29 February 2020

A Good Read

The Widow by Fiona Barton
When the police started asking questions Jean Taylor turned into a different woman, one who enabled her and her husband to carry on when more bad things began to happen. But that woman’s husband died last week, and Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets, there always are in a marriage. The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything.

Tense and very well written, it kept me guessing all the way through.

~Happy Reading ~

Polly x

21 February 2020

A Weekend Break

Earlier this month my friend M and I had a very nice 3 night stay at Alvaston Hall in Nantwich.

A Grade II listed Victorian property, Alvaston Hall is a lovely half-timbered country house  just five minutes from the Cheshire riverside town of Nantwich. 

The grounds are pretty, it would be lovely to sit outside in the summer.
This was our second good deal with Crusader and Warner holidays. We like these deals because coach travel is included in the price.

Our accommodation was in a chalet rather than the main hotel but that suits us, we have a chalet each with everything we need, an en-suite, a warm room and a comfy bed.

The gardens just outside our rooms.

With loads of amenities there is something for everyone - swimming pool, spa, sauna, jacuzzi, snooker, yoga, archery, workshops, walks, bowls, entertainment every night, and films. And of course lots of food! Most of which is very good.

We had a day trip to the lovely city of Chester.

Eastgate clock is the second most photographed clock after Big Ben

The Cathedral is impressive

A few of the many lovely carvings on the pews.

The Consistory Court dealt with a wide range of cases including heresy,
non-payment of church dues, defamation, witchcraft and clerical absenteeism.

1664 Elizabeth Sutton versus Maria Williams for saying that Sutton was "a rotten queene and her son a lousy bastard". The libel was proved and Williams had to pay costs.
1667 Mary King versus Ellana Harrison. King accused Harrison of saying that she was a "false theef and had robbed my cupboard and she might have had a bastard for her deserts". 
So not only was Harrison defaming King by saying that she was a thief but was also guilty of immoral behaviour. Harrison was found guilty and had to pay a fine and the cost of repairing the cupboard.
1670 Margey Halliwell versus Eliza Edwards for calling her a "hairy hermaphrodite". Depositions were taken and the case was dropped.
1682 Elizabeth Sutton versus Mary Seale for slander. Seale was found guilty and was forced to do penance and pay a fine.

The Cathedral is being replicated with LEGO bricks, 300,000 to date. Visitors pay £1 for a brick.

The model base measures 4m x 2m. Some ‘special features’  have been built too,
such as the Grand Organ, the Quire Stalls and the War Memorial. 

How cute is the library

Lots of lovely little alleyways

The Rows are continuous half-timbered galleries, reached by steps, which form a second row of shops above those at street level along Watergate Street, Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and Bridge Street. The Rows are unique in the world to Chester, and nobody is quite sure why they were built in this way. They have been the subject of much speculation.

Two explanations I like are: Chester has suffered from a series of fires. In 1278 the fire was so severe that almost the entire town within the walls was destroyed. It has been suggested that following this fire, the owners were ordered to make their ground floors fireproof, leading to the stone-lined undercrofts. From this, the suggestion has been made that there was "a general undertaking by the citizens of Chester to improve the commercial potential of their property by providing two-level access for customers"
The other explanation: 
In his book "Wild Wales" published in 1862 the writer George Borrow makes the following claim "All the best shops in Chester are to be found in the rows. These rows, which you ascend by stairs up narrow passages, were originally built for the security of the wares of the principal merchants against the Welsh. Should the mountaineers break into the town, as they frequently did, they might rifle some of the common shops, where their booty would be slight, but those which contained the most costly articles would be beyond their reach; for at the first alarm the doors of the passages up which the stairs led, would be closed, and all access to the upper streets cut off from the open arches of which missiles of all kinds, kept ready for such occasions, could be discharged upon the intruders, who would soon be glad to beat a retreat. !!

The next day  we visited the Emma Bridgewater factory
Lots of lovely pretty kitchen and tableware

They have a workshop where customers choose an item from pots, plates, cups and saucers, or bowls to decorate. You then leave the item for the shop to bake and they post it to you. I would have liked to have a go but we didn't have enough time. We were finishing the day visiting a garden centre and outlet shops.

We're looking for our next weekend away now :-)

Be warm and well ~ 
Polly x

12 February 2020

Framlingham Castle

As well as being great houses, castles were also centres and symbols of power. Great medieval lords used their castles to intimidate rivals and even, on occasion, to challenge the monarch. 

Framlingham was a magnificent late 12th century castle. With towering walls it was a fearsome fortress. It has passed through many hands and seen numerous architectural modifications during its long history.
In 1101 Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk was granted the Manor of Framlingham by Henry I, with the right to build a castle. The first fortifications (probably wooden) were built on the site. The Bigods were a powerful and ruthless family. The first stone buildings at the site were probably the work of Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk.

