There are three pubs in England that claim the title of “Oldest Pub in England”. We visited the one in Nottingham on our last trip. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is located in the centre of the city of Nottingham, in the county of Nottingham and yes, it’s THAT Nottingham. The one with the ties to Robin Hood and the evil Sheriff and bad King John and crusading King Richard the Lionhearted.
Nottingham is a confusing city with one-way streets, crazy roads for buses only, and the most compacted multi-storied parking garages, which by the way, are equally confusing. We had to stop three people just to figure out the ticketing system for the garage and don’t even get us started on how small the ramps were. But back to the story.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is said to have been functioning as a pub since 1189. The records are vague at best, but there seems to have been a brewery established for the Nottingham Castle, at or near this spot. A brewery was a necessity for a castle in medieval times, because no one wanted to die by drinking the water. This was a gathering spot for the Knights on their way to fight in the crusades, thus the name.
The Nottingham Castle is built on top of a sandstone cliff and the pub at the base of cliff. Only half of the pub is wood, the rest of the rooms are really small grottos carved into the rock like small caves with pub tables and chairs. There are two levels. You enter through the garden door, walk around the bar, passing by a couple of these small grottos and walk into a larger wooden room, which is where we ate our Sunday Roast lunch and had our pints.
Have you been to a pub? If not, here’s your instructions. First, find your table and lay claim. Second, note your table number. Third, review the menu, either found at the bar, at your table or on a wall somewhere in the pub. Fourth, order at the bar, giving your table number first, then your food and drink order. Usually, you can either leave the tap open or go ahead and pay. You carry your drinks back to the table and get refreshed. A server will bring your silverware and food.
While we waited on our lunch, we took turns exploring the historic and haunted pub. Up some wobbly stairs are two more rooms with partial cliff walls. In the second “museum” room, they have swords that were used during the crusades. They have several artifacts that are haunted. No, we didn’t see any ghosts, but we were there on a Sunday morning, much to Philip’s dismay.
After lunch, we headed up to the castle for tour, but that’s the next blog.
While out antique shopping on a Saturday, a dealer suggested we visit the three antique shops in the Georgian town of Knaresborough. The town is located at the bend of the River Nidd, with most of the town perched on the sandstone cliff. It’s located in North Yorkshire about 15 minutes from Harrogate. The town was listed in William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book in 1086. So, it’s been around for a while.
We visited the charming market square before having lunch at the Lavender Tea Room. The tearoom is located up some tiny steps above the oldest operating chemist in England. Records show that medicines had been dispensed here from the 17th century until 1997. It’s now a candy store! Our lunch was served on a traditional tea tiered server and we managed to finish it all off. Usually, we don’t stop for lunch, so this was a real treat.
Near the market square, Knaresborough Castle is situated at the top of a large cliff, with a wonderful view of the River Nidd. It dates from the Norman times. The castle ruins are owned by the Queen. However, in 1170, Hugh de Moreville owned the castle and he and his followers took refuge there after they had murdered Thomas Beckett in Canterbury. Hugh de Morville was the Constable of the Castle of Knaresborough and leader of the group of four knights who took King Henry II at his word when he said “will nobody rid me of this turbulent priest”. The tie-in for us: 36 years ago, we visited Canterbury Cathedral!
The ruins are surrounded by a park, so we strolled around and peered out over the river. We watched several trains cross the Victorian stone viaduct built in the mid-1800s. Canoes rowed under the bridge. Peaceful. The leaves were just starting to turn their fall colours.
This town sums up why we like England so much. It’s easy to take the word of a stranger and end up in an enchanting little town that belongs to an earlier time. Full of history and just waiting to be discovered. And, yes, we bought several things for the store!
Up next: The oldest pub in England.
The National Trust cares for over 300 historic buildings and gardens around England. One of these properties is located between Lincoln (our home base while in England) and Grantham. Belton House is a country house estate built for Sir John Brownlow between 1685-1689. We stopped in for a tour after a morning of antique shopping in Grantham.
So, what’s the draw of a visit to a stately manor? For some, it’s the gardens and grounds. For others, a chance to see how the 1% live. For us, it’s the history, art and architecture. And it doesn’t hurt that we’ve seen some of these buildings on television and in the movies.
