Sunday, March 23, 2008

...and Finally

Across the raod from Golgotha Village there is a grandiose gateway to Williamson Park which has had a lot of money thrown at it over the last few years and has become the venue for several events including the Summer season of plays arranged via the Dukes theatre.
In the centre of the park stands the Ashton Memorial. This is a prominent landmark seen from all around and especially from the M6 if driving past.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (15)

After leaving the Golden Lion pub the route continues for a generous mile up a very steep hill. This hill is getting steeper as I get older. Journey's end for the witches is believed to have been about 100 yerds beyond the parked car shown here. This is Golgotha Village which, in its day was well out of town, a separate village in its own right. But now is an integral part of the City as a whole. I always thought the name "Golgotha" was given to this place as a reference to its proximity to a place of execution, in the same way as Christians relate to the Golgotha outside Jerusalem. But a chance conversation on the bus put me right on that one. Golgotha Village earned its name through the Black Death in 1349. Nearby, just about where that car is parked there is an old cemetery.
The cemetery is a small walled enclosure which in more recent times [18 th century] was a Quaker burial site. But back in the 14 th century those who died from the Black Plague were interred here. They are probably buried much deeper down. Fear of this disease was terrible indeed. But today it is something of a secret garden, a very paecful and tranquil place that belies its grim past.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (14)

This is something Lancastrians of 1612 did not have to contend with! As we leave the Judges' Lodgings behind the route takes us across China Street which carries the city's [in]famous one-way system. Our seventeenth century reverie needs must give way to the all too real 21st. century for a while.
After crossing the road the route continues along Church Street which is now a modern shopping precinct but at least the architecture has some character about it. In the far distance is the Ashton Memorial. Our route pretty well follows a straight line towards it.
Beyond Church Street, and after crossing another busy road we enter Moorgate and past the Dukes Theatre and then this pub which stands on the site of its predecessor in which the Pendle Witches had their last drink on their way to the gallows. A brass plate beneath the window to the left of the main entrance attests to this..
Detail of the brass plate with the list of those executed after the Witch trials. I could not get a better quality picture here because the plate is well polished so it has my reflection in it despite my efforts to get out of the frame.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (13)

The Judges Lodgings where in times past, the visiting trial judge for the Lancaster Assizes would stay for the duration of the court sessions held at the Castle. The judges who condemned the Pendle witches may well have looked out of one of these windows to see the cart carrying the hapless victims going down across the square to Church Street. Just to the left of the building is a little known narrow ginnel or lane, called Nip Hill. Much narrower than York's "Shambles" or its Whip-ma-whop-ma lane. Nip Hill leads back up towards the Castle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (12)

Our via dolorosa starts at the massive doors of John o'Gaunt's Gateway at Lancaster Castle and sets of down the steep mediaeval cobbled hill. After a few short yards there is a footpath crosses to our left. Whether this path existed in 1620 I have no way of knowing but it looks ancient enough. Follw this path down towards a narrow Street....
....Castle Hill. It looks as though it has changed little over the centuries and it doesn't take much to imagine the sound of iron rimmed cartweels grinding on these cobbles. Follow the steet down to the small open square. You can see the old market cross at the end of this street in the background. I pass along this street every evening on my way to the bus station to get the bus home. Most of this street's occupants are lawyers and estate agents, but just to my right as I took this photo there is a tiny cottage museum which is open in the summer season. It shows a small kitchen complete with range and suitably costumed staff. "Living history" its called. I can remember living like that and I may be getting on a bit but I don't think I'm old enough for the history books just yet....
Or am I?

Lancaster Curiosity (11)

If you visit Lancaster Castle for the tour you are only shown a small part of it, namely the law courts (if they're not in session), the Shire Hall and various other parts including a dungeon cell . The major part of the castle is not available for tours as it is still part of HM Prisons and has been for some centuries and looks set to remain so for the forseeable future.
However, as part of your tour you will learn of the Lancaster or Pendle, Witches and will be shown into a very dark cell where you are given the impression this is where they were incarcerated. Alas this is not the case for, as I have learned from the prison officers themselves, these famaous witches were in fact in the tower which bears their name, the Witches Tower as shown here. In Harrison Ainsworth's account they "awoke to their last day and looked from the window upon the prospect of all Lacaster." Hardly a dark sightless hole though no doubt they may well have spent some time in one while the Authorities pursued their enquiries. Traces of the mullioned windows can still be seen in the walls as well as the two existing ones.
Harrison Ainsworth's novel does drift away from the facts in places. If you want to read the facts, hit this link on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (10)

