Last week, in need of some new boots, I was in Whalley, a small, but attractive, village in the Ribble Valley on the way to Clitheroe. While I was there, I decided to pop in to have a look at the ruins of the old Abbey.
Whalley Abbey was the second richest of Lancashire’s monasteries, and was founded in 1296, by Cistercian monks (known as the “white monks”, due to their undyed habits) who moved here from their previous site at Stanlow , on the banks of the River Mersey near Chester, which (not surprisingly as it was on a flood plain) was prone to flooding and there had also been a fire. Stanlow is now best known as being the location of an oil refinery, previously owned by Shell, although they sold it off to the Indian owned company Essar Energy in 2011. Reading up on the abbey for this post I discovered that Stanlow was actually known as Stanlaw until Victorian times when a mis transcription on a map resulted in the name change.
The Abbey is a ruin now – it was demolished after the Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII – but there are plenty of remains on the site, including monastic buildings and the foundations of the Abbey church which were revealed during the site’s excavation in the 1930’s. The ruins of the abbey are a Grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
A short walk down a minor road there’s the substantial two-storey Gatehouse, the oldest of the abbey buildings, which was constructed between 1296 and 1310. Today, it’s under the stewardship of English Heritage (it can be visited free of charge)
Most monasteries were demarcated by gatehouses that prevented access by any except authorised visitors, allowed the gatekeeper to keep a close watch on traffic and provided basic defence in times of military and political insecurity. At Whalley, as at other monasteries, there was a steady stream of beggars and poor travellers seeking food or help, which the monks could not readily deny. Thus, the gatehouse was also the place where alms were dispensed and food and drink given to the poor.
Following dissolution, the monastery site was sold to one Richard Assheton who had a house built on the site, which subsequently has passed through several hands, and has been extended and modified over the years. Today it’s owned by the Diocese of Blackburn who have converted the house to a residential education centre
On the last full day of our holiday the weather was pretty grim. It rained all day so, other than going down for an evening meal in one of the pubs, it was a time for, reading, relaxing and doing a bit of tidying.
It was a little brighter the next day as we were loading up the car and we spent half an hour or so doing a little shopping, taking some meat from the local butchers and local cheese home with us.
Driving up to Appleby the previous Friday we could see that there were roadworks on the M6 between Lancaster and Preston and knowing that they were still be there as we drove home we decided that as we weren’t in a hurry to get home that rather than spend an hour sitting in a traffic jam we’d turn off and saunter across country a little. So reaching the turn off for Kirkby Lonsdale, that’s exactly what we did.
We pulled in an parked up on the edge of the small town near the Devil’s Bridge and wandered into town centre with old buildings, stone cottages, cobbled courtyards and narrow alleyways. We had a little mooch around the shops and then made our way towards St Mary’s church.
There’s been a church here since Saxon times but the current building is Norman in origin, although it has been substantially altered over the years, resulting in architectural features from a number of periods.
Norman/Romanesque features include the doorway at the foot of the tower
and three round arches with their associated columns, bulkier than the slender Gothic versions, with a couple of them decorated with diamond shaped carvings , like those in Durham Cathedral.
The other arches are later pointed Gothic style.
The Norman column at the western end of the church has a “Green Man” carved on the capital.
Some nice Victorian stained glass in the lancet windows behind the altar
After looking around the church we walked across the churchyard towards the river. “Ruskin’s View” was cordoned off so we descended down the Radical Steps to the river bank. The steps were built in 1819 by Francis Pearson, a local Liberal. The locals came to call them the Radical Steps on account of his political leanings. There are allegedly 86 stone steps, although we didn’t count them. They were rather steep and uneven and probably easier to go up than down.
The River Lune was running high after all the rain the day before., but we able to make our way along the riverside path
Passing this old house (an old mill, perhaps).
After a short while we reached the Devil’s Bridge, which probably dates from the 12th or 13th century, and is now a scheduled ancient monument. The sun directly behind it didn’t make for a good photo, though.