The money for the Belton House came from practicing law. The accumulated wealth allowed the gentry family to build the symmetrical H-style manor house and to fill it with wonderful pieces of furniture and paintings. In addition, the house has two fabulous libraries filled with over 11,000 books collected over 300 years. Our favourite paintings were the massive canvasses of birds, painted by Melchior d’Hondecoeter in the 17th century, that decorate the dining room. The grandeur and size is outstanding and, amazingly, the gargantuan canvases were cut down to fit the room.
In more recent history, the 6th Baron Brownlow served as the King’s Lord-in-Waiting for King Edward VIII. He and Wallis Simpson visited Belton House on several occasions before and during Edward’s short reign before he abdicated. As we strolled through the home, we noticed photos of the couple in different rooms and guides were quick to point out rooms that the couple used.
Okay, so you know there has to be a Mr. Darcy connection. Belton House served as the setting for Rosings in the BBCs 1995 adaption of Pride and Prejudice starting Colin Firth. We took a photo of the desk where Darcy sits to write THE letter to Elizabeth.
Around the house, you notice the greyhounds. Painted on floors, carved in sculptures, placed in the ceiling, and embossed on door plates, the greyhound appears in the family’s coat-of-arms and the motif is found throughout the house.
We enjoyed our quick visit this time and, if time allows, we’ll go back and check out the downstairs!
Up next, we stray from our agenda and visit Knaresborough.
After visiting Chester, we headed towards Ashbourne (lots of antique stores), but first, stopped in at the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Maybe, a pottery museum wouldn’t make the top ten lists of the average English tourist. But, we have a collection of early British pottery and are members of the Transferware Collectors Club, so it’s been on our bucket list for several years.
Stoke-on-Trent is south of Manchester in the heart of industrial England. It was here that Enoch Wood and Josiah Wedgwood started potteries to compete with the influx of china from the Far East in the 1700s. Several towns make up the Stoke-on-Trent area, also known as The Potteries. On the back of historic china and pearlware, you’ll find the names of Tunstall, Burselem, Stoke, Fenton, Longton, and Hanley. We’re sure you’ve heard of Staffordshire, an English county and a term used to loosely group different types of pottery.
The Gladstone Pottery Museum is preserved as the last complete Victorian Pottery factory. In the 19th century, hundreds of factories existed in the area, where the natural resources of coal, sand, lead, and clay were available. Thousands of bottle ovens dotted the landscapes, since most factories had several. The Gladstone is an important industrial heritage site and an interesting museum devoted to sharing the story of the process and the workers who risked their lives to provide the world with pottery, china and tiles.
Gladstone was a small pottery that made household bone china and they had five bottle ovens. They employed men, women and children and was typical of the hundreds of factories in Staffordshire. We explored the exhibits, watched live demonstrations and climbed into the bottle ovens.
The ovens were the most interesting. The bottle shape that you see was the outer wall of the kiln. Inside was the actual oven. It would be stacked with thousands of pieces of china then fired. The kiln fireman would stand inside the outer shell and keep the fires stoked with coal for 2 days. The heat must have been extreme, to say the least! The air thick with coal smoke.
There was an unbelievable amount of work that went into making a plate or cup. Every step required an expert skilled worker and several support staff. And there were many, many steps. On the lives of all these people, the world got its dishes. The Gladstone Museum does a fine job of giving us a glimpse into the lives of the workers and the Industrial Revolution.
Up next, our visit to Belton House. Thanks for reading!
We made a return trip to Chester, England on our latest shopping trip; not to buy, but to reminisce. Chester is a beautiful ancient city built by the Romans 2000 years ago. It’s known for its city walls, the black and white covered walkways of the Rows and its beautiful red sandstone cathedral.
We were there 36 years ago and returned this year to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. In 1980, Drury University’s English Professor Jim Livingston organized a Winter Term Trip to England during the month of January 1981. He was Theresa’s faculty advisor, so she signed up for the trip. The trip was not only open to students, but also to alumni of the college. Philip tagged along with his friend, who was an alumnus. We met and the rest is our history.
