Medieval Misericords

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St. Laurence’s Church, Ludlow

No European trip is complete without a trip to a cathedral. We’ve visited 23 European countries and seen so many cathedrals, I’m not sure we could tell one interior scene from another. Unless, we’ve had an interesting experience, like when we attended Easter Vigil Mass at the Lincoln Cathedral. On our latest trip, we were wandering around Ludlow, lingering at our last stop of the trip, and savouring the tiny lanes and architecture of the town, when we took a few steps down an enclosed lane and happened upon the St. Laurence Church.

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Corner of Choir Stalls.

Our favorite part of English churches are the choir stalls. When we were at the Lincoln Cathedral for Easter, we sat in the choir stalls. We were tingling all over to be in such a holy place and sitting in a special location. Choir stalls are located between the altar and the general seating. This is where the choir sits in the carved benches and seats, dimly lit, facing the center aisle. We’ve seen some amazingly carved woodwork, paneling and carved canopy framework. Some tourists visit to see stained glass windows; we go to see the carved structures.

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Carved wooden choir stall featuring a misericord.

The Ludlow church has wonderful choir stalls. We hadn’t expected to see anything so special down a narrow lane on our last day. It’s easy to imagine the past when monks and clergy would stand for long periods in the stalls. Sometimes, they would pull the folding seat down and sit, but most of the time, the seat is in the upright position. From this view, the underneath view, there are carvings. These carvings are under a tiny ledge. The ledge is called a misericord and it was a relief for those in the stalls to lean back and use the ledge as a small seat. Remember, this carved ledge is under the actual seat, so that it is viewed when the seat is up, but hidden when someone is sitting down.

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A misericord representing a winter month. He’s warming his hands by a fire.

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A Minisericard head of a king, probably biblical.

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A mermaid, siren, holding a mirror, surrounded by dolphins. A warning.

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A medieval owl represented ignorance and is a creature of darkness.

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Veneration of the wine barrel by two headless figures. A warning of the perils of drink.

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A griffin, symbol of watchfulness, is said to keep guard over hidden treasures.

The first of the medieval misericord carvings in Ludlow date from 1425 and there are 28 of them at the parish church, more than any other parish church. The earliest of the misericords feature cautionary tales or warnings about the sins of men or biblical stories. They are quite fascinating.

What a wonderful treasure to wrap up our September 2019 trip to Wales and England.

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Deception in Blue and White

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Enoch Wood Grapevine Border Series dinner plates and platters. 1820. England.

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Exterior wall. We believe this is the view the artist was recreating on the engraving used on the soup plate.

We collect Enoch Wood Grapevine Border Series transferware. They are blue and white dishes from 1820 and feature scenes of English Castles and Manor Houses. The border of these pieces are a grapevine transfer. On the back of most of the pieces is the name of building and it’s county. The image usually comes from an engraving in a series of books by John Preston Neale. He went around the countryside drawing the houses and writing a description for the books.

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Close up of the castle scene of an Enoch Wood Grapevine Border soup plate.

When we tour around England on antique buying trips, we try to stop at an “Enoch Wood” grapevine house that we have in our collection. Most of the houses have either been destroyed, are ruined or completely gone, but some are still standing and it’s our mission to visit them and photograph them.

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Design of Goodrich Castle.

During our September trip, we wanted to see Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire. Now, we don’t have a dish with that name on the bottom, but we do have a Goodridge Castle, Kent soup plate and Goodridge does not exist. We couldn’t find a Goodridge Castle, no matter where we looked. So, we thought maybe the Wood Pottery, got the name wrong.

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Standing on the east wall walk. The keep is on the right.

Before we went to the England, we did our research. The books do not have an engraving of a Goodridge. The internet was no help, because the scene on our dish did not match etchings of Goodrich Castle, nor did the internet know of a Goodridge Castle. The description of Goodrich Castle on the internet kind of made us think that perhaps, Wood got it wrong, since there were references to Goodrich being associated with both counties, Herefordshire and Kent.

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View of the castle from the 1500s.

So, either way, we headed for Goodrich, hoping that it would be incorrectly identified as Goodridge and we’ll have checked another of our scenes off our list.

