Discovering Marlborough doors

The sign says Deans Chaunterie

A while ago I came across a blog link party featuring posts about doors from all over the world. At first I thought it was a rather nerdish subject but then I became intrigued and decided to see if I could write a suitable post. The trouble was the more I looked the more difficult it became to find suitable doors. Even if the rest of the building had award winning architecture the doors seemed to be standard issue.

Last weekend however my husband and I went on a mystery coach tour. At first I was slightly disappointed to find we were heading east towards London but then we crossed into Wiltshire. The landscape of Wiltshire is very ancient. Our morning coffee stop was in Avebury home to a mysterious stone circle and  we also  drove past Silbury hill  a long barrow thought to date back to 3,700 B.C.

Marlborough

We then had a short sightseeing break in the small town of Marlborough and as I walked round I realised I would have the material for a doors post. Marlborough was mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1089. It is a small town of alleyways half timbered houses  and coaching inns with a church on either end of the high street. It  found fame as the site of a civil war battle of 1642 and then returned to being a  stop on the main road between London and Bristol. A place to change your horses and eat a meal.  Nowadays travellers often stop here on the way to Stonehenge which is only twenty miles away.

Many of the houses obviously date back to Tudor times or earlier but have been adapted to suit the needs of the modern inhabitants. I did not feel I was walking through an English heritage theme park. The houses looked lived in rather than picture postcard perfect.

The doors

A wall decoration with glasses and beard.
My husband spotted this man with his glasses and beard.

These cottages still retain a lot of their original charm but   real people who watch television live here.
I thought this narrow yellow house  looked like an illustration from a story book and if  you are wondering what sort of person might live here…  We spotted this plaque on the corner house.

A blue plaque commemorating William GoldingWilliam Golding wrote “Lord of the flies” a book about anarchic school children. He grew up in Marlborough where his father was a local school master.

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I thought the name Wren cottage suited this house.

I found the sign Dean’s chauntrie (above) further down this terrace. I had to consult a medieval online dictionary but I discovered a chauntrie was a home for chaunter clerks, priests who were hired to chant prayers for rich people who were too lazy or busy to do so themselves.

An old wooden door with a box Flat 113
This door was hidden beside a High Street shop.

This door was at the side  of one of the High Street shops. The thickness of the wood and the style of the iron work betray its age.

I only spent about half an hour in Marlborough but I very much enjoyed looking at the architecture.

We had a surprise when we found our hotel for the night was the police federation headquarters in Leatherhead but that is another anecdote.

Bath a brief history

I was happy to find out that Bath would be the venue for our February walk in the past history walk.  I  grew up  between Bristol and Bath and my father went to school in the city so I have watched  Bath change over the years.  Jane Austen would probably recognise the centre  but there is also a side to the city the tourists miss.   It has a large student population.  Bath university is particularly well known for sport and many  athletes train there.

We met for our walk at the back of Bath bus station.  If you plan to visit Bath I suggest arriving by bus or train as parking is very difficult. There are several park and ride schemes nearby and the main bus station and train station are close to the city attractions.

Bath is the only English city to be given UNESCO  world heritage status. For the locals this is a mixed blessing. I remember when I was at University one of my history lecturers asked me if it was like living in a museum. In summer it can be difficult to move through the city because of the number of tourists but they also bring  us much prosperity.

This walk was a brief introduction to the history of Bath which we hope to explore in more detail later.  I have provided a potted version here.

The Romans

There is a Celtic legend that the hot springs at Bath were discovered by a swineherd named Bladud who found that the hot mud cured a skin disease his pigs had been suffering from. He later became a tribal leader and established a shrine in Bath to the goddess Sulla. Although there is no evidence for his existence there are a lot of iron age settlements around Bath. Bath itself is supposed to be built in the crater of an extinct volcano.

Bath guidebooks usually date the history  back to the Romans who were drawn to the hot spa water and built a magnificent Bath Complex. to enjoy it. Much of this survives or has been restored though unfortunately you can not swim there any longer. You can taste the water but be warned it tastes vile.

Another reason why we met behind the bus station is that it is close to the route of the Roman Fosseway a road between Exeter and Lincoln. Here the Romans built a bridge to cross the river Avon. As well as enjoying hot baths the Romans were attracted to the area to mine lead from the nearby Mendip hills.

The Medieval Period

After the Romans left Bath seems to have declined in importance.  However the magnificent Bath abbey was built during the medieval period. The   medieval legacy is preserved in the names of the roads, Eastgate, Southgate, Westgate and Northgate though the walls and gates have disappeared.

