Friday, September 22, 2017

Beauchief Abbey

On Wednesday we were invited for lunch by my cousin and his wife who live in a lovely village near Dronfield.  After lunch we had plans to visit a local Industrial Museum called Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet.  As we drove along my cousin mentioned Beauchief (pronounced Bee Chiff) Abbey and that in all the years he had lived in the area he'd never visited.  We decided we could stop off for a visit and still get to the Museum before it closed at 4p.m.

Beauchief Abbey church is unusual in that it isn't owned by the Church of England but by the local council.  The church and lands containing the remains of the former abbey were sold to the Sheffield Corporatiom in 1931 by its last owner Mr Frank Crawshaw for the use of the citizens of Sheffield. Services are held there and it is part of the Anglican Communion but there are no appointed clergy and the church is run by its congregation and services are led by volunteer clergy.

Unfortunately we'd missed the church being open to visitors over the Heritage Open Days Weekend so we could only look around the outside.  The land belonging to the Abbey is flanked on either side of the road by a golf course and quite a few people were playing during our visit.

Someone was maintaining the walls with a bit of dry stone walling.

The building of the Abbey was begun in 1176 thanks to the gift of some land by Robert FitzRanulph, Lord of Alfreton.  It was a daughter establishment of nearby Welbeck Abbey.  It was dedicated to St Mary and St Thomas the Martyr and to brothers of the Premonstratesian order.  You can see from the plan above how extensive it was, the black lined areas are the parts still standing or visible as ruins.  The parts at the top would now be under the golf course.

The members of the Premonstratensian order were canons rather than monks and were known as the White Canons.  There would have been about fifteen of them living at the Abbey and as they were ordained priests they would work outside in the local community taking charge of some of the churches in the area.  Robert FitzRanulph granted several churches to the Abbey including those at Norton, Alfreton, Wymeswold and Adwalton.

In 1399 Dronfield church was also granted to the Abbey which also owned some local farms or granges and four or five mills along the nearby River Sheaf.

On 4th February 1537 the monks 'surrendered to Thomas Cromwell's commissioners without giving any trouble or opposition'.  After the Dissolution the Abbey and its lands came into the hands of Sir Nicholas Strelley, Lord of Eccleshall who bought the Abbey and the land and liberty of Beauchief.  In 1648 it was passed by marriage to the Pegge family.  During the 17th century some parts of the Abbey fell into disrepair and much of the stone was used to build Beauchief Hall.  During this time the nave and tower of the Abbey church were made secure and it was used as a family chapel by the Pegge family who lived at the hall.

I must look out for next year's open days because I would love to see inside the church which was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as 'an incongruous but very attractive combination of different elements.'  

Our visit to the Abbey was a very pleasant diversion on a sunny afternoon but we were soon on our way a little further along the road to the Industrial Museum which I will write about in my next post.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Hidden Gem

The sayings 'right under your nose' and 'hidden in plain sight' spring to mind when I think about the building we visited on Saturday which was open with free entry as part of the Heritage Open Days weekend.  How many times must I have walked past it over the years of both visiting and in the late 60s and early 70s working in the city of Nottingham? 

Hidden away on Angel Row, close to the Market Square is Bromley House.  Its front door nestles unobtrusively between a newsagents shop and a Barnardo's Charity shop.  It looks small from the outside but what we found inside was a feast for the senses and a delight for the eyes.

Bromley House is the home of the Nottingham Subscription Library which was founded in 1816.  It moved to Bromley House in 1820/22.  The first members paid five guineas to purchase a share in the library and then a further two guineas each year to subscribe. 

The house, built in 1752 was the 'town house' of George Smith who was the grandson of the founder of Smith's Bank which is, according to the notes, the oldest known provincial bank in the country.  The house is Grade II listed and is thought to have been designed by the architect Robert Taylor.

This painting at the top of the staircase is of the 1st Duke of Richmond and was moved to nearby Newstead Abbey to keep it safe during the second World War.