I did, however, get a decent shot of the Lune from on top of the bridge!
Returning to our car we set off and took the road through pleasant countryside towards Settle, where we stopped to pick up some groceries and a brew and a bite to eat. We then headed back through the scenic Ribble Valley re-joining the M6 at the Tickled Trout. Half an hour later we were back home. It had been good to get away for a short break. The weather had been mixed, but that’s what we expect in Northern England during the Autumn. Nevertheless we’d seen some sights and I’d managed to get up to High Cup Nick on a beautiful sunny day and it’s always good to get the chance to relax and catch up with some reading. Roll on the next break!
At the top of Boroughgate, close to the house where we were staying, there’s a group of almshouses built in the 17th Century on behalf of Lady Anne Clifford known as St Anne’s Hospital. Originally it housed twelve “sisters” (widows who weren’t able to support supporting themselves) plus a “Mother” who responsible for general administration and enforcing rules, including mandatory attendance at prayers each morning in the Hospital’s own chapel. A plaque on the wall tells us
“This Almes House was founded and begun to be built in the year 1651, and was finished and endowed for the yearly maintenance of a Mother, a Reader, and twelve sisters for ever in 1653 by Anne Baronesse Clifford, Cumberland and Vesey, Lady of the Hon. of Skipton in Craven, and Countesse Dowager of Pembroke, Dorsett and Montgomery”
The complex is open to visitors to walk around the courtyard and gardens during daytime. Let’s take a look inside.
Through the entrance
Inside, there are 13 self-contained cottages, arranged around a central courtyard. Each of these has a bedroom and bathroom upstairs and a downstairs living room with kitchen area. There’s a communal lawn at the rear of the complex.
In the north east corner one of the doors leads to the chapel. We were able to go inside for a look.
The last day of our holiday and the offspring decided they didn’t want to go ot, but I was ken to visit Compton Verney – another 20 or 30 minute drive away – an old Stately Home and its grounds that’s been converted into an art gallery. I’d heard about it, the first time quite a few years ago, and have been keen to visit ever since. The trouble is its on the wrong side of Birmingham, but here was an opportunity to see it that I wasn’t going to miss.
The weather was beginning to change. Cloud was coming in covering over the blue skies we’d had for the rest of the week, but it was still pleasantly warm.
Arriving at the site we parked up and then paid our entry fee – £17 each. Memberships cost less than double this and allow entry for a year, but it didn’t seem an extra sensible expenditure for us given its location as regular visits aren’t an option.
To reach the house we walked through the grounds along the drive, crossing the old bridge (this view is from the other side, nearer the house)
There’s been a manor house here since the 12th Century but it was extensively remodelled for the owners, the Verney family, in the then fashionable Neo-Classical style in the 19th century by Robert Adam together with the grounds which were designed Capability Brown.
The Verneys it financial difficulties and sold the house in 1887. It passed through a series of owners and was requisitioned by the War Office during the Second World War. It wasn’t occupied after the war and started to deteriorate. It was rescued by Peter Moores Foundation who bought the house and grounds in 1993 which restored the house, which was in a dilapidated state, turning it into a modern art gallery. It’s now owned by Compton Verney House Trust, a registered charity.
Next to the house there’s a Georgian Chapel which has also been restored and is registered for weddings
The chapel, which was completed in 1780, was designed by Capability Brown and replaced an older church that stood on the other side of the house and which was demolished to open up views from the house over the lake and grounds.
Very little of the original Medieval stained glass which was taken from the old church, is left; it was sold in the late 1920’s and some can be seen in Warwick museum and at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.
The tombs of earlier Verneys were moved to the new chapel and still remain
We eventually found the right door to gain entry into the main building and sussed out what there was to see. There are 6 permanent collections
and galleries for temporary exhibitions. During our visit there was a major exhibition showing of works by David Batchelor, some loans from the National Portrait Galley, an exhibition of photographs by Magnum photographers of artists at work, and a couple of installations in the grounds. Unfortunatley we didn’t get to see the Folk Art and Marx-Lambert Collections. We’d left it to the end of our visit and due to staff shortages they’d close these two galleries early. However, we were starting to feel “arted out” by then so weren’t that disappointed.