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The keep built in the mid 12th c.

Our first stop was to the gift shop. English Heritage cares for Goodrich Castle, as it does for over 400 properties, and their staff is quite knowledgeable about the properties history. Unfortunately, none of them recognized the scene we showed them of our dish, although they agreed that the church was in the right place and so was the river. They went into their storage room and pulled out various engravings, but none of them matched. They were very helpful, but not helpful at all. So, we headed out of the gift shop and up the gravel road to the actual castle.

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The stone causeway leading to the gatehouse, which was built in the mid 13th century.

We were excited to see it in person. Of all the castles we’ve seen, we crawled over every inch of it, from the furthest point in the moat to the highest tower. It is a beautiful, but forlorned ruin. It was built in the 1101 as a hill-top castle, and suffered during the English Civil War in 1646. It was slighted (meaning it was made inhabitable) in 1647, so it could never be used against the royals again. In 1919, a huge chunk of the walls fell in and what was left of the castle was dangerous to visit.

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The incorrect printed mark on the back of the EWG soup plate. We believe it should say Part of Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire.

So, this is what we think. We believe that Goodrich, Herefordshire is the correct label for the soup plate labeled Goodridge, Kent and Enoch Wood got it wrong. The label on the bottom of our soup plate should have said Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire. From 1616-1740, the owners of Goodrich Castle was a line of succession of the Earl of Kent. Hence, the county of Kent comes into the picture (Goodridge, Kent). And during its history, Goodrich had been called Guthridge Castle for a period of time. There are many deviations on the name Goodrich, including Goodridge and Guthridge (Goodridge, Kent)

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The view from the rock cut ditch.

We also believe the artist took liberties with their drawing, getting the aspect wrong. The elements in the transfer are correct but the angle is skewed. We think the artist stood in the sw corner of the site and sketched the castle from the moat area and then drew in the people by the river in the foreground. You can stand in the moat and the windows of Goodrich Castle match with the transfer of Goodridge Castle.

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Interior view of the Great Hall.

Maybe we’re wrong, but we love playing detective and solving mysteries, especially ones that don’t have a dead body. And we did look in the bushes, just to make sure.

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The northwest tower remains.

 

This is our sixth blog on our September trip. One more to go!

 

 

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Mythical Medieval Glastonbury

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What remains of a chapel on the top of the Tor. The views were amazing.

Just as King Arthur searched for the Holy Grail, in Monty Python’s movie, we headed to Somerset in England to visit Glastonbury because it is steeped in myths, legends and history. We drove about two hours south from our base in Wales into England for a sightseeing day. Legends about King Arthur, the Holy Grail, Joseph of Arimathea, the Chalice Well, the Glastonbury Tor, and it’s infamous electromagnetic energy Ley Lines, fascinate us and we wanted to visit the historical sights tied to these legends. In legend, King Arthur was said to have visited the area twice; once to rescue Guinevere and then, to be buried. Our quest was to walk where myths were born.

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We took a taxi from Glastonbury out to the northeast entrance of the Tor. It was only a 1 1/2 miles but we knew we would be walking back. So glad we did. The stairs going up the hill are steep and small.

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The western BIG steps lead down, at a mellower pace, to the town of Glastonbury.

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Sheep grazing on the side of the Tor.

First up was to climb the Tor. Located outside the town, it is a natural geological plug of sandstone on clay. Supposedly, energising ley lines cross at the top of the Tor. There are two ways to the top, we think we chose the hard route up. Luckily, we did not have to call 999 and we made it up to the top of the 520’ summit to survey the surrounding Somerset countryside views. The less-steep side, we tried on the way back down. The views are incredible. At the top, are the remains of a chapel dedicated to St. Michael. Often, early Christians would build on pagan sites. Theories about the underground ley lines state that ancient sacred sights are erected along the ley lines. The most famous ley line, St. Michael’s, runs through the Tor. We didn’t feel anything different, although we did wonder about the people walking around on the rocks with bare feet in 50 degrees temperature.

