Leicester Guildhall

On the day that we visited Leicester Cathedral and the temporary Richard III exhibition, we also visited the Guildhall. What a beautiful building!

It’s a Grade I listed timber framed building, with the earliest part dating from c. 1390. The Guildhall once acted as the town hall for the city until the current one was commissioned in 1876. Although some parts are earlier, the majority of the building dates from the 15th century. It is located in the old walled city, on a street now known as Guildhall Lane, just across from the west door of the cathedral.

Leicester Guildhall Leicester Guildhall

Library door, Leicester Guildhall Library door, Leicester GuildhallBehind the street frontage there was the most wonderful little courtyard. You can see the spire of the cathedral over the roof. I can just imagine killing time sitting on that bench with a book.

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There was also an unusual clock on the wall. On each full hour the little figures move out and face each other to clang out the hour (for some strange reason I was reminded of Punch and Judy!!).

Clock in the courtyard at Leicester Guildhall Clock in the courtyard at Leicester GuildhallDSCF2834Inside on the ground floor is The Mayors Parlour. The room is dominated by a fireplace with a wonderful over mantel. It was build in 1637.

Over mantel in The Mayors Parlour, Leicester GuildhallThe mayors chair is there as well, and there is also a seat for the representative of the ruler of the land. It has the motto of the Monarch of the United Kingdom (Dieu et mon Droit) over the seat. Mind you it looks a bit uncomfortable!

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Next door is the Great Hall. It was built around 1390 as the meeting place of the Guild of Corpus Christi (founded in 1347); the guild was a group of businessmen and gentry who had religious connections. The Guildhall was used for banquets, festivals, and as a home for a priest who prayed for the souls of Guild members in the nearby St Martins church. By 1495 in was in use as the Town Hall and remained so until the remarkably late date of 1875. The hall was used for many purposes, including council meetings, feasts, as a courtroom, and for theatrical performances.

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The hall has the most wonderful wooden vaulted ceiling.

Upstairs there’s a small bedroom and the library.

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This was an unexpected gem to find on our day in Leicester. There is also an old jail on the site with some interesting inmates! And apparently there are five resident ghosts…

It is a beautiful building with a great sense of history throughout…. and I think it’s a wedding venue as well!

Opening times (as far as I know)

Open daily: 11am – 4.30pm
(February – October)

Open November – January for special events.

Address:

The Guildhall
Guildhall Lane
Leicester
LE1 5FQ

 

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Richard III and Leicester Cathedral

I keep seeing these ads on the telly for the re-interment of the remains of Richard III in Leicester. You might remember him as the King in the Car Park, whose remains were discovered in Greyfriars in September 2012.

We had visited the Cathedral and exhibition back in 2013 (I’d planned to write this back then but the real world got in the way!!). We had already been to the Bosworth Field site to learn more about the actual battle, but this was a chance to see a little bit more.
All the photos included here are a year old; apparently the Cathedral has undergone some serious building works in preparation for the reburial, but I thought I would include them anyway.

At that time there was a very basic exhibition centre in the Guildhall , but there were plans for a more extensive structure. The former Alderman Newton’s School, located right next to the spot where the king’s remains were found, was purchased and transformed into a new Exhibition Centre. The former school – a Victorian Gothic revival building built partly on the site of the former Grey Friars Church and in the heart of Leicester’s Old Town – had stood empty since 2008 when its last occupants, Leicester Grammar School, moved out. The car park looked much like a building site when we were there (there were further digs planned), and it was strange to think of Richard lying there for over 500 years. I loved the Bear standing guard over the car park from the roof of an adjoining building. The Bear and Ragged Staff was the symbol of the Earl of Warwick, who was a huge presence in Richards early life, but was later used by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

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Leicester Cathedral itself is a beautiful building. There has been a church dedicated to St Martin on the site for about a thousand years, with the first one recorded in 1086, when the older Saxon church was replaced by a Norman one. The present building is a Grade II* listed building and dates to about that age. The spire was added in 1862, and there have been various restorations throughout the years.