These rowing boats on the lake were one of the installations – Crossings by Luke Jerram. Visitors were able to take out a boat to row on the lake while listening to one of a number of 30 minute audio recordings of stories, created by Luke Jerram in collaboration with BBC Radio 4 producer Julian May, all related to the sea from around the world.
It looked like fun, but, unfortunately, we didn’t have time to have a go!
The other installation was effectively a playground for children in the Old Town Meadow,, a sort of colourful fantasy village, by Morag Myerscough. Children were certainly enjoying themselves running through, in and out and on to the colourful structures.
We started by touring the ground floor to see the art from Naples, Northern European Art and British Portraits (including the National Portrait Gallery Loans) which were all on the ground floor. We revisited some of the works after lunch when we tagged on to a guided tour. (I should add that the room guides were all very friendly and helpful and very keen to tell you about the exhibits)
The gallery claim to have” “one of the richest collections of Neapolitan art in the world outside Naples”, with paintings, sculptures and other objects from the 17th and 18th Centuries. This Baroque isn’t my favourite style but there were some interesting pieces and the explanation of a couple of them during the guided tour definitely added interest as their creation and context were described by a very informative and knowledgeable guide.
I didn’t take any photographs on the ground floor, which is rather remiss of me, but there are plenty on the Gallery’s website, of course (click the relevant links in the above list).
The Northern European art was of more interest and I enjoyed the British Portraits, including the loans from the National Portrait Gallery of celebrities from the West Midlands celebrating the recent Birmingham Commonwealth Games (including a video work of Julie Walters).
We’d taken in a lot so it was time to get something to eat. And after that we went to have look at the upstairs galleries. But I think I’ll save them for another post – this one has gone on a bit!
We went back into Stratford on a sunny Wednesday. the offspring wanted to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, but we’d been before and as entry is quite expensive me and J decided to give it a miss and have a wander round the small town.
After visiting Waterstones (and ending up buying a couple of books – more to add tot he pile 😂), walking a little further down the street we spotted this chapel and a notice enticed us to have a look inside.
It’s the the chapel built for the Guild of the Holy Cross, a medieval religious organisation created in 1269 which existed until it was abolished in 1547. The Guild membership consisted of gentry, wealthy merchants and tradesmen from Stratford – it probably acted like a sort of Freemasons where the members looked after each other while carrying out some charity work as a public relations exercise. According to Wikipedia
The guild reached the peak of its influence in the late 15th century, when it had become the town’s semi-official governing body, and probably included all of the more important townsmen.
The picture at the top of this post shows their Guildhall and the adjacent alms houses. The chapel was built at the end of the Guildhall – you can see the tower in the photo.
The Medieval Guild Chapel is a Grade 1 listed building and the Historic England listing tells us that the chancel was built in the 13th Century, with some alterations done around1450. The nave and tower were added in around 1490 and comprehensively restored in1804. Further restoration and refurbishment in the 1950s.
During the 19th Century Medieval wall-paintings were rediscovered which had been covered over by limewash during the Reformation.
In Medieval times most churches would have had paintings on the walls to educate and, literally, put the fear of God into the congregation. Even those who were able to read would be unlikely to be able to read the words of the scriptures themselves because until the Reformation the Bible was only available in Latin. The clergy and the Feudal Ruling Class didn’t want the Lower Orders to get any ideas about equality from reading the New Testament!
Following the Reformation, when English translations of the bible became available, the paintings, images, statues and the like were banned by a Royal Injunction by Elizabeth I 1559 which required the “removal of all signs of superstition and idolatry from places of worship”. So the paintings were covered over with limewash (Shakespeare’s dad was allegedly involved in this), which actually served to protect the them – although some have been lost, including some scenes from the Legend of the True Cross when the Chapel was re-modelled in the 19th Century.
