Month: June 2019

Onwards to Oxford (3)

After returning from Oxford in May I was well aware of how much I had missed seeing in those brief hours that I had spent in the city.  That’s the problem with a day trip, you usually end up with a list that requires a whole week to complete. The weather has not been too conducive to day trips either until today….

Bright eyed and bushy tailed I headed off to Evesham to catch the train. Well aware that the temperatures were expected to reach the 30 degree mark in some places. Beggars however cannot be choosers, and I have to make use of an opportunity wherever I can.

There is the train now, better grab it before it leaves without us.  

My plans were as follows: 

I wanted to take in the Cathedral, Castle/Prison, Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs, Holywell Cemetery and everything in between. It was not too strenuous assuming that all went well and I did not end up diverting from the route. I also took more or less the same route as last time because I knew my way around the town by now. The major diversion was Holywell Cemetery, and checking it out really was dependent on timing. I had planned for a later train which did leave me with an extra 2 hours to get lost in. 

Oxford Castle mound was first on my list. I was really keen on climbing the mound but it had been incorporated into the Castle and Prison tour, so I decided to waste some time there. I covered the tour in a separate post as there are quite a lot of images. However, the area looks like this:

It is quite an impressive building, and historically it goes back very far and has been in use for a long time. It is also a very popular tourist destination and there were queues to get onto the tour. I was fortunate enough to get an early tour but by the time I left it was reaching jam packed proportions. An hour later I was on my way to my next destination which was Christ Church Cathedral. Last time around I had not even gone close to where the entrance was, and I was hoping to get it done and dusted this time around. 

You need to turn right at the bus that is stuck in the intersection to get into St Aldates Str which is where a million buses seem to stop and which is more or less the main thoroughfare used to get to the Cathedral, although the entrance to the building is in a different place. You start getting a sense of the building though as you walk towards the path leading to it.

It gets more impressive when you reach the building that houses the entrance

And yet again my luck was out as the Cathedral was closed to the public due to an event being held there. The closest I saw was:

This meant my timing changed because I was looking at an hour at the Cathedral, but now had an hour to kill, which made the cemetery much more feasible. I did not return via St Aldate Str, but had decided to continue along a path that intercepted Merton Str and and then onwards to Magpie Lane. On one side of the path was a cricket pitch with a typical English Summer scene, although typically nothing was actually happening. I bet somewhere there was a punt on the river….

(1500 x 529)

The strange thing about Magpie Lane is that it is access controlled by means of a single person at a time gate affair. It took ages to get through because there were queues on either side of it to pass through.

Magpie Lane

The lane led out into High Street and that was where I wanted to be to see the Radcliffe Camera.  and it is a very beautiful building and it originally housed the Radcliffe Library. The 16-sided room on the ground floor is now a reading room for the Bodleian Library. There were a lot of people milling around all over and a TV crew filming some gesticulating  disaffected person. I did not stick around to see what that was about. 

Close by is the famous Bodleian Library, and i spent some time in the courtyard trying to make sense of a place that I had heard mentioned many times. A copy of every book published in Britain is deposited here, including some two million volumes and 40,000 manuscripts. Its not easy to even consider how to describe it, suffice to say that in terms of accumulated history and knowledge this place wins hands down.

There is however a real sense of the ages looking down on you. I am not too sure who this chap is, but he does seem quite popular. Some reading revealed that this is a statue of the Earl of Pembroke. It was erected in 1723. Actually I thought it was a statue of Shakespeare 🙂 

Next on my list was the very beautiful “Bridge of Sighs”  that joins two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane.

At this point I need to make a decision. Time was on my side for the cemetery trip so I decided to at least go have a look and if necessary return on another day. To reach the cemetery I needed to follow Holywell Street until it reached Longwall Street and then look for the entrance. By now I was getting hot under the collar too, as it was a real scorcher. Everywhere people seemed to be moving house too as there were trucks of furniture and people with wheelie bags all over the place. 

Holywell Str

On the intersection of Holywell and Longwall Streets there is a reminder that often things became violent back in the old days, especially when it came to religion. 

Surprisingly enough I found the cemetery entrance, and if I had not been aware that it existed I would probably have walked past it. 

The cemetery is a jungle, but very pretty, and I would hate to have to go grave hunting in it because finding anything in there would be a major mission. The only “famous grave” that I could find in the list was that of James Blish, but I did not hunt the grave down. 

It was an amazing cemetery to walk through and I did a separate blogpost about it.

It was time to consider going to the station. I had 45 minutes to get there and turned my bows towards Broad Street, although I had one more puzzle to hunt down. I paused at the Museum of The History of Science for a quick look around but it just did not work for me and I headed out there after a quick walk around. 

In my navigation of Oxford  I had battled to find the main war memorial in the city, and by the looks of it the closest I would get was a memorial that was sighted on the intersection of Banbury and Woodstock Roads. That was fed by Magdalen Str, and was “on my way” so I decided to try find it while I still had time.  The area around the Sheldonian Theatre was fascinating though, and there were some really lovely buildings in that part of Broad Street.