Exterior of  Leicester Cathedral, south door

Exterior of Leicester CathedralWe entered through Vaughans Porch on the south side of the cathedral. This is so-named for the carved saints over the door set in sandstone niches, all of whom are listed below.

  • Guthlac c 673–713 was a Christian saint from Lincolnshire who lived when Leicester was first made a diocese in the year 680
  • Hugh of Lincoln c 1135–1200 was a French monk who founded a Carthusian monastery and worked on the rebuilding of Lincoln Cathedral after an earthquake destroyed it in 1185. In Norman times Leicester was situated within the Diocese of Lincoln.
  • Robert Grosseteste c 1175–1253 was an English statesman, scholastic philosopher, theologian, scientist and Bishop of Lincoln. He is also the most famous of the medieval Archdeancons of Leicester.
  • John Wycliffe c 1329–1384 was an Oxford scholar and is famous for encouraging two of his followers to translate the bible into English. Foxe’s famous “Book of Martyrs” (which commemorates the Protestant heroes of the reformation era) begins with John Wycliffe.
  • Henry Hastings c 1535–1595 was the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. The Leicester home of the Earls of Huntingdon was in Lord’s Place off the High Street in Leicester, and Mary, Queen of Scots stayed there as a prisoner on her journey to Coventry.
  • William Chillingworth 1602–1643 was an Oxford theologian, a friend of Jeremy Taylor and nephew of Archbishop Laud. He was Master of Wyggeston Hospital and became a Chaplain to the Royalist army in the Civil War.
  • William Connor Magee 1821–1891 was Bishop of Peterborough and encouraged the building of many of Leicester’s famous Victorian churches and a large number of parochial schools. He appointed the first suffragan Bishop of Leicester, Francis Thichnesse, in 1888. Magee later became Archbishop of York.

Carvings over the Vaughan Porch, Leicester Cathedral Vaughan Porch, Leicester CathedralInterior of Leicester Cathedral

There are three separate chapels in the cathedral, each dedicated to a separate saint.

The side chapels are St Katherine,s and St Dunstan’s and are used for small services and vigils. St Georges chapel is at the rear of the cathedral and commemorates the armed forces, especially those from Leicester who have been killed in past conflicts. Hanging overhead are a collection of colours from those forces. These are the battle honours of the Regiment, and the names of those killed in the Crimean, South African and two World Wars are recorded and remembered; standing there you cannot help but think of the number of battles those flags were carried into and the number of young and old men who gave their lives. Dulce et decorum est……….

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I’ve added a few photos of the interior of the church. Like I said, the photos were taken a year ago and there have been changes with the planned reburial. But it is a beautiful church and well worth a visit.

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At the time there was a memorial slab to the memory of Richard III in the main chancel of the church. I’m presuming the new tomb will replace this.

Memorial stone to Richard III; Interior of Leicester CathedralWe popped across the street to the Guildhall where the exhibition was housed at that time. There were a number of battle field artefacts from the battlefield at Bosworth where Richard was killed and also exhibits about his life and kingship. Most of this I had seen before in Bosworth, but there was an exquisite 15th century alabaster sculpture with the Yorkist symbols of the Sun in Splendour and the White Rose.

15thcentury alabaster sculpture with the Yorkist symbols of the white rose and the Sun in Splendour. The White Rose of York The Sun in SplendourThe details of the reburial and the planned routes are on the King Richard in Leicester website. Hopefully this time he will rest in peace.

 

Tewkesbury Abbey.

We stopped off in Tewkesbury recently, on our way to the Hrafnslith training weekend at the ATC in Cranbourne.
We’d stayed in Tewkesbury some years ago, and I’d always fancied returning there to have another wander round the Abbey and it’s grounds.

Tewkesbury Abbey.Officially known as The Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin, Tewkesbury Abbey is in the English county of Gloucestershire, and is a former Benedictine monastery. It is thought to be one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain; in simpler terms, it is a stunning Norman building!

Tewkesbury Abbey.The entrance to the grounds is through an ornate gateway. There is a coat of arms at the top of the gateway, but I cannot seem to find any information about whose they are. Any ideas?

