Below, I give links to the Late November and early December Posts I have revised and republished. But, first, I would like to tell you about a great lecture I heard at the British Museum, this evening. It was given by Dr Emma Southon on her book about women in the Roman Empire. Her viewpoint was that a study of women in the Roman Empire gives a radically different insight into the Roman world than the traditional. One full of humanity rather than normal evidence which is, generally, about wars, and Empires and bravery and horrific cruelty and ambition and honour. She started with the story of Turia, whose extraordinary epitaph on her tombstone miraculous survived and gave her husband’s view of his extraordinary wife, and his utter sorrow at his loss on her death. Below, is a review of the book and a link to a podcast with the Author.
So, here are the December posts. December 1st and 2nd give an overview of December and the meaning of Winter. December 3rd is about Advent and the fact that you were not allowed to marry during Advent. December 4 gives a Shakespearean view of a cold winter’s day, and a composition by Vaughan Williams.
And late November posts, November 28th tells some interesting tales, both ancient and modern, about Eels, Pies, Rock ‘n’ Roll and my horror of Jellied Eels. November 29th, tells you how to make a ‘dish of snow’ and introduces Ice Houses. November 30th is about Scotland and St Andrews. Like them if you like them! And share them if you want to share them.
Tomorrow there is a 10% chance of snow, in London and 95% in Glenn Shee, Scotland, according to the Snow Risk Forecast. So you might like to try this medieval recipe:
To make a dish of Snowe
Take a potte of sweete thicke creme and the white of eight egges and beate them altogether with a spoone then putte them into your creame with a dish full of Rose Water and a dishfull of Sugar withall then take a sticke and make it cleane and then cutt it in the ende fowre square and therewith beate all the aforesayd thinges together and ever as it ariseth take it of and putte it into a Cullander thys done take a platter and set an aple in the middest of it and sticke a thicke bush of Rosemarye in the apple then cast your snowe upon the rosemarye and fill your platter therewith and if you have wafers cast some withall and thus serve them forth
Before fridges, snow gave the chance for ice cream and other cold desserts. The problem was keeping it for longer than the cold spell. So many Stately Homes had ice-houses. The V&A had an ice-house just outside their glorious, Henry Cole commissioned restaurant. There is an ice house preserved at the Canal Museum, in Kings Cross. It was set up by Carlo Gatti in 1857 to store ice shipped in from Norway. Another one, in Holland Park, dates from 1770 and served the infamous Fox family (PM Charles James Fox etc).
The first ice house was in Mesopotamian, but in the UK they were introduced by James 1 at his palaces in, first, Greenwich Park, and then Hampton Court. An ice house generally consists of a pit in the ground, brick lined, which tapered to a point. Above was a circular, often domed building. The ice was protected by insulation such as straw, and this structure would allow ice to be available all through the summer.
My great-grandmother hung a basket outside the window in winter to keep things cold. On my fridge-less narrow boat, I have been known to keep milk and butter outside the door, and to suspend and submerge wine in a plastic bag in the canal in high summer.
For more on Icehouses and the history of ice cream, see my post from August.
Written November 28th 2022, revised and republished 2023
To my mind, THE genius of the electric guitar, and a great songwriter.
Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle on 27th November 1942. He was spotted by ex-Animals Chas Chandler (bassist) when performing in small cafés In New York as Jimmy James. Chandler suggested he came to England. On the flight, they decided to change his name to Jimi. He arrived on September 24, 1966.
“It’s a different kind of atmosphere here. People are more mild-mannered. I like all the little streets and the boutiques. It’s like a kind of fairyland”
On his first day in London, he met Kathy Etchingham, and she found them a flat on the upper floors of 23 Brook Street, which is now part of Handel&Hendrix in London. Now, a small museum to the two musical giants who lived next door to each other (if they were time travellers). For the English middle class, it’s comforting to know that Jimi bought the furnishings of the flat from their favourite, the nearby John Lewis Department store. He got his look from Carnaby Street and Portobello Road Market.
