Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another Obscure English Writer's Memorial

I blogged several months ago about the ubiquity of writers in England. At the time, I had just come across a memorial in Tewkesbury Abbey to the obscure Victorian novelist Dinah Craik. At Salisbury Cathedral, I found this monument to the late Victorian nature writer, Richard Jefferies, who was a native of Wiltshire. For anyone interested in Jeffries, there's a good website here. I bought one of his books at a second-hand bookshop in Warwick, but I haven't read it yet. (Click to enlarge the photograph and read the inscription.) On the subject of obscure writers, I was chuffed to find that John Mutford, the moderator of an online book discussion blog called The Book Mine Set, has posted a thoughtful and complimentary review of my short-short story "Kumquat," which appeared a couple of years ago in The Plum Ruby Review.
Last English Road Trip, Part 2: Fishbourne and Chichester

On Monday morning, we left the car parked at the highly- recommended Rokeby Guest House and walked to the Salisbury rail station to hop on a train to Fishbourne, Sussex, by way of Southampton and Chichester. Anyone who has reached Unit 3 of the Cambridge Latin Course will remember the ill-fated King Cogidubnus, the client king who meets his doom at the hands of the evil Salvius while helping to illustrate cum-clauses and gerundives. Fishbourne Roman Palace, about two miles east of Chichester in Sussex, may have been the home of poor old Cogidubnus in the first century AD. Today, Fishbourne is home of the most spectacular Roman mosaics in Britain.

The foundations of the palace, with its mosaic floors, were discovered in the early 1960s, when excavation was being done to lay a water main for a new residential development nearby. The find was amazing. Because of its position on England's south coast, Fishbourne was settled soon after the initial Roman occupation in 43AD, and its mosaic floors are among the oldest in the country—many of them laid by foreign artisans, since there were as yet no native artisans skilled in the art of mosaics (as there would be, later, when Cirencester in the Cotswolds became a center of mosaic production). In Fishbourne, you can see the development of mosaics from early black-and-white floors (see above) to polychrome floors such as Fishbourne's masterpiece, the mosaic of Cupid riding on a dolphin (at left). Fishbourne is also remarkable for its reconstructed Roman garden (below). The box hedges are planted in the actual excavated trenches from the Roman palace, and thus reproduce the exact design of the original Roman hedges.

From Fishbourne, it was a short walk into Chichester, where we visited Chichester Cathedral and then walked around the city walls. Chichester, like Lincoln and York, started out as a Roman military camp, built around two main streets (the cardo and decumanus) meeting at right angles in center of the city, surrounded by walls pierced by four gates at the four compass points. Chichester has remarkably complete medieval city walls, built upon Roman foundations. At left are Clara and the boys on the walls, near Priory Park, with the spire of the cathedral in the distance.

The interior (nave) of Chichester Cathedral.

Unlike Salisbury Cathedral, with its expansive close, Chichester Cathedral is pressed right up against the town. Inside, it reminded me more of Winchester Cathedral or Tewkesbury Abbey, with its earlier Norman architecture updated with later Gothic additions and ornamentations. Beneath the cathedral, recent excavations have revealed even more Roman mosaics from the Roman praetorium. (As in Lincoln, the cathedral seems to have been built over the old Roman military command center in the town.) Chichester is quite a lovely little cathedral, and is noted for incorporating some surprising bits of modern art, such as the stunning Marc Chagall stained glass window pictured below, dating from 1978.

One of the things I love about England is that poetry occasionally pops up in unexpected places. There is, for example, the Edward Thomas poem in the bus shelter in tiny Adlestrop, about which I blogged in January. There is also a little Philip Larkin poem in the train station in Coventry. And in Chichester Cathedral, there is another Larkin poem, inspired by a tomb in the cathedral of one of the early Earls of Arundel. On the tomb (carefully reconstructed in the nineteenth century), the earl has removed his gauntlet so that he can hold hands with his wife, who lies beside him. Here's Larkin's poem:

An Arundel Tomb

Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.