Today, however, some of the paintings have been uncovered and can be viewed by visitors to the chapel. A team of historical archaeologists and digital heritage specialists from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, have carried out a major study of the paintings and created a digital model.
The large mural painted above the chancel arch (probably at the beginning of the 16th Century) represents the Day of Judgement, otherwise known as the Doom,
This is what the York team think it would have looked like. (The large cross and silhouettes of two figures – one on either side – were not actually part oft eh painting. there was originally a physical cross and two statues there which were painted around. Now they’re gone they’ve left behind their “shadows”
Another large painting on lower west wall – the Allegory of Death is the best-preserved of the Chapel’s wall paintings.
After looking round the chapel we made our way to the river for a stroll before joining the offspring for a drink in the Garrick, the oldest pub (reputably!) in Stratford – in a timber framed building dating back to the 1400’s.
After that we walked towards the river, crossed the bridge then walked along the other side
before crossing back over on the chain ferry.
We then made our way back to the RSC. Popping inside we asked how much it cost to go up the tower. It was free! (with the option of making a donation – which we did).
The tower was added during the renovation and remodelling between 2007 and 2010
and after taking the lift to the top we had some good views over the theatre, the town and the nearby countryside.
Wife and daugher took the lift back down an then went shopping. Son and I descended by the steps (more fun!) and sheltered in the shade while we waited for them. It was then back to the car for the short journey to our accommodation.
On the way back to our holiday accommodation from Snowshill, our route took us close to the small Cotswold town of Chipping Campden. As it was only mid afternoon, we decided to make a short diversion and stop to have a look. This holiday was out first experience of the Cotswolds which is famous for it’s pretty villages with buildings constructed from the golden-Cotswold stone, a type of oolitic Jurassic limestone. Chipping Camden certainly had plenty of them.
There were settlements in the vicinity going back a long way, but the town really started to grow between the 13th and 15th centuries due to the wool trade. Apparently many of the buildings in the town date from this period. By the 17th Century the wool trade had declined, but it continues to grow and prosper as a Market Town.
We didn’t spend very long in the town – one of us wanted to get back to the accommodation – so we only had time to take a brief wander along the main street.
Looking closely, the buildings may have been built with the same type of stone but there were different styles, reflecting the different periods when they were erected. The buildings in the High Street are apparently mainly from the 14th century to the 17th century. There were many good examples of vernacular buildings
but we also spotted a number of Georgian style properties, probably built as the town expanded as it became more prosperous.
“Campden” originates from the Saxon ‘campa’ ‘denu’ -meaning ‘a valley with cultivated fields ringed by unfenced hill pastures’. The “Chipping” part of the town’s name, added later during it’s history, is from Old Englishcēping, meaning ‘market’, ‘market-place’. There are several other towns in the area with the same element in the name, and only a few weeks ago I was in the old Lancashire Chipping on the edge of the Forest of Bowland. So, not surprisingly, the town has an old market square and it was here that we found the old market hall.
Funded by a wealthy benefactor, Sir Baptist Hicks, It was built in 1627 to provide shelter for traders in goods such as cheese, butter and poultry. Not surprisingly it’s a Grade 1 Listed Building.
Like just about every other building on the High Street it’s built of the local creamy limestone. It has a stone slate roof, and each of the slates is secured by a single wooden peg through a hole resting on the wooden cross strut.
The old cobbled stone floor was very uneven! It’s believed that this is the original floor.
Today it’s owned by the National Trust and their website tells us that
In the 1940s it was almost sold to an American, but local people heroically raised the money to buy it first. They gave it to the National Trust
The market hall is the start, or end, point of the 102 mile long Cotswold Way. Now that’s given me an idea!
When Charles Wade bought Snowshill Manor the area around the house was a “muddy farmyard” but he was determined that it should become “a garden of interest”. The original design was by Hugh Baillie Scott, modified by Wade who’d originally trained as an architect, and, with the assistance of a local builder, William Hodge, he then set about its transformation.