London wasn’t an arbitrary choice for a young American Bluesman. The wave of British Bands that came to international prominence in 1964, was based on the almost forgotten (by the mainstream media) Black American Blues legends such as Woody Guthrie and Ledbelly. Bands like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and the Animals loved this music, and began their careers playing cover versions in Clubs in London. (For more on the British Blues Revival, look here🙂
Hendrix’s younger brother, Leon, spoke about the importance of London to Hendrix
“He loved England ‘cos it was like Seattle. It was like home. It was the same climate, y’know? And this is where all the music was. This is where all of his friends were – Eric Clapton, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, everybody…”
He concluded: “After people played, they all went and jammed together. Like, when Jimi played a concert that was only the warm-up… After the concert, he was out and about lookin’ for somebody to play with and somebody’s studio to jam at. They’d just be jammin’ all night ’til, like, seven or eight in the morning. It was awesome.”
Chas Chandler was interested in managing bands, and thought Hey Joe, which he heard Hendrix play, could be a hit single. Hey Joe got to no 6, in Jan 1967) in the UK Top Ten, but failed to make an impression in the US.
Here is a YouTube film of Hendrix playing ‘Hey Joe’.
The Independent website above gives a good guide to Hendrix in London. An excellent documentary on Hendrix was recently aired on BBC Sounds, Everything but the Guitar. To finish off, just look at the bill on at the Saville Theatre.
For details of Hendix Gigs look at the Set list Web site, which shows he performed at the Saville Theatre in Jan,May and June 1967 on his First European Tour, and again in Aug and Oct on his 2nd European Tour.
I have also revised my post on Stir Up Sunday!, which you might like to see.
First published on Nov 27th 2022, as part of Stir Up Sunday! And revised onto its own page on the same day, 2023.
Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before advent and the day for stirring the Christmas Pudding. It gets its name from the Book of Common Prayer, which has a verse:
“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.’
So, the Christmas pudding was made with dried fruit and had 13 ingredients for Jesus and the Disciples. It is stirred from west to east, in honour of the Three Wise Men, and stirred by every member of the household who get to make a secret wish.
Normally, a coin in put in the pudding for the lucky one to get. My grandma, a Londoner, used to put in a couple of ‘silver joeys’, long out of legal tender when I was young. She would watch us like a hawk while we ate, and claim the coins back as soon as we found them! She would then put them in an old folded brown envelope and put them away for next year.
MJ Hughes Coins website gives the following excellent history of the Silver Joey:
‘Originally a Joey was the nickname given to a groat (4 pence) but when that went out of circulation in 1855 the silver 3 pence inherited the name. The name came about due to the reintroduction of 4 pence coins in the 1830s by the politician Joseph Hume, MP (1777-1855).‘
For some great, coin-based facts! Look no further.
First Published Nov 27th 2022. The Jimi Hendrix content transferred to its own page, and this post republished Nov 26th 2023
I have revised the post on All Souls’ Day. If you follow the link you will read about ‘Souling’, Purgatory, and English, Mexican and Polish Customs for 2nd November.
But this post is prompted by an interesting article in the Guardian about the Dinorwig Power Station in North Wales. It’s a place I visit regularly. The photograph is from a Medieval Welsh Castle, Dobaldarn Castle, near the National Slate Museum in the new Unesco World Heritage Site of the Slate Landscape of North West Wales. The photo above gives an idea of the majesty of the destructive power of quarrying for slate.
The Power Station is remarkable. It is a huge cavern in the mountain. When the National Grid has a lot of cheap energy, water is pumped to the top, and when electricity is in short supply, the water runs turbines to provide extra power. It is, in effect, a giant battery, and what makes it even more worthy of a part in a James Bond film is that it has the capability of initiating a Black Start to the Grid. If some cosmic catastrophe turns off the entire grid, Dinorwig can restart the Grid.
The article in the Guardian has some great pictures of it and the text is very interesting. You might want to start reading a third of the way down the article which has a long preamble.
On my way to Stratford-upon-Avon Railway station, I saw this sign, but had no idea what on earth a Mop was.