This little virtual tour has brought you to St. George's Quay on the very banks of the Lune. Now let's retrace our steps back up the hill and tomorrow we'll trace the via dolorosa of the Pendle Witches to Golgotha. Yes, Lancaster has a place by that name.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (9)

Greyhound Bridge and in the background, the Millenium foot/cycle Bridge, both of which cross the River Lune shown here at low tide. Greyhound Bridge carries a three-lane road from Lancaster to Morecambe with one lane branching off for Carnforth, the small town famous for the filming of the classic film "Brief Encounter". This bridge qualifies as a curiosity in that it was once a railway bridge carrying trains that went from the long gone Green Ayre station in Lancaster to Morecambe, 4 miles away. There are two road bridges across the Lune; this one and a couple of hundred yards upstream, Skerton Bridge, once mentioned by Daniel Defoe in his travels about England in the earlier half of the 18th century.
The Millenium Bridge is a much more recent addition having been built in time for 2000.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (8)

At the bottom of Vicarage Fields there is a short terrace of houses inaccessible by car, a rarity. There are steps up into this short street followed by more steps up out of it. A little haven of peace away from the traffic noise.

Three years ago almost to the day, I retired from nursing. It doesn't seem that long somehow and yet, I feel I have always been retired. I remember it took quite some time to get used to the idea of not having to rush off and get to work. Now I can take my time, well, almost.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (7)

There is a path runs down the edge of Vicarage Fields. It runs very steeply and gets so steep near the bottom that steps are necessary. At first sight these steps look as though they were put there at least 200 years ago.
But then this plaque gives the game away. It was last century but only just. Actually this flight of steps is recorded as "Doris's Steps." So there you have it.

I missed doing a posting yesterday. I was busy all day in the studio, framing some work for an upcoming exhibition. By the time I got home in late evening I was only fit for my bed. Today has been no different, preparing said frames but at least I got away at tea-time (sort of). There now only remains the cataloguing, labelling, hanging fixtures, statements..etc...etc...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (6)

Behind the castle stands Priory Church and beyond that the green sward of the other side of the Castle Hill sweeping down towards St. George's Quay and the River Lune. Vicarage Fields are ancient allotments dating back to Saxon times. They are not used as such now but are a national Heritage site. It is believed there is much archeology to be found here as the monastic buildings covered this land up to the time of the Dissolution by Thomas Cromwell under Henry VIII.

Strange, isn't it, how the name Cromwell featured twice in English history; first it was Thomas Cromwell, King Henry's secretary who oversaw the dismantling of the monasteries in Engand and the a hundred years later along comes Oliver Cromwell who dismantled the Monarchy and destroyed a few castles. I wonder if they were related?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (5)

A ramp/walkway running halfway up the curtain wall of Lancaster castle. The parapet is not crenellated. The interesting thing is this lack of crenellation bears testament to why Oliver Cromwell did not lay waste to this castle unlike several, some very large, around the country which were. He may well have realised what a useful prison it had become in preference to its defensive capability. It was decreed by the Parliamentarians that the crenellations and some of the curtain walls be removed which they subsequently were. Much of it was restored in the Victorian era. The original parts extant are the Norman keep built in 1094, John o' Gaunt's Gateway, built around the fourteenth century and the Witches Tower, so named because of its connection with the Pendle witches built about the same time.
If you walk along this terrace from the Gateway you come out above the Shire Hall and Courts. Steps lead down from there to a courtyard from where you can continue to circumnabulate the Castle or cross over to the Priory Church and the Vicarage Fields beyond.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (4)

Horseshoe Corner is the unofficial name of the intersection between Penny Street, Cheapside and Market Street in Lancaster. It is so named because of the horseshoe set into the paving at the centre of this crossroads. Legend has is that John o' Gaunt's horse shed a shoe here when he left Lancaster castle for the last time. This was once the centre of the mediaeval City of Lancaster.
Alas, as one sees, looking down Market Street there is no trace left of any mediaeval buildings. Indeed it is now a modern nonedescript cloneed pedestrian zone which, apart from the famous horseshoe, could be anywhere in the UK. This photograph was taken late on a Sunday afternoon while clear of traffic both wheeled and legged. On the other six days of the week it is a bustling shopping centre and on Wednesdays and Saturdays it is augmented by an open air market.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Stainer's Crucifixion

