When I travel I tend to concentrate my photographs and subsequent posts on 'large' topics such as stately homes, cathedrals, cities, and so forth. Here is something a little different...some smaller discoveries you might enjoy.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) sits in Dorchester, the county town of Dorset. Hardy's novels were set in nearby areas; The Mayor of Casterbridge used the town as the model for Casterbridge.
In Winchester Cathedral, these objects memorialize William Walker, a deep-sea diver who save the Cathedral from sinking into the wet ground on which it had been built beginning in the 11th century. Because workers could not dig underneath to buttress the stone walls without the trenches immediately filling with water, Walker, in his complete rig, worked in 20 feet of water, in the dark, to build sturdy supports that enabled the structure above to be saved. He labored for six years beginning in 1906, packing the foundations with more than 25,000 bags of concrete and 115,000 concrete blocks. He was honored in a special service of thanksgiving in 1912; sadly he died at age 49 in the influenza epidemic of 1918.
In the National Museum of the Royal Navy at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard near the flagship Victory, among the memorials to Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), are these Staffordshire pottery figures. The dying figure of Nelson is held by his Captain and a sailor in the Battle of Trafalgar. As much as he was admired, I find it hard to imagine such a grim bibelot on my parlor table.
The object at left above is a gravel roller for garden paths, keeping them dry and smooth for the dainty slippers of well-dressed ladies. It can be found in the Georgian Garden in Bath.
Maria Edgeworth's Inkstand has pride of place in the library at Chawton House in Hampshire. Edgeworth (1768-1849) wrote many novels, essays, and other works reflecting her Anglo-Irish heritage. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
The Great Hall in Lacock Abbey was created in the 1750's in the Gothic style. Among other features, a series of terracotta figures were placed in niches around the stone walls. The particular coronet-wearing skeleton was created by Austrian artist Victor Alexander Sederbach. Striking! And spooky.
On my first visit to the City of Manchester, I was eager to browse through the Art Gallery.
Which is more fascinating here, the artist or the sitter? The 1793 portrait of Ellis Cornelia Knight was painted in Rome by Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807). Kauffman's works are seen in many English stately homes and museums. Though Swiss- born, she worked mainly in England and Italy.
An amateur artist and author of several novels, Knight was a friend of Admiral Nelson and the Hamiltons in Naples and later in England became a companion to Queen Charlotte and later to Charlotte, Princess of Wales.
I am always on the look-out for the works of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). His painting style evolved over the years of his life from very realistic views, such as this one of the Thames countryside painted in 1809, to the abstract impressionism of his latest works. The picture is entitled Thomson's Aeolian Harp, with classical figures acting out the ode written by poet James Thomson.
Turner's style was influenced by the many times he portrayed marine scenes where the play of light changed with the clouds and the waves. This is Now for the Painter (meaning rope)--Passengers Going on Board, from 1827.
As might be expected, many of the paintings are Victorian masterworks. A favorite is Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) who portrayed Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire in 1830-35. The label reads: Landseer "...sets the quiet power of the ever-flowing river against the ghostly image of the ruin to suggest the passage of time and the brevity of human life."
Landseer was well known for his realistic animal images, including this dead lion, The Desert, painted in 1849.
The Sirens and Ulysses was painted in 1832 by William Etty (1787-1849) showing a scene from Homer's ancient Greek poem The Odyssey. The label points out critics' frequent derision of Etty for nudity in his works, but it seems to me many historical and biblical paintings were filled with naked subjects, particularly the females.
I have given you only a tiny taste of the treasures to be found in the Manchester Art Gallery. I will leave you with this amusing view of the staircase filled with artwork, all under the watchful protection of Spiderman. I love such surprises--they prevent us from taking our culture much too seriously! Art is for enjoyment after all.
I don't know why I've visited so few cities in Britain, beyond London and Edinburgh...but this was my first foray into Manchester, and it was a treat. I have yet to see Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow, and several others. I was suitably impressed with the third largest UK city.
Above is the Manchester Art Gallery, of course the first on my list of local attractions.
The Art Gallery was not far from our hotel, a nicely updated Edwardian pile called The Midland. The room was big with a sitting area and a huge well equipped bathroom. Since we both were nursing headcolds, our schedule called for lots of sleep.
Manchester Town Hall, again evidence of its growth and prominence in the 19th Century.
Perhaps my favorite spot in Manchester was the John Rylands Library, a stunning neo-Gothic structure. It was impossibly Edwardian/Victorian in style and execution, yet it seemed completely modern and technologically cutting edge. How, you ask?