So I put it to the back of my mind as I took the train to Henley-in-Arden. My interest in the town began, as Shakespeare was born in Henley St in Stratford, and his mother was called Mary of Arden. So, naturally, I wanted to find out about Henley-in-Arden. To turn curiosity to action it took our Tour Coach Driver telling me he lived there and that it was a pretty but small town.
With a free afternoon from my duties as Course Director on the ‘Best of England’ Road Scholar trip, I found myself on the very slow train to Henley-in-Arden. One of the first stops was Wilmcote, where Mary Arden’s House is. I visited last year, when I was astonished to find it was a different building to the one I had visited in the 1990s. In 2000, they discovered they had been showing the wrong building to visitors for years! Mary Arden’s House was, in fact, her neighbour Adam Palmer’s. And her house was Glebe Farm. On that visit, I walked from Anne Hathaway’s Cottage to Mary Arden’s House and back to Stratford along the Stratford Canal – a lovely walk if you are ever in the area.
The train route to Henley was through what remains of the ancient forest of Arden. The forest features in, or inspired, the woody Arcadian idylls which feature in several of Shakespeare’s plays, particularly the Comedies. ‘As You Like It’, for example, is explicitly set in the Forest of Arden, as this quotation from AYL I.i.107 makes clear:
Oliver: Where will the old Duke live?
CHARLES: They say he is already in the Forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England: they say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.
Henley-in-Arden turns out to be a quintessentially English little town full of beautiful timber framed buildings and a perfect Guildhall.
Further down the road is a lovely Heritage Centre full of old-fashioned and DIY Information panels. And that is not a criticism, it provided a very enjoyable visit full of interesting stuff and which gave me a couple of snippets of information I have not seen anywhere else.
So, to get back to the signpost for the Mop, I was delighted to find a panel dedicated to the Henley Mop. A mop turns out to be a hiring fair. Think of Gabriel Oak in Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. His attempt to become an independent farmer destroyed when his sheepdog runs amok and sends his sheep over a cliff to their doom. So he takes his shepherd’s crock to the hiring fair or Mop as they are known in the Midlands. There, potential employers can size up possible employees and strike mutually agreed terms and conditions. And Gabriel becomes the shepherd for the delightful and wilful Bathsheba Everdene.
So, a shepherd would take his staff, or a loop of wool; a cleaner her mop (hence the name of the fair), a waggoner a piece of whipcord, a shearer their shears etc. Similarly, in the Woodlanders, the cider-maker, Giles Winterborne, brings an apple tree in a tub to Sherborne, to advertise his wares.
The retainers thus employed would be given an advance and would be engaged, normally, for the year. So there was quite a widespread moving around of working people to new jobs and often new housing. Not quite how we imagine the past?
The perceptive among you will have noted the bottom of the sign in Stratford which advertised the ‘Runaway Mop’. This was held later in the year, so that employers could replace those who ran away from their contracts, and where those who ran away could find a better, kinder or more generous boss.
Also of interest to me was the panel about Court Leets and Barons. These were the ancient courts which dealt with, respectively, crime and disorder, and property and neighbourhood disputes. Henley still has its ancient manorial systems in use, at least ceremonially. The Centre shows a video of a cigar-smoking Stetson-wearing large rich American arriving at the Guildhall to take over duties as lord of the manor after purchasing the title.
There was another panel of great interest to me as it told the history of Johnson’s Coach Company which was taking my group around England. And it was a delight to discover that it has a history that can be traced back to 1909 in Henley. I conveyed this information to our group on the following day as we toured the Cotswolds. Curtis, our driver, was able to update the panel and told us that the family were still involved with the firm, which is still operating from the area. He said the two brothers who run the company come in every working day and do everything they require of their drivers to do; i.e. they drive coaches, clean coaches, sweep the floors and generally treat their staff like part of a big family. I should have asked him whether he got his job at the Mop, while holding a steering wheel in his hands!
Following my post where I introduced the story of Henry Ford and his visits to Broadway; my subscriber from Paris sent me details that led me to a really comprehensive description of Ford’s activities in the Cotswolds. He loved it so much, as the post from the Henry Ford Museum reveals, that he sent to the US not only a complete Cottage, but also the Barn, Stables and dry stone walling. He then went to stay in the Lygon Arms in Broadway; visited nearby Snowshill, where a dilapidated Blacksmith Shop dating to the 1600s with all its tools was purchased and sent to the Museum in Michigan.