They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly, they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

John Constable at Stonehenge

Here is a John Constable oil painting of Stonehenge, completed in 1836—the year before his death. According to information that I gleaned at the Salisbury Museum, Constable only started paining ruins, such as this, after the death of his wife in 1828. When she died, he told a friend, "the face of the World is totally changed to me." Constable (1776-1837) is one of the wonderful artistic discoveries I've made this year in England—a painter with whom I was not previously very familiar, and who is quintessentially English. Ironically, during his lifetime he was more popular in France than in England, but he refused to leave his homeland, telling a friend, "I would rather be a poor man in England than a rich man abroad." Notice in the painting that several of the large stones, or sarsens, have fallen; some of what one sees at Stonehenge today is a modern reconstruction, in which fallen stones have been replaced in their original positions.
Our Last English Road Trip, Part 1: Stonehenge and Salisbury

Even with the crowds of tourists and the A303 whizzing past, Stonehenge is awe-inspiring. Something ancient and inexplicable dwells at Stonehenge. Both Turner and Constable painted Stonehenge, in watercolors that give the impression of something elemental rising out of the landscape. In Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Tess and Angel Clare spend a night at Stonehenge, and its brooding, mysterious presence inspired Thomas Hardy to do what he did best: paint the dark landscape in words.

The band of silver paleness along the east horizon made even the distant parts of the Great Plain appear dark and near; and the whole enormous landscape bore that impress of reserve, taciturnity, and hesitation which is usual just before day. The eastward pillars and their architraves stood up blackly against the light, and the great flame-shaped Sun-stone beyond them; and the Stone of Sacrifice midway. Presently the night wind died out, and the quivering little pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay still.

The downs around Stonehenge are broad and lovely under a mild July sky. The ridges are dotted with ancient burial mounds, or barrows, that immediately reminded me of the eerie scene in The Fellowship of the Ring in which the hobbits, soon after leaving Tom Bombadil's house, cross the treacherous Barrow Downs. In the photograph at left, you can see the "heel stone" (with three people standing in front of it), framed in one of the arches of Stonehenge. On the morning of the summer solstice, the sun rises directly above the heel stone and shines through that arch into the inner stone circle.

The mechanical clock in Salisbury Cathedral (ca. 1386).

It's remarkable that Stonehenge has been measuring out the months, and the risings and settings of the sun, for about four thousand years. Time was a theme in our last road trip of our English sabbatical year. We were conscious, the whole time, that in two weeks we will be leaving England. And at Salisbury Cathedral, we serendipitously stumbled upon the world's oldest mechanical clock, which has been ticking away inside the cathedral since 1386. The clock, which runs on weights and gears, has no face or hands, and only strikes the half-hours and hours.

From Stonehenge, we drove down to Old Sarum—the ancient hill fort where the city of Salisbury originally stood. There was a Norman castle on the hilltop, overlooking the original Salisbury Cathedral. In the 13th century, however, it became clear that a waterless hilltop was not a perfect place for a city, and Sarum was moved downhill to modern Salisbury. The foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid in 1220, and the spire (England's tallest) was finished a hundred years later. Since it was built in such a relatively short time, the cathedral is architecturally unified, being all in the Early English Gothic style. In his Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson (an American whom the Independent has called the nicest man in Britain) says: "There is no doubt in my mind that Salisbury Cathedral is the single most beautiful structure in England and the close around it the most beautiful space."

The tomb of William Longspee, Earl of Salisbury, who died in 1226.

In the Cathedral Close, there's an "outstanding" (Bill Bryson) little museum with exhibits on Stonehenge and the history of Salisbury, including three wonderful Turner watercolors of the cathedral. One of the oddities is a well-preserved rat discovered inside the skull of William Longspee, a 13th-century Earl of Salisbury, when his tomb was opened a century or two ago. It was suspected that Longspee may have met his death by poison, and, in fact, traces of arsenic were found inside the rat! Longspee is interred in an unusual tomb with a stone effigy resting on a wooden chest. He was the first person to be buried in the new cathedral.

Also in the Cathedral Close is Mompesson House (pictured below), a National Trust property that, unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit on this trip. For me, the chief interest in Mompesson House is that it appeared as Mrs. Jennings' London residence in the superb Ang Lee film of Sense and Sensibility (1995).