Back of the Sheldonian Theatre

Balliol College

Magadalen Street was where I found that nice overgrown churchyard last time and it has a much better kept continuation to it, although I did not photograph it. In the distance I could see the memorial I was after, it was just a case of running it down. 

It is really a  generic memorial as opposed to a specific one. 

Inscription

Then I finally turned my bows towards George Street en route for the station. I shot pics as I walked, although did not investigate this structure below. However, I have since found out that it is known as the Martyr’s Memorial and it commemorates the Bishop of Worcester Hugh Latimer and Bishop of London Nicholas Ridley, who were burned nearby on October 16, 1555 after having been convicted for heresy because of their Protestant beliefs after a quick trial. It also commemorates the former Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, who was similarly executed

The station is not too far away and I waited 10 minutes for my train. There was still a queue at the tourist information desk so I was still unable to buy the book I wanted there. It was hard going against the crowds though, everybody was out and about and I think I will always remember Oxford for the hordes of people in it. Its a very frenetic place. 

Oxford was sort of in the bag, I still needed to see the cathedral and I wanted to check out the structure above as well as have a closer look at some of the other buildings in it, but rationally it is only the cathedral that I am after now, and I can do it and Churchill’s grave on one trip. When that will be is anybody’s guess though. It always depends on weather and energy levels.  So, watch this space for part 4 forwardbut

Random Images

 DRW © 2019. Created 29/06/2019


Crime and Punishment

In my many travels throughout the UK I have often encountered oddments that relate to “Crime and Punishment”, many of these would be considered barbaric in our politically correct times, but way back then it was a total different ballgame. The most obvious artefacts that tend to stick out are the village stocks. I have seen 4 sets (that I can remember) and they are interesting curiosities that are often very old. 

The stocks at St Nicholas Parish Church in Ashchurch, Gloucestershire

You have to admit they look like reasonably benign articles of punishment, but the opposite is true. Attitudes were very different in those olde days, when you were bunged in the stocks it was not seen as some idyllic rest period. Perpetrators locked into them faced all manner of additional torments, ranging from weather, children, drunks and the real threat of mob justice. You could also have your clothing stolen and of course could have been pelted with vegetables, faeces, dead animals and of course verbal and physical abuse would have been the norm, especially if you were a well known miscreant. 

The stocks in Evesham, Worcestershire

However, many of the people bunged into the stocks were anti-social, or thieves or somebody on the receiving end of a grudge, and of course pissing off (and on) the church/mayor/town hall/local lord etc. would have brought the might of the “law” onto your head.  They were also not restricted to men; women and children could also spend some time being on the end of justice. There was no such thing as “extenuating circumstances” either. 

The stocks in Winchombe

England’s Statute of Labourers 1351 prescribed the use of the stocks for “unruly artisans” and required that every town and village erect a set of stocks. Sources indicate that the stocks were used in England for over 500 years and have never been formally abolished. 

Stocks in Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire

Another chance discovery I made in Salisbury one morning on my way to work really left me scratching my head. 

Some investigation revealed a plaque close by, although it was not all that easy to read.

And of course Salisbury also had a reminder of the bad olde days affixed on the side of one of the walls of a local building

And in Lichfield I spotted the plaque below.

and I spotted the following in Oxford:

Of course London has a grim past and if you know where to look it is often right in public view. One of the many macabre sights that I recall was close to Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial.

 

I was recently in Liverpool and was able to visit the local holding cells associated with the Assizes court that was in the building and it was an interesting aside to my visit. But I also came up close and personal with a items used in punishment, namely:

A whipping chair

A flogging frame

Birching was a common punishment handed down to young offenders, and a flogging with a light cane or a heavy cane was actually quite a common punishment in South Africa until it was abolished too. The barbarity of the act of flogging or caning should really be seen from the position of the one being caned or flogged or the person committing the act.  

Women were often on the receiving end of punishment, and the use of the “Brank” or “Scold’s Bridle” was an easy way to silence what were seen as nagging women, it was really about power though and subjugation of females. I have seen two examples in the Clink Prison Museum in London, but it is doubtful that this pair were ever used and they are probably reproductions. 

Children were equally at risk from “the law” and there is a good example in the old castle/prison in Oxford:

Julia Ann Crumpling, aged 7,  was sentenced to seven days’ hard labour at the prison in 1870. She allegedly had stolen a pram from a Mr and Mrs Edmund Smith of Witney, who had left it outside while going into a shop. She would have been housed in the B wing that housed women and teenagers.  Did she just make a stupid mistake by taking the pram? or was she really just a rebellious child? and what effect did the sentence have on her? Back in those days prison was not seen as a holiday rest camp and justice was served to young and old. The Victorians believed that prisons should deter people from committing crimes, with the punishment of hard labour dished out to crush inmates’ spirits.  You did the crime you did the time!