The main library room is the hub of the whole place, books are issued and returned here.  Members record the books they loan and return in a ledger.  Current fiction books are housed in this room.

Below is a better view of the spiral staircase which goes up to the gallery where earlier fiction and miscellaneous books are shelved.  Only one person at a time is allowed up or down on the staircase which was added to replace a light staircase in 1857.

The entrance you can see in the photo above by the grandfather clock leads to many other rooms all filled to the gunnels with book both old and new.  Many rooms have been adapted from their previous use and some are dedicated to former members or librarians, plus some associated with clubs and societies.  Through the door is the Standfast Library which is named after the Rev. Dr. Standfast of Clifton who left his library to the people of Nottingham in 1744.  In this room, on the floor, is a brass strip meridian line which was used to set clocks before either Greenwich Mean Time or Railway Time was used.  Upstairs are rooms named after Miss Ellen Harrington, who was librarian for thirty seven years and Dr Robert Thoroton, antiquarian.  This room was rented by the Thoroton Society for many years and is also home to The British Sundial Society. In the room next to this staff and volunteers were explaining and demonstrating the techniques of book binding and conservation.

Through more rooms, after a pleasant diversion to the map room which is light and airy, and you come to the studio.  This was the premises of  Nottingham's first photographer Alfred Barber who set up business in these premises in 1841Barber installed a skylight (no longer there), at his own expense and also a circular glass and wood structure which worked on a cog and wheel mechanism as it was turned to follow the passage of the sun.

From the studio you could climb further to the attics which were full of shelves housing history and biography books.  These attics were the servants quarters when the house was still used as a home.  Up in the attic is what used to be the developing room and which now contains the Pauline Heathcote Photographic Archive.

One of the things we wanted to see was the walled garden.  It is one of two walled gardens left in the city centre.  The other is behind fashion designer Sir Paul Smith's shop in Willoughby House on Low Pavement.

The long red brick walled garden is shaded in part by London Plane trees.  Six trees were planted  by the President and Librarian in 1875 but only three remain.  There are many shady seats where members can sit with their lunch.  the garden is a haven of peace and quiet just a minute or two from the busy street outside.

Apologies for the quality of the photo above as the sun was very bright but you can just see the back of the house.

The photos above and below show the height of the brick garden walls against the height of the modern city buildings on the other side.

The gardens were very busy and a photographer was at work taking photos

People were lining up to have their photos taken with the camera below.  Above you can see the unusual sundial which is just across from the back door of the house.

As we left the library there was a huge queue snaking right down Angel Row.  with only an hour left of opening time I wondered if they all got in to see the glories beyond the front door.  Apparently there are tours of the library every Wednesday at 2.30p.m. for a cost of £2 which is great value for all that can been seen.  If you are lucky enough to live in the city or not too far away yearly membership is £104.00 which includes any other adult family member at the same address too. The only downside is that there is no lift so access would be difficult for those who have problems with stairs.

There is lots of information and also links to specific things of interest like the photographic studio or the meridian line on the library's website.  Link above in the text.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Back Home

Last week we sneaked away for a few days break.  We don't like to go away for too long even though our wonderfully kind neighbour doesn't mind looking after our very elderly cat Max it doesn't seem fair to leave her with the responsibility of giving medications and etc for too long.  

Here are a few photos taken whilst we were away. 

 We walked on a few beaches

Tuesday was very, very wet.  We travelled on the West Highland Railway past the pounding and swirling high river in the Glaslyn valley.
 Fields and roads were inundated

River banks were swollen, there was nowhere for the water to go.  The mountain tops were shrouded in mist.

The next day the sun came out and all seemed well with the world again.

 We went beach combing along the beach at Llanbedrog

 We walked some of the coastal path .....
.... and came across some unusual sights, this tipi style marquee was being erected for a wedding later in the week.