Despite the imposing (grim?) Victoriana of the structure and the main entrance, (above two pictures from Wikipedia), things inside are accessible, with necessary facilities, a bookstore and gift shop, restaurant, and search facilities.
My photo tells the story. A completely modern building has been wrapped around one side of the library to provide elevators and all other required conveniences. Bravo to the perspicacious souls who devised this scheme.
The library was designed by architect Basil Champreys for Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her late husband (above), a prosperous cotton merchant. Built between 1890 and 1900, it is now a part of the University of Manchester Library.
Among the many treasures held here are illuminated manuscripts, a Gutenberg Bible, and many more rarities. Mrs. Rylands purchased the collection of the 2nd Earl Spencer in 1892 to add to her contributions.
One place I had intended to visit was the home of author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), whose papers are held at the Rylands Library. Below is a picture of her home in a residential area known as Plymouth Grove. But alas, I failed to note the limited hours and thus I will have to return someday.
Visit Elizabeth Gaskell's House website: http://elizabethgaskellhouse.co.uk/
Next week, a few selections from the Art Gallery.
Last summer I had the good fortune to visit Salisbury Cathedral twice. I've visited long ago, but I particularly enjoyed my visits in 2018 because on both occasions, the organ and choir were in full voice, once in rehearsal, the other time during a service.
The photo above was taken in the Cathedral Close in May, while that below was taken in mid July. Note how the lawn dried out in the torrid summer of 2018 in the UK.
The Cathedral was begun in 1220 and completed in a mere thirty-eight years, an amazing feat. The West Facade includes more than seventy statues, making a striking invitation to enter.
Facade of Salisbury Cathedral
The nave is unusually tall and narrow, and the ceilings have been repainted to approximate the appearance in the thirteenth century.
Cloisters were added in 1240.
Above, entering the Chapter House, built in 1263. It exhibits one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta, the document signed by King John in 1215 which acknowledges his sharing of power with the nobles. As one of the foundations of democracy, it is revered throughout the world.
This reproduction of the original shows what it looks like; to protect it, very low light is available and no photographs are allowed.
The windows of the Chapter House, however, are particularly beautiful in the sunshine.
The Salisbury spire is the tallest Church spire in the UK. I cannot resist including a few versions, below, of views of the Cathedral painted by the celebrated English artist John Constable, RA, (1776-1837). He painted the Cathedral from various viewpoints many times. Note the importance of the art museums in which they hang.
And there are more! What more perfect picture of England than these could you imagine?
Above, the Throne Room of the Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii. Last week, I tried to give a capsule version of how Hawaii developed its monarchy, which continued from 1810 to 1893. It was in the last two decades that the Iolani Palace was built and lived in by the monarch.
David, King Kalakaua (1836-1891) was chosen King in 1874. chosen. He was educated with the sons of chiefs, spoke fluent English, had a lively interest in science, and affection for native Hawaiian cultures He traveled in the US and Europe, spending time in London where he was received and entertained by Queen Victoria. Above portrayed in 1891 by artist William Cogswell, he wears he decorations awarded him by the rulers of six major nations.
The Grand Hall and Staircase in Iolani Palace. The ground floor was used for social gatherings. Below, the State Dining Room. Remember to click on the images for larger versions.
Above, the Blue Room, used for smaller receptions and entertainments. The Hawaiian Royal Family traveled extensively and visited with royalty all over the world.
Above and below, the King's office and Library.
Below, the Upper Hall,
Below, the King's Bedroom. The feathered standard on the left of the bed is a traditional symbol of Hawaiian royalty.
Above, the King had the latest technological advances installed: plumbing, telephone, and electricity. Below, the Queen's bedchamber.
Above, the Gold or Music Room. Note the gifted elephant tusks and the portrait of Queen Kapi'olani.
Queen Lili'uokalani (1838-1917), sister of King Kalakaua, succeeded her brother after his death in 1891. Lili'uokalalni was an artist and poet, and composed many songs, often p=based on traditional island themes. She was widely traveled and represented the King at Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in London in 1887. However, within a few years of both internal and external difficulties, she was forced to give up "...administration of Hawaii to a pro-annexation group Honolulu businessmen who promptly formed a Provisional Government," in the words of the palace guidebook.