Here is the post – it has lots of interesting photos.
One of the joys of my Spring & Summer is revisiting places I know and love in my role as a Course Director for Road Scholar. Sunday, I was in Broadway, once considered the most beautiful village in Britain. It was also the model for Riseholme in the wonderful ‘Mapp and Lucia’ books by E. F. Benson (made into a TV series by the BBC starring Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan and Nigel Hawthorne).
This weekend was the:
The artists register in the morning and have their paper or canvas stamped, or given a block of Maltese stone. They then go off to create a work of art in the village. At 3pm or so, they are judged. At 5pm, the art works are exhibited and often on sale in the Marquee on the village green.
It’s always a delight walking around Broadway in the sun, but with an artist and easel every 50 yards or so even more enjoyable. By the tent on the village green were about 10 sculptors chipping away at identical blocks of stone.
I believe ceramic, textile, and artists in other media also are willing to have a go at making art in a sevely limited timescale.
The appellation of most beautiful village, came in the late 19th Century. Broadway, once made rich by selling wool and then as a stop off on the stage coach route from Aberystwyth to Worcester, Oxford and London, fell on hard times with the arrival of Brunel’s Great Western Railway to the Cotswolds. Half the village, the Broadway Museum says, moved away as their livelihood serving the coaching trade died.
But artists, led by Americans Frances Millet and Edwin Abbey, turned Broadway into a much sort-after country retreat. Visitors included Oscar Wilde, J. M. Barrie, Singer-Sargeant, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Gabriel Dante Rossetti, American actress, Mary Anderson, Edward Elgar, E. F, Benson. Mark Twain visited for Millet’s marriage.
What made the visit particularly interesting was the story told to me by the Volunteer at the Gordon Russell Museum in Broadway. (More about Gordon Russell in a future post) This is the story as I understood it:
The Russells restored the Lygon Arms in Broadway using Arts And Crafts architects. They also restored antique furniture. The son, Gordon Russell, became a leading designer of modernist Furniture and so advertised to passengers on the Cunard Line in order to attract the attention of rich American visitors. One, Henry T Ford, was interested, came to Broadway, staying at the Lygon arms. He asked for help to purchase a Cotswold Cottage. He was taken to nearby village Snowshill, where Ford bought a complete Blacksmith’s workshop, and shipped them back stone by numbered stone to Brentford on the Thames, then to the London Docks and across the Atlantic to set them up in a Museum in Michigan where they still are!
Research suggests it’s a little more complicated, in so far as he purchased his first Cottage before coming to Broadway, but it still leaves a delightful story about American ideas of Quintessential English village life. More on this story here:
By the way, Frances Millet planned to return to the States on the Titanic. He was one of the 1500 who drowned, but a letter he wrote while on the ship was posted, probably in France and is on display in the Broadway Museum.
St Columba, or Colmcille is one of the most important saints for the early transmission of Christianity. He was born in 521 and said to be a descendent of the possibly legendary Irish King Niall of the Nine Hostages. (The Hostages were a token of Niall’s power as they came from the five provinces of Ireland, which are Ulster, Connacht, Leinster, Munster, andMeath. The other four represented Scotland, the Saxons, the Britons, and the Franks). Columba was sent, at an early, age to be brought up as a Monk and went on to set up Monasteries in Ireland at Derry and Durrow.
In 563, he left Ireland, possibly because he got involved in a dispute that lead to loss of life. He went into exile to Scotland and set up the famous Monastery on the island of Iona, Inner Hebrides, off the coast of what would one day be called Scotland. At the time, it was under the control of the Kingdom of Dál Riata, which was nominally Christian and controlled parts of Ulster and Western Scotland. From Iona, Columba led the conversion of the Picts to Christianity, which helped towards the unification of the Gaels, the Picts and the Britons, eventually into the Kingdom of Alba which became Scotland. Early Scottish Kings such as Macbeth (Mac Bethad mac Findlaích) were buried here.
