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Guild Chapel Stratford face

Face to face with the past at the Guild Chapel

This post features the Guild Chapel in Stratford, one of many fine old buildings in the town. It is situated next door to Shakespeare’s last house ‘New Place’ on the corner of Chapel lane and Church street.

R0013708_Nash's House & New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

(Photo taken by Traveller‧旅人 on Flickr : Picture shows Guild Chapel on the left, Nash’s house is to the right & the garden area in the middle is where Shakespeare’s house used to be. The black and white beamed building on the other side of the road is the Falcon Hotel which I can recommend!)

The Guild Chapel dates from 1269 when the Bishop of Worcester allowed the establishment of  a Chapel and hospital. In the following centuries the Guild of the Holy Cross grew in size and influence, becoming a significant landowner in the town of Stratford and attracting many followers.

Postcards - Stratford

(Photo of old postcard showing Guild Chapel taken from mrpb27 on Flickr )

Hugh Clopton.

The chapel took on much of its present form in the 1490’s when an ex-resident paid for extensive re-building. Hugh Clopton was born in Clopton near Stratford in about 1440, he was apprenticed as a mercer in London in 1456 and by 1491 he had achieved the position of Mayor of London.

Despite his success he never forgot his roots in Stratford and he was responsible for building New Place which was purchased by Shakespeare in 1597. He is also credited with building Stratfords stone bridge over the Avon which still bears his name.

Clopton Bridge

(Photo of Clopton Bridge by Nickscape on Flickr : also see his website here)

Clopton funded  extensive development of the Guild Chapel in the 1490’s when the tower and nave were built  and the wall paintings were competed.

The wall paintings

Prior to the reformation, Church interiors in England would have looked quite different to those we see today, being full of colour and religious drama. Ordinary people were active in the maintenance and management of the Church and reading about these times one gets a feeling that this was an important part of community life.

The Guild Chapel would have been no different – imagine how it would have looked when brightly painted with coloured images of saints favoured by the local people.  The most impressive painting was above the chancel arch – this showed a picture of doom with its vivid images of heaven and of sinners falling into hell.

This account from Simon Schama’s history of Britain gives a good idea of how many churches would have changed at this time.

In 1573 the Guild Chapel was attacked , many of the Statues were smashed ( is this where the expression to ‘de-face’ originated?) and the wall paintings were painted over. In churches throughout England, religious wall paintings were being replaced by the Queens coat of arms, ones loyalties in future were expected to be directed towards the Tudor State.

William Shakespeare was aged 9 at the time the Chapel was defaced, one wonders how his family who were surely familiar with the Chapel, must have felt about the changes being imposed upon it.

The Chapel today

As mentioned at the top of the post, the Chapel is well worth a visit today. Although the ravages of past neglect are still apparent, one can easily make out the outlines and colours of many of the original wall paintings. With a little imagination it is possible to get a feel for how things used to be (Nash’s House – next to New place contains illustrations of how the chapel would have looked).

A face from the past that survived the attempt to erase it

I have added some pictures to the post so that you can get an idea of what it is like here. It is possible to see the outlines of figures and to make out faces still vaguely present on the walls. If  you want to see more about the chapel then there are some links below – if you visit then do remember to add a donation to the Chapel funds and help to preserve this for future visitors.

I am keen to find more defaced images – if you know of any, please let me know.

Photo montage : Guild Chapel

Photo montage : Guild Chapel - click image to magnify (takes a second or two to download)

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The Friends of the Guild Chapel Stratford-on-Avon

Guild Chapel Paintings virtual reconstruction project

See also

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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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Corfe Castle at sunrise on summer morning from West Hill: o.ivanchenko on Flickr (Click image)

Corfe Castle at sunrise on summer morning from West Hill: o.ivanchenko on Flickr (Click image)

I have been intending to do this post for a while now. I thought that it would be best to wait until the Summer comes. It is officially Summer now but as anyone in England knows the weather has been really awful. Right now if you wanted to flatter anyone then you probably wouldn’t compare them to a summers day – unless you wanted a smack in the mouth that is!

I suppose that it is ok to post this anyway – Shakespeare does acknowledge that Summer is imperfect, there are sometimes rough winds – or the sun can be too hot. I suspect he would have been suprised at the current weather

‘ sometimes it raineth continuously throughout the month of July!’