Like Hidcote the garden at Snowshill Manor was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement style as an extension of the house, based around a series of “garden rooms” with terraces, stone walls, buildings and features such as a sunken pool, a well, an obelisk and a model village. Although it is much small than that at Hidcote.
Checking out what we might do while we were on holiday in Warwickshire, we found that there were several National Trust properties within 30 minutes drive. One that particularly took our fancy was Hidcote, only about 20 minutes away in the north Cotswolds. It’s famous for its “Arts and Crafts” style gardens and being interest in the movement we decided that a visit was a must. We drove over on the Bank Holiday Monday, but the traffic was light and, although busy, the gardens weren’t crowded.
The gardens were created by the American horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston who’d moved to Britain with his mother at the turn of the 20th Century. He became a British citizen and fought in the British army during the Boer war. His mother remarried and bought Hidcote Manor in the north of the Cotswolds and he set about turning the surrounding fields into gardens.
I mainly associate the Arts and Crafts movement with architecture, furniture and the decorative arts, but its principles also influenced garden design. Notable garden designers associated with the style include Gertrude Jekyll who designed the garden at Lindisfarne Castle we’d seen a few years ago at the end of our walk on the St Cuthbert’s Way, and the Lancastrian, Thomas Mawson whose works included Rydal Hall gardens and the Rivington terraced gardens. Mawson wrote an influential book – ‘The Art and Craft of Garden Making’.
Curious about what comprised an “Arts and Crafts” style garden I did (as I often do) a little research! I discovered that that moving away from the grand, large scale sweeping landscapes normally associated with grand country houses, the garden is seen as an extension of the house and a space for outdoor living and leisure. They were more intimate, with smaller scale “garden rooms” topiary and colourful plantings. They frequently have water features and structures such as terraces, pergolas, summer houses and dry stone walls and local materials and craftsmanship are utilised. All of this was certainly true at Hidcote.
There was a lot to see – you could wander around for hours – we certainly did.
Something I hadn’t expected to find in Llanfairfechan were some rather attractive Arts and Crafts style houses. I’d spotted three distinctive white rendered houses on the sea front during my walk along the coast on the Tuesday, all with some interesting architectural features. It turned out that they were all designed by Herbert Luck North, an architect who had lived in the village in the early 20th Century.
I though that this house was particularly attractive.
and next door were a pair of semi detached houses, also designed by North, built almost 30 years earlier.
Herbert Luck North was born in Leicester on 9 November 1871. He studied at at Jesus College, Cambridge, after which he worked as an assistant to William Alfred Pite and Edwin Landseer Lutyens. After qualifying as an architect he worked in London before moving to Llanfairfechan in 1901, where his parents lived, establishing an architectural practice there.
Higher up the hill, in the old village, there’s a street of 25 houses, the Close, 24 of which were designed by North. The first of these, built in 1898, was, apparently, the first house he’d designed. The others were built quite a few years later, between 1922 and1940.
The Arts and Crafts movement emerged in Britain in the 1880’s and was heavily influenced by the ideas of John Ruskin, William Morris and others who felt that the mass manufacture of goods during the second half of the 19th century had led to a design in standards and poor quality products and that mass production had led to workers being alienated from the products of their labour. The movement’s vision was for a return to craftsmanship. The use of machinery wasn’t dismissed entirely, but should be used to produce well designed, good quality products. The movement’s ethos is probably well summarised by a quote from William Morris
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
The movement’s principles were applied to architecture as well as furniture, fabrics, tiles, ceramics, and metalwork. Many of the buildings designed by the well known practitioners of the style, such as Charles Voysey, Hugh Baillie Scott and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, built homes for wealthier clients but the homes designed by Herbert Luck North were for more modest, albeit Middle Class, clients.