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The  pathway to the Abbey entrance is lined by Yew trees.Pathway to entrance of Tewkesbury Abbey. Entrance of Tewkesbury Abbey.Once inside there is something to look at in every direction. The walls and ceiling have intricate carvings. When you think that these carvings were made over 800 years ago, without the advantages that modern labour saving techniques provide, I have to say that it is pretty impressive. Many of the carvings are on the walls and ceilings of the tombs that lie throughout the Abbey. One tip though if you do decide to visit; don’t forget to look up!

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There is a wonderful organ in the Abbey as well. The Milton Organ was originally built in 1631, but was bought by the Abbey in 1736.

The Milton Organ - Tewkesbury Abbey.The wooden carved stalls are in the choir of the Abbey.

The choir - Tewkesbury Abbey.There is also a modern bronze memorial plaque to Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. Edward was the leader of the Lancastrian force that was defeated by Edward IV at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 during the Wars of the Roses.

Memorial plaque to Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales.The Latin is translated as: “Here lies Edward, Prince of Wales, cruelly slain while but a youth, A.D. 1471, May 4th. Alas, the savagery of men. Thou art the sole light of thy mother, and thy last hope of thy race.” (W. G. Bannister, Tewkesbury Abbey, As It Was, and As It Is.)

The grounds of the Abbey are small, but are wonderfully peaceful to walk or sit in. Here are a few more of the photos I took while we were there.

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Hrafnslith and the ATC

Sunset over the viking longhouse at the ATCWe spent a lovely weekend at the end of September with our viking friends (old and new) at a training weekend at the Ancient Technology Centre (ATC) in Cranbourne, Dorset. The weekend was organised by Hrafnslith; remember them from the event at the beginning of the summer at Corfe Castle?

Sunset over the viking longhouse at the ATCThe ATC is a great spot. It began over 25 years ago as a school project.  Jake Keen, a teacher working at Cranborne Middle School, designed and led the building of an Iron Age roundhouse based on archaeological evidence. Uniquely, Jake’s ethos demanded the construction and material gathering to be undertaken by school children.

There are a variety of buildings there, including the iron age roundhouse, viking longhouses, and roman style buildings.

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From the outside, the roundhouse looks like a hobbit house; a mound of earth with doors that seem to lead into the hill. But when inside, it’s a circular tiered area around a firepit that becomes the social centre for the evenings. Many a tall tale was told saga style in the evening.

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The longhouse provided a sleeping option. There are raised platforms here along the walls, and the fire in the centre of the house ensured that there was some warmth from the cold autumn nights. There are even runic carvings on the sleeping platforms.

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The outside walls of the longhouse have some wonderful mouldings.

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The roman house also has a garden outside.

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And there are even pigs and sheep. The pigs are very friendly ladies, and have their own enclosure. The sheep roam free……. and they go everywhere! I caught one of them trying to get into our van!!

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Hrafnslith provide viking based shows for the ATC during the season, and in return the ATC allow them to host training weekends for their group and other viking groups. It’s a chance to get some sword/spear/axe practice in and also catch up with a few friends! So here are a few photos of the lads and lasses having fun……….

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Arches in the Abbey.

On the way home from our last English trip, we came across signs to Haughmond Abbey when we were near Shrewsbury. We hadn’t been there before and as we had some time to spare, we thought we might just have a look.

Haughmond AbbeyThere isn’t a lot at Haughmond Abbey anymore; just a rather beautiful and extensive set of remains of an Augustinian abbey, including its abbots’ quarters, refectory and cloister. This is an artists impression of what the Abbey looked like. You can see this an more about the history of the Abbey in the little museum on site.

Artists Impression of Haughmond Abbey For a better idea of what was where, here’s a site plan.

Layout of Haughmond Abbey Layout of Haughmond Abbey

The Abbey was probably founded around 1135 in the times when Stephen and Matilda were arguing over who should rule the country. If you’re interested in the history of the abbey you can check it out here.

Haughmond Abbey The abbey  was constructed in a late Romanesque style. This is an architectural style largely characterised by the use of semicircular arches (and there are arches everywhere you look!).

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Possibly the best preserved part of the site is Chapter House, which retains the intricate carvings of Saints set into the arches. From left to right the saints are thought to be St Augustin, St Thomas Beckett, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St John the Evangelist, St. John the Baptist, St. Margaret of Antioch, St Winifred and St Michael.