So far I have managed to visit 3 prisons/jails in the UK:

And they have all been grim places, and as a curious visitor I got to go home at the end of the day whereas this was “home” to the inmates. Many of those inmates were there because they deserved to be there; unfortunately rehabilitation is not always as successful as the authorities would like to admit.  

The military however had it’s own set of rules known as the “The Kings Regulations” and they were the official policy and were used as the  basis for “justice” in the military and to “enforce discipline”. A number of men were “shot at dawn” for offences relating to military law, and in many cases the trials were a travesty of justice.  Of over 20,000 who were found guilty of offences carrying the death penalty, 3000 soldiers received the death penalty and 346 were carried out.  The circumstances of many of the offences were often ignored by those who sat on the courts martial, and often the accused would have very little inkling of what was waiting for him once he faced the wrath or indifference of those in charge.

The British Army also used what was known as “Field Punishment # 1” which consisted of the convicted man being placed in fetters and handcuffs or similar restraints and attached to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel or a fence post, for up to two hours per day. Of course that was preferable to being shot at dawn. As an aside, the former South African Defence Force was well known for it’s iron discipline, and while there were no cases of execution by firing squad there were many cases of abuse by detention barracks staff and of course daily abuse by “instructors” of national servicemen. It was rumoured that there was an unofficial acceptable body count allowed for in training.  Had the SADF been allowed to use a firing squad you can bet they would have!

Our so called “liberal world” cringes at the idea of shooting or flogging anybody, but in some parts of the world these are still in daily use. 

However, in some “civilised countries” the “rights” of the offender seem to be overtaking those of the victim, and in the UK even slaps on the wrist would bring out a horde of lawyers and organisations dedicated to preventing the punishment of those found guilty of crime. Had poor little Julia Ann Crumpling been around in 2019 she would have probably have been sent for counselling and paid compensation for having been arrested because she was a minor. The people who left the pram outside would have been fined for littering.     

Crime will always be with us. There will always be those who consider themselves above the law,  and of course those who get a vicarious thrill from violence and murder. There will always be corrupt politicians and policemen, and alcohol and drugs will always remove any sense of right or wrong when used incorrectly. Thankfully a lot of the draconian punishment has fallen by the wayside and a lot fewer innocent people end up incarcerated, and these relics from bygone ages should serve as a reminder that in many 3rd world countries things are still in the dark ages and justice can be harsh and the dungeons of the past are still the dungeons of the present  

DRW © 2018-2019. Finally completed 13/07/2019


Victoria Gardens and the flood aftermath

This morning there were balloons in the air and I missed it!  The best I could do was this solitary balloon about to be attacked by a large bird. 

Later I went for a walk, hoping to find a suitable spot to launch my Pretoria Castle from, and did some looking to see whether the flood waters had subsided. This is the view from King John Bridge towards the Avon Locks and the Healings Mill in the background on the right.

and downstream on Shakespear’s Avon Way

Last weekend while photographing the flood it struck me that I had never done a photo essay about the Victoria Gardens. I was unable to do so at the time because of the flood waters, but this morning went walkies in that area to see whether the water had resided and how things looked in the area.

By today the water level had dropped dramatically and the gardens and mill were once more accessible. It was also possible to cross the river at the bridge by the mill. This is what it looks like from the bridge looking across to the mill.

and upstream towards town.

and downstream from the bridge. This high pond is really a sluice gate and somewhere I have an information sheet about it and seem to recall it is called a “Fish Belly Sluice”. Naturally I cannot find it at this moment to confirm what I remember. The garden is the tree-ed area on the left.

There are three entrances to the gardens, the one being from the area at the mill as in the first image, and the other two are in Gloucester Road. 

The Victoria Pleasure Gardens were created by public subscription to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. They were popular with the Edwardians and in 1910 a bandstand was installed which was in regular use till the 1950’s. The gardens were badly affected by the 2007 floods in the town and as can be seen winter flooding can inundate it. The garden is now taken care of as a result of collaboration between local councils and a volunteer group, “Friends of the Victoria Pleasure Gardens”.  The arches in Gloucester Road are signposted as having been erected to celebrate the diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2012 as well as Queen Victoria in 1897.

And to think that a week ago all of this was under water. 

On my way home I popped into the very famous Abbey Tea Rooms in Church Street. I have been wanting to go in there in ages but have never done so. It is a riot of nostalgia and all things eclectic and to be honest I think you would spend hours just looking around and still never seeing everything. .

My mother would have blown a blood vessel had she seen all of that, and then would have thrown it all away in a frenzy of cleaning. Fortunately the people there are much more far sighted than she is.

I can also recommend the food, and I may have to return because I have so much more to look at, but there is so little time and space.

And that was my day. Tewkesbury is busy hanging out the banners for the upcoming Medieval Festival in July, so soon I shall be posting some of those. But till then this sneak peak will have to suffice.

DRW © 2019. Created 22/06/2019