The Georgians

Bath markets itself as a Georgian city.  In the 18th century, Bath stone was quarried from the nearby hills to build the famous crescents.  The aristocracy would descend on Bath to take the waters or play cards.  This was vividly described by Jane Austen, perhaps Bath’s most famous resident who does not seem to have enjoyed her stay much. If you visit the assembly rooms and nearby fashion museum you can take afternoon tea and children can dress up.  You can  imagine yourself in a scene from one of her books or visit the Jane Austen centre.

A couple wearing 18th century clothing.
A couple dressed in costume for the Jane Austen festival.

During this period William Herschel who had been an organist in Bath discovered the planet Uranus. You can visit his house and see the telescopes he made.

The Royal crescent Bath is built of yellow Bath stone.
The famous Royal crescent.

Visit Bath

Pulteney Bridge was built by Sir William Pulteney close to the site of the old Roman bridge to enable development on the other side of the river.

The Modern city

Bath was linked to Reading by the Kennett and Avon canal and later Isambard Kingdom Brunel built his famous Great Western Railway between Bristol and London with a station in Bath.

Bath was badly bombed during the second world war.  It was not considered a target but the Germans carried out what became known as the Baedeker raids. They targeted cities given a high rating in the Baedeker guide books in retaliation for British bombing raids on Germany. However it has been largely rebuilt using Bath stone.

Bath has built a new spa complex where visitors can swim in the hot mineral waters just as the Romans did.

Visitors swimming in the rooftop Bath.
The new rooftop Bath at the Thermae complex. Bath abbey is in the background.

Photos for this blog post were used with permission from VisitBath

This post is linked to grammy’s grid and grandma’s briefs, both sites for blogging grandmothers who are happy to welcome new members.

If you enjoyed this post you might like two national trust houses to visit near Bath.

Christmas lunch at Avon Valley Railway Station

20181211_111011This year our French group decided to have Christmas lunch at Bitton railway Station.

This railway was part of my childhood.  I remember sitting in boring lessons at school and watching trains pass along the line. The Avon valley railway line which was part of the Midland rail network ran from Bristol to Bath and connected up with the Somerset and Dorset railway known affectionally as the S and D or slow and dirty. It took people on day trips to the seaside, to places like Bournemouth and Weymouth.

However in 1960’s the government decided that the car was the future and closed a lot of branch lines including ours. For many years the tracks and stations were allowed to decay. However we were fortunate our line between Bristol and Bath was turned into a cycle track by Sustrans. The thirteen mile path is very popular with both cyclists and walkers and also provides an important wildlife corridor.

A group of volunteers bought Bitton railway station which dates from the 1860’s and decided to reopen part of the track. They now run trains over a three mile stretch including crossing the river Avon. The volunteers host special events such as Santa Specials, Thomas the Tank Engine days, murder mysteries and Grandparents days.  If you want a present for the man in your life they can even learn to drive a steam train.

The Railway Buffet

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The volunteers  also reopened the station buffet and use two converted 1950’s railway carriages  named Margaret and Rose to serve meals. Our U3A French group decided that it would make an unusual venue for our Christmas meal.

We enjoyed a very good  lunch with all the trimmings in Rose and we were even able to order a glass of wine  If you are visiting the area at other times of the year you can get a good range of reasonably priced snacks and drinks.  You can also enjoy a full English breakfast followed by a walk along the river towards Bath.  For locals it is a popular place to take visitors. For the more energetic the cycle track leads to the former Green Park Station in Bath which now houses a number of stalls where you can buy snacks or crafts. The station has free car parking.

On a personal note I am pleased to report that 2018 was a very good year for me. As well as starting this blog, Bill and I celebrated our ruby wedding after surviving 40 years of married life, our youngest son Christopher married his school friend Lorna and our second son Martin and his wife Kirsty presented us with our first grand daughter. I wonder what 2019 will bring.

The Bristol knittivity

Knitted figures at night by the Clifton Suspension bridge

The Bristol Knittivity

Life size knitted nativity figures ~ Bristol knittivity in Sainsbury's
These life size nativity figures have raised over £150,000 for a local hospice

The Bristol knittivity has become a familiar sight  in shopping centres around Bristol just before Christmas. However I thought you might be interested in the story behind its creation.   A few years ago a group of friends who worked at St. Teresa’s catholic school in Horfield, Bristol started a knitting group called the knutty knitters. When Christine, one of the group became ill with cancer and  sadly died  her friends decided to do something to raise funds for St. Peter’s hospice where she had spent her last weeks. St. Peter’s hospice is the only adult hospice in Bristol and each year they care for about 2,500 patients. Care is provided free of charge but the hospice costs about £20,000 a day to run. About £15,000 of this comes from legacies, donations and shop purchases.