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The Chalice Well is located in a garden setting at the base of the Tor. Note the rust color. This is the filter spring water that you can drink from or fill water bottles. Some visitors were dipping their cross necklaces in the water here. Another thorn tree is in the garden.

On the way back down, the easy way, we stopped to chat with some sheep and visited the Chalice Well. It is said that the red iron deposit in the water comes from a spring that started when Joseph of Arimathea buried or washed the cup used at the Last Supper. We figured this was an important stop on our quest, although we did not drink the water.

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The Lady’s Chapel on the Glastonbury Abbey site. It was built in stages before the larger Abbey was built.

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Inside the smaller Lady’s Chapel.

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Interior of the Lady’s Chapel.

We walked back to town, glad that we had taken a taxi to the base of the Tor to begin with, and strolled past the new age shops that cater to the crystal-carrying public. The largest music festival in the world is the Glastonbury Festival and it’s held once a year, a couple miles outside of town. Seems like many visitors came for the music festival and never left. The economy of the area is affected by the festival participants, but in medieval times, Glastonbury’s economy was dependent upon the abbey.

There some wonderful old buildings throughout the town, but as time was running short, we headed into the Glastonbury Abbey to learn about the lives of the Benedictine monks and see the ruins. Legends say that Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’ uncle, visited here in 37 AD and with him came the Holy Grail, Jesus’ blood, and Christianity. He is often credited with bringing the new religion to England, as he was a tin merchant and England was producing tin at the time. Legends say that he established the first church here.

The monks arrived from France and established the abbey in 712 AD. In medieval times, Glastonbury Abbey was England’s most powerful abbey, after Westminster Abbey. Part of the draw of the many visitors back then was the relics of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. It is believed that the medieval monks fabricated that story that the relics were supposedly found in the abbey’s grounds and reburied in the church in the 12th century. Historians do not believe this particular claim, but the graves are still marked and draw crowds of visitors (like us!). The graves increased the fortunes of the abbey through the years, which was the reason for the monks claim. 

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Remains of the Glastonbury Abbey church.

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A remaining arch. Some pieces of stonework can be seen in the site’s museum.

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The gravesite of King Arthur. In the year 1191 the bodies of King Arthur and his Queen were said to have been found on the south side of the Lade Chapel. On19th April 1278 their remains were removed in the presence of King Edward I and Queen Eleanor to a black marble tomb on this site. This tomb survived until the Dissolution of the Abbey in 1539.

After Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, he had the abbey destroyed, killed the abbot (hanged, drawn and quartered!) and took all their funds. The monks returned to France. The ruins now stand on a 36 acre park in the center of Glastonbury. Not much remains of the monastic ruins or the church. The abbey house still exists as does part of the Lady Chapel.

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The two thorn trees believed to be grown from a shoot from the original tree that grew from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea.

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The lavendar garden at the abbey.

Other pilgrims come to see the Holy Thorn trees that are believed to have descended from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea. According to legend, the trees bloom on Easter (on old wood) and at Christmas (on new wood). The trees are located in the gardens, near the entrance to the site and the abbey museum. The museum is filled with pieces of carved stone and artifacts found on the grounds.

We enjoyed our mystical day at Glastonbury. Steeped in history, it was well worth the visit.

This is the fifth blog on our September trip. Thanks for reading along.

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Black and White Medieval Architecture

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Ledbury Market House, 1617

One of our favorite architecture types is the wonkie Black and White buildings with the heavy oak timber frames and the daub and wattle white walls. These homes and businesses date from as early as the 1100s and are located anywhere hard woods grow. Germany has the most. While the aristocracy used stone and brick, the wealthy merchant class used oak and lime-washed plaster. There is a concentration of this half-timbering Tudor architecture in the area of England we visited in September.

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Rose & Crown Pub, down an alley in Ludlow

In the midland countries, Ludlow and Ledbury are communities of well-preserved beauty filled with the black and white-washed buildings built in the 1400 through 1600s. We wandered around both, snapping photos and admiring their structures. We were lucky enough to visit several. Once inside, the ceilings seem low and the exposed beams, which are attached with pegs, not nails, still show the master craftsmen marks.