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The inside of the chapter house has a wonderfully preserved wooden ceiling and an old stone baptismal font.

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There are stone carvings on many of the arches as well.

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This is a wonderful site to wander round, especially if you’re into photography and or architecture. It’s under the care of English Heritage, and they do a wonderful job maintaining it.

Swords Castle, Co Dublin.

When we were at the training weekend in Swords, we camped in the grounds of Swords Castle. Those of you that have read my posts before will probably have realised that I like old buildings so I was looking forward to seeing this one.

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The castle is in the centre of Swords town, which is about 15 Km north of Dublin City. It’s right beside the airport. The castle is the former residence of the Archbishop of Dublin and is reputed to be the only fortified residence of the Archbishop to survive today. Swords Castle was built over a period of 400 years starting before 1200 AD.
Brian Boru’s body is believed to have been brought here to be waked after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
I found a brief history of the castle here.

The entrance gateway is a beautiful archway and is flanked by two towers. It’s very like the entrance to Corfe Castle in Dorset (and just as narrow!).1-DSCF3327

To the right of the gateway is the restored church, where the stone work and windows  have been repaired as part of a joint project between FAS (the Irish government training organisation) and Swords Council. Hopefully they will continue the restoration project for the rest of the site!

 1-DSCF3328At the north end of the courtyard area is the Constable Tower.

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The ruins of a large hall are still visible along the east wall, though they are quite overgrown now. The fruit trees are here from the time that a previous owner used the grounds as an orchard.

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This was a lovely place to stay for the weekend. Unfortunately the castle courtyard is not currently open to the public due to issues about the safety of the entrance tower. This is such a pity – there are some beautiful buildings here, and I for one would have loved to have seen the dungeons under the church; been allowed to walk the battlements or even just sit in the restored church.
However it is possible to visit the outside areas of the castle – and peep through the gateway.

I’ve added a selection of the photos I took below. It was quite a dull wet day so they aren’t quite as I had hoped, but I hope you enjoy them.

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Valle Crucis; another Welsh gem!

On a recent trip home through Wales we stopped off again in Llangollen. We had a day to spare, so we decided to go and visit Valle Crucis Abbey which is just up the road. The ruined abbey lies on the road to the Horseshoe Pass; another beautiful place to visit. It is also known more formally as The Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You can get more information about the abbey’s history and architectural information Castle Wales website. Further reading and pictures can be found on Wikipaedia.

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The name Valle Crucis means Valley of the Cross; the ruins nestle in the valley under the hills surrounding Llangollen. We visited in October when the heather and the trees on the hills had already taken on that wonderful autumnal gold.

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The site is wonderfully maintained by Cadw. There is an entrance fee, but it is well worth it.
Valle Crucis is a breathtakingly haunting place to visit; the abbey was built by the Cistercian monks in 1207, but now  lies in ruins having been one of the monasteries affected by the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1537. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what Valle Crucis looks and feels like.

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There are some pathways to follow but a lot of the site is not paved so care might be needed on damp days; I went sliding on a grass bank because I wasn’t looking where I was going!

When you reach the rear of the site there is a duck pond – complete with ducks! These little guys were very active;there was a lot of chasing each other around the pond, and it was also very vocal. You could actually hear them way before you could see them.

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The small white house in the last picture has a little visitors centre. When you enter the building you can hear the chants of the monks, and there is even one writing at his desk. Okay, so he’s not real. but he did give me a start when I walked in the door.

08-DSCF2759It’s not too hard to imagine what it would have been like for those monks here in this Welsh valley all those years ago, as they spent their time in prayer and contemplation.

The stonework in the abbey is amazing; I often wonder when walking around sites like this how they ever managed to build them. This is a photo of the vaulted ceiling in one of the buildings.

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Here are a few more photos of the buildings. I don’t normally photo-shop my pictures, but I was trying to capture the stonework in the buildings.

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I love this place; it has that far from the maddening crowd’ feeling about it.
Next time you’re passing in the area, take an hour and go and visit.