It is however, a good excuse to show some excellent photos of the English countryside if nothing else!  I am heading off on holiday for a week so things might get a bit slow around here for a short time.

English Countryside by sabine.gruenke on Flickr (click image)

English Countryside by sabine.gruenke on Flickr (click image)

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And oft’ is his gold complexion dimm’d;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d:

Summer Eves by rawprints on Flickr (click image)

Summer Eves by Rob Woolf (rawprints.co.uk - click image)

But thy eternal Summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18

William Shakespeare

And finally, all those pictures of England reminded me of this video I saw on YouTube – it has got absolutely nothing to do with things Tudor but I thought it would be good to add.

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Henry Garnet 1555 - 1606 Note picture of Garnets straw in the background of this image

Henry Garnet 1555 - 1606 Note picture of 'Garnets straw' in the background of this image

On the morning of the 3rd May 1606 Father Henry Garnet was executed at St Pauls churchyard in London.The Stuart
authorities,determined to blame the Jesuit order for the recent gunpowder plot had hunted down the fugitive Priest. Garnet
had been condemned to the traitors death of hanging, drawing and quartering following what would today be labelled a show
trial.Garnet was dragged from the Tower of London through the streets on a hurdle to his place of execution – a scaffold
which had been made higher than usual to allow as many as possible to view the execution.
In an act of mercy King James had ordered that he be allowed to hang until dead so as not to suffer the full horror of this
form of execution. It was a mercy that was not needed because the crowd surged forward and pulled his legs to hasten his end.
Garnets body was quartered as was the custom but when his head was held up to view there were no cheers from a restless and
uneasy crowd.
There is a suggestion that the following lines from Macbeth refer to Garnets execution, ‘Farmer’ was one of his aliases and
Garnet was famous for his ‘equivocal’ answers to questions put to him – not telling direct lies but obscuring the truth in
order to protect others.
Who’s there, i’ the name of
Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer, that hanged
himself on the expectation of plenty: come in
time; have napkins enow about you; here
you’ll sweat for’t.
[Knocking within]
Knock,
knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s
name? Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could
swear in both the scales against either scale;
who committed treason enough for God’s sake,
yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
in, equivocator.
It may be that the last part of this verse refers to events after Garnets death
[Knocking within]
Knock,
knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an
English tailor come hither, for stealing out of
a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
roast your goose.
After the execution a piece of blood stained straw was taken as a relic. It was said that a young Catholic in the crowd took
the straw to a Tailor called Hugh Griffin. It was only later, when the blood had dried on the straw that people noticed that
the stain looked like a human face. On closer inspection it was thought the face looked like Garnet. As Garnet was now a
martyr it was inevitable that the image on the straw was viewed as a miraculous happening. The authorities were horrified
that a man viewed by them as a traitor was being celebrated in this manner. Immediate efforts were made to try and capture
the relic and it was suggested that a ‘Popish’ painter had forged the relic.
The straw was eventually smuggled out of England and ended up in France where it disappeared forever -some time during the
French revolution. An idealised likeness of the straw can be seen behind Garnets picture at the top of this post, I thought
it might be interesting to try and re-create the straw which is the picture you can see at the side of this post.

The execution of Father Garnet

On the morning of the 3rd May 1606 Father Henry Garnet was executed at St Pauls churchyard in London. The Stuart  authorities, determined to blame the Jesuit order for the recent gunpowder plot had hunted down the fugitive Priest. Garnet had been condemned to the traitors death of hanging, drawing and quartering following what would today be labelled a show trial. Garnet was dragged from the Tower of London through the streets on a hurdle to his place of execution – a scaffold which had been made higher than usual to allow as many as possible to view the execution.

An act of mercy?

In an act of mercy King James had ordered that he be allowed to hang until dead so as not to suffer the full horror of this form of execution. It was a mercy that was not needed because the crowd surged forward and pulled his legs to hasten his end. Garnets body was quartered as was the custom but when his head was held up to view there were no cheers from a restless and uneasy crowd.

A hidden reference in Macbeth?

 

Lady Macbeth: Photo miss insomnia tulip on Flickr ( Click image)

Lady Macbeth: Photo miss insomnia tulip on Flickr ( Click image)

There is a suggestion that the following lines from Macbeth refer to Garnets execution, and if so, this helps to date the play to sometime just after the execution. Garnet was famous for his ‘equivocal’ answers to questions put to him – not telling direct lies but obscuring the truth in order to protect others whilst ‘Farmer’ was one of his aliases.

