Sunday, August 31, 2014

A visit to Leicester

Last Thursday as a treat, it being my birthday,  we had booked tickets for a one o'clock visit to the new Richard III Visitor Centre which is opposite the cathedral in Leicester.  We drove out towards Burton-on-Trent, Ashby de la Zouche and Coalville and made our way to the nearest park and ride bus service into the city centre which dropped us off very close to where we wanted to be. 

 We started with a visit to the Cathedral  where inside work was underway with the preparations for the re-internment of Richard III next March.

There is an exhibition at the back of the nave showing what the completed tomb will look like and a small model too.

The road between the Visitor Centre and the Cathedral was being pedestrianised, the statue of Richard III, which was previously in Castle Gardens had been placed opposite the centre.

I didn't know what to expect inside the centre as I hadn't seen the exhibition at the nearby Guildhall about the discovery of Richard III's skeleton at the Grey friar's excavation only the Chanel 4 documentaries and a visit to the site of the dig in 2012 (see my post - here)

 The exhibitions within the visitor centre are advertised as Richard III Dynasty Death and Discovery.  On the ground floor the displays are high tech, with audio visual displays which build up the historical context of Richard's life as characters and events drift across the screen behind the throne.  Showing when I took this photo is Cecily Neville and her young son Richard as she takes him to live in the household of his cousin the Earl of Warwick.

I loved the way the information boards were in the guise of large illustrated books and manuscripts.

The gloom inside was lit by the magnificent illustrations and films

Apologies that some of the photos aren't that great but the lighting was changing constantly and it was also hard to take the photos around other visitors but I hope they give you some idea of the colour and action in all the ground floor displays.

 Details from the above illustration

The mystery of the disappearance of the Princes casting a shadow over Richard's reign and reputation.

The White Boar public house in the city where it is recorded the Richard sometimes stayed was hastily renamed The Blue Boar after the Battle of Bosworth.  

 The pendulum of Lord Stanley's sword swings between Richard and Henry Tudor during the battle whose side will be chose to fight on?  He held the balance of power and the outcome of the battle in his hands.

 The second part of the exhibition is white, bright and clinical in a scientific way, as this is the 'Discovery' part of the centre.

The displays start with the story of dig itself, the finding of Richard's body and then the hard technical work of testing the remains to identify them.  The display takes you through the processes of scanning the bones for analysis, radio carbon dating of the bones and genealogy and DNA profiles also the creating of the likeness from the skull.

Again apologies for the quality of some of the photos - the one above was taken through glass.

 Above is the much discussed 'white' suit of armour

A reconstruction of Richard's spine showing the effects of Scoliosis.

There is also a display about Shakespeare's interpretation of the life and times of Richard III plus dates of some of the most noted actors who have played the role.  One or two I've seen most memorable being Ian McKellen's 1930s Fascist Dictator Richard at the National Theatre in the 1990s. 

The last part of the display is the most poignant as you walk out over the actual burial site near the altar of the church in Grey friar's priory.  The building itself is cool, calming and suitably contemplative and reverential with it's pale stone walls and pale gold ceiling and doors.  

 Under the glass you can see how the remains lay, hunched up into the quickly created grave, the yellow pegs of the dig still in place.
After a second visit to the upstairs gallery - there is so much to take in - we sat in the courtyard with refreshments.  You can see from the spire how close the Cathedral, where Richard's remains will be re-interred,  is to his first resting place.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Things that catch your eye

A few weeks ago we visited Calke Abbey, a National Trust property which is in the village of Ticknall in Derbyshire.

  I think this was probably our third visit since it first opened to the public and I'm sure I've taken you here before in posts on this blog so this time I'm going to highlight some of the things that caught my eye during our visit.

 I'm always drawn to simple flower displays which can be found throughout the house - the one above was in the ladies' loos - pretty wild flowers in a jam jar looked lovely against the dusty red brick of the window.

 One side of the stables had been made into an education/learning room for children and grown ups too.  We had a lovely chat with the lady who runs the enterprise and were able to handle some of the exhibits she had on display there.  I loved the dress above.

 Across the passageway in the other stables the iron work decorations caught my eye.

 As did the lead pipes on the outside of the main building.

 Above is a hatchment from the church in the grounds.

 Inside the hall, which as you know has in many places been left just as it was found by the NT when they took it over in the 1980s.  Above a simple bowl of delphiniums.

 I loved the little owl - there were two of them on a mantelpiece

 Also the character above - not sure if he is a policeman or a fireman but I loved the plump, dumpling cheeks on his face.

 I also loved this pig covered in clover or shamrock leaves in a windowsill at the top of the staircase.

 Many of the upper rooms are just a vast jumble of things laid out to catch the eye.  Here I was captivated by the little pink house with people outside.

The kitchens were full of things to catch the eye.  Many items left just as they were found.  It was hard to decide which photos to use.

We actually went into the hall after we had visited the gardens and church.  There was a special display in the gardens. 

The walled kitchen garden had been transformed into a Garden of Imagination

 There were lots of knitted, crocheted and pom-pom characters, mainly birds and insects amongst the branches of trees and in the greenhouses.

 Another little owl!

 Caterpillars galore

 Biggins Bug Bothy

 Not sure if this was a bee, wasp or hornet!  I prefer bees to wasps or hornets.

 There were also loads of scarecrows attending what looked like a union meeting

Plus plenty of deck chairs to sit in and enjoy the heat of the day.

Which way to go?

The gardener's tunnel was fun

and the church was cool and inviting under the trees.

but then my eye was attracted to these beautiful creatures grazing in the meadow next to the gardenWe spent ages watching them.