But it was under his successor, Roger Bigod II, that the huge stone curtain walls we see today were built. It was behind those walls that Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen of England.

Just behind the hedge in the foreground of the picture is Framlingham bowls club

In 1157 Henry II confiscated Framlingham and installed his own mercenaries in an attempt to assert direct control over East Anglia.  

In 1213 the castle was back with the Bigod family. King John was regularly entertained by Roger Bigod II but by 1215 relations had soured - Roger, along with 25 other barons, challenged the high military taxes levied by King John and forced him to accept the Magna Carta. An enraged King John laid siege to Framlingham. After two days, the castle surrendered. This loss of the castle was only temporary however - it was later restored to the Bigods.

In 1306 the cost of building works and disputes with Edward I bankrupted Roger Bigod forcing him to make the king his heir so once again ownership of Framlingham passed to the monarch.
In the 14th century ownership changed again when Framlingham passed to the Brotherton family. For 17 years it was in the hands of Margaret, the daughter of Thomas Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk. Margaret enjoyed a lavish lifestyle at the castle, she was a powerful woman of the period and the first to be made a duchess in her own right. Following Margaret's death, her grandson and heir Thomas Mowbray inherited Framlingham. It was then passed down to the famous Howard family in 1483. Despite the brief period of the Howards tenure, Framlingham underwent substantial repairs during this time.

In 1552 Thomas Howard the 3rd Duke of Norfolk fell into disgrace and Framlingham passed into the hands of Mary Tudor, elder daughter of Henry VIII. It was around this time that the castle became the scene of a succession crisis. Although the catholic Princess Mary had been named Edward VI's heir by their father, the young Edward attempted to surrender the throne to the protestant Lady Jane Grey. Pursued by supporters of Lady Jane Grey, Mary fled to Framlingham to gather her troops. It was while she was installed at the castle that she received the news she had been proclaimed queen. One of her first acts as ruler was to restore the estates and dukedom to the Howards. They set about turning it into a comfortable home decorated with the latest interior Tudor fashions. Beds were decorated with crimson silk and velvet bedspreads. A huge tapestry of Hercules greeted visitors in the hall.

The poorhouse was built in the middle of the castle grounds
In 1635 the castle was sold to rich lawyer and philanthropist, Sir Robert Hitcham. At his death a year later, he left instructions for the castle buildings to be demolished and a poorhouse built. After years of legal wrangling, the first poor families arrived in the mid-17th century and a new poorhouse building was finally erected on the site of the medieval castle's hall in 1729. Just over a hundred years later, the last poorhouse inmates left, and the building was used as a parish hall.
In 1913 the castle was given to the Ministry of Works, and in 1984 it was given to English Heritage.
Elaborate chimneys were status symbols. Only three of the castles chimneys worked, the others were just for decoration.

After visiting the castle we had a stroll around.

It's a pretty village

with lots of little alleyways with houses and shops.

This was a poster advertising a dog grooming parlour.
I think the dog was actually resting on the girl's head! 

Be warm and well ~ 
Polly x

4 February 2020

A Very Good Read

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
Roseanne McNulty is almost 100 years old. For most of her adult life she has been a patient in Roscommon Mental hospital in rural west Ireland. The hospital is going to be shut down and she is facing an unsure future. In the weeks leading up to the hospital’s closure she has frequent talks with her therapist/psychiatrist. His job is to determine what to do with the patients. He is a gentle, understanding man who is doing his best for his wards. He must decide which patients were wrongfully committed for reasons other than mental instability, and which ones are fit to re-enter the world or adapt to modern mental homes.
Roseanne has a journal of her life which she keeps hidden under the floorboards of her room. It is through this journal that we learn about her story. She had a loving relationship with her father but her mother distanced herself from her daughter, and when her father died she was alone.
Young pretty Roseanne fell in love with a young Catholic man. His domineering mother did not approve of her son having a relationship with a Presbyterian. Cruel Father Gaunt was of the same mind, he made sure that Roseanne did not marry the man she loved. The priest’s misogyny, mistrust and dislike for women was Roseanne’s downfall. He condemned her just for talking to a man other than the one she had been forced to marry. Gaunt declared her an adulteress and she was imprisoned in the mental hospital.
Ireland's history comes into play, as does the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the Catholic church who "put away" those who were different, unmarried pregnant girls who had been abused (often by a relative), those who were sexual or deemed "loose". A priest’s word was law back then and anyone they didn't approve of was removed from society. As a result, tragedy, cruelty and prejudice ensued. I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for people like him.
The story went back and forth from 1907 - 2007 but not in a confusing way, if anything it made Roseanne's story more poignant. I could feel her loneliness and pain. My heart ached for this gentle soul left abandoned. There was something quite beautiful in her ability to sit with her loss and loneliness and forgive those who wronged her.
I cried.
This is a gem of a book, beautifully written. 

~Happy Reading ~

Polly x

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