Above, the Coat of Arms of the Hawaiian Kingdom. After attempts to re-form the monarchy failed, in 1895, the Queen was tried and imprisoned in her former palace, which was then known as the executive building of the Republic of Hawaii. Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States of America in 1959. The Royal Family's descendants and many others work hard to honor and support native culture and traditional customs.
The Queen was held in one of the upstairs bedroom for almost eight months before she was released. This quilt is displayed in the Imprisonment Room, one of the pastimes with which she occupied herself while in custody. Later she divided her time between homes in the U.S. and Honolulu.
On the grounds of the Iolani Palace is the Coronation Pavilion, constructed in 1883, and now used for band concerts and as the center public celebrations. Below, the Palace as it stands today, under the care of Friends and the State of Hawaii, and open to the public.
Above, the Iolani Palace, Honolulu Hawaii
Below, the Throne Room
On a recent visit, my first, to Hawaii, I was pleased to visit this palace in the center of Honolulu, built in the 1880's. The palace boasted the latest in indoor flushing sanitary conveniences, electric lighting, and telephones, all installed at the behest of King Kalakaua (1836-1891).
I was very interested in reading about Hawaii’s history. The islands were created by the gradual accumulation of lava from underwater volcanoes deep below the Pacific Ocean. According to the sources I read, over millions of years the islands grew until they broke through the surface, one by one, thousands of miles from other land masses.
Scientists at the Bishop Museum (above) showed us evidence of a new island forming and in only 30,000 years (or was it 300,000?), the will be a new island emerging, already named Lo'ihi. The “new” land was composed of lava, which is sometimes solid rock, other times pulverized by wind and waves. Flora and eventually fauna arrived by wind, ocean currents, birds, and insects. Over millions of years, the islands developed in near isolation. The oldest of the islands is Kauai, which is also the greenest.
Below, Opaeka'a Falls, Kauai
Estimates vary, but human arrivals probably began less than two thousand years ago. People from far away islands in Polynesia came, probably in outrigger canoes (modern versions on the beach, below), an amazing feat. Each island was slowly inhabited but the details can be discovered only in legend and myth. The oral tradition is the only source of history before the 18th century. Some speculate that Spanish and/or Portuguese explorers stopped by before, but if so, the specific evidence is still undiscovered.
Captain James Cook (1728-1779) visited Hawaii two times on his third Pacific voyage in 1776-79. A skilled cartographer, his maps of previously little-known lands were met with great interest by the British. The artists and scientists on board his ships brought back the sketches and stories of distant and exotic lands, as well as many artifacts and plants, some of which were planted at Kew Gardens and elsewhere. Below, Cook, by Nathaniel Dance, 1775-75.
Cook himself was killed in Hawaii in what is commonly thought to be a partially accidental incident. A town on the big island is named Captain Cook (note the shot I snapped as our tour bus passed the post office). The spot he was killed is marked by an obelisk, and a statue of Cook stands on the island of Kauai near his first landing.
It was not long before the Christian missionaries followed the explorers to all the areas visited, including the Hawaiian Islands, which he named Sandwich Islands. For several decades, the quarrels and occasional battles among the tribes living on the various islands continued. The pre-European- arrival culture of the islands is preserved in some locations, such as the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, below.
I've taken up way too much space to give you the interior of the palace this time, so come back next week for more.
I am taking down my Christmas Tree, wee though it is, and I thought I'd write a quick post about Twelfth Night, not a holiday widely celebrated around here, except in church, related to the Feast of the Epiphany. I naturally turned to Wikipedia and some articles from newspapers and discovered little agreement about what Twelfth Night is--or when!
What's a busy blogger to do? I thought it was simple. Twelfth Night marks the arrival of the Three Wise Men at the stable in Bethlehem to bring their gifts (who could turn down Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, whatever the last two are?) to the Christchild.
Well, yes, but...when do you start counting the 12 days? does the term refer to the eve of the twelfth day or its post-twilight? Should it be celebrated on January fifth or sixth?
What did Shakespeare say?
I found only further complications as I tried to sort out the play's cross-dressing characters and rogues such as Sir Toby Belch, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. I learned it was first performed at the end of Christmastide as it was observed about 1602 on February 2. Go figure. Not any help at all. Thanks, Bill.
But I did learn from several sources that some people prone to superstition believe that taking Christmas decorations down after Twelfth Night is bad luck. Why take a chance? I am now returning to my other tasks. I have yet to make those resolutions for next -- whoops -- this year.