After wandering around the cathedral, we headed back to the Market Square for a pub meal. I had forgotten that the pub to visit in Salisbury is The Haunch of Venison (fabulously haunted, and home to a mummified hand cut off in a fight during a card game in the pub), so we ended up eating in a distinctly ordinary pub before rushing over to the local cinema to watch The Simpsons Movie. (In case you're wondering, Louise, I had a pint of Ringwood Best Bitter.)

The façade of the Odeon cinema, Salisbury.

The movie was the boys' reward for putting up with cathedrals and Roman ruins (see the upcoming entry). One of the best things about the experience was the cinema itself, the Odeon, which was worthy of Diagon Alley. The lobby is built into a fifteenth-century banqueting hall, with much of its original façade still intact. From this medieval front, the cinema (opened in 1931) magically widens to accommodate four large screens. The website Cinematopia says: "Surely one of the most remarkable and outright spectacular cinemas in the country, the Odeon Salisbury shows both what can be achieved in cinema design and what twenty-first century audiences are missing in their modern picture palaces."

Next: A day at Fishbourne Roman Palace and Chichester Cathedral.

In fifteen days, we will be reunited with our ridiculous dog, Pippi. This dog, much quieter than Pippi, lives on a tomb in Salisbury Cathedral.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tourists at Kenilworth Castle

Yesterday afternoon, Clara's Carleton College colleague, Jackson, took the train from Oxford to Leamington Spa and joined us for a tour of Kenilworth Castle. For those of you who don't know him, Jack spends most of his sabbaticals, and part of most summers, living in Oxford and researching Lactantius at the Bodleian. We spent a good long time at the castle, then had a couple of pints and a meal at the Famous Virgins and Castle pub on the High Street, before walking home in (yet more) rain and returning Jack to Leamington to catch a 2030 train back to Oxford. Clara was home in time to catch the last half hour of Bettany Hughes' television programme on Athens on Channel 4, featuring a brief talking-head segment with our graduate school friend Jay Samons, who is now the chair of the classics department at Boston University.

Above are Jack and Clara standing in front of Kenilworth Castle's Norman keep—begun in the twelfth century, it withstood the longest siege in English history in 1266 (when Henry III besieged the rebel barons following Simon de Montfort) and was finally "slighted" by Cromwell's forces in the Civil War of the mid-17th century.

The weather is looking better today for our trip down to Stonehenge and Old Sarum. We're spending two nights at a bed and breakfast in Salisbury, and tomorrow we'll be making a long side trip to Chichester to see Fishbourne Roman Palace. I'll report on this, our last big excursion of the sabbatical year, in a post on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Rain

It's raining heavily here in Kenilworth again. Here's the latest warning from the Met Office for the West Midlands:

Outbreaks of rain will be heavy at times during the rest of this morning and into the early afternoon. 15mm is likely in 3 hours in places. The public are advised to take extra care and refer to the latest Environment Agency, Floodline and 'Flood Warnings in Force', and to the 'Highways Agency' for further advice on traffic disruption on motorways and trunk roads.

Issued at: 1023 Thu 26 Jul

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Return to Old Milverton

An old postcard of Gaveston's Cross on Blacklow Hill, between Leek Wootton and Warwick.

The level of the Avon River has subsided north of Warwick. At noon today, I crossed the river on the footbridge tucked away behind the Saxon Mill pub in Guy's Cliff. Employees were hosing mud out of the pub, and it was clear that 24 and 48 hours earlier, the water had been much higher. All of that water has flowed south, through Warwick and Stratford and down to Tewkesbury, where the Avon joins the Severn. Water from the flooded river has seeped into Tewkesbury Abbey for the first time since the 18th century. One of the people buried in Tewkesbury Abbey is George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Richard III who in Shakespeare is drowned in a vat of malmsey. His tomb is in a crypt beneath a grille that looks suspiciously like the grille of a storm sewer drain. I wonder if poor Clarence is drowning again in the muddy water of the Severn and Avon.

One of the things we seem to have left until it was too late this year was a trip down to Gloucester to visit Gloucester Cathedral. Gloucester, unfortunately, is now nearly inaccessible due to the flooding. Gloucester Cathedral is famous for the beautiful tomb of King Edward II. Fans of Braveheart will remember Edward II as the weakling son of the vicious English king, Edward Longshanks. Poor Edward had an unfortunate knack of choosing favorites who annoyed the rest of the English nobility. In 1312, his chief favorite was Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall. The obnoxious Gaveston found himself besieged by the Earl of Lancaster at Scarborough Castle (which we visited in April). He was eventually captured, imprisoned at Warwick Castle, and executed on Blacklow Hill. A cross (with an inscription composed by Dr. Samuel Parr of Hatton) used to stand on this site—where this slip road now comes off the northbound lane of the A46—which I pass on my walks to the Saxon Mill, Warwick, and Old Milverton.