Swearing Mother's blog for March 7 tells of her listening to the Rolling Stones rock band and having the ghettoblaster at full volume and how she enjoyed it even though she made her tinnitus worse.
Well I don't know about Mick Jagger but while I was working on my latest version of ΓΥΝΕΘΕΑ I decided, seeing its getting up to that time of year to put on the tape of "The Crucifixion", an oratorio by John Stainer. I put on my earphones and had the volume set pretty high. I thouroughly enjoyed the piece even if Gloucester Cathedral organ did blast my eardrums!
Now my tinnitus is ringing-ing-ing-ing. Thats karmic consequence for you.
Serious musicians are a bit unkind to Stainers "Crucifixion"; they say it is sentimental Victorian tripe. Well, so was some of Arthur Sullivan's music. But the Victorians were sentimental romantics. As for it being tripe, well, I'm a vegetarian and haven't much time for tripe either.
But taken for what it is, with very singable chorales in between it is a lovely piece of music. So yeah, whatever turns you on, whether its Mick Jagger or John Stainer, lets go for it.

Lancaster Curiosity (3)

A blustery wet day as I make my way across town to the studio. My cap is pulled forward to shield my eyes from the icy blast and my head head down as I push forward into the driving rain. All I can see is shiny wet cobblestones.

In the shelter of the castle wall I glimpse an arrow slit. There are several of these clustered around the main gateway. Clearly this place was designed to give unwelcome visitors a hot reception. These days the castle is besieged by friendly tourists.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (2)

No history lesson this time. Just the view from (obviously) Castle Hill where it joins another street called Castle View. Well, it wouldbe, wouldn't it? From here you can see three of the crenellations of the "Witches Tower" and beyond, behind the trees the east wall of the Priory Church which is the nearest Lancaster has to an Anglican Cathedral. There is a Catholic Cathedral at the bottom of my street. More of that in another posting.

This is a picturesque corner on Castle Hill. I summer, much of it is obscured by foliage.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lancaster Curiosity (1) Henry IV

The flag of Henry IV, Duke of Lancaster, crowned king off all England on March 6, 1399. He became king through the machinations of John o' Gaunt, sometimes dubbed John-Kingmaker, the previous Duke of Lancaster. Today his standard flew above the castle and the neighbouring Priory Church. It shows the four lions rampant of England and a blue gate with the Fleur-de-Lys indicating he not only has the throne of England but has part of France too. It was this claim that caused the Hundred Years War
John of Gaunt was the last non-monarch to hold the Duchy. The present holder is Elizabeth II, our current Queen.

Work in Progress

The drawing board corner of my studio. I'm taking a little rest from the "Sea Pictures" and doing a bit of work on Hellenistic figures. This is an intermittent project that started in Cyprus last year, or was it the year before? Time flies. Anyway this is a general view of the area.
What i tend to do is make a sort of master image and then do variations of that. It is not unlike the way a music composer takes a basic theme and makes up a series of variations either melodic or tinkers with the instrumentation. The original drawing, based on a caryatid figure of the Hellenic period, around 450 BC, was prepared on a piece of cartridge paper then I made a tracing (top middle) from which to set out subsequent images. Five versions are shown here. Each drawing is slightly different from the others. The idea is to create an image which expresses what I am trying to say. Or rather what I think I am trying to say. I want to make an image of a Grecian female figure but in a minimalist way. Line drawing does the trick but something is lacking.

Today I made the watercolour version shown here. It is on a piece of heavy paper 42 cms tall.

I finished todays session at the studio by starting another one, in acrylics this time. You can see it on the drawing board in the top photo. The master drawing is the image to the left of the painting.

Each day I walk across Lancaster to the Castle area by a different route. There are so many hidden things to find in this ancient city. I have photographed quite a few of these curiosities. I shall post an image most days but not necessarily with a commentary. Please let me know what you think of them.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Côr Meibon Penybontfawr

Yes it was St.David's day yesterday and my wife had bought us tickets for a choral concert hosted by the Lancaster and Morecambe Welsh Society. They are a group made up of Welsh folk and friends whose aim is to encourage and understand Welsh culture. We got rather interested through our youngest daughter taking up residence in Bargoed in South Wales. My wife has been having Welsh language lessons with this society for some little time now. She even went for a week's intensive at Abergevenny (Y Fenni) last autumn.

But not me, I have enough to do learning Greek as part of my Cypriot connection.

But last night it was, "Cymru nam beith!" A visit to the Wetsh Embassy bach!

But seriously, there's nothing quite like a Welsh male voice choir. This particular one came up specially for the occaision from Penybont in mid Wales. Theirs was a varied programme including spirituals, a couple of operatic choruses as well as traditional Welsh music. At the end of the concert we all stood up to sing "Land of Our Fathers" (in Welsh) for which we were given copies of words so even us non-Welsh speakers could give it our best.
An enjoyable night out. Yaci da!