 A walk and coffee and welsh cakes at Borth y Gest

The harbour at Abersoch

where it was finally warm enough to do seaside things - rum and raisin on the left and mango and passion fruit on the right. 

 I'll be back later in the week to report on a visit to a very special building which was open yesterday for the Heritage Open Days weekend.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Photo Scavenger Hunt - August

I used to enjoy joining in with the Photo Scavenger Hunt which was organised by Greenthumb but that ended a few years ago now so it was great to find a new hunt via Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling.  The new Scavenger Hunt is organised by 'I Live, I Love, I Craft I am Me' blog - link here.
 Follow the link to find more.

Here are my photos for August


 1.  Relaxed - this elderly stag was very relaxed snoozing under a tree right near the car park at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham.  We spotted him when we went to look at the 'Dinosaurs of China' Exhibition in early July.

2.  It begins with an 'M' - Max our twenty-one year old cat taking a gentle stroll in the garden, he doesn't go out very often and likes us to be around when he does.

3.  Time for - Elevenses - five minutes to get to the coffee shop!  Clock on the tower of St Mary's Church, Nantwich, Cheshire.

4.  Tangerine - on a recent visit to Bridgemere Garden World near Nantwich in Cheshire there was a display of a new variety of Geum called Tangerine.

5.  It begins with an 'O' - a new plant for the garden this one is a Heuchera and it is called 'Obsidian'.

6.  Whiskery - I thought that the dying flowers at the top of the Artichoke looked quite whiskery.

7.  Lace - a lace collar or cape attached to a dress which was on display in Winterbourne House, Birmingham when we visited in June.

8.  Bridge - under the road bridge (No 60) which goes over the Shropshire Union Canal at Tyrley Locks near Market Drayton.

9.  Letters - on a bicycle at Austin's Deli and Coffee Shop in Nantwich, Cheshire.

10.  My Own Choice -  This scene at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent may look familiar if you watch 'The Great Pottery Throw Down' - this is where all the challenges were done.  We were able to visit 'The Great Exhibition' where many of the items made by the contestants were on display on and around the tables they worked at. The exhibition ends on 3rd September.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Peaceful Walk on a Sunny Day

On Saturday we took a walk at Aqualate Mere Nature Reserve which is just over the county border into Shropshire and quite close to the town of Newport.

We followed the designated pathway towards the Mere passing through lovely woodlands and meadows where butterflies and dragonflies flitted around us. 

Eventually we arrived at the first of the two hides on this side of the Mere.

 The hides are the only way of getting close to the water and most of the birds were at the opposite end of the Mere.  We saw the usual Mallards, Coots and Moorhens, plus Canada Geese and a Golden Eye duck.  One of the photographers in the hide saw a Hobby up above and started clicking away with his very sophisticated camera.  Apparently it swooped down to take a dragon fly.

 He was teaching another photographer how to take both still and action wildlife shots. It all sounded very technical.

 With my bridge camera I concentrated on the little birds on the feeders.

Mostly blue tits and great tits. I did see a robin very briefly.

We saw lots of butterflies and dragonflies, plus some interesting plants too. 

There were lots of the butterflies  flitting around over the wildflower meadows.  Above Speckled Wood?

Red Admiral and elderberries

Perhaps a fritillary of some sort? Edit 29/8/17 - thanks to Ragged Robin who saw this was in fact a Small Copper butterfly:)

 The native orange balsam flowers have a soft, sweet scent.

 Sweet Chestnuts

Horse Tail growing in abundance under the trees

On the way home we called at Shropshire Lavender as it was the last weekend of opening for the season.

 Most of the lavender had been cut but I was able to purchase a few items, like lavender and goats milk soap and some quince jam that I wanted for birthday presents. 

 The cafe was open selling lavender scones and cake but we had brought a picnic with us so didn't indulge.

 I must say the little courtyard looked inviting in the afternoon sunshine.

 The orchard was quiet and peaceful and full of apples

 and also damsons.

There is something so special about the scent and the colour in an orchard at this time of year.