Category: Collections and Museums

Visiting the Bard: Stratford-upon-Avon (1)

Awhile ago I saw a bus in Evesham with a Shakespearean quote…

I filed that information away for later use. 

Later use finally arrived this week and I decided to follow Romeo and head to Stratford-upon-Avon from Evesham. The bus is an X18 and the route it follows is: Norton, Harvington, Iron Cross, Salford Priors, Bidford-on-Avon, Binton and finally Stratford-upon-Avon with a frequency of one every 30 minutes. It was do-able and I did the navigation and packed my goodies and hit the road really early on what was a glorious weekend of summer weather.  My map said that there were a few things worth seeing, although I would really aim for Shakespeare’s birthplace, the War Memorial and finally his grave. Anything else is incidental. 

The trip was interesting because the route passed close Evesham Country Park where the Evesham Light Rail is; and that is also on my list of places to see. The villages seemed interesting, especially Bidford and I may do a morning trip out there as they have a very nice War Memorial which I managed to snap from the bus.

I was not too sure about where the bus stopped in Stratford although the timetable showed me a square with “Shakespeare’s Birthplace” on it, as well as a “Jester’s Statue”. However, our bus stopped very close to something called “The American Fountain” (aka the Shakespeare Memorial Fountain (which was slap-bang on the edge of the morning market) and a clear shot was not going to happen. The fountain was a gift of the American newspaper publisher and philanthropist George Childs, and was intended as a tribute to Queen Victoria, whose Golden Jubilee was being celebrated, to Shakespeare, and to the relationship between the USA and England.

There are a lot of inscriptions on the fountain, but the primary one reads:

THE GIFT OF AN AMERICAN CITIZEN

GEORGE W. CHILDS. OF PHILADELPHIA

TO THE TOWN OF SHAKESPEARE, 

IN THE JUBILEE YEAR OF QUEEN VICTORIA’

It is a grade II* listed structure and it was unveiled on 17 October 1887. More information on the tower is available on the Historic England listing.

The town looks more or less like this:

(1024 x 1054) (Image from an information board)

Now where was this Jester? I followed a sign that supposedly led to “Shakespeare’s Birthplace” and that led me to a pedestrianised street that had an old house almost in the centre. I could not find any signage or information board on the house so can’t assume anything yet. However, looking at the map above it appears that I should have gone around the back of the house. Now that’s kind of illogical. The position of the sun and constant foot traffic made getting a proper front view almost impossible so I settled for the next best thing. The house is a restored 16th-century half-timbered house situated in Henley Street, and it is believed that William Shakespeare was born there in 1564 and spent his childhood years there.

The Jester Statue was close by too.

It portrays the Jester ‘Touchstone’ from the play ‘As you like it.’ The inscription reads:

“The fool doth think he is wise but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

and another reads:

 “O’ noble fool, a worthy fool”.

The statue, is by James Butler MBE of Radway, and is a gift to the town by one of its local businessmen, Mr. Anthony P Bird OBE. It unveiled in 1994.

So far so good, what else was in the vicinity? I looked around the shops and there was a Peter Rabbit, Harry Potter and a Teddy Bear shop interspersed with the usual gimmicky souvenir and coffee shops. It did not inspire confidence I am afraid. 

The timber frame buildings were beauties though, but some may have been modern reproductions too.  After a quick loo break I found myself close to the waterfront and canal basin which was more or less where I wanted to be. It was quite a pretty area with lots of boats and swans and a lock gate and a memorial that I wanted to investigate. I decided to snack and have a look around while I was in the area.

The memorial I wanted to see is known as the Gower Memorial or Gower Monument, and it comprises a round pedestal on a square plinth with a figure of Shakespeare deep in thought and seated in casual pose,  holding a pen and scroll.

There are four detached small plinths to the corners, each with a bronze figure of a Shakespearean character.