Much of the events of this part of Columba’s life are legendary as recorded by St. Adamnan in The Life of Saint Columba written in the 7th Century. One notable story is that he came across a group of Pagan Picts who were mourning a child killed by a monster in the River Ness. St Columba revived the child. He then sent one of the Brothers to swim across the Loch to fetch a boat. The “water beast” pursued the Monk and was about to attack him when St Columba told the monster to stop, and so it did, retreating to the depths of Loch Ness. Thus founding the legend of the Loch Ness monster.
St Columba died in 597AD. Iona continued to prosper and in, 634AD sent St Aidan from Iona to found the Monastery at Lindisfarne. This was instrumental in the conversion of the Kingdom of Northumbria. This tradition of evangelism took hold in the British Isles, and it was from here that much of the German-speaking world was converted to Christianity.
This is St Columba’s legacy.
There is a developing understanding among scholars that this Irish inspired form of Christianity took a leading role in ritual, art, scholarship in the Roman Catholic world at this time. Just stop and think about that sentence for a moment. The north-western extreme of the Islands off the coast of Europe took a leading role in the development of Western Christianity. This was highlighted in a recent exhibition of Anglo-Saxon art at the British Library.
A look at the Lindisfarne Gospel and the Book of Kells showcases the amazing art of this period. For a real treat, look through this scrollable virtual copy of the Lindisfarne Gospel. It has been missing from the displays of the British Museum for a couple of years, and was on display in Northumberland in 2022. I’m not sure whether it is yet back on display at the British Museum. I hope so, but the scrollable version almost compensates for its absence. You can see the Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin or look at their online offering here: Not quite as joyous an experience as the online Lindisfarne but beautiful enough.
The Sir John Soane Museum is my second favourite London Museum. It’s the place I choose to take people who don’t know London. What I like about it is the atmosphere. It’s not a place I go because of the collection, it’s a place I go because I’m just awestruck when I enter the doors.
Architect Soane, made a Museum of his house, filling it with architectural and sculptural pieces but also some stupendous Art, particularly paintings by William Hogarth. But that isn’t my motivation to keep going back. It’s the Picture Room (and the domed ceilings). Soane had a great collection of paintings, but not enough walls. What he did was to design the Paintings Room. When you visit you go in, admire the paintings on the wall, and the attendant comes in, opens a shutter, and behind the great paintings are another wall of great paintings. And then he opens another set of shutters, and there, is another feast for your eyes.
Now, they have made high quality digital images of the rooms, and put them together using photogrammetry into a digital model which you can explore.
So, feast your eyes on it here: (choose Picture Room from the three options).
It’s not quite as user-friendly as it might be. Firstly, when the tour delivers you to the Picture Room, you have to take over control to go in and explore the 360 degree image of the room. Unfortunately, the pictures are not clickable, so you cannot get information about them from here. Also, the ‘hot spots’ which allow you to open the shutters, only reveal themselves, on my computer, if you approach them at a certain angle.
But don’t let this put you off, I’m sure you will find your way around. So go into the Room, look around, move the cursus, and you will see little signs pop up which open and close the shutters. Really, do try it! There are a couple of other rooms to explore too.
Oh, and the Dome Ceilings? Soane was a specialist in buildings that didn’t want windows in normal places. He was the architect of the Bank of England where windows in the walls were a security risk, and also of London’s first purpose built art gallery – the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Windows reduced the space for paintings, so he designed special low domed ceilings, and the Soane Museum is full of his experimentation in the form.
Scara Brae Three D Model
Another delight is the 3D model of Scara Brae which allows you to explore the Neolithic village, and walk around it. There are labels on this one, so you do get information too.
360 Degree Panorama Virtual Tours. My part in their development.
I was an early adopter of this form of virtual reality, setting up virtual tours of the Old Operating Theatre Museum in the 1990’s. I have a draft post of this which I have been awaiting time to finish, which I hope to finish soon….
Thanks to the Museum’s Journal article on Photogrametry of May/June 2022 for the two examples above.