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, in the familiar view, wearing its summer hues. Someday, perhaps. I will be able to visit at Christmas. Just in case, I have saved a few shots over the years, and will share them with you for a few moments of holiday dreaming as the season winds down.
The Painted Hall from both ends.
The Library, reflecting the various themes through the years.
And to all, a good night!
Though it has been a few years since I visited Holkham Hall, it remains one of my favorite English Country Houses and I have saved pictures from its Christmas festivities over the years. If I could visit during the holidays, I would--just to see what creative things they do with their decorations.
You can join Father Christmas for candlelight tours and other events at their website
Or just come with me to view a selection of photos from this and previous years. Enjoy!
I don't know about you, but I have all I can do to wrestle one tree! So this is really grand!
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.
Just to purge my grimies before the holidays REALLY arrive, I decided to write about a place I did not admire -- and why. Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is one of Britain's most-visited country houses, and you know how I aspire to visit them all. It is extravagantly magnificent and filled with treasures. So why didn't I enjoy my visit to Blenheim?
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the great country houses, at least to me, is the families who lived in them. Blenheim Palace seems to have had more unhappiness than good cheer. I have not yet seen the film The Favourite, but two of the principal characters were concerned with the building of Blenheim: Queen Anne and Sarah Jennings Churchill, the first Duchess of Marlborough, below in a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, dated 1702, National Portrait Gallery, London.
Sarah was a close confidante of Queen Anne, and the wife of John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough. When the Duke was victorious over the French in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, Anne proposed to build the Marlboroughs a great national monument as a Palace for their use in the royal manor of Woodstock in Oxfordshire. Thus began the long and often sad saga of the house ad family. Below, John Churchill, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, NPG.
While her husband was away leading British armies Sarah quarreled with everyone, the Queen and the architect John Van Brugh; Sarah wanted a livable home while the others wanted a Palace of Versailles for England. Angry, the Queen reneged on her payments, beginning several centuries of struggle for the Churchill family, later known as the Spencer-Churchills, to support the estate financially. Below, Queen Anne, after John Clostermann, 1702.
The Spencer-Churchills were not a particularly wealthy family and the requirements of court life and maintenance of Blenheim were a severe burden. Charles, the 9th duke (1871-1934) turned to an American alliance to rescue Blenheim from its debts. His marriage to Consuelo Vanderbilt was notoriously unhappy and ended in divorce after she provided bundles of money plus an heir and a spare. The portrait below was painted by John Singer Sargent in 1905.
The 9th duke's cousin was Winston Churchill (1874-1965), grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, and also the son of an American heiress, Jennie Jerome, wife of Randolph Churchill. Below, Sir Winston photographed in 1941 by Yousuf Karsh of Ottawa. If Winston had been responsible for the care of Blenheim, how could he have saved the world in WWII?
So far I have not provided many reasons for disliking Blenheim, beyond the travails of its owners. Which, I believe, counts for a lot. I also found its appearance unwelcoming, harsh, and unfriendly both outside and in. Upon approaching the front entrance, it seems to be frowning at the visitor.
The corner turrets atop the towers are militaristic, supposed to be like bursting battle explosions. Though the front pediment is of Roman sternness, it seems Van Brugh and his associate Hawksmoor, could not stop adding baroque embellishments elsewhere. Or perhaps they had a fire sale at the stone curlicue dealer.
Above, the Green Writing-Room with the Battle of Blenheim tapestry.
The rooms are small, almost claustrophobic with their huge and overwhelming tapestries and little natural light. Rarely did a room look like you could relax with a cuppa and a good book without fearing that some army battalion would come marching upon you.
Obviously these State Rooms are not where the family could hideaway but one can easily see why Sarah wanted a less magisterial home.
The Long Library was altered from its original purpose as a picture gallery and though it is now furnished as a relatively comfortable sitting room, it still seems prickly to me. The family tree, displayed in the foreground of the picture. traces the family back to the 8th century Charlemagne, not (as usually in country houses) merely to 1066.
Though I do not like the house or the interiors, the pleasure park and gardens are brilliant. One of the triumphs of Lancelot "Capability" Brown, the grounds contain a lake, the brilliant bridge by Van Brugh, the Grand Cascade, the Victory Column, and much much more. Below, the Bridge.
I hope you have the opportunity to visit Blenheim, preferably during a season when the lawns are fully green. In the summer I first visited, here is how the grass looked. Maybe you will love it and I welcome the comments of anyone who wants to challenge my opinion of the place!
Victoria Hinshaw, Author