“The most we can do is to write — intelligently, creatively, critically, evocatively — about what it is like living in the world at this time.” Oliver Sacks. “To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart,” Henri Cartier-Bresson
Old King Cole is a nursery rhyme, perhaps more common in the UK than in the USA. “He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl, and he called for his fiddlers three” etc. Well, some folks think Old King Cole was a Welsh King of Northern England, after the departure of the Romans. But the people of Bucks Mills in North Devon, think the rhyme is based on Richard Cole, the Lord of Woolfardisworthy (“Woolsery”), who built a harbour by blasting away rock on the beach and making a quay. This allowed ships to bring limestone and coal from South Wales to be processed in kilns built into the cliffs. Richard Cole died in 1614 and there is a monument to him in All Hallows Church, Woolfardisworthy.
There are some lovely doors in Bucks Mills (see previous posts) but here are some new (old) ones.
Rather than the traditional cock as a weathervane, here is a whale.
A beautiful September afternoon at the Sculpture Park. Not many doors there, but across the lake, in the forest there is a well.
After Sir Thomas Wentworth’s death in 1675, his wife, Grace, had the life tenancy of Bretton Hall. She remarried four years later and became Countess of Eglinton. This doorway was built into the rock face beside a quarry on the estate. Springwater flowed under the door into a pool and a trough, from which the local people could collect potable water.
Above the entablature there is a tablet which explains this. Unfortunately, the limestone owl above it has disappeared.
If you would like to see some of the sculptures, let me know and I will post a collection (but not under the heading of Thursday Doors!).
Snapped with my cheap smartphone in the Cultural Quarter of the city, Orton’s Brasserie is a posh restaurant, a homage to the (in)famous playwright, Joe Orton. He was born in Leicester in 1933. He wrote “Entertaining Mr Sloane” and “Loot”. A film about his life, “Prick Up Your Ears” was released in 1987, twenty years after he was murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell.
He borrowed books from a public library, altered the book covers with cheeky illustrations, then replaced them on the library shelves. For this, he was arrested by the police (well, it was 1962). There are plans to erect a statue of Orton in Orton Square, outside the Curve Theatre.
In the foreground there is a rocket, part of the “Rocket Round Leicester” trail of 40 colourful spaceships in the city as part of a fundraising scheme for the local hospice (Loros).
Alexandra House was built at the end of the 19th Century as a warehouse to store bootlaces (you needed four storeys to store laces?). The architectural historian, Pevsner, described Alexander House as one of the finest warehouses in the country. Faire Brothers & Co supplied shoelaces worldwide, with brands like “Old England” and “Jumbo”. During World War Two, despite being damaged by German bombers, the factory produced millions of parachute cords.
During the war, rubber was a scarce commodity, so Faire Bros. invented and produced the rubber-free “Natty Grip” fitting for suspender belts and “Gripknit” flexible corsetry for servicewomen (“Women in Action”). The building was converted to 175 apartments a few years ago.
Berwick is like the Roman god, Janus. It looks two ways: north to Scotland and south to England. In the 17th century, after it had been under English control for 150 years, the townsfolk lived under English laws, but dressed in Scottish fashions. They were more likely to speak Scots than English.
It was a fortress, with bastions looking out to sea, protecting the mouth of the River Tweed. Less than a mile inland, the ancient castle fell into disrepair after it was outside the newly constructed ramparts. The builders needed to save money and reduced the area protected.
William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, was captured by the English and hung, drawn and quartered (so he could not be put back together on Judgement Day). One of his arms was displayed in Berwick, while his head was on a spike on London Bridge.
Another Scottish hero, Robert the Bruce, was crowned king in the traditional manner by the Countess of Buchan. As a punishment, the Countess was hung in a cage in Berwick Castle for four years by the English.
Much of the stonework from the ruined castle was scavenged and used to build the Barracks in the 1720s. But the final indignity was the destruction of the castle’s Great Hall to enable the passage of the London to Edinburgh railway in 1847.
The River Tweed is protected by a breakwater. Our landlady told a story of a man who found a woman who had collapsed on the breakwater. He telephoned for an ambulance but was told it would take over an hour to arrive. Thinking laterally, he called the coastguard knowing that there was a paramedic in the lifeboat crew. The lifeboat crossed the mouth of the river and the paramedic attended to the sick women. Job done.
The soldiers billeted here worked 12 hour shifts. Eight men shared four beds in a room, so four would be resting while the other four would be guarding.
Edward VI started building a star-shaped citadel here, similar to the defences of Calais. When Calais fell to the French in 1558, the plans were changed, to a more modern Italian design. The ramparts are over 10 metres high, 7 metres of stone topped by 3 metres of earth.
The magazine kept all the gunpowder safe and dry to supply the cannons on the ramparts. It was designed with a special wooden floor without using metal nails to prevent sparks from iron-tipped boots setting off an explosion. It was built a few hundred metres south of the Barracks (just in case).
The Lions House is just behind the magazine. It commands expansive views over the ramparts. The painter, L S Lowry, (Matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs) was interested in buying the property as he spent a great deal of time in the town. However, a survey revealed that it was in poor condition and very damp, so he abandoned the purchase. It is now available to rent as a holiday home, as well as being dry and in good shape.
It is Grade 2 listed building described as “Ashlar, C18, with rusticated quoins, scrolled gables, 3 storeys, centre doorway with good fanlight, 4 sash windows on ground floor and 5 on each upper floor.”
Lowry painted views of the town during his visits. These contrast with his typical grim factory scenes of industrial Lancashire between the World Wars. There is a Lowry Trail through Berwick, showing 18 panels of his works where they were painted. It takes about three hours to complete the trail, crossing over the Tweed to Spittal.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with allotments – these are small parcels of land which are mainly used to cultivate vegetables by people who don’t have a house garden. In the early 1800s, the Enclosure Acts deprived poor people from using common land. Parliament introduced legislation mandating local authorities to provide land for allotment gardens at an affordably low rent. The average plot size is 10 square rods (an ancient measure no longer in use), about a sixteenth of an acre (5m x 5m), with no plot exceeding 40 square rods, a quarter of an acre. The land must be used to produce flowers, fruit or vegetables for the plot holder’s family, not for resale. If you don’t cultivate it, the local authority has the power to offer the plot to someone else – and there is always a waiting list.
Behind the southern fortress walls of Berwick, there are some elegant houses, along Wellington Terrace and the Quay Walls. White doors with black knockers, handles and letterboxes look very smart. I like the dressed stone blocks, the porticos and the black iron railings.