There isn’t one uniform “style” of Arts and Crafts architecture. However, the general approach involved the application of traditional building techniques, good quality craftsmanship, the use of local materials, asymmetry and avoiding excessive ornamentation. Many early Arts and Crafts style buildings were inspired by Medieval and Tudor design but as the movement evolved plainer, more simple styles become more dominant, with “form following function” at least to some extent. These buildings influencing the simpler Modernist architecture of the 20th Century. This was certainly true of Herbert Luck North’s houses that I saw in Llanfairfechan. They were relatively plain at first glance but had distinctive features including white rendered walls, steep gables, slate rooves (probably with slate from the many local quarries), arched doors and “eyebrow” windows.
Further along the coast towards Bangor, I’d spotted a rather nice house by the entrance to Traeth Lafan Nature Reserve, close to the level crossing over the railway line. It was similar in style to the houses I’d seen in Llanfairfechan. I wondered whether it was another building designed by North, but my research has drawn a blank.
There are certainly some other buildings by North in Llanfairfechan featured on the History Points website. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to seek them all out during my short break. Another time, perhaps.
Last week we’d been up to the North East for a few days. I had a work commitment up there so we took the opportunity to stop over a couple of nights and visit some family. On the way back home we decided to break the journey and stopped off at Knaersborough, somewhere I’d never been before.
It’s an old town, going back to Norman times, if not before, with the remnants of a Norman fortress. Although in the middle of Yorkshire it used to be part of the Duchy of Lancaster. It’s very close to Harrogate (which I have visited several times for work and pleasure) and was the main centre in the locality until mineral waters were discovered in the latter leading to it’s development of a spa resort and subsequently outgrowing it’s older neighbour in size and importance.
We only had a few hours to spare – especially with the short hours of daylight during this time of the year, but that was enough to get a flavour of the small town. We parked up in a car park on the edge of the town centre and then made our way down to the market square. It was market day, so we had a mooch around the stalls before looking for a suitable hostelry to grab a bite to eat. The small town isn’t lacking in cafes and the likes, and we decided on the Six Poor Folk a cafe bar located in a former hospital for paupers, dating back to 1480. It was quite small and could only “cater” for a small number of patients, hence its name.
It was very cosy and nicely decorated inside (with appropriate spacing and other Covid precautions)
and was even frequented by the Town Crier
We bought ourelves a tasty light lunch (I had the steak sandwich) and J treated herself to a glass of mulled wine
Well fed, we wandered over towards the ruins of the Norman castle, taking in the view over the River Nidd far below.
There were dark clouds in the sky, but some sunshine kept breaking through lighting up the keep.
The castle was held by Royalists during the Civil War but was captured by Parliamentarian troops. As with other Royalist strongholds, it was subsequently dismantled leaving the ruins we see today.
Inside the grounds there’s an impressive Tudaor building which today houses a small museum
with displays, including furniture from when it was used as a courtroom during Tudor times, and exhibits about the castle, the town and notable former residents.
After visiting the interesting little museum (entry fee only £2) we had a mooch around the small town centre. The buildings looked to be largely Georgian. I noticed that quite a few of them had tromp d’oiel paintings on their exterior.
Knaresborough used to a centre of the linen industry and there’s a number of old textile mills that have been repurposed, like the one below which is an art gallery and framing shop
The most famous person associated with Knaersborough is Ursula Sontheil, better known as Mother Shipton. Born in 1488, during the reign of Henry VII, she found renown as a prophetess, allegedly foretelling the future of several monarchs, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the defeat of the Spanish Armada. the cave where she is supposed to have been born is a popular tourist attraction, which include a petrifying well which “turns everyday objects into stone” by the precipitation of minerals onto their surface when submerged. There’s a statue of the prophetess in the Market Square
close to a second celebrating another former resident, Jack Metcalf, better known as Blind Jack, who lost his eyesight due to smallpox at the age of six. Despite this he found fame as a musician, tourist guide, soldier (who was present at the Battle of Culloden) and road engineer.
After purchasing a couple of slices of Yorkshire curd from a local baker’s to take home with us, we headed back to the car and then set off on the journey home. It was only 4 o’cock but was already starting to go dark.
We enjoyed our brief stop in the town and may find ourselves back there again to explore further in the furture.