Who’s there, i’ the name of

Beelzebub?

Here’s a farmer, that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty: come intime;

have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t.

[Knocking within]

Knock,

knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s name?

Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale;

who committed treason enough for God’s sake,

yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come in, equivocator.

It may be that the last part of this verse refers to events after Garnets death

[Knocking within]

Knock,

knock, knock! Who’s there?

Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither,

for stealing out of a French hose: come in, tailor;

here you may roast your goose.

(Macbeth II, 3)

garnets strawA bloody relic

After the execution a piece of blood stained straw was taken as a relic. It was said that a young Catholic in the crowd took the straw to a Tailor called Hugh Griffin. It was only later, when the blood had dried on the straw that people noticed that the stain looked like a human face. On closer inspection it was thought the face looked like Garnet. As Garnet was now a martyr it was inevitable that the image on the straw was viewed as a miraculous happening.

The authorities were horrified that a man viewed by them as a traitor was being celebrated in this manner. Immediate efforts were made to try and capture the relic and it was suggested that a ‘Popish’ painter had forged the relic. The straw was eventually smuggled out of England and ended up in France where it disappeared forever – some time during the French revolution.

An idealised likeness of the straw can be seen behind Garnets picture at the top of this post, I thought it might be interesting to try and re-create the straw which is the picture you can see at the side of this post.

Mysterious faces in strange places.

Of course – we have no way of knowing exactly what Garnets straw really did look like and a martyrs face on a straw may seem a strange idea. However, this story reminded me of a recently found image. In May 2009 a family in Wales claimed to have seen the face of Jesus on the underside of a lid of marmite. If this sort of thing still happens quite regularly today then it is perhaps no suprise that people from earlier and more traumatic times  saw such things too.

Daily Telegraph Story - click image

Daily Telegraph Story - click image

 

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Wroxall

Wrens Chapel at Wroxall

Wrens Chapel at Wroxall

Question: What connection is there between the Shakespeare family and Christopher Wren, the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral? Don’t know the answer? neither did I.

I recently had to attend a meeting at Wroxall Abbey which is situated in the countryside a few miles outside away from the town of Warwick.  I had passed this way before but had never noticed the Wroxall estate which lies at the end of a long drive.

The estate is in a lovely setting, surrounded by trees and fields and at the time of my visit there were masses of snowdrops to be seen amongst the trees.

Snowdrops

As I passed an old church I noticed that there were some ruins across the road from it, and I decided to have a look around. I found out that the Church which is known as Wrens Chapel was once attached to the ruined buildings I had seen.

If you look at the side of the Church you can see where it must have once been attached to these other buildings. A little more research revealed that this was once the site of a Benedictine Priory founded in 1141. This Priory was demolished in the time of Henry VIII, the only part that was left was the Nuns Chapel which became St Leonards parish church. There is an interesting Shakespeare connection here.

Shakespeares Grandfather came from a place called Snitterfield which is to the north east of Stratford. (According to Google maps this is a 7 1/2 mile – 2 1/2 hours  walk). Apparently, at the time of the dissolution, Richard Shakespeare was the Bailiff to Prioress, Agnes Little.

An Elizabethan house was built nearby by the Burgoyne family who bought the land in 1544, this house was demolished in 1861 and was replaced by the current building.

St Pauls Cathedral (Clive Jones on Flickr - Click image)

St Pauls Cathedral (Clive Jones on Flickr - Click image)

Another famous connection came about when the land was bought by Sir Christopher Wren in 1713. Wren is especially well known as the designer of St Pauls cathedral in London.

As I drove away after the meeting, I reflected on the fact that in a very short time I had touched upon so many historical paths in such a small area. As I mentioned above, this was an area that  I have passed so many times without knowing anything about it and I was pleased I had stumbled upon this little piece of the past.

Ruins at Wroxall

Ruins at Wroxall

(See also this link)

PS I have just started using Twitter – if anyone wants to follow this see ‘About Tudor stuff’ above or click here – I am not sure if I really ‘get’ Twitter but thought I would give it a go. My following/ followers bit looks a little thin right now so please feel free to help me out!

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Ophelia : John Everett Millais

Ophelia : John Everett Millais

There is a willow grows aslant a brook,

That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.

There with fantastic garlands did she come

Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,

That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,

But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them.

