750 Years of The Abbey at Ystad

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This year the Abbey at Ystad celebrates its 750th anniversary.

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What’s New and What’s Old in Runcorn and Widnes

Yesterday I picked up friend Ann from her home in Widnes and we’re now spending a few days ‘Sleeping with Books‘ at Gladstone’s Library. After my two-night stay last year I thought it would be interesting to spend a few days in the area and in particular to visit Chirk Castle, which has been on my ‘list’ for a long time.

Widnes is only just over half an hour from Hawarden (home to Gladstone’s Library) and Ann wanted to show me a few sights in her local area. Our first stop was to view the new bridge, The Mersey Gateway Bridge, currently edging its way across the River Mersey.

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Frosty Morning at Fountains Abbey

Earlier in the week I decided that on Thursday I’d head off to Fountains Abbey and have a walk, a bite to eat and be home early afternoon. Thursday dawned very frosty but the roads were fine and the car park almost empty when I arrived. I’ve posted several times about my visits to Fountains including  here, here and here. But I visit many more times than I have posted – it is just such a beautiful place to walk and think and enjoy the views and the Georgian landscape and its follies.

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Fountains Hall

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Edinburgh Houses

 

It was meant to be a quiet, stay-at-home, reading-in-the-boudoir week (most of October, in fact) but irresistible opportunities for travel turned up and I resisted none of them!

When friends asked if I would a share a day with them in Edinburgh I leapt at the chance. It’s possible to do the trip in a day from Leeds. I’ve done it before. I spent one Saturday in August six years ago at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which is just confined to the limits of Charlotte Square.

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Charlotte Square in Autumn

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Lanercost Priory

On our way up to Scotland in June we travelled via The Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle and Lanercost Priory. At The Bowes we looked at the latest exhibition Shoes : Pleasure and Pain; saw the famous automaton Swan in limited action and enjoyed a lovely selection of portraits of English women: English Rose – Feminine Beauty from Van Dyck to Sargent. Our Art Fund cards gave us free admission to everything and the Museum – a French Chateau plonked down in the Yorkshire Dales – has a good cafe and well-stocked shop.

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The Bowes Museum

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Footloose in the Scottish Borders

When it came to deciding last autumn which of the ATG programme of Footloose independent walks to choose for this summer’s expedition we found that we are running out of level 2/3 walks in places that we thought would be interesting. We also considered a return to Northumberland where we spent 4 self-catering holidays (before taking up this hotel-to-hotel walking lark) and where there is still so much to see and do. In the end I came up with the idea that we should do the 5 Day Scottish Borders Walk and follow this with a 3 night recovery period in a cottage in Northumberland. So this was what we did the last week in June. Our cottage was right on the Border just outside Cornhill-on-Tweed.

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Lightpipe Cottage near Cornhill-on-Tweed

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Folly! at Fountains

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Folly! is the first of a three year programme that creatively brings the stories of Studley Royal to life, through the vision of some of the country’s most innovative artists and designers.

The original designers of the Studley Royal Water Garden, the Aislabie family, created many follies on this vast and beautiful estate to surprise and delight their eighteenth-century guests. These fashionable, whimsical buildings or structures were often used by garden designers to catch the eye or draw attention to a carefully created vista.

‘Folly!’ will see the temples and follies of this World Heritage Site garden dramatically re-imagined as places of visual trickery and untold histories.

Seek out the Octagon Tower, Temple of Fame, Banqueting House and Temple of Piety this summer and be amazed by installations created by twenty-first century artists in response to the opulent past of this unique place.”

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I’ve written several times here about visits to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal – it’s one of my favourite places and easy to get to from home.

My first stop was at The Banqueting Hall. At weekends and during the school holidays the follies are open during the afternoon so I was able to go inside and see Gary McCann’s ‘Scavenger’ close to.

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‘Scavenger’ by Gary McCann

Inside The Temple of Piety, which overlooks the Moon Ponds, is The Curious Tale of the Professor and The Temple created by Simon Costin, theatre and set designer. Supported by the jewellers Swarovski, the lavish display is purportedly based on the papers of a Professor Dennistoun of Ripon who died in 1959. He thought Fountains Abbey was the ‘Ancient place of worship now in ruins’ – a line from a prophecy of Old Mother Shipton from nearby Knaresbrough.

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An ancient place of worship, now in ruin, One family shall come to dwell in. But lest the old un’s are kept entertained, No male heirs shall take the reins.

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Diana, the goddess of hunting

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I don’t know why the goddess Flora is a teapot!

Next up was The Octagon Tower and a Hall of Mirrors by Irene Brown. It was impossible to take a picture inside so here’s a little video made by the Trust :

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The Octagon Tower

Finally, ‘Lost Property’ also by Gary McCann is the Scavenger’s ‘nest’.

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Within the smooth classical pillars of the Temple of Fame the invasion of the landscape continues. Intertwined within the artist’s creation is lost property. Collected from visitors, it provides sustenance to fantastical creatures which have taken up residence in spaces previously controlled by man

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A marvellously magical and mysterious day out. I’m still mystified by what I saw!