During the trip, the participants had the opportunity to go off and explore on their own for a few days. Four of us went to Edinburgh, Wales and Chester. We only had a small time to spend in Chester, so we’ve always known we wanted to return. This time, we spent two glorious fall days, different from the snowy January 1981 visit.
We walked on the city walls getting our bearings. The walls surround the older parts of the city for two miles. They were originally built by the Romans and then rebuilt by the Normans. Medieval gates have been replaced by arches, which cars now drive through. The walls are tall and wide and easy to walk. They are made of the same red sandstone as the cathedral and in some places, they are almost 40 feet high. Trees hang over the walls providing shade and fall colours. From the high vantage point, you can peek into the yards and alleys of the city.
Our main objective was to revisit the cathedral. We remembered it as smaller than average, quiet and a beautiful red color. So, we headed over to the Chester Cathedral for a private behind-the-scenes tour and walked up 216 spiral stair steps for an awesome view of Chester and Wales. There has been a church on the spot since the 900s. The original Minster was turned into a Benedictine abbey in 1092. It survived Henry VIII’s dissolution of monasteries by becoming the cathedral of the Church of England. On the tour, we were able to catch glimpses of the past monastic life, including eating lunch in the 13th century monks’ dining hall. The cathedral is the beautiful sacred spot we remembered.
Most people associate Chester with The Rows. The black and white Rows are rows of two levels of shops with covered walkways. Think of them as the first malls, where you could shop continuously without getting wet from the English weather. They were built in the 13th century. Most have been rebuilt and enlarged and now have shops and eateries (And antique stores!). Stairways link both levels so you can shop each with ease, which we did. Yes, Philip found a few candy stores.
We wandered around the oldest Roman amphitheater ever unearthed in England and gardens, just outside the city walls. We visited the River Dee, stopping to imagine the Vikings raiders sailing up the river to attack the city. We had dinner the first night at the oldest horse race course in England, and the second night, we ate at the Bear and Billet, a tavern who roots go back to 1584!
At a Copenhagen flea market, we found a mangle board. A mangle board is a carved board that was used to remove water and press the wrinkles out of woven cloth. The cloth was wrapped around a round rolling pin. Then, the user would press the mangle into the cloth wrapped rolling pin. This early ironing contraption was used before handheld heated metal iron.
Mangle boards were used throughout Europe between the 1500s and 1800s. Often they were given as a courting gift. Highly carved, they often had horses as handles. In the Scandinavian countries, the horse represented virility. The one we found has a horse handle with a horsehair tail. The carving was done as chip-carving, a traditionally Scandinavian style. Although we bought it in Denmark, it resembles a Swedish board. Today, mangle boards are collected as folk art.
Almost four hundred years ago, a warship sank on its maiden voyage, right inside the harbour where it was constructed in Stockholm Sweden. It sank into the mud and was left there and forgotten. Now, it resides in a museum.
We visited the Vasa Museum, home to the ship, in Stockholm on our cruise aboard the Viking Sea. Walking into the museum, you’re immediately struck by the size of the resurrected ship; it looks like the Black Pearl of the Pirates of the Caribbean. We wandered up and down stairs and platforms which allows you views of the outside of the ship in all its glory. Each year, a million visitors view the Vasa.
In the early 1600s, Sweden’s King Gustav II Adolf was ready for Sweden to become a naval power and had ordered four identical warships built. The Vasa was the first one finished. The ship was impressive. It had 10 sails, 64 cannons and hundreds of sculptures. It communicated the wealth and power of Sweden. Four hundred and fifty people were needed to run the guns and the ship. There were concerns during the Vasa’s construction about the ship being too narrow and too top heavy, but the King pushed forward.
On August 10, 1628, thousands of spectators gathered to watch the Vasa set sail from Stockholm’s harbor. About 1300 meters from the shipyard, a gust of wind causes the ship to list and water to flood the open and low positioned gun-ports. Yep, it sank and sank fast. Ending up on the ocean floor along with fifteen crew members.
