Tag Archives: Stone heads

More Stone Faces

Here are more of the stone heads from Ely. I couldn’t get as close as I did with the others┬ábut 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.




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.


The Faces of Crowland Abbey

While we were in the Fens on Wednesday, as you already know from previous posts, I took a few pictures of Crowland Abbey on the way past. A photogenic ruin, stone faces and a graveyard – hard to resist.

The Abbey was founded in memory of St Guthlac early in the 8th century but destroyed by Vikings in 866, an earthquake (1118) and three fires (1091, 1143 and 1170). It wasn’t all bad though, the isolated Fen location kept it safe during the civil disorder of the Middle Ages and allowed it to accumulate considerable wealth.

St Guthlac is depicted in this photograph – he’s holding the whip he used to drive the demons off the island (which is what Crowland was before the drainage of the Fens). ┬áThat’s not a blemish in the archway by the way, it’s a Jackdaw flying by.


St Guthlac -right side, second tier, statue on left


This is a cropped and enhanced piece from the picture above it, showing a close-up of St Guthlac, now protected from birds by netting.

The West Front, with its fine selection of statues was completed between the 12th and 14th centuries. Given time I could probably identify most if not all of them. I could also date statues and heads from the fashions they are wearing. That, however, is a project for the future. I need to know more about church architecture before I start on fashion of the Middle Ages.