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.

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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

 

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.

Glynllifon Estate; a hidden gem in North Wales.

On one of our visits to Wales, we stayed near Caernarvon, and having a bit of time to spare, we decided we would visit Glynllifon.

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Glynllifon is an old estate that once belonged to Lord Newborough and can be found near the village of Llandwrog. As you drive from Caernarvon to Pwhelli on the A499, it lies on your left; you can’t miss the gateway….
The original Regency style mansion is now privately owned and run as a Country House Hotel and wedding venue. According to legend there have been settlements here for over 1000 years.

There are walks through the gardens, and there are wonderful buildings, ponds and even Redwood and Giant Red Cedar trees. It’s a photographer’s paradise. Every twist and turn in the path throws something new at you, it’s no wonder we took so long to get around it.

The first thing we came across was a lovely little waterfall and iron bridge.

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Just beyond it was an old boathouse and pond. It was so quiet and peaceful there.

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The water had wonderful reflections of the trees, bushes and buildings……..

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Thee pathway led through the woods and as we turned the corner we spotted the mansion itself, and the series of bridges in the lawns in front of it.

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Then it was back to the woodland walk; there are loads of interconnected pathways that weave their way through the woodlands. There are derelict buildings, covered in moss, and surrounded by ferns. I love the way the sunlight filtered through the overhead canopy…..

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The paths twist and turn; there are hidden caves and wonderful little streams that you cross back and forth over.

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Towards the end of the path is an amphitheater set into the hillside. I wonder what was staged there and who sat in the stone seats clapping?

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So we turned and headed back and passed this beautiful fountain; hard to spot where the water ended and the lawns began.

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And then we found the best wood carvings; it was a mother otter and her cub carved from a fallen tree. It was simply beautiful work!

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On the way out we stopped at the craft shop for a quick cuppa and a browse around; there’s lot’s of pieces made by local craft workers.

Another great place to visit.