The ladies decided to use their hobby to raise funds and the Bristol knittivity was the result.  Eventually the seven knutty knitters made 13 figures, 3 kings, 2 shepherds, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, an angel, a donkey, a sheep, a lamb and a camel. Each figure used up to 7 lbs of wool and took about 9 months to knit. The talented ladies even made their own patterns.

Each year St. Peter’s hospice choose the figures for one of their charity Christmas cards and  photograph them against a famous Bristol landmark  like the Clifton suspension bridge or the Cabot tower.

Knitted figures at night by the Clifton Suspension bridge # Bristol knittivity
The Knittivity by the Clifton Suspension bridge was a best seller for St. Peter’s hospice a couple of years ago.

The future

The knutty knitters have raised over £150,000 from the knitivity but unfortunately this will be the last year it will be on display as it is getting old and worn. In my photo taken in a local supermarket  the poor donkey and camel are showing the effects of too many children trying to ride them. The knutty knitters have knitted a smaller version of the nativity for display at St. Peter’s hospice and I have heard that there may be knitted penguins on tour next year.

For those people who are old enough to remember the two Ronnies sketch, my favourite card from St. Peter’s hospice this year has to be Four candles

This post is linked to The grand social for blogging grandparents

 

A day out in Wells

The photo shows a pair of swans with seven small cygnets

Sightseeing in Wells, England’s smallest city

Anyone who is following this blog knows that I earn some pocket money by mystery shopping.  Last week I was asked to go to Wells to buy some chocolate  ice cream. My husband came with me and we had a good lunch at the Quarter Jack and visited the first world war exhibition in the museum.  We both love Wells so I have written a few notes and taken some photos to encourage you to visit.

Wells is England’s smallest city with only 12,000 inhabitants. It is a very easy bus ride from Bristol or Bath across the Mendips hills. You can also combine a visit to Wells with a trip to Glastonbury, home of the music festival, the Clark’s shopping village in Street or Cheddar caves.  The tourist office has a town trail map and this provides  a  short walking tour of the main attractions.  Wells takes its name from a spring in the garden of the bishop’s palace and water from it is still made to flow through the gutters to clean the streets.  The Wells tourist website has more information about the city and its history.

The Cathedral

Wells_Cathedral_2008

Wells is probably best known for its enormous gothic cathedral built between the 12th and the 15th century.  It has one of the oldest clocks in England and a chained library.  (Think Harry Potter).  Admission is by donation and free guided tours are offered every day except Sunday.  The city has a famous choir school and choristers sing at many of the services. Also be sure to look out for the resident cathedral cat.  More information can be found here Wells cathedral website

The Bishop’s Palace

Men playing croquet in front of the bishop's palace Wells
A croquet match in progress on the lawn in front of the bishop’s palace

The bishop’s palace is next to the cathedral and is famous for having its own moat which is home to a family of Swans.  For centuries they have rung a bell when they need feeding.  Once a year the bishop holds a raft race on the moat.  Wells has adopted the swan as its emblem.  The palace has been home to the bishop of Bath and Wells for 800 years.  It also has a beautiful 14 acre garden  and a tea shop I can personally recommend.  You can buy tickets from the gift shop.    Bishop’s palace website

The photo shows a pair of swans with seven small cygnets
This was the Swan family on the moat taken a couple of years ago.

The cathedral close

This is a beautifully preserved street originally used to house officials from the church.  The houses date back to the 14th century and the street is still cobbled.

Terrace houses with high chimneys from the cathedral close in Wells
This shows part of the cathedral close in Wells

The last fighting Tommy

Outside the museum is a memorial to Harry Patch the last surviving soldier from world war 1.  He died in 2009 at the age of 111 and his funeral in Wells cathedral was televised by the BBC.  In later life he became a very fervent pacifist.

The photo shows a soldier sitting in a trench
Wells museum has an exhibition to mark 100 years since the end of the first world war.  I took this photo of a Tommy sitting in a trench.

Eating, drinking and shopping

Wells has a very busy high street with a variety of shops  coffee bars and restaurants to suit all budgets. A farmers market is held twice a week where you can buy a wide variety of West country delicacies including cheddar cheese and Somerset cider. We normally eat in the Quarter Jack (named for the figures who strike the quarter hours on the cathedral clock) which I can recommend for a reasonably priced meal.

If you want to find out more about Wells, Cathedrals or Harry Patch.  Here are three books I recommend.  If you are staying in the area you might want to check out a couple of my other blog posts: Two national trust properties to visit near Bath or Westonbirt Arboretum