Nothing is known of that early church, while the only records of the second church, built in the early 13th century, are illustrations or panoramas of the outside from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Greenwich Peninsula c 1872
(Isle of Dogs is to the left)
The rectors appointed from Flanders were never acceptable to the people of Greenwich, who persuaded Edward III (1312 – 1377) to take over the manor in 1317. 

So began St Alfege Church’s pivotal position in the influence of persons associated with Greenwich, and from where the populace had a close view of the royal power struggles taking place at Greenwich Palace.

Isle of Dogs c 1899

The ‘good Duke Humphrey’ patron of the arts and founder of the Bodleian Library, Oxford was murdered in Greenwich in 1447.  Humphrey of Lancaster, Duke of Gloucester and Earl of Pembroke (1390 – 1447) was “son, brother and uncle of Kings”, being the 4th and youngest son of King Henry IV of England.

The church acted as a proxy Chapel Royal when Henry VIII was baptised in 1491.  The Chapel Royal falls under the Ecclesiastical Household of the monarch ... i.e. it serves the spiritual needs of the Sovereign.

Interior looking towards the organ; the pulpit top
can be seen, as I took the photo from the gallery
Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703) noted in his diary in 1665 “by coach to Greenwich Church, where a good sermon, a fine church and a great company of handsome women” ... well now we know – he liked his women!

John Evelyn (1620 – 1706), the diarist, lived at Sayes Court nearby and commented that “at the conclusion of the church service, there was a French sermon preached after the use of the English Liturgy translated into French, to a congregation of about 100 French refugees” – I’m not sure why the French refugees were there, my history digs have failed me here.

Aerial view from Queen's House at front,
looking through the 'courts' of the old
Royal Naval College towards the
Isle of Dogs

Because of its proximity to the Royal Palace, the Old Royal Naval Hospital and the dockyards the thriving Greenwich-Deptford-Rotherhithe-Woolwich towns housed a diverse agglomeration of peoples ...

... sailors, watermen (the ‘taxis of the day), royal servants, shipbuilders, fishermen, travellers, trades folk, then more substantial houses were occupied by Ambassadors to the Court, natural philosophers, scientists, artists and artisans ... remember this was the centre of the Royal Court and government ... as the spread of London westwards really only took off in the 1700s.

The churches were refuges, places for worship, meeting houses and St Alfege’s played a prominent role in the lives of the Royals, the nobility and the master craftsmen to the trades’ people ...

St Alfege (his day is 19th April)
Francis Spear, in the early 1950s,
designed a number of  new windows for
the ones that were destroyed in the War

So when the act of God happened and the roof caved in during a storm in November 1710, the parishioners petitioned Parliament and were granted funds by the Commissioners, under the Fifty New Churches Act 1710: the government’s opportunity to create monuments to themselves and ...

... to Queen Anne, who reigned 1702 to 1707, and then, after the Union of England and Scotland in 1707, continued to reign as Queen of Great Britain, until she died in 1714.

Famous people who worked on the new church included:

A partial glimpse of the Sanctuary Altar,
together with one of the Benefaction Boards
Sir Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren and Clerk of the Works at Greenwich Hospital for 40 years, was given the architectural commission. 

Hawksmoor (1661 – 1736) designed most of the 11 churches that came to be built to under the Act ... whose purpose was to serve the rapidly growing population of London.

Hawksmoor’s elaborate columns and cornices of the Sanctuary Altar are original and thankfully escaped the bombing in 1941. 

Sketch by Thornhill for the
Great Hall, Greenwich Hospital
(now known as Old Royal Naval
The restored ‘trompe de l’oeil’ paintings in the Sanctuary are by Sir James Thornhill (1675 – 1734), better known for the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Grinling Gibbons (1648 – 1721), the sculptor and wood carver, who became known as the “King’s Carver” ... he designed the original pulpit before WWII bombing destroyed a great deal of it ... but the restoration followed the original in shape, although because of lack of funds the design is much simpler.