Thanks to a tip from Marise, on LibraryThing, I was able this time to locate the grave of the writer Vera Brittain, author of the superb World War I memoir Testament of Youth. Below are pictures of the grave, and then a picture across the churchyard toward the wooded crest of Blacklow Hill.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Britain's Worst Flooding in Modern History

from the Telegraph (click to enlarge)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Flooding on the River Avon

Here are a couple of photographs taken from the footbridge over the River Avon just beyond the church in Ashow, a short walk east of Kenilworth. The bridge usually crosses the Avon and connects with the public footpath through the field on the opposite side of the river. At the moment, the bridge looks more like a dock than a bridge. From the second picture, you can see that the Avon, at least at Ashow, is now more lake than river.

All of this water will have to flow southeastward, and will join the similarly flooded Severn at Tewkesbury. (More on the flooding in Gloucestershire from the BBC here.) This is what Tewkesbury looks like now:

You can see Tewkesbury Abbey—my favorite English parish church—at the right of the photograph, on a little green island above the flood. We had been planning a last-minute trip to Gloucester, but at the moment flooding has submerged many of the roads that lead to Gloucester, and has disrupted rail service.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

200th post

More Flooding in the Midlands

Yesterday was another day of heavy downpours in England. The Midlands were particularly hard hit. Both the Severn and the Avon were flooded; Tewkesbury, where the two rivers come together, is at the moment virtually cut off. In Stratford-upon-Avon, water seeped into the Swan Theatre, prompting a cancellation of last night's performance of Macbeth. Train service into Oxford is temporarily suspended. Below are pictures of the main street through Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds: as it looked when we visited in September, and a detail of how it looked yesterday.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter Night

This was the scene in front of Browsers Books on Talisman Square in Kenilworth at 12:01 a.m. GMT Saturday, as the first copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were flying magically off the shelves. Earlier in the evening, to make a proper holiday of it, Clara and Peter and I went to the Odeon in Coventry to see the film of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Now begins the long and arduous process of reading all 607 pages (in the English edition) out loud.

Update: Photographs of the much larger celebration back home in Northfield, Minnesota, can be viewed here. Among those queuing up in front of River City Books are our friends Jeff and Mary, whom we will be overjoyed to see in less than a month!

Muggle magic on the London Underground.

In the latest film, there's a wonderful little throw-away scene in which Harry and Mr. Weasley, on the way to Harry's trial at the Ministry of Magic, travel on the Tube. Mr. Weasley sees a Muggle use an Oyster Card—an electronic Tube pass that the user waves over a sensor—and tries to wave his hand over the sensor to open the barrier. The barrier, of course, doesn't open, and Harry (with more first-hand experience of the Muggle world) shows him how to put his ticket into the slot to open the barrier. I love Mr. Weasley's sense of wonder at the Muggle world. In the magical world, children spend seven years at Hogwarts learning, sometimes with great difficulty, to point a wand at something and make something happen. These ingenious Muggles simply wave an Oyster Card and the remarkable underground world of the Tube opens up to them. So much easier than flicking a wand with exactly the right wrist action and saying something in Latin with just the right tone of conviction.
Blogging toward the future...

Twenty-seven days until we're back in the U.S.A., at which point this blog will have served its purpose. I've enjoyed blogging, though, and I'm considering whether to start a new blog once I'm settled back in Northfield. So, my legions of loyal readers, help me out with this:

(1) Should I continue to blog after the sabbatical ends?
(2) Should I stay here at Blogger, or follow the shifting tide over to Wordpress? To help you decide, this exact blog entry can also be found here, on the Wordpress platform. I've liked Blogger and have found it easy to use. Does anyone have a good word to put in for Wordpress?

