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Archive for December, 2009

Stratford

The Garrick ( Jeff Land on Flickr : Click image)
The Garrick ( Jeff Land on Flickr : Click image)

It was the day after Boxing Day, the sales were on and Town centres were stuffed with shoppers. Desperate to get out and about whilst avoiding the crowds and the sales I decided to take a walk around Stratford. Whilst the Town has its share of shopping centres I guessed that the old part might be a bit quieter.

Stratford is a popular place and attracts many visitors from across the world. Despite this it (usually) doesn’t feel too overcrowded.  Over the years Stratford has managed to quietly accomodate its many visitors. It is possible to be here on a busy day and still feel that you can have a pleasant day out.

Many buildings remain that would have been recognisable in Shakespeare’s day and usually these have been well cared for.

Stratford England, River Avon and Holy Trinity Church

Stratford England, River Avon and Holy Trinity Church

The Theatre

The RSC is progressing well with the rebuilding of the theatre, last time I was here it was a building site but now the outlines of the new theatre can be seen clearly. Frankly, the old theatre was not a great place to watch a play.  I much preferred the Courtyard theatre where the audience surrounded the stage and were not kept at a distance like they were down the road.  I am looking forward to seeing the finished theatre which seems to be an attempt to address some of these problems.
The building currently being replaced was built in 1932 as a replacement for the original theatre which burnt down in 1926 – I found an old photo of this which is reproduced below. This link contains some other photographs of this building, interestingly the stage was a lot closer to the audience in the old building.
Fire at Stratford Memorial Theatre : March 6th 1926

Fire at Stratford Memorial Theatre : March 6th 1926

Shakespeare’s birthplace

This is the one building that everyone who comes to Stratford wants to see. It sits in Henley Street, a fairly unremarkable road that has changed greatly since Shakespeare’s day. The house gets a bit crowded on busy days and the new visitor centre (to the left of the photo below) is a bit of a monstrosity – you can tell that others agree by doing a search on Flickr – notice that people (usually) choose to take or to crop the photo so this doesn’t show up!


Shakespeare's birthplace ( mrpb27 on Flickr)

Holy Trinity Church

Finally, I took a walk by the side of the Avon,past the Dirty Duck pub and the Courtyard Theatre and stopped at Holy Trinity Church, Shakespeares burial place.

I read Christopher Rush’s wonderful book ‘Will’ an ‘autobiography’ of Shakespeare as dictated to his lawyer – I quote a little of it below because it sets the scene perfectly in describing Shakespeares last journey through Stratford in his funeral procession:

‘ along by the willowy banks of the Avon, following the glittering river to Holy Trinity. They carried me among alders and limes, my ears deaf now to the lapping of the river-wave and the rustle of swans, and so in at the porch and up the nave to the resting place in the chancel, close to the north wall’

A bit more from Stratford in the next post – in the meantime, happy new year from Tudor Stuff

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Bridleway in Snow Revisited

Bridleway in Snow Revisited : Roantrum on Flickr (Click image)

Just a quick post to say Happy Christmas to everyone who has ever looked at Tudor Stuff.

This blog is now very nearly one year old, from a slow start it is has grown really well – it has had thousands of  hits and is looked at by people all over the world. In the process of putting all of this together I have learnt a great deal about this fascinating period in our history – which was always what the blog was intended to do.

Dressed in white

Dressed in white : Robert Silverwood on Flickr (click image)

An important feature of this blog has been the photographs it has featured. Some of these are my own work but the majority are kindly lent to Tudor Stuff by talented people on Flickr who have kindly agreed to allow me to use their work – thanks then to those people.

I thought that by way of a post I ought to have a Christmas theme. Much that we associate with Christmas today was unheard of in Tudor times – but I have managed to find a few things that the Tudors would have recognised. Of course, this is also an excuse to show some suitably snowy scenes from the English countryside, as I type this I can see the snow on the road outside & for once I don’t feel a fraud associating England, Christmas & snow!