There are two magnificent Benefaction Boards put into the second church in 1702, and afterwards into Hawksmoor’s church, which then survived the bombing as they were previously situated in the south staircase lobby – now they reside on either side of the Altar Sanctuary.

Famous people particularly associated with St Alfege’s include

View through glass - showing organ
stops, keyboard and part of the
Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585), the Composer, whose influence was invaluable to the development and flowering of the golden age of Tudor Music under Elizabeth I.

For organ buffs: When the roof collapsed the 1552 organ was saved ... the remaining part of that console is displayed – it has a curious arrangement of reverse colour keys.  Some keys are split to achieve sharps and Middle D is noticeably more worn than the more usual Middle C.

Experts believe that the middle keyboard is almost certainly from Tudor times and would have been played by Tallis, and the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth while they lived at Greenwich Palace.

Photo of the music score displayed
Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, after whom the ill-fated ship the Mary Rose is named.

The Revd. John Flamsteed (1646 – 1719), the first Astronomer Royal who was instrumental in persuading Charles II to construct an observatory at Greenwich.

General James Wolfe (1727 – 1759) - victorious soldier who died during the Battle at Quebec.  His body was brought back to England and is buried in the vault beneath the Church.

General James Wolfe's - glass
panel displayed on window sill
Henry Kelsey (1667 – 1724) explorer.  He was apprenticed to the Hudson’s Bay Company and in 1690-91 made a trip across the Canadian Plains being one of the first Europeans to do so .

Sir John Julius Angerstein (1753 – 1823) was born in St Petersburg, emigrated to London at 15, became a Lloyd’s underwriter at 21.  He was the main inspiration behind Lloyd’s, and was financial adviser to Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger.

He was a distinguished patron of the arts and his collection of paintings formed the core of the National (Art) Gallery.

Boston Tea Party - history of North America -
1789 - Engraving Plate, E Newberry
see Wiki page

Samuel Enderby (1755 – 1829) merchant.  He was a member of a Greenwich trading family which dealt in tea (their ships were the focus of the Boston Tea Party), whale oil and convicts.  The family financed three expeditions to Antarctica – hence the naming of Enderby Land.

General Sir Charles Gordon (1833 – 1885) – the grandson of Samuel Enderby; the General has a rich history.

Sir George Biddell Airy (1801 – 1885) Astronomer.  During his time as Astronomer Royal and with his researches he defined the Greenwich Meridian, which was internationally recognised in 1884.

Everyone's Chapel for World Peace
(photo taken from guide book)
In the south aisle is Everyone’s Chapel for World Peace ... particularly for the children.  At times during the year the altar frontals made by the children of the church are used, and give a unique perspective on life and World Peace. 

This is particularly appropriate for what was a main hub of activity around the ‘highway’ of the River Thames and the Greenwich Court in those early times ... where many diverse peoples came from different parts of the world, and where we now continue to celebrate enormous diversity in this small country of ours.
Coventry Cross -
photo from guide book

On the altar is a Coventry Cross, also known as a Cross of Nails.  After Coventry Cathedral was blitz bombed in 1940, a handful of 14th century hand-forged nails lay in the charred ruins.

Three of these medieval nails were used to form a cross and since then Coventry crosses have been presented to many churches and centres in the world as a symbol of peace and reconciliation.

Alfege’s last days were captured poetically and poignantly in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, apparently one of the very few pieces of verse appearing in them:

Captive then was
He that once
Was head of all England,
Of Christendom.

There could be seen
Great misery
Where formerly
Great joy was seen,

In the city from which
Christianity came,
And bliss before God
And bliss before the World

From Everyone’s Chapel for World Peace, the words:
Lord, Grant Us Peace

Henry Kelsey was probably the
first European to see buffalo
Illustration by Charles William
Jefferys (1869 - 1961)
I would like to credit the following for much of the information in this post:

The Guide Book to The Parish Church of St Alfege

The St Alfege Trail: a riverside walk and cycle route from Southwark Cathedral through a thousand years of history (a pamphlet produced for the Millennium of St Alfege 1012 – 2012)

Osbern’s Life of Alfege by Frances Shaw, a professor of Classics at Oxford University, who now teaches Latin, Greek and Philosophy in nearby Dulwich. 

