Melrose Abbey

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It was around midday when we dropped D and J off at Morebattle to pick up their car.We said our goodbyes and then we set off to drive over to Melrose. It was a pleasant day so rather than head off straight home, and get caught up in rush hour traffic on the Motorway, we’d decided to go and have a look at the Abbey that’s the start of the St Cuthbert’s trail and which we’d missed by starting at Morebattle.  Although it would have taken a couple of days to walk between the two Scottish Border towns it was less than an hour’s drive.

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Just like Lindisfarne Priory, the ruined Abbey wasn’t the one where St Cuthbert lived. It’s a later Cistercian building founded in 1136. In fact, the original Celtic Christian monastery was located about two miles east of the town.

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The Abbey is allegedly the resting place of the heart of Robert the Bruce and it’s resting place is marked by this memorial

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Of course, there’s no real evidence that his heart is actually buried here.

The original building would have been Romanesque in style (like Lindisfarne Priory) but being close to the border with England the area was regularly a war zone and, inevitably, the Abbey was seriously damaged. There are some traces of the original building, such as this doorway

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but it is a Gothic structure, built after1385, with characteristic high pointed arches, large windows with ornate tracery and flying buttresses.

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The remains of the ornate stone vaulting over the presbytery

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Elaborate capitals

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A good view of the nearby Eildon hills from the roof

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There isn’t much left of the cloisters and the monks’ living accommodation.

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However, there’s a good little museum in the restored Commendator’s House, built in the late 1500s – much of it’s stone being robbed from the Abbey buildings. (Commendators were lay administrators who, were placed in charge of abbeys in Scotland)

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St Mary’s Church, Lindisfarne

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St Mary’s church sits directly opposite the Priory Church on Lindisfarne (Holy Island). It’s the oldest, complete building on the island. Parts of the structure are thought to date back to the 7th century, several hundred years before the appearance of the Priory. However, it’s main structure is from the the 12th century, when it was built by the Benedictine monks from the Priory to serve the local population, with additions in the 13th Century and later.

It’s built from cream, pink and grey sandstone and architecturally it’s largely a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic.

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Inside we can see Romanesque arches and piers along the north aisle. with an Early English Gothic arch at the east end of the nave leading to the Chancel. This wall is the oldest part of the church, dating back to Saxon times. The small door at the top of the wall is from this period.

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The south aisle has pointed Gothic arches

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This striking statue – The Journey – is by Fenwick Lawson, who also created the statue of St Cuthbert in the Priory ruins. It was carved from elm using a chainsaw and depicts the monks of Lindisfarne carrying St.Cuthbert’s body on the first stage of its journey around Northumberland when the monks deserted the island following the Viking raids. There’s a bronze casting of this work in the cathedral at Durham.

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This is St Peter’s chapel in the north aisle, dedicated to local fishermen

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There was some attractive stained glass, particularly these two lancet windows at the west end of the church, of St Cuthbert

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and St Aiden

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They were designed by Leonard Evetts

Meridian House, Greenwich

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I spotted the tower of this rather splendid red brick Art Deco style building while I was in Greenwich last week so wandered over to have a closer look.

The tower belongs to Meridian House, the former Greenwich Town Hall which was built in 1938-9 to a design by Clifford Culpin. Its original use was as a municipal facility including offices, and included a civic suite and public hall but was sold off by the London Borough of Greenwich in the 1970s and now houses the Greenwich School of Management and private flats.  The Borough Hall is occupied by “Greenwich Dance” .

The elegant clock tower is the building’s  most prominent feature and was apparently influenced by the work of the Dutch architect W. M. Dudok, paricularly the Hilversum Town Hall. It was designed not only to function as both a clock tower but a public observation tower so local residents could view the Royal Naval College and the Thames.

According to Pevsner the building was

“the only town hall of any London borough to represent the style of our time adequately”.  (Buildings of; England, London 2: South)

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The Queen’s House

“It landed like a Classical spaceship on a Tudor site”

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The Queen’s House in Greenwich was the first Classical style house in Britain (although Jones’ other masterpiece, the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall was completed before it) and so an extremely important building in the history of English architecture. It was designed by Inigo Jones, initially for James’s 1st’s wife, Anne of Denmark, although she never saw it dying shortly after construction had started. It was finally completed in1635.when it was given by Charles 1 to his wife Henrietta Maria. At the time it was built it was part of the Tudor Greenwich Palace, also known as the Palace of Placentia, the birthplace of both Henry VIII and Elizabeth 1, but couldn’t have looked more different than the rambling medieval collection of red brick buildings. Simple and elegantly proportioned, it was revolutionary for it’s time.

