Tag Archives: cathedral

History and Heroes

I like medallions.

I particularly like well-made Victorian medallions in their original boxes, but that’s just another case of me having champagne tastes and a beer income.

So here are some medallions we put on eBay this week.

First up is Canterbury Cathedral, a well-struck high relief medallion with lots of detail. It’s not the most inspiring subject but it’s done well and there’s an aura of quality hanging round it. This aura obviously communicates itself electronically as it has already sold.

 

 

The next one commemorates 21 years of the Volunteer Movement. Founded in 1860 as a reaction to political tensions with the French, the Volunteers built on the tradition of local units raised in Napoleonic times. After nearly 50 years they became the Territorial Force in 1908 and they are now known as the Army Reserve. Each incarnation has seen them become more serious and slightly more removed from the local community. I suppose that’s progress.

It is an extremely well-struck medal and this particular example has traces of original lustre and the box of issue. The box has seen some wear over the years but retains its original velvet and silk lining.

On the reverse, St Michael guards a woman an children, supported by three warriors representing England, Scotland and  Ireland. You can tell this from the rose, thistle and shamrock on their shields.

The final medal was produced by the Royal Mint in 1990. It’s good for a modern medal, but still suffers by comparison to proper, old medallions. It commemorates 200 years of lifeboat design. I like it because it has an interesting historical subject and it’s treated with enthusiasm (even if it does have a dull, low-relief reverse).

-Of all the heroes we’ve ever had, you’ll have to search hard to beat a lifeboat man, as this link shows.

More Stone Faces

Here are more of the stone heads from Ely. I couldn’t get as close as I did with the others but they tend to be in a better state of preservation. This is partly because they are out of reach of rampaging Parliamentarian soldiers and partly, I think, because some of them have been restored.

I’ve just been trying to find more information but apart from finding out that the original stone came from Barnack, near Peterborough (which isn’t exactly earth-shaking news, as a lot of stone came from Barnack) I didn’t find much.

It was interesting to find that Ely paid for the stone by providing 8,000 eels a year, though I can’t find out how many years they provided them for. That’s a lot of eels, but if you were to eat 2 a day it would only take 11 people to eat them in a year. If you believe everything you read about churchmen and high living they would have needed a lot more food than that.

I’ve also found out that Cromwell stabled his horses in the cathedral, though he gets blamed for that at every cathedral. In fact he gets blamed for lots of things.

 

 

 

The Stained Glass Museum – Ely

As you may have guessed from a previous post, I’m not impressed with the admission charges at Ely Cathedral. In fact, I’m not really keen on spending money at all, unless it’s on books or unsuitable food. So if I say it was a pleasure to spend £4.50 on the Stained Glass Museum you’ll realise I liked it.

Two roundels showing scenes from the life of St Vincent, c 1220-50 Burgundy region

I’ve always liked stained glass. There’s something magic about sunlight filtering through coloured glass, in much the same way that there’s something wondrous about sunbeams streaming through trees.

I’ll leave it to the pictures now, as I have nothing to say that will improve the glass.

Left, Angel Musician c1440 – 80 Distinctive East Anglian style of painting

Right, Christ and His Followers, designed by Alexander Walker (active 1896 – 1929) though the label says this is c 1885. From a church in Leith. Part of the new wave of Scottish glass – religious zeal having destroyed all he old glass and prevented the making of new glass for several hundred years.

Left, Head of a Young Boy c 1930, designed and made by Christopher Webb (1886 – 1966)

Right, Inner Space by Paul San Casciani b 1935 – representing the view of cells

As you can see, there is a variety of glass, including old and new with a mix of traditional and novel subjects.

Faces from History

As part of our visit to the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral we were able to get close to a selection of stone heads. They show a variety of damage, both from weathering and what appear to be sword cuts.

From the weathering, and the way they’ve been mounted in the wall with a certain measure of untidiness I’m assuming that they aren’t in their original positions.

They aren’t the most engaging selection of heads, being ugly without being interestingly grotesque, and generally lacking interesting details. I can’t find any mention of them on the museum website but will try to find out more about them.

The trouble with my lack of knowledge is that I may be dismissing historical gems as dull. I did once contemplate doing a degree in Archaeology as a mature student, but taking three years out of work was a step too far, so I remain ignorant and under qualified in the area of stone heads. And many other things.

I’ve often wondered what gets people so worked up about religion that they would fight about it and attack stone heads with a sword. Simple common sense indicates that even if you are a religious zealot you shouldn’t be abusing your sword like that as your life might depend on it later. Thinking of it, a religious zealot probably wouldn’t worry about that, as he’d be sure of going to Heaven anyway. Common sense also indicates that a hammer would do the job better.