Falstaff

Lady Macbeth

Hamlet

Prince Hal

The monument was constructed in Paris over a 12 year period between 1876-1888 by Lord Ronald Gower and various associates and craftsman. It was unveiled at a ceremony attended by Oscar Wilde on 10 October 1888, at its original location in gardens to south of the Memorial Theatre. The monument was moved to its current location in 1933 following the rebuilding of the theatre after the devastating fire of 1926.  It is a Grade II* listed structure. (Text from Historical England entry)

I have to admit this was a very impressive memorial, and it was really worth seeing. The Google street view does not show the monument as it is hidden behind two vehicles which made it very intriguing.  I recrossed the bridge over the canal which a narrow boat was busy transiting. The canal connected to this is the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. 

I consulted another map that would show me my next destination which was the grave of Shakespeare. I had marked off the location of the War Memorial too, but completely forgot about it at this point. It was not too far away and no long detour would be needed to get there. I could cut across an area known as Bancroft Gardens and grab any interesting images along the way. The small monument below was erected to commemorate 50 years of peace between the nations of Western Europe 1945-1995.

Young Will by Lawrence Holofcener, Sculptor

The Country Artists Fountain was made for the 800th anniversary celebration of the granting of the Charter for Market Rights by King Richard I (the Lionheart) in 1196. The fountain was sculpted by Christine Lee and is made of stainless steel and brass. It was unveiled by the Queen in 1996.

In the near distance was a large building which is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre. Unfortunately the former did not photograph well but I did get a great photo of the latter.

The street I was now in was called Southern Lane and  it ran into Old Town Street. The Remembrance Gardens are situated where the two streets intersect, The memorial was not my primary goal on this day though, but it was nice to find it so close to my final goal.

There are at least 4 separate memorials in the garden and I will deal with them all at a later date. Suffice to say the garden is well kept and pleasant to visit.

William Shakespeare is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, and the church has coachloads of visitors coming to see the final resting place of the Bard.  It is an old church with an extensive churchyard and I was not the only person there on this day.

The church exterior is difficult to photograph as it is quite large but well treed and the sun is behind it making a decent image a non event. Inside it was quite impressive, but there was a large crowd inside the Chancel where the grave is. I decided to wait for things to quieten down and then try my luck.

The handout gives the following information: The present building dates from 1210, with the oldest sections being the tower, transepts and nave pillars. The North and South Aisles were added in the 1300’s and the Chancel in the late 1400’s.  William Shakespeare was baptised here, he worshipped here and he is buried here.

The Clopton Chapel is very impressive and it contains the tomb of Joyce Clopton and her husband George Carew, Earl of Totnes (d 1629). There are also effigies of William and Anne Clopton. 

And then things had quietened down and I was able to get into the Chancel to see the grave.

There are 5 graves beyond the railing and the first two on the left are of Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare (1556-1623) and next to her is the grave of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).  The other graves are of his daughter Suzanna, son-in-law Dr John Hall and Thomas Nash, his grandson-in-law. 

The inscription on his grave reads:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

There is a bust of the Bard close to the grave that was commissioned In 1621 by Shakespeare’s son-in-law, and it was made by Gerard Jansen, and it is considered to be a good likeness of him. 

The inscription reads: 

Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem
Terra tegit, populus moeret, Olympus habet.

Stay, passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath placed
Within this monument: Shakespeare, with whom
Quick nature doed; whose name doth deck his tomb
Far more than cost; sith all that he had writ
Leaves living art but page to serve his wit.
Obiit ano doi [anno domini] 1616. Aetatis 53. Die 23 Ap.

In 2016 a non-intrusive GPR survey also revealed that the Shakespeare family members were not buried in a large family vault but in shallow graves beneath the church floor.  William Shakespeare’s and Anne Hathaway’s graves are less than a metre deep. The findings also suggest Shakespeare and his family were not buried in coffins but simply wrapped in winding sheets, or shrouds, and buried in soil. It also revealed that the skull of William Shakespeare was missing. 

It was almost time for me to go, I took some photo’s and made my way back to the nave and looked for the church War Memorial while another large coach party was filling the space I had just vacated.

The church is very beautiful and there was a lot to photograph but I am running out of space in this post. Unfortunately I regret being unable to get a proper full image of the church but that may be possible from across the river (makes note for next time).  I will however leave some random images and will continue overleaf

forwardbut

 

Random Images of the Church 

DRW © 2019. Created 14/09/2019

Updated: 16/09/2019 — 05:45

Photo Essay: Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History has a fantastic interior. It is quirky, industrial, skeletal and everything else in between. My regular blog post does not leave much space for excess images and I really felt that this was one time when I needed to create a photo essay.