Winter sprinkles by Nige in Somerset on Flickr

Winter sprinkles by Nige in Somerset on Flickr (click image)

The Christmas festival in Tudor times

For the most part, Christmas traditions were those that had been practised by people for hundreds of years. Houses were decorated with holly, ivy and mistletoe – all of which reflect ancient pre Christian beliefs.

Other traditions involved games of football, house to house visiting ( a bit like modern ‘Trick or treat’ in the USA) as well as plays performed by ‘Mummers’. Some of these traditions were discouraged under Edward VI and banned completely under Cromwellian puritan rule. Despite occasional official dissaproval however many of these traditions survive to this day.

Marshfield Mummers 2 : Mark Dixon on Flickr

Marshfield Mummers 2 : Mark Dixon on Flickr

The 12 days of Christmas were celebrated between 25th of December to 6th of January, the longest festival of the year. In 1511 the Christmas festivities were extended by Henry VIII in celebration of the birth on New Years Day of a son named after himself. Sadly as with many of Catherine of Aragon’s children this child lived for only 52 days.
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Shakespeare – ‘Loves labours lost’


WHEN icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;
When blood is nipt, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whoo!
Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all around the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw;
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl—
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whoo!
Tu-whit! tu-whoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.


Christmas Carols

Many of our Christmas Carols date from after the Tudor period although apparently one of the earliest books of Carols was produced in 1521 by Jan Van Wynkn – this included the Boars Head Carol

Another Carol that would have been known at this time was ‘The first Noel’ – which dates from the 13th Century- although it was not written down until much later.

Happy Christmas!

Do you follow any Christmas traditions? Are these old ones or have you developed new ones, perhaps associated with your own family?

If so – it would be great to hear from you

Anyway..

All that remains for me to do is to wish you all a Merry Christmas & Happy new year. If you get a minute to say hello – please feel free to do so

Love & best wishes to you all

Andy

PS Check out Roantrums (photographer featured at top of this post) web site

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Nicholas Owen at work (adapted from an original drawing by Ian Fletcher)

This blog has covered various aspects of Catholic persecution during the Elizabethan and early Stuart period. Many of the characters involved are well known to us and would have been recognised as ‘players’ in the struggle between the authorities and the Catholic underground movement.

People such as John Gerard, Henry Garnet and Richard Topcliffe were well known figures of the day, however, for the most part, the supporting players are forgotten. This post looks at Nicholas Owen, who despite spending his time in the background, nevertheless managed to play a vital part in preserving the Catholic faith in England.

Oxford in HDR (Max-Design on Flickr:Click image)

A carpenters son from Oxford

Nicholas Owen was born in St Peter le Bailey in Oxford. His father, Walter Owen was a carpenter and Nicholas followed him into this trade when he was apprenticed for a period of 8 years on February 2nd 1577.

Fr Henry Garnet

Oxford at this time was a centre of Catholic recusancy and it is clear that Catholicism was a strong influence onthe Owen family. Nicholas had three brothers, two of whom became Priests and one who was known as a printer of secret Catholic pamphlets and religious materials.

In 1588 Nicholas was engaged as a manservant by Henry Garnet (see earlier post) who was at that time the Jesuit superior in England. Garnet employed Nicholas’ carpentry and building skills in the service of the recusant Catholic movement.

A typical older hide - cut the floorboards, disappear down the shaft & cover the entrance(Harvington Hall)

Hiding holes across England

Today, England contains around about a hundred houses which have a secret hiding place. Many of these are of a simpler design i.e. a hole in the floor leading to a space below, usually within a wall. The hide entrance is covered by a hatch which would have been hidden with reeds and rushes typically used to cover floors during this period. Harvington Hall has two such hides and a similar hide at Moseley Old Hall was used to conceal Charles the Second after the defeat and flight from Worcester in 1651.

The master craftsman of the secret hiding place

Unlike the simple (and predictable design) of the older hides, Nicholas Owen’s constructions are recognised because of the ingenuity of their construction.