(This translation from the Latin now makes Alfege’s life accessible to modern readers, while retaining the colour of Osbern’s distinctive style).  Osbern (c 1050 –c  1090) was a Benedictine monk, biographer and musician, precentor of Christ Church Canterbury.

This is a rather long post, but I wanted to leave in some detail and not curtail it too much ... a millennium of history in one post is a little squeezed – this is a wonderful place if you can get to visit.

In the 19th C Porthcurno, west Cornwall
was connected to the rest of the
world by submarine cables
I then found a very interesting article via the Atlantic Cable Company that throws a lot of light on the Enderby family, the docks, industrial activity and various engineering developments over three hundred years.

What caught my eye was the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Cornwall connection from where many of the world’s telegraph cables were manufactured and laid – hence the note here.

History of the Atlantic Cable from Porthcurno, West Cornwall and its connection with Enderby Wharf ..

I am once again joining in with the
A-Z 2014  Blogging Challenge
Sign up list is here

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 10 March 2014

Greenwich and London ...

Strange but true – I got tripped up by my ghostly escalator ...
Selfridges' Pantone
109 Yellow Fender
Guitar for their
centenary in 2009

I went to London last week for a few visits – I had some birthday presents to drop off, after visiting Selfridges for one last purchase, then on to Chancery Lane for the drop off.

I’d decided I had time, despite leaving an hour later than I intended to from here, to get down to Greenwich to see the Turner exhibition at the Maritime Museum ...

... failed at that ... I was switched off ... sitting quietly on the Docklands Light Railway – that I don’t use very often, which takes us through the revamped docks through stations: named such as West India Docks ... I wonder where they traded ?...

Canary Wharf from Cabot Square
...  then MudChute ... what happens there?!  Well it’s on the Isle of Dogs ... the muddy overspill was left from dock expansion in the 1840s ... the Isle of Dogs has some etymologically interesting connotations: please see the Wiki entry.

While I’m on this line of posting ... Canary Wharf – why its name?  Once this easterly end of London in the 1980s was opened up to office, retail and housing ... the dock areas rapidly took off, and this is now one of London’s two main financial centres: the other being the traditional City of London.

Isle of Dogs: 1899 at the
height of its commercial
Canary Wharf is located on the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs, which is bounded on three sides by one of the largest meanders in the River Thames.

From 1802, these docks were one of the busiest in the world.  In 1936 the fruit trade ships from the Mediterranean and Canary Islands docked at these wharfs ... hence the name Canary Wharf.

I completely missed the Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich station ... and found myself at Deptford – back down the steps, up the other side - and back to Greenwich ....

St Alfege Church, Greenwich
... another mistake – I should have waited for the next station: Cutty Sark ... but I didn’t realise this til I was off and walking ... however time was drawing on ... and I was thinking – now I’m too late to get to see the Exhibition so I’ll make that visit on another day.

As I walked I came across a church – a large edifice of a building from the west side – with a sign saying Church Open ... I decided to have a look inside St Alfege’s Church ...

St Alfege
.... and what a good decision that was ... designed by Wren’s assistant, the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661 – 1736), this massive Portland stone church of circa 1715 ...

... however its connections go much further back ... who is St Alfege? was my first question ... and then a millennium of history dropped into my lap – ie my brain – and what a journey I took ...

St Alfege (954 – 1012), Archbishop of Canterbury (1006), was a great church reformer and looked after his peoples ... there were no beggars in Winchester, when he was bishop in 984.