This is what it looks like on the outside

Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

And this is what it looks like on the inside…

Did I mention skeletal? Meet Tea Wrecks and friends

There are other well padded creatures too, although I didn’t look too hard at those.

And lots of important guys standing around…

But its really that train shed architecture that appeals to me. The building was designed by the Irish architects Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward and directly influenced by the writings of critic John Ruskin, who involved himself by making various suggestions to Woodward during construction. Construction began in 1855, and the building was ready for occupancy in 1860. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_University_Museum_of_Natural_History)

And it’s not everyday that you get to see an elephant skeleton from above either.

It’s time to go. Don’t forget to close the door….

or else…

DRW © 2019. Created 25/08/2019


 

Updated: 10/09/2019 — 12:33

Onwards to Oxford (4)

Having visited Sir Winston Churchill’s grave I now had to decided whether to carry on to Oxford or return to Evesham. The 11.11 train arrived at Hanborough as I did so I decided to keep on going!  Unfortunately the train was also packed and I ended up having to stand for the 10 minute journey but that was really a minor inconvenience.  My goal on this day was to try to get into the Cathedral, and have a look at a part of the prison that I had missed before. I had 2,5 hours to kill so let’s get on with it.

Coming out of the station I noticed a large statue of an ox. There was no immediate information as to the context so I photographed it anyway because you never really know. 

It turns out that the bronze bull was commissioned to celebrate the opening of the Saïd Business School and was sculpted by Olivia Musgrave.  Suitably photographed I headed towards Oxford Castle and Prison where I wanted to find the original cells that we had been told about on the tour last time I was in town. I spotted an old lag and he directed me to the entrance of the Malmaison Hotel and I was able to see inside the converted cellblock.

Hotel entrance

Converted cellblock

I struggled to find the cells though but eventually found them in the furthermost corner. This wing of the prison was built in the 1850’s and contained cells similar to the image below. Incidentally, the hotel staff members that I bumped into on my exploration here were very friendly and helpful. 

To convert the wing into a hotel 3 cells were used. Two being joined to form a bedroom and another for the en suite bathroom. The cells were 10ft by 6ft and were originally single cells but by the 1970’s were occupied by 3 men. There were no toilets in the cells.

Having done my time I headed towards the cathedral, hopefully it would be open so that I could put it beneath my belt on this day. The route is very familiar now and it gets very crowded as you get closer. 

At last I reached St Aldates Str and headed towards the very prominent Tom Tower and hopefully a better pic of the cathedral spire across the Tom Quad. 

The cathedral spire from the Tom Gate

Then a short walk to the Meadow Building where the entrance to the cathedral was and found that the cathedral was open for visiting (so had a large amount of other people). The cathedral is a very popular tourist destination. 

The Meadow Building

To really understand the context of the cathedral you need to orientate yourself with the image below.

Following the direction signs I came to a staircase that I assumed led to the cathedral. It had a magnificent fan vault ceiling but there were people everywhere.  This area is known as the Hall Stairs.

The hall stairs led into what is known as The Great Hall and is where meals are taken and it is a breathtaking space. 

It is estimated that 200 000 meals are served here every year, and the senior members of staff and their guests sit at the “High Table” which is the furthermost from the door. Paintings of former deans and important people look down on those stuffing their faces with their morning porridge. The place was really too crowded to be able to take a close look at anything and I turned around and headed back to the stairs and downwards, finally emerging at the Tom Quad where the entrance to the cathedral is. The Tom Gate is where I photographed the spire from, and the 6 ton Tom Bell hangs from this tower which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and it was in place in 1682. 

I am not covering the interior of the cathedral in this post but have a separate post for that. Suffice to say I will leave a teaser here instead and continue after it.

The cathedral is magnificent and it was definitely worth seeing it.  However, you really need to view the cathedral as an integral part of the college.

Exiting the cathedral at the Tom Quad again I was able to get a nice wide angle shot of the space. 