There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds

Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,

When down her weedy trophies and herself

Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide

And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;

Which time she chaunted snatches of old tunes,

As one incapable of her own distress,

Or like a creature native and indued

Unto that element; but long it could not be

Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,

Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious layTo muddy death

(Queen Gertrude – Act 4 scene seven of Hamlet)

Hamlet.

We were lucky enough to see the recent production of Hamlet (see also) at the Novello theatre in London. In the programme notes the director describes some of the background research that was done – partly this involved a trip to Stratford and a walk up the riverside.avon-nr-tiddington

The Director of the play, Gregory Doran along with Mariah Gale who played Ophelia walked to the area where an historic event mirrors a famous scene from the play.

Inspiration?

In 1579 a girl called Katharine Hamlet was drowned in the river Avon at a place called Tiddington, a short walk to the north east of Stratford town centre. Apparently, Katherine fell whilst filling a pail of water. There were also rumours that she was heartbroken about a failed love affair and that this might have been a case of suicide. Over the years it has been suggested that this accident in the Avon might have been in Shakespeare’s mind when he wrote the play.

John Everett Millais.

Perhaps the most famous depiction of Ophelia is that reproduced above by Millais. This picture which was painted in 1851/1852 shows a drowned Ophelia lying in the stream surrounded by flowers. In common with people in Tudor times, the Victorians were more aware than us of folklore and symbolic meanings attributed to plants – as you can see if you follow this link to the Tate Gallery.

A walk by the Avon.

burdockOn a recent visit to Stratford I walked by the river towards the area where Katharine Hamlet was drowned. Although the Avon is not very wide here, the water flows strongly and in places the riverbank is quite steep. In December (when Katharine was drowned) the ground would be wet pretty much all of the time and the banks slippery and treacherous. It is easy to imagine how someone could fall into the river, especially if one reached in to fill a bucket.

Flowers.

None of the flowers described by either Shakespeare or Millais would have been in evidence at the time of Katharine’s drowning. At that time of year the most prominent vegetation would be grasses and bare trees.  When we visited it was too early in the season to see many flowers growing, although certainly these would be plentiful around here later in the season.

ophelia-1

I suspect that like me, visitors to Stratford usually confine their walking either to the town itself or to the riverside walk in the opposite direction – towards Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare is buried. Perhaps, if you get the chance, it is worth taking the time to walk in the other direction towards Tiddington and if you do so then perhaps you might spare a thought for poor Katharine Hamlet.


nettles-and-water-smaller

Nettles - symbolising pain?

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Not far from where I live is a place called Bidford, a lovely old village on the banks of the river Avon in rural Warwickshire. We used to go there with our parents to eat picnics by the river bank and play in the meadow by the river and I have been there with my own kids to do the same.

Bidford Bridge by John Clift on Flickr (Click image) Bidford Bridge by John Clift on Flickr (Click image)

Now that spring is here and the days are getting longer and warmer it is time to start getting out and about –  I love the idea that we are so often following  the same paths that our ancestors explored before us.

There is a story that Bidford was famous for it’s beer drinkers and that one day a group from Stratford came to the village and started drinking with the locals. Amongst the Stratford visitors was a young man called Shakespeare who tried and failed to out drink the Bidford men.

Bidford on Avon by recursion on Flickr ( Click image)

Bidford on Avon by recursion on Flickr ( Click image)

The group fell into a drunken sleep and the story is that Shakespeare spent the night sleeping under a tree. When he woke next day Shakespeare is said to have declined the offer of more Ale by saying that he had drunk at:

Piping Pebworth, dancing Marston,
Haunted Hillbro, hungry Grafton,
Dudging Exhall, Papist Wicksford,
Beggarly Broom and drunken Bidford.

Take a look at Google maps for the area – it is quite easy to find most of the places mentioned in this rhyme although I am not sure I ever came across ‘Hillbro’ – does anyone know where this was/is? (Update July 2010 – see comments below, thanks to the ‘Hairy Farmer family’ – see link)

If you have never visited any of these places then I can recommend you try to look them out one day – although try to avoid drinking too much in Bidford!

Pebworth, Worcestershire, St Peter. Tudor Barlow on Flickr (Click image)

Pebworth, Worcestershire, St Peter. Tudor Barlow on Flickr (Click image)

PS. Whilst I am on the subject of Tudor era booze ups – is this a good excuse to look at this clip from Blackadder?

For more about Beer see this post

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