Alan Fea’s book ‘Secret Chambers and Hiding Places’ (freely available to download on Project Gutenberg) contains a description of Owens work;

“With incomparable skill,” says an authority, “he knew how to

conduct priests to a place of safety along subterranean passages,

to hide them between walls and bury them in impenetrable recesses,

and to entangle them in labyrinths and a thousand windings”

Scotney Castle - hiding place made by Nicholas Owen? (Photo by Tom Hills on Flickr)

Although it is possible to question the accuracy of Feas work ( hide builders didn’t generally make subterreanean passages for example) the ingenuity of Owens work cannot be questioned.

Nicholas Owens hides were always different, discovering one in a house would not help a searcher to find a hide in another house. Often ceilings and floors were raising or lowered and hides were concealed in roof spaces, behind panelling and walls, in or below false fireplaces.

Baddesley Clinton - scene of a close escape aided by an Owen hide (click image to read story)

Owen worked alone and despite his small stature (hence the nickname ‘little John’) he must have been a really powerful man. Creation of the hides involved cutting through walls, floors and wooden beams. Nicholas Owens work helped to save lives onmore than one occasion (see example) and he was probably also involved in a spectacular escape from the Tower of London.

The Tower of London - scene of Owen's death

Martyrdom in the Bloody Tower

His knowledge of the Catholic underground movement must have been vast – he was a prize catch for the authorities and the fact that he died (see link to earlier post) rather than reveal his secrets helped to elevate him to heroic status among his peers and amongst people ever since.

Nicholas Owen was canonised in 1970 – he has a church named after him in Lancaster.

Oxburgh Hall - site of a probable Nicholas Owen hide (nickpix on Flickr)

(PS Check out this photography website owned by Nick who took the Oxburgh Hall photograph)

Also, I have linked to this film before but if you haven’t seen it I thought you might want to take a look, it gives some background to Nicholas Owen’s work at Harvington Hall.

And finally – check out ‘Henry, mind of a tyrant’ theme – now available to download – see details on Philip Sheppards blog


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Packwood House

Packwood House

Packwood House

The English Midlands is blessed with a very rich selection of Tudor period houses, indeed, these have been the inspiration for many of the posts on Tudor stuff.

I have been meaning for quite some time to do a post about one of my favourite local places, therefore, this post is about Packwood House, a National Trust property just outside Solihull.

Packwood House

Packwood House by Joy Shakespeare on Flickr

Origins

Packwood House dates from the 1550’s although like many houses of this age it has been extensively altered over years. In some parts of the interior one can clearly see it’s Tudor origins, whilst other parts appear designed to evoke ‘Mediaeval’ type surroundings.

Apparently, many parts of the house were deliberately re-modelled during the 1930’s to create this effect.

Through The Window

Through The Window (cosygreeneyes on Flickr)

In the past, the English Midlands was a major centre of Catholic recusant resistance, many of the Gunpowder plotters came from or were supported here. However, unusually for a local house of this period, the family don’t seem to have been covert Catholics, as for example the occupants of nearby Baddesley Clinton, Coughton Court or Harvington Hall most certainly were.

Packwood House roses

Packwood House roses (by yyrek on Flickr)

There are no hidden priest holes and no history of sheltering Catholic Priests – the house can claim that General Henry Ireton slept here the night before taking part in the battle of Edgehill. There is also a story that King Charles the second stopped here briefly after leading his forces to defeat at the battle of Worcester in 1651.

packwood house flower

packwood house flower by camperman999 on Flickr (CLick image)

Grounds

For me, a big part of the appeal of this house lies in the grounds, at some times of the year the gardens are absolutely stunning – and it is clear that a great deal of work and planning goes into maintaining these.

Packwood House, from Yew Garden

Packwood House, from Yew Garden : Matthew Walton on Flickr

One of the most distinctive features of the garden is the yew topiary which is said to be based upon the sermon on the mount. There are over a hundred Yew trees which make up a maze like formal arrangement which leads up to a spiral walkway through a hedge into a hidden seating area at the bottom of the garden.

Packwood Yew garden

Packwood Yew garden (by recursion on Flickr)

This garden provided the backdrop to the 2005 BBC TV production ‘The Virgin Queen’

(Packwood gardens can be seen between 1.17 seconds until 2.42 seconds in the video clip below – )


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