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Today the house is part of the National Maritime Museum and can be visited free of charge. It  underwent a 14-month restoration beginning in 2015, and reopened on October 11, 2016. It is used to display the Museum’s collection of maritime related paintings and also some temporary exhibitions. It’s also hired out for weddings, corporate events and the like so it’s important to check if it’s open or whether parts of the building are closed before visiting to avoid disappointment.

There have been a number of changes to the original design. It was originally H shaped – with the north wings linked by a bridge over a road that went right through the centre of the building, the main Woolwich to Deptford thoroughfare, following the line of today’s Doric collonades. The east and west “bridge rooms”, that completed the rectangle, were added later by Charles II.

Today the entrance is in the north front, with it’s curved staircase and balustraded terrace which were later additions. However, the original entrance was in the south front of the building  leading into the ground floor room known as the Orangery.

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The collonades were added in the early 19th century when the house was used as part of the Royal Hospital School for the sons of seamen, linking the house to two large flanking pavillions (the west one now forming the main part of the National Maritime Museum).

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Entrance to the house is via the ground level door which takes visitors into the reception in the house’s cellar. Climbing up to the ground floor I came to the bottom of one of the building’s most photogenic features, the Tulip Staircase.

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This was the first centrally unsupported helical staircase in England. The stairs are supported by being cantilevered from the walls and each tread rests on the one below.

This is Jones’ Great Hall. A perfect cube forty feet in length, breadth and height.

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The ceiling originally had an elaborate painted ceiling – An Allegory of Peace and the Arts – by Orazio Gentileschi  but it was removed when it was given by Queen Anne to her “favourite”  Sarah Churchill, and today can be found in the latter’s former house, Marlborough House on the Mall.

During the recent restoration the Turner-prize winner Richard Wright was commissioned to redo the ceiling. Working with a team of five assistants, he’s created a contemporary design covering the ceiling and the upper part of the walls. A gold leaf fresco of abstract, flower like forms inspired by the Tulip Staircase.

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Traditionalists may not agree but I think it’s stunning and complements the Classical design.

There’s a more traditional painted ceiling in the “Queen’s Presence Chamber” – a design commissioned from either of two court artists, John de Critz or Matthew Gooderick, which includes an allegory of ‘Aurora dispersing the shades of Night’.
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On the opposite side of the building the “Kings’s Presence Chamber” is richly decorated with gold leaf on the ceiling, cornice and pillasters

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Leading down to the “Orangery”, the original entrance to the house, is the elegant South Staircase

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It follows Inigo Jones’ design but has been completely reconstructed as this part of the house was drastically altered in the 19th Century when it was being used as part of the school. The wrought-iron balustrade was brought from Pembroke House in 1936 to replace cast-iron balusters and a heavy handrail that had been installed during the alterations.

Other than the above (and the Orangery which I didn’t photograph) there was little of architectural interest to see as the other rooms were devoted to art and other items on display. More about that in another post (as this one is long enough). But a visit is a must for anyone interested in the history of architecture in England.

Trinity Bridge, Salford

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I took the train into Manchester on Saturday – the main reason being that I’d decided to look for some new walking boots. It was a fine sunny, day and after alighting at Salford Central train station and walking up to Deansgate, I stopped to take a few snaps of the Trinity Bridge, a footbridge that crosses the River Irwell connecting the “twin cities” of Salford and Manchester.

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It was designed by the architect, structural engineer and artist, Santiago Calatrava.- it’s his only bridge in the UK – and was opened in 1995.

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It’s a cable-stay design with a 41-meter cigar shaped pylon, angled towards Salford, with the cables attached asymmetrically to form a cris-cross effect– rather reminding me of a “Spirograph” pattern.

It’s difficult to take a photo that properly shows the design. On the Salford side there are three ramps, two of which curve in from either side, combining at the pylon  to form the deck across the river. The Manchester bank of the Irwell is higher than on the Salford side so the bridge slopes up to meet the bank.

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It’s a radical design and there have been some problems with maintenance but there is no doubt that it’s an attractive landmark structure.