The Leeds Library Summer Day Out in Whitby

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The weather on this year’s annual Leeds Library Visit to Whitby could not have been more different from last year’s The Lake District trip. The sun shone all day and the sky was blue as blue. Perfect weather for a day at the seaside. But first stop on our journey was in Pickering where after tea and toast in the Poppies Tearoom we visited the parish church of St Peter and St Paul where medieval wall paintings have been extensively restored. Originally discovered in 1851 they were almost immediately covered over again. In the 1870s they were restored and, as the leaflet tells us :

Nikolaus Pevsner, in his series of books The Buildings of England (1966), wrote that the church has “one of the most complete series of wall paintings in English churches, and they give one a vivid idea of what ecclesiastical interiors were really like”.

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Pickering Church

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St George and The Dragon Wall Painting

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The East Window

Our day out was  primarily to visit the Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society Library and Museum housed in a purpose built art gallery in Pannett Park above the town and with views of the Abbey opposite and the sea beyond.

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The Society had been founded in 1823 by a group of Whitby citizens led by The Reverend George Young, a minister of the Presbyterian church. It’s chief object was to set up and maintain a museum specialising in fossils since “Whitby is a chief town of a district abounding with petrifications and containing not a few Antiquities”.

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The Society’s Library Today

Initially opened in two rooms over a shop in Baxtergate it subsequently moved to several other locations in the town but finally, by the end of the 19th century the Society decided it needed more space and a new building which opened in 1931 and adjoins the Municipal Art Gallery : The Pannett Art Gallery.

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We had an introduction to the collection in a new wing added 10 years ago with funds from The Heritage Lottery Fund. The volunteer curators, Stephen and Fiona, spoke enthusiastically about the collection and the Whitby Merchant Seaman’s Muster Rolls which are an important part of it.

The Muster Rolls are a unique series of historical documents which are the surviving paperwork for the Whitby Merchant Seamen’s Hospital’s regulation of the “seaman’s sixpence”, an eighteenth century pension provision. This pension provided financial support to injured seamen and to the widows and children of seamen who died while serving on merchant ships.

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Example of Muster Roll from the Library website

They record a wealth of information about crews and ships, and offer a particularly rare insight into working men’s lives : age and place of birth; port where and when enlisted; where and when leaving the ship; name of the ship and its owners.

The Library holds on microfilm the Whitby Muster Rolls from 1747 to 1795 and also some Whitby Muster Rolls from 1800 to 1850. The Museum passed 7,000 Rolls to the Society in 2010. These require careful repair and conservation and much of the cost of this is being defrayed by The Thomas Roe Trust.

The main specialism of the Library is the Whitby local area :

Local History – collections of books, pamphlets, journals, maps, prints and manuscripts for Whitby and the surrounding area (approx. 15 miles radius)

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Maritime History – collections of books, Lloyds registers, and records including muster rolls, and ships’ account and log books

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Geology – extensive collection of books and journals relating to the history of geology and the internationally important discoveries of Jurassic fossils made in the 19th Century in the Whitby area

Industrial heritage – sources for the development of the alum, jet, ironstone, and potash industries and the railways in the area

Family History – many sources including printed parish registers, lists of monumental inscriptions for many local churches, wills, and indexes to wills in the York Registry

Literature and language – a small literature collection focussing on novels, poetry and plays that are either by Whitby writers or are about Whitby, and a small collection on Yorkshire dialect

After tea and biscuits we were free to visit the Library and the Museum and Art Gallery.

After a picnic lunch in the lovely Pannett Park and a final look round the Museum a fellow library member and I headed into town. After a walk along the quayside we climbed the 199 steps to the church and the Abbey for more stunning views before returning to the coach pick-up point and the return journey to Leeds.

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Whitby Church

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Whitby Abbey

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View from the Top of the 199 Steps

Libraries Big and Libraries Small [1]

One Irish word I came to recognize on my recent trip, although I don’t know how it’s pronounced, was Leabharlann. Needless to say, it means Library.

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Colclough Room, former Tintern Abbey Library

And the first Library I came across was no longer in use as such. It was the library at Tintern Abbey. Since restoration this room is now known as the Colclough Room and is used as a gallery to tell the stories of the families who lived here.

To my mind the best place to pick up wifi is at a Public Library and I made a couple of visits to Lismore Public Library and Dungarvan Library on some of the wetter days that I spent at Salterbridge Gatelodge.

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Lismore Public Library

On my day out in Cork I popped into the Cork Public Library. There was an interesting display in the foyer : The Best Banned in the Land featuring books banned by the Catholic church in Ireland.

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The Cork Library Register of Banned Books

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Best Banned Books

Many of the authors were Irish and often the Library had bought copies which were later removed from shelves and returned to booksellers for credit. The exhibition focussed on those Irish authors. The list of “Our Nasty Novelists” included George Bernard Shaw, Edna O’Brien, James Joyce, M J O’Farrell (Molly Keane), and I recognised ‘Persephone’ author Norah Hoult (Persephone Book 59 “There were no windows”)

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Banned Women

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Norah Hoult – Banned

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Edna O’Brien – Banned

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Later, on a Walking Tour in Cork, I spotted a new use for an old library