They tried to raise the Vasa, but it was stuck in the mud. Later, in the mid-1600s, they raised most of the cannons using a new invention, the diving bell. But the Vasa continued to sit at the bottom in cold ice water. The exact location was lost in time. In the 1950s, a determined Swede set out to find the battleship. And he did.
In August 1959, the Vasa was lifted and moved in stages. On Monday, April 24, 1961, the Swedish people gathered to see the Vasa appear over the water. The first of its kind to be raised in its entirety. Years passed as they work to dry out the wood and preserve it. In 1990, a museum housing the Vasa opened to the public.
Thanks for reading about our adventures aboard the Viking Sea. This concludes our trip blog series. Back to antiquing!
Arriving by ship to Stockholm Sweden had its advantages. Early in the morning, as dawn was breaking, the Viking Sea sailed into the archipelago of Stockholm from the Baltic Sea. There are over 30,000 islands that make up the archipelago.
Amazing! Some are little more than uninhabited barren rocks and some are wooded islands with gorgeous historical homes perched on their coasts. Rugged shores and little hideaways captured our imagination. Sailboats flitted among the islands. Small villages hugged the shoreline. It was so quiet.
As we got closer to the islands that make up Stockholm, we saw more activity as the city was waking up. Stockholm is made up of fourteen islands set on a lake. It’s a beautiful clean city and easy to find out the layout.
We loved our visit to Stockholm. All the photos were taken from our balcony aboard the Viking Sea.
Only one more vacation blog! Thanks for reading.
On our Baltic Sea cruise, we visited St. Petersburg Russia for two days and managed to see three palaces, do a tour of the city, visit a church, and attend a Russian Ballet performance of Swan Lake. Needless to say, we were a bit worn down after Russia.
Peter the Great planned this city on the Baltic Sea over 300 years ago. It gave his navy access to the sea and was meant as an elevated showcase to the world as Russia’s cultural capital. Most of his inspiration came from other European cities, including his grand boulevards and canals. What we experienced were his baroque and classical buildings.
All of the buildings we toured were magnificent. The opulence and artistry are hard to convey in a blog post, especially in a few photos. There were times we were overwhelmed by the art and architecture. Speechless. We can’t imagine the blood, sweat and tears it took to build these palaces and then, rebuild them after the war. The locals are extremely proud of these buildings, as they should be. As tourists to a foreign country, lining up in great herds to see priceless works of art and oh and ah over each room, it’s too hard to take it all in.
If we were turned loose, and allowed to wander at leisure in empty rooms, our experiences would have been different. We would have found favorite pieces of art, discussed details we found in the rooms, noted collections that spoke to us, but we were not allowed to stray from our particular herd. You cannot go into St. Petersburg, unless you are on approved tour or have applied for a visa. So, what we’ll share with you is a few photos of each location and let you linger if you want.
First up was Catherine’s Palace. We visited both the house and the extensive gardens. We saw the famous “Amber Room” and the 12 chandeliers in the Great Hall.
Next was the Winter Palace, home of the Russian Emperors from 1763 to 1917. Today, it’s one of the five buildings that make up the State Hermitage Museum. The Small Hermitage was built onto the Winter Palace to house Catherine the Great’s collection of artifacts. The Hermitage now has over 3 million items. Only a small portion are displayed for the masses. Here, we saw two da Vinci paintings and a number of Rembrandts.
Later, in the evening of the first day, we dressed up and went to the ballet. We were so exhausting it would have been easy to just stay on the ship. But this would be a chance of a lifetime, to see the Russian Ballet performance of the Swan Lake in the small private royal theatre located at the Hermitage. So, we pulled up our big boy pants and got back on the bus. The three-act ballet and orchestra performance were outstanding.
The next day, we visited the onion-domed Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. It is a memorial built where Alexander II was assassinated. With every inch filled with mosaics, it was something to see in person.
Our last palace was the Peterhof, the yellow palace of Peter the Great. Established as a royal summer imperial residence, it opened in August 1723. The northern facade faces the sea and after touring the building, we followed the gardens from the palace to the sea. We stopped to admire the fountains and sculptures in the gardens, then boarded a hydrofoil back to the city.