From the Church's website - a photo of a recreation of
Viking traditions ... re-enacted during the Millennial
celebrations for St Alfege 1012 - 2012

The Danes were raiding our eastern coasts; proceeded to sack Canterbury in 1011; the church was pillaged; monks and people massacred ... Alfege offered himself as hostage and he was taken in chains by ship round to Greenwich.

Alfege refused to allow anyone to ransom him ... the Danes in 1012 renewed their demands for money, eventually demanding 3,000 gold marks be paid within a week or they would kill the Archbishop.

The very Rev'd Rowan Williams -
the previous Archbishop of
Canterbury: in front of a Viking
boat, similar to those used in
Viking burials 
One week later, the enraged Danes battered him to death with meat bones and stones ... so beginneth Alfege’s journey to sainthood ... King Cnut took his body home to Canterbury in 1023 ... he was then canonised in 1078.

St Alfege church’s history is so interesting that I’ll cover it in another post ... but my journey back into London was uneventful.  I was going to go round on a new members’ tour of the National Portrait Gallery.

The gallery houses portraits of historically important famous people associated with Britain, selected on the basis of significance of the sitter, not that of the artist.

The collection includes photographs and caricatures as well as paintings, drawings and sculpture.  I spotted a photograph of Mandela, taken by the photojournalist Michael Peto, during his time in London in 1962.

Inside the National Portrait Gallery
Now I know more about the Gallery – I shall look forward to going back to exhibitions ... I have already been to one lecture that will make an interesting blog topic.

Then I thought I’d go home ... so off to the Leicester Square tube I went –  via Charing Cross ....... next stop Embankment ..... the Ghosts of dustsheets, last birthdays, five years of blogging ... and Ghostly Escalators that I couldn’t find ... all came flooding back ....

The Chandos portrait:
William Shakespeare -
held at the NPG
.... I was at Waterloo – why? Where’s my stop! – then I remembered the Embankment station was closed ... so ghostly recollections came to haunt me! 

Back to Charing Cross a walk down to Embankment station – that part was working ... talk about a convoluted journey to get my train back to Victoria Station and down to Eastbourne.

Honestly you’d have thought I’d remembered ... and I wasn’t paying attention to all those warning notices, or wretched constant reminders that we seem to spend our times having to listen to ... be it on the train, tube or bus ... so irritating!

Embankment Notice of
Temporary Closure - from my
January ghostly posting
Oh well – home once again ... having had an inadvertent off the beaten track Church visit ... very well worth it – I was so pleased I was doolally!!

Sometimes these strange but true experiences offer us so much ... and opened my eyes to the historical importance of that particular Church ...

My blog post in January ... Ghostly Reappearance from under ...  

One of my very early posts in May 2009 about Selfridges

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 2 March 2014

Bare Bones ...

Now if you were given a mole hand by your mole catcher grandfather at age three would you have turned into a master skeleton builder?

North American mole

... this is how I came across Ben Garrod, who puts together skeletons, originally as a hobby, now as part of his work and studies.

As a child he got totally hooked, evidenced by bringing home a dead seagull and dissecting it on the kitchen table to find how the bits worked, and what was inside ...

Examples of Pentadactyl Limbs
... so his life took its course to studying evolutionary biology, and continued on with his hobby of building skeletons for museums and organisations ...

I recently saw one of his six BBC 4 tv shows, called “Secrets of Bones”, about how vertebrates have adapted so successfully to life on earth ...

We see the worlds of the fastest creature on earth, the reptile with up to 500 vertebrae, how the common pattern of the Pentadactyl (five digit) limb became established during the late Devonian period, between 380 and 360 million years ago, how those five digits have evolved, and how some mammals appear to have six digits – yet do not.

Lengthened curved spine of the cheetah
I love how posts come about ... this ties in so well with my previous post on human migration and how we keep finding things out about our ancestral past ...

The cheetah’s spine is where it has evolved most ...  the long very flexible spine gives it balance, ensuring that it can twist and turn in an instant ...