As religious violence and smashing up museums are still issues today it must be some deep-seated trait of humans.

The common soldier of the Civil War wasn’t known for his care of swords. I can’t recall the exact quote but General Monck was of the opinion that they used their swords for cutting firewood more than they did for fighting. To be fair, firewood is important.

I’ll leave it there for now, but still have the (more interesting) heads from outside and lots of Stained Glass photos.

I’m still having a problem loading photos, so it’s going to be a long old day of wrestling with technology.

As Julia wants to go to Hobbycraft, I may kill two birds with one stone – making her happy and avoiding the technology for a while. Sounds like a win-win situation.

 

A Visit to Ely

My first mistake on this trip was trusting the satnav. A year ago you wouldn’t have heard me say that, because I simply wouldn’t have used it. Since then I have gradually found myself starting to not only use it, but to trust it. This has proved to be a mistake as it has recently tried to take me up a couple of one-way streets, got me lost in Leeds twice and taken us on several strange routes, including a tour of B-road Lincolnshire.

On Friday it tried to take us to Ely by driving past and looping back,  so I switched off and asked Julia to do some map reading.

Married men reading this will probably be experiencing a chilly feeling of deja vu. In addition they will probably be watching, mesmerised, as I flirt with disaster. Fear not. I will admit that there was a touch of domestic discord surrounding navigation, but I am not stupid enough to discuss it in greater depth than that.

Anyway, I like mystery tours, and it gave us the chance to see Fen Drayton Lakes. I was hoping there would be a toilet there, and possibly a Kingfisher. Both hopes were doomed. There are feeders and viewpoints, and lots of water. Unfortunately there was too much for us to do it justice, even after I made a quick stop in a hedge to rectify the lack of toilets. Unfortunately I couldn’t rectify the lack of leaves on the hedge. Ah well…

As we were driving along the roadway to the reserve we crossed the track of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway. I’d never heard of it until I crossed it, despite it being the longest one in the world. In fact I’d never even heard of a guided busway. My sister, on the other hand, tells me not only has she heard of it, but has actually used it.

In Ely, we found a free car park with toilets. “Free” is a quality I admire in a car park, and “with toilets” is also an excellent quality. This is the Barton Road Car Park, which was in a reasonable walking distance of the Cathedral. There are others, which you can see here.

The Russian Cannon was captured in the Crimean War and presented by Queen Victoria in 1860 on the formation of the Ely Rifle Volunteers.

We decided, for various reasons (which included the price) just to  go to the Stained Glass Museum. We’ve been to the Cathedral in the past, but not to the Stained Glass Museum, and we’re on a budget. I’m thinking of posting something on this subject later. I will also post separately on the Stained Glass Museum, which was so good I want to go back to see it all again.

After the museum we wandered round town for a while, had coffee, checked out some charity shops, tried to buy some pork and took more photographs. Things weren’t great for photographs, as narrow streets and low sun cast many shadows.

The butcher’s shop is Edis of Ely, a fine old-fashioned shop with a great range of products and two walls of award certificates. The two people in the shop were more concerned with talking to a regular customer, who was obviously more interesting than I was. After waiting patiently for some time I decide enough was enough and left, so I can’t tell you if everything was as good as it looked. As they didn’t seem to notice as I left, I can only assume I was either invisible or unwelcome.

As I’ve never been there before I can’t see why I should have been unwelcome so I can only assume my diet has been effective to the point of rendering me difficult to see.

However, one of the charity shops produced an unread copy of The Cat’s Pyjamas (The Penguin Book of Cliches)for £1.50, so I’m over the moon about that.

Oliver Cromwell and his family lived here from 1636-46, though I suspect he wasn’t home much from 1642 0nwards.  What with the size of the entrance fees to the Cathedral and the spirit of Cromwell I’m beginning to feel a bit iconoclastic…

 

 

The Coming Week – a Trip to Ely

I took a lot of photographs yesterday during our trip to Ely. If we’d got up earlier, and if we hadn’t been been slowed down by my elderly bladder and the poor navigation of one who shall remain nameless I would have taken more.

In the coming week you can therefore expect a helping of Cromwellian politics, a discourse on the evils of Ely, photographs of stone faces, a description of domestic disharmony due to the distaff side’s inability to read a map, a picture of Prince Albert and his piercing look, a visit to the Stained Glass Museum and some suggestions on how the Church could finance the £6,000 a day it takes to keep the Cathedral open.

Here are some photographs to give you some idea of what is coming up.