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Butcher Row House Museum, Ledbury

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Church House, Ledbury

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Church Lane, Ledbury

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Church Lane, Ledbury

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Prince of Wales Free House, Church Lane, Ledbury

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Ledbury’s Ice Cream

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Newly built in 1656!

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Broad Street, Ludlow

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Ludlow

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Private home in Ledbury

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Ye Old Bull Ring Tavern, Ludlow

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Shops in Ludlow

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Ludlow residence

This is the fourth blog on our September trip.

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Tintern Abbey, England’s Early Tourist Destination

Paris’ Eiffel Tower is close to being the #1 tourist destination in the world. Why is that? I think it’s because of everyone’s photos. We’ve all seen the photos: we’ve seen it on all forms of media since we were little. It’s been marketed to us and we all want to go there.

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Philip playing tourist at Tintern Abbey in Wales.

Seeking historical and cultural destinations, like at Greece and Rome, has been happening for millenniums. Sightseeing with the needed infrastructure and commercial development may have started at the River Wye which divides England and Wales, and its lower river valley. At least, they lay claim to it.

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The great church at Tintern Abbey. The monks used to rise at 2 a.m. to attend services and start their day.

The first purchased holiday excursions were sold to tourists visiting the Wye River valley and its romantic sites and picturesque scenic views. Buy a boat trip, bring a picnic hamper and see some fabulous ruins. One such romantic ruin was Tintern Abbey. Tintern is situated right on the Wye River, on the Welsh side of the river. A ruin since September 3, 1536 when Henry VIII dissolved it when he broke from the Roman Catholic Church. By the 1600s, the area was attracting poets, artists and travelers and, during the Napoleonic Wars when the aristocracy could not tour the continent, they stayed closer to home and visited Tintern Abbey.

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The front door of the ruined church.

Poets were captivated by the ruins, including Wordsworth and Tennyson. They, along with their peers, wrote poems and stories. Artists, such as JMW Turner in 1792, painted the romantic ruins. The books, articles, engravings, paintings sold the general public that this place needed to be visited to be appreciated in the Georgian and Victorian eras. By 1850, over twenty guidebooks had been published, establishing the Wye Valley as the birthplace of modern British tourism.

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The stairs and door that the monks used between the church and their dormitory.

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2019Tintern008And here we were, in 2019, still coming to Tintern Abbey. The abbey is one of best relics of Britain’s monastic age. The abbey was founded in 1131 by the Cistercians. They came from France and set up their abbey in a bend of the Wye River. The great church building began in 1269 and although it’s roofless now, it is still a spiritual place built in an early English Gothic style. We wandered around the grounds, gazing up at the windows and tripping over the foundations of various buildings and houses where the monks and lay-brothers built their community.

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Looking at the church from the kitchens.

2019Tintern009It was worth a visit; however, we would rate Fountains Abbey, in North Yorkshire higher.

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Philip playing Hercules. 

This is the third blog about our September 2019 buying trip. Thanks for reading.

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A Holy Well

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St. Winifred’s holy site. The fence surrounds the bathing location. The windows above is the chapel. The church on the upper left is not part of the site.

A story, a myth and stones that have outlasted time.

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Just off the plane, Philip’s been awake for awhile.

Sometimes, we jump down a rabbit hole and connect dots that lie in our shared interests. During our research on places to visit in the north of Wales, we found the town of Holywell and St. Winifred’s Well. It was on our route to a castle, it had an interesting past, ties to Tudors, and was featured in a Brother Cadfael television mystery show. We were hooked and decided to head there on our September buying trip.

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The original bathing area with the spring bubbling up.

Holywell has been a Roman Catholic pilgrimage site for over 1300 years. There is an active spring that flows into a holy bathing pool, a shrine for believers, and a historical chapel. While we were there to check out the story and history, others were there as pilgrims to ask for prayers, light candles and lay flowers at the statues. We were there early morning, so no one was bathing in the holy water pool, which is outside in the elements.

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St. Winifred was Welsh and, according to legend, was martyred in the 600s. Her story grew and had a mass following when in the 12th century, her story was first written down and shared with English Catholics. According to legend, Winifred was beheaded when she rejected a local Welsh prince. A spring burst from the ground where her head fell. Her uncle restored her to life, by returning her head to her body. He also became a saint.

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The ceiling above the spring and below the upper chapel.

The healing waters are believed to cure ailments and stacks of canes are left at the site. The well is known as “the Lourdes of Wales” and people from around the world travel there. Queen Victoria and her Uncle Leopold visited there in 1828 before she was queen. Richard I visited in 1189 to pray for a successful crusade. A small museum tells the history of the site. Nowadays, people bath in the water, drink the water and take it home with them. Pretty sure it has a lot of lead in it, since the area is known for lead mining.

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Above the well, is a delightful medieval chapel, said to have been paid for by Lady Margaret Beaufort (grandmother of Henry VIII) in the late 1400s. It is built as an upper chapel on the side of the natural incline, so you leave the site, walk up a hill and enter the chapel from above. Interesting that later, King Henry VIII would have the site closed and the saintly relics destroyed when he officially broke from the Roman Catholic Church and confiscated their money and lands.

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As just to come full circle. We pay for subscriptions to both Acorn TV and BritBox, so we can watch British television shows. Cadfael is a 1990s mystery show based a series of historical murder mysteries books. It stars Derek Jacobi as the detective. Series 2 episode 3 was titled “A Morbid Taste for Bones” and concerned the remains of martyred St. Winifred. So, of course, we watched it!

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The Tudor Chapel.

We loved the architecture, and, even though we didn’t “take the waters,” it was a good start to our buying trip/vacation. We definitely had a blessed trip.

This is the second blog on our September 2019 trip. Thanks for reading. Up next, Tintern Abbey.

 

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Eight Castles in Nine Days

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The view from the Castlebank Hotel in Conwy Wales, looking towards the castle.

We headed to Wales in September for our fall antiques buying trip. Wales is part of the United Kingdom and is located on the western side of England. We were in Wales forty years ago and we remembered basically nothing about it. This time, we combined the hunt for antiques with some sightseeing along the north coast, along the border between the two countries and then in the south of Wales.

We chose Wales because #1 we hadn’t shopped there before and #2 Wales has the most castles per area that any place on the planet. In general, castles have dominated England and Wales for 1000 years. We are fascinated by castles. On this trip, we visited eight in nine days. It was overkill, but worth it. Thankfully, our knees held up. The castles we visited were mostly built as conquest castles. Some were built on previous earth and wood castles on mounds, but what we wanted to see were the ones which began as a central great tower (keep) and expanded with stone walls, gates and towers.

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Rhuddlan Castle outside one set of walls. The gatehouse is on the right.

We were barely off the plane when we visited Rhuddlan, in northern Wales. Rhuddlan Castle is an empty shell, only some walls and parts of towers remain; however, it gave us a romanticized vision that travellers have searched for in the past. Perched above a river and overlooking a valley, we saw the advantage that King Edward I needed to gain control over the Welsh when he ordered the castle built in 1277. It was designed with rings of walls within walls. Stone robbers had left the ruins with major gaping holes, but you could use your imagination based on the footprint of what remained. It was picturesque and a starting point for our castle mission.

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Remains of a staircase in Rhuddlan Castle.

Conwy is where we stayed on the north coast. Conveniently, it too had a castle. The castle in Conwy is located at the entrance to the town and perched high on a stone bluff above an estuary of the Conwy River. It was the first of the defensive castles built by King Edward 1 to control the uncontrollable Welsh princes and their peeps. Conwy was a garrison town and has some of the highest and best medieval town walls in Britain. The castle took four years to build and was protection for the English who lived surrounded by the Welsh. King Edward I of England added Wales to his English kingdom during his reign and built conquest castles to demonstrate the might of the English. Slightly ruined inside, but the 18 towers are still impressive. A beautiful castle with walls still remaining where the royal apartments were located. It’s easy to stand on the battlements and look out to sea in one direction and the great Snowdonia Mountains the other. Our favorite. Go here!

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Conwy Castle from the town.

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From the top of the battlements of Conwy Castle.

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Another view of Conwy Castle.

Caernarfon was our third castle in three days and we were starting to dread another dark tight spiral staircase. Or at least our knees were! But we were impressed. Caernarfon was another of the military castles built by King Edward 1 and it is still massive, although a ruin, it still has its double interior walls and arrow loop windows for crossbows. It was here that Prince Charles was invested as the Prince of Wales in July 1969. Construction of the castle began in 1283, and it is still owned by Her Majesty the Queen. It was modeled after building decoration of Constantinople and it’s colossal.

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Interior of Caernarfon Castle. It was huge.

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The concrete disk is where Prince Charles was invested as the Prince of Wales.

Up next was Powis Castle, located a third of the way down on our trip south. It is the seat of the Earl of Powis and is known for its landscaped terraces and gardens. Unlike the previous three castles, this one was built by a Welsh prince in the 1200s to demonstrate the wealth and power of the Welsh. Parts of the original castle exists at the entrance and is incorporated into the grand country mansion. This was a family home that started as a medieval castle and grew outward and even Queen Victoria came here for a tour in 1832 when she was a child.

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The oldest portion of Powis Castle.

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A wonderful bedroom in Powis Castle.

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The view from Powis Castle, overlooking the landscaping.

We passed several castles as we traveled south, but passed them by so we could do some antique shopping. After we dropped our bags at our hotel in Ross-on-Wye, we visited Chepstow Castle on the southern coast of Wales. Chepstow is the oldest of the castles we visited. Built in 1067, right after the 1066 Norman Conquest of England, it protected the River Wye and extended the Norman power westward. The original portion of the current ruins is a rectangular two story keep high on a ridge above the river. Curtain walls were added, as were towers and gatehouses.

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Chepstow Castle in the south of Wales.

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The main keep of Chepstow Castle.

Goodrich Castle was quite close to our southern base and we’ll cover it in a separate post.

On our last day, we fit in two castles. Ludlow and Stokesay. After shopping and more shopping, we were running out of time as we headed back towards Manchester. Luckily, Ludlow Castle and Stokesay Castle are about 20 minutes apart by car.

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The gatehouse of Ludlow Castle.

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Ludlow Castle, from the outside.

Ludlow Castle is located high above, you guessed didn’t you?, a river! It is also a ruin. It was started around 1075, as part of the Norman castles building spree. It is set on 5 acres at the edge of one of the most beautiful towns in England. The castle has a lot of history associated with the War of the Roses, the Tudors and the children of Henry VIII. It served as a Royal Palace when the two sons of Edward IV lived there. Later, they would be sent to the Tower of London by their uncle, Richard III and disappeared.

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Stokesay Castle, from outside the walls.

Stokesay Castle was our last castle of the trip. Despite its name, Stokesay is a fortified Manor House began in the 1270s. It was owned by a wealthy wool merchant who made his money selling wool throughout Europe. He built the castle to look much older than it was. In order to build the fortification, he needed approval from the crown. It had a moat, but thin walls and large open windows, which were covered by shutters in bad weather. It would not have withstood an attack. The wood rafters and the Elizabethan gatehouse made the visit worthwhile.

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The old beams in the main hall of Stokesay Castle.

Out of the over 190 open-to-tour castles in Britain, we’ve seen only 23 of them. Altogether, there’s probably 800 or so castles in England and Wales. Sigh. Luckily, we have more trips planned!

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The Stokesay Castle gatehouse.

First of seven posts on our September 2019 trip. Thanks for reading!

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The Iron Tour

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Welcome to Walnut!

Over Father’s Day weekend, we attended the AMVets Walnut Iowa Antique Show.

Located between Council Bluffs and Des Moines Iowa, just south of Interstate 80. Walnut is a small tidy farm town with an updated Main Street. The Antique show is under the direction of the AMVets and is a mix of outside pitches lining two long streets that run the length of the town and a few inside halls. An added plus is that the town has many antique stores and vintage malls.

The show is held every Father’s Day weekend and is advertised to have over 500 dealers. We went because it’s one of the top antique shows in America according to the Country Living magazine. And it’s only 6.5 hours from Springfield.

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Outside pitches.