... while the spine allows the legs to overlap, giving it a huge stride, sometimes seven metres, which then allows the cheetah to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds as it hunts ... no wonder it is one of the most successful cats.

A cheetah chasing my favourite
southern African mammal: a warthog
I recognised the Grant Museum from my visit there last year, here we see a snake skeleton ... whereby only the spine with its ribs is left, so now snakes can only move sideways in an “S” serpentine movement ...

The snake cannot twist which ensured no harm could come to the spinal column ... so as the number of vertebrae increased, up to 500 in some species, losing its limbs along the evolutionary path, it was able to take advantage of new habitats ...
Snake skeleton showing
spine with its ribs

... being able to creep and curl into small spaces, burrow into holes, slither up trees, glide through the air, and one snake can even jump ... but it cannot move like us.

Our Pentadactyl limbs – our hands and feet have adapted enabling us to be able to walk upright and be very dextrous ... while other animals have adapted to their landscape and conditions ...

Two Gibbons in an Oak Tree
Northern Song Dynasty, China
(960 - 1279) - painter by artist
of that period: Yi Yuanji
Gibbons’ arms have a ball and socket joint in their wrists allowing 80 degrees of movement so they can swing through the trees ...

... their middle digits are extremely long allowing them to cling on to the branches as they range through the canopy, while their extra long arm bones (one and half times the length of its own legs) can reach speeds of 35 mph through the canopy ...

The shape, size and weight affect how an animal moves – this is particularly reflected in the upper arm or upper leg bone ...

Heavy and stocky for the cow – as they need hefty bones to hold their body bulk, up to 500 kilograms ... our human bones are lighter ...

The Metacarpal no 3
is the long bone
above the foot
and hoof
Whereas other animals have evolved differently – a horse can reach speeds of over 40 mph ... they needed to evolve to escape predators and be fast and light on their feet ...

... their Pentadactyl bones have evolved ... digits 1 and 5 have disappeared, while digits 2 and 4 are fused into Metacarpal no 3: surprisingly this is that long thin leg bone leading to the specialised foot where the shock of landing is absorbed.

The mole’s humerus has broadened significantly ... to enable them to become super-powered burrowers ... their Pentadactyl hand limb has ‘grown’ an extra digit ...

... in fact it is a Sesamoid bone coming from the mole’s wrist ... in anatomy a Sesamoid is known as a bone embedded within a tendon (as in the knee - the patella within the quadriceps tendon) ...

The Sesamoid bone shown in blue,
in this photo of a Panda hand
The elephant has a sesamoid bone (sixth toe) in its foot ... as it became land based and needed that additional support for its ever increasing body size ...  as too does a Panda – as this photo shows ...

The mole with its extraordinary adaption highlights that evolution converges too ... the European mole is related to shrews and hedgehogs, whereas the Golden Mole found in southern Africa is related to the elephant and manatee (dugong) ... yet both have that broad humerus with the sesamoid digit.

Ben Garrod c/o Great Yarmouth Mercury
Thus I ‘met’ Ben Garrod who really opened up a new way of thinking about ‘dem bones’ .... and who creates skeletal dioramas ... a mixture of art and science ... continuing on the Victorian tradition of bare taxidermy ...

... who is totally passionate about his scientific craft and was bowled over by the paleontological gallery at the Natural History Museum Paris ... a huge array of animal skeletons ... lined up like the TerraCotta Army ...

Paleantology Gallery at the Natural History
Museum in Paris

It was wonderful to see how bones offer structure, support and strength, while having a much bigger story to tell us about evolution through the skeleton with its specialist forms ...

Roll on youngsters who are so curious about life form and how it all works ... and long may Mr Garrod go on to greater scientific presentations for us to have the pleasure of watching ...

BBC Spring Watch 2011 - where Ben Garrod came to the fore on the BBC

Ben Garrod's site:  Ben's Bones 

BBC 4 "Secrets of Bones" 

Grant Museum of Zoology, London - my blog post

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories