Saturday, February 28, 2009

In the Museum

I always enjoy visiting the Potteries Museums and Art Gallery up in the city centre. It is the most wonderful place. We often pop in there on a Saturday monring for a cup of coffee and a look at whatever their new exhibition is. This morning we were delighted to find not one but three exceptional exhibitions.

The first exhibition 'The Arrival' is a collection of works of contemporary urban art by graffiti artists like Banksy, Swoon, Elbowtoe and Candice Trip. These paintings, are, as you can imagine fairly raw, intense, thought provoking and certainly not for those easily offended.

The second exhibition, 'Hidden Talents', was organised by Brighter Futures and explores the creativity of people affected by mental health issues. Again this was a thought provoking exhibition and there were some exceptional pieces on display. Talents hidden no longer.

The third exhibition was the wonderful 'Making History: 300 years of Antiquaries in Britain'. This is a touring exhibition which explores and explains the way the study of national heritage grew during the 18th and 19th centuries and the way people collected and recorded both local and national history before the foundation of national museums and libraries. The exhibition also explains the start and progress of the 'Society of Antiquaries' founded in London in 1751. I was in 7th heaven as I wandered around the room taking in a 1610 copy of Camden's Britannia, the Roll Chronicle, a copy of the revised Magna Carta dated 1225, an enamelled reliquary designed to carry the bones of St Thomas a Becket, portraits of the Saxon King Athelstan, the Yorkist Kings Henry lV and Richard lll, and the Tudors Henry Vll and Henry Vlll. There was a lock of Edward lV's hair in a gold locket taken from his tomb at Windsor Castle and I stood for ages, transfixed by the Bosworth Cross, a late mediaeval bronze gilt processional cross found, in 1778, on Bosworth field, long after the battle of 22nd August 1485. It was displayed against a mirror so that you could see the decoration on the back - the sunburst symbol of the Yorkist badge. The exhibition was guest curated by Dr David Starkey who was due to give a talk in the afternoon in the lecture theatre at the museum.

I know that I will go back and take another look at this exhibition before it moves to Sunderland in June because there is so much of interest and one visit is just not enough.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pancakes and a Tag

As it's Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day we had them for tea, drizzled with freshly squeezed orange juice. Mmm....

I've been tagged by Fern at Fern's Lakeland and I was asked to go to my photo album, choose my fourth photo folder and the fourth photo in - so here it is.

This is Apple Day, October 2004, at Ryton Organic Gardens in Warwickshire. It is a wonderful day out (as is their potato day) with orchards to visit, specialists to consult, apple based menus in the restaurant, trees to buy and apples to taste and buy. This is one of the tasting areas. I think this was taken by Paul as to the very right of the photo I recognise my fringe and my denim clad arm. Next to me, clutching her apple to be identified, is our friend Sue. There was an amazing array of different apple varieties and Sue bought a small tree which just fitted in our car so that we were able to get it home for her. I have to tag four other bloggers, I hope they don't mind, don't feel under any pressure to participate if you don't want to, anyway, here goes-

Pam at Southern Journeys

Teresa at Blueberries, Art and Life
Amanda at Pandy Potter Bears
Rosie at Under the Hedgerow

Here is another photo taken at Ryton on the same day -

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snowdrops at Hodsock

As I look out of the window this morning at the trees blowing in the gusting wind and the rain spattering across the window, I can hardly believe what a wonderful warm and sunny day yesterday was. Yet it did happen and we sat outside and ate our lunch in the sunshine amongst many others doing exactly the same and all with smiles on our faces, I mean, what more could you want than the wonderful first signs of spring.

The day started early for us as we had an appointment at the Local Studies Library at Chesterfield to look up a report in the local paper regarding the unfortunate and untimely demise of one of Paul's ancestors. After this we collected my sister and brother-in-law and drove to Worksop and then Blyth to find the lovely Hodsock Priory.

Our goal for the day - to see as many snowdrops as possible. Lunches were served in the marquee or on the lawn outside, the queues were long but everyone was happy to wait. We decided to walk around the formal garden first, then have lunch and then follow the woodland walk.

I'm afraid I didn't take many photos mainly because I was just enjoying looking at the garden but also because of the sun, which, although very welcome, did always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here are just a few of the better ones.

We eventually left around 3.30p.m. tired but happy. What a glorious day it had been.

Meanwhile, I've been tagged by Fern at Fern's Lakeland (link in my sidebar) to choose a photo from one of my folders and talk about it, which I will do in my next post.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Sixth Town

In my last but one post I promised a short walk around the town of Fenton. When the Potteries born writer Arnold Bennett wrote his book 'Anna of the Five Towns' he missed out the town of Fenton. There are many theories as to why but I think it was probably because, as a book title, it sounds rather better than Anna of the Six Towns. Also Anna was published in 1902 before the formation of the City itself so he probably didn't even give Fenton a thought. The city of Stoke-on-Trent is made up of six towns from North to South - Tunstall, Burslem (known as the mother town), Hanley (now the city centre), Stoke (the administrative centre), Fenton and Longton. The Federation of the six towns happened on 31st March 1910; next year, therefore, is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of the city and no doubt there are plenty of special events planned.

Fenton was formed from the two earlier townships of Fenton Culvert (Great Fenton) and Fenton Vivian (Little Fenton). The two areas are now separated by the A5007; Great Fenton is the area where the Town Hall, Library and Church stand around the war memorial in Albert Square and where the market it held every Thursday on the car park in front of the Co-op store. Little Fenton is clustered around Victoria Road, a road which winds its way up into the city centre. Off here is Fenton Park and Fenton cemetery, the sports centre and 6th form college some smaller shops and terraced houses and then the usual shops like Aldi, Dunelm, Halfords, Currys, McDonalds, Wicks and etc. Further up towards the centre is the Emma Bridgwater factory, shop and ceramic cafe.

So let's look at some of the older buildings in the smallest of the six towns.

Above and below is the church of Christchurch rebuilt in 1898 on the site of the former church which was built 1838/9.

The building below, formerly Lloyds bank, is now an art gallery. At the moment it has an exhibition called Urban Landscapes by local artist Sid Kirkham.

Below is the former town hall, now the magistrates court, which was built in 1889. Here is the comment on the building from Pevsner's 'Buildings of England'

"Town Hall, 1888-9 by R. Scrivener & Son of Hanley. Brick, symmetrical, Gothic - but with a number of little originalities which help to relieve the portliness of the building."

The Library, below, was built in 1906 with the help of money from the Carnegie Trust. Most of the buildings around the square were built by or with the help of local business man William Meath Baker.

Who also had the houses below built on the corner of Victoria Square.

Behind which stands the old fire station.

Some more lovely buildings close to Albert Square.

There is so much more to Fenton and lots more interesting buildings but I think we will end the walk here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Pottering Weekend

Well, a pottering weekend in more ways than one. Firstly we managed to make lots of pots of marmalade - the ones in the photo below are about two thirds of those we made.

It took all Saturday afternoon to make one batch and all Sunday morning to make the second batch. Paul volunteered to cut the peel into shreds - always the longest chore. We used a recipe in the little book pictured - one I picked up for about 50p in Woolworths quite a few years ago now and much used ever since.

On Sunday afternoon the sun came out for a short while so we went for a walk, well more of a slip, slither really down to our nearest park.

It was very cold and there weren't many people around. There was a strange, muffled silence around the park, broken only by the occasional bark of a dog in the distance or the twitter of a bird from the branches above.

We crossed the park and left by the main road entrance and walked further down into Fenton. I don't very often venture into the little town as we are closer to Longton which has far more shops but I always think Fenton has some lovely old buildings; I think I will take you for a walk around Fenton in a future post.

Here though, in the distance, are some bottle ovens, relics of the old pottery industry, at what was the original James Kent factory.

As you can see they are Grade II listed, calcining bottle ovens, named Salt, Pepper and Vinegar

Presumably this is because they look like those objects standing in the middle of a table or perhaps they reminded people of a cruet set. Apparently there were four types of bottle ovens used in pottery manufacture: updraft ovens, downdraft ovens, muffle kilns and calcining kilns. The calcining kilns weren't used for the actual firing of the pottery but for the preparation of the flint and animal bone which went into the clay. Here is a link to further explanation of the industry.

By the time we turned back towards home the sun had long disappeared and we had been out longer than we had expected to be. As we neared home there was a faint sprinkling of snow in the air. A couple of hours later as dusk fell our world was white once more.

On the white theme I've been pottering with my blog again and reverted to the white background I had when I first started because I thought it looked better with the snowdrops I've put on my header bar.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Thanks and Seven Things

My thanks go to Teresa at Blubeberries, Art and Life for this award. I don't really feel justified in accepting it though as I'm not an artist and I don't produce any kind of arts or crafts like some of writers of the super blogs I visit. It was so kind of Teresa to think of me and it was lovely to have a nice surprise in an otherwise ordinary weekend.
I have also to list seven things I love. Assuming that love of family, friends and pets is a given I'm including things that I love. It is hard to chose just seven but here goes:-

Just being by the sea

Trees and woodland in Autumn

Wandering around old buildings

Spring flowers and summer gardens

Soft, newly fallen snow

Going to the Theatre

Curling up with a good book

Well, I now have to pass this on to seven more bloggers and as you know from previous awards I always feel unable to chose so if you are passing by and would like to take the award with you then please do so.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A February Task

We have the oranges. We have the sugar. We have plenty of empty jars. Guess what will be happening in our kitchen over the weekend.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Just by the Weaver Way

The historic village of Audlem nestles in the area of south Cheshire that links with the borders of both Shropshire and Staffordshire. It is a lovely part of the country with rolling hills and farmland stretching towards ancient towns and villages. Towns like Nantwich, Market Drayton and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

It is a very attractive village although the traffic can get very heavy around the square where the roads into the village along Shropshire Street and Cheshire Street meet and cross and move on.

The parish church of St James the Great stands on a small hill in the centre of the village; the present building dates from the 14th century. Below the steps to the church stands the butter market and next to that the bear stone.

The stone, as explained in the panel below, is all that is left from the days, long gone, when bear baiting was considered to be entertainment.

The Shropshire Union Canal runs right through the middle of the village and the walk along the towpath is the southern end of the Weaver Way, which runs from here up to Nantwich,through Winsford then Northwich to Frodsham, passing through and by many interesting places in between.

At the side of Audlem Lock stands the 'Shroppie Fly' pub and Audlem Mill which houses a canal and craft shop which also offers needlework and craft courses, I think if I lived nearby I would like to go to some of these - especially the rag rugging as I remember my grandmother's house was full of them and I once watched her and grandad making one on their scrubbed top kitchen table.

We strolled along the towpath for a while and waited by the next bridge whilst the farmer herded his sheep over the bridge using his quad bike, the noise was amazing. The contrast in colour between the sheep just brought from the farm and those that had been out in the field for a while was quite striking.

It was time to head back towards the village for refreshment, no, not at the newly refurbished Lord Combermere Hotel although it did look inviting.

This is where we chose to visit, opposite the church. It was a really interesting place especially inside.

The Old Priest House Coffee Shop was warm and inviting and also very busy; a group of well booted ramblers were partaking of their breakfast and shortly afterwards a group of lycra clad cyclists also arrived for their 'full english'. We sat in the large window looking out on the church and the main street in what was obviously a former village shop. The counter was still there.

No cooked breakfast for us just warm scones with home-made jam and the nicest coffee I had tasted in ages. Here are a few more photos taken around the village.