(1500 x 680)

Following the crowd we emerged at what is known as The Peckwater Quad. It is a surrounded by a three sided building and they were completed in 1713. Unfortunately I was unable to photograph the library that forms the 4th side of the quad as the quad was roped off because exams were taking place. As it is I could only photograph 2 sides of Peckwater Quad.

It appeared as if our tour was completed as we exited through the ornate Canterbury Gate, and I ended up once again in Magpie Lane which I knew came out close in the High Street, close to the Radcliffe Camera which was more or less where I wanted to be. While reading my book about Oxford I discovered that there were a few images that I wanted to reshoot in this area. The first is the twin towers of All Souls College.  

and the second was the tower above the entrance to the Bodleian Library, this one was a challenge because I needed to be in the centre of the courtyard but ended having to take the image from a corner as the crowd at that point did not dissipate. 

The frieze near the top looked impressive so I zoomed into it and was suitably impressed. It is just a pity that we miss so much above our heads because we are always looking to the ground.

Realistically I had accomplished all that I wanted to and was starting to tire. I had roughly an hour to kill before my train so I headed back towards High Street, intent on finding food or a drink as it was quite a stinker of a day. The covered market was around where I wanted to be so I decided to look it up too.

The covered market was quite quirky, and I wandered around it looking at the goodies and some of the exorbitant prices. 

The bunny? he is one of the characters from Alice in Wonderland; Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) studied and taught at Christ Church College and the dean at the time was Henry Liddell. He had a daughter called Alice, and Carroll befriended her and created a story for her that eventually was published as Alice In Wonderland. There are quite a few Alice pointers in Oxford but I was not going to chase them up. 

The market done I found a Boots and bought some goodies before wandering down the street until I came across the City Church of Oxford and popped in for a quick look. 

It was cool and peaceful inside and I needed some of that. 

It was not a very big or ornate church but it is probably a very old one. 

My agenda was completed, all I really wanted to do now was captured the inscription on the Martyrs Memorial and investigate the area around it. I had not realised what the memorial was at the time so I could rectify that now. The memorial tends to draw crowds trying to get some rest and I expected that would be true today too. I was correct in my supposition and even ended up with heads in the bottom of my image. 

Actually I did find that it was very difficult to read the inscription even from close up so here is a  transcription:

To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI

While working on the 3rd page of my Oxford blogposts I bumped into a reference to Rhodes House and decided to try to find it as it was not too far away. I ended up walking down an alleyway called  “Lamb and Flag passage” which technically ended up close to where I wanted to be.

Lamb and Flag passage

However, when I emerged I spotted a nice looking building that I decided to investigate instead and it turns out that this is the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and I went inside to have a look.

Museum of Natural History

I had seen this museum mentioned in one of my books and while I am not really interested in this sort of stuff I had some time to kill. The interior of the building was breathtaking and nothing like what I expected. The almost skeletal structure just blends so well with the skeletons inside the space, and it is light and airy and as quirky as it gets. The Pitt Rivers Museum collection has an entrance from the back of the gallery but I peeked inside and it was dark and the opposite of this skeletal beauty.  I did a photo essay about the place because it was so awesome!

My watch however said it was time to leave for the station and I reluctantly turned my bows towards the exit. Rhodes House was not far from here but I will leave that for another day, and of course I will return to this museum for a 2nd look. I now had a blister to add to my woes and I was still 2 hours from home, so I wormed my way through the crowds and eventually got to the station. There I discovered that my water bottle was leaking and everything inside my backpack was wet. Bah Humbug! 

Oxford was in the bag for now. And I will not return to it readily unless I can find enough reasons to do so. It was quite an adventure though and the city is unforgettable. It was like nothing I expected and the weight of ages is enormous. So many scholars of note came from this city and it will continue educating them in the future. Unfortunately the disaffected PC mob are trying their best to turn the years of tradition upside down with scant regard to the history of the university. I know that I will never think of it in the same way again, and if people ask I am proud to say “I have been to Oxford”

Random Images

DRW © 2019. Created 25/09/2019

Updated: 09/09/2019 — 10:24
DR Walker © 2014 -2019. Images are copyright to DR Walker unless otherwise stated. Frontier Theme