We arrived at the show on Friday at 8 a.m. and hearty shopping was already going on. The weather cooperated and we were able to shop until the crowds thinned, about 4:30 p.m. We bought well for the store. We returned on Saturday morning for a couple of more hours, so that, we could shop the local stores.

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Philip inspecting a possibility.

Okay, so these weren’t English or European antiques, but we weren’t able to shop in England this past spring (new grand baby!!). Regardless of where we shop, we are always on the lookout for something different, something with a story.

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Some of the iron treasures.

Most of what we bought was iron. Lots of interesting gadgets and tools. Heavy iron. Enough to build an Iron Throne. We also bought lots of holiday items, including vintage Christmas (these will be out later in the year). We were happy with our purchases.

Charming town. Good show. New inventory.!!!

 

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Before Water Taps

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Pearson & Co Improved Water Filter Chesterfield.

We take piped water for granted. Turn on a tap and there it is. But it wasn’t always that easy.

Where did the drinking water come from before cities had water systems? Rain barrels, shallow wells, a spigot in the center of town, or if you were lucky, you lived near a spring. Even with water available, it was contaminated. It had to be boiled before consumed.

Thus, the ceramic water filter came into use in the 1830s. The water filters were made by the potteries in England. The system was fairly simple. It used gravity to move the poured water through a filter made of charcoal, clay or sand to remove pollution and bacteria. A spigot at the bottom of the filter would dispense the water.

In manor houses, servants would pour water into a free-standing decorative stoneware filter.  The large crock would be located in the kitchen area and then, the clean water would be dispersed through the house in pitchers. The water filter crock would improve the water clarity, remove smells and improve the taste. To make the water taste even better, the servants would pour the water from pitcher to pitcher in an attempt to add air to the heavy water.

If you watch English period dramas, you’re sure to see them in the “downstairs” area.

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Dining at Pauline’s

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Dining under the chandelier.

If you’ve been on a cruise, you know all the ins and outs of shore excursions. Some are wonderful, some thrilling and some are boring as hell and you should have stayed on the ship. Viking Ocean cruises does shore excursions better than most and one area that they excel in is providing first-class opportunities in dining.

One of the shore excursions we paid for on our February cruise was an all-day Art Treasures tour in Florence, Italy. We wanted to see Michelangelo’s David and take in the Renaissance world of art and legacy of Florence. When you take an all-day tour, lunch is usually included.

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Your carriage may come in.

We had done an all-day tour (actually a two-day tour) in St. Petersburg, Russia with Viking Ocean cruises and had wonderful lunches on both days. The Florence tour’s lunch was exceptionally good for several different reasons.

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The Family Crest on the ground floor.

First, the location was the spectacular Palazzo Borghese of Florence. Built in the 1400’s, it takes up an entire city block. It is an important neoclassical palace. You enter on the ground floor in a room that could easily accommodate a carriage. A couple of statues and an eminence staircase. The first floor is full of lounges and large public rooms. This is how they lived in rooms full of chandeliers and mirrors, each room a different color, but trimmed in gold.

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A salon.

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Gold everywhere!

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Just a small wall sconce.

Second, we were dining in history. As stated, it was built in the 1400’s for the Salviati Family, but it was the Borghese Family that left their mark on history. Prince Camilo Borghese, the 6th Prince of Sulmona was married to the sister of Napoleon. Yes, that Napoleon. Pauline Bonaparte. She was a younger sister to the first Emperor of the French and she lived for a short time at the Palazzo Borghese. The marriage did not last, but the palace survives.

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Dining Room set for Viking guests.

And last, but not unimportant, the actual dining experience. We sat in a beautiful room and were served a four-course meal. Relaxing and the wine flowed. We had the best lasagna ever! Big tabby cat Garfield would have never left. The chandeliers sparkled and lit up the splendor of the room.

We reluctantly left the palace, but still had the Uffizi Gallery to tour, with it’s galleries full of masterpieces by da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and many others.

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A majestic Florence dining room with a Missouri tourist.

Side note.

Because inquiring minds want to know: 1. Bathrooms were also exceptional and 2. Rotary meets there!

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Antique cupboard used as a liquor cabinet.

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