Please, leave a comment to help me decide. Meanwhile, this blog will roll along for two or three more weeks. There's still an upcoming trip to Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Chichester to tell you about...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Time to Come Home

From today's Wall Street Journal:

"Europe's 13-nation currency hit new highs against the dollar Wednesday and the British pound traded above $2.05 for the first time in 26 years amid ongoing worries about the U.S. economy driven by its weak housing market."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Peaks Revisited, Part V: Haddon Hall

Haddon Hall, the beautifully-preserved medieval manor house near Bakewell in Derbyshire, was first known to me from the Joseph Nash print of Elizabethan reveling in Haddon's fourteenth-century banqueting hall. Nash's print of the hall, with its minstrel's gallery, was appropriately featured on the cover of Jethro Tull's classic 1975 album Minstrel in the Gallery. A copy of the print also hangs in our dining room in Northfield. It was a thrill to stand in the actual room, although the revelers had been replaced with sedate mannequins wearing the costumes of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. It was during a night of Elizabethan reveling, so the story goes, that Dorothy Vernon, the daughter of the Catholic lord of Haddon Hall, eloped with the upstart Protestant peer Sir John Manners. The story of the elopement may be fanciful, but it's true that Dorothy's father objected to her marriage to Manners. In time, however, he overcame his objections, and on his death Haddon Hall passed into the hands of Dorothy and her husband.

Sir John Manners was the son of the first Earl of Rutland, and in the seventeenth century, the Manners family closed up Haddon Hall like a time capsule and withdrew to their much grander home, Belvoir Castle, further east in Nottinghamshire. Then, in the 1920s, the 9th Duke of Rutland reopened Haddon Hall, much of which is unchanged since the Middle Ages. The family chapel still has magnificent medieval wall paintings (though these have faded to a monochrome, as in the example at left), and the kitchen was never modernized in the Victorian era, as is the case in so many historic homes that one can visit in England. Haddon Hall is currently the home of Sir Edward John Francis Manners, the second son of the 10th Duke of Rutland—and the thirty-first generation of the family who have owned Haddon Hall since the twelfth century. His elder brother, the 11th Duke, lives at Belvoir Castle.

This is the last installment in the series "The Peaks Revisited."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Peaks Revisited, Part IV: The Industrial Revolution on the Derwent River

Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-1792), with a small model of his water frame.

Heading south toward home from the Hope Valley, we stopped outside the little spa town of Matlock Bath to visit Sir Richard Arkwright's Masson Mills and its working textile museum. Sir Richard Arkwright was born to a working class family in Lancashire in 1732. As a lad, he was apprenticed to a barber, and enjoyed modest success as a barber and wig maker. In the 1760s, however, the fashion for wearing wigs was in decline, and young Dick was casting about for new prospects. That's when (according to the juicier version of the story), he fell in with a middle-aged clockmaker named John Kay. Kay was an associate of a man named Thomas Highs who, in 1767, had invented a water-powered mechanism for spinning cotton thread. Arkwright may have crossed paths with Kay at a pub, lubricated him with drink, and extracted from him the secret of the Highs' as-yet unpatented contraption. In due course, Arkwright himself patented the machine, known as a "water frame," and in 1771 built his first water-powered cotton mill in the Derwent Valley. Arkwright's fortune was made. A few years later, having tweaked the existing cotton carding machine, he was able to incorporate the entire cotton textile manufacturing process—from carding the cotton to weaving the cloth—under one roof. For this innovation, Arkwright is known as the Father of the Factory System.

Arkwright's Masson Mill opened in 1783, and was the showcase mill in his cotton empire that stretched across the Midlands. The Industrial Revolution was born. For English workers, this meant that water-powered machines would do the work that men and women had traditionally done as piece-work in their cottages or small shops. The introduction of the factory system meant that a traditional way of life came to an end. Arkwright also came to use James Watt's new coal-powered steam engine to pump water to his mill's water wheel, thus moving industry away from reliance on renewable energy sources like wind, water, and animal muscle. Finally, Arkwright imported most of his cotton from the American South, where it was produced by slave labor.

A power loom producing cotton cloth at Masson Mill.

One of the superintendents in one of Arkwright's cotton mills was a young man named Samuel Slater (1768-1835), a native of Derbyshire with a keen memory for details. Having memorized the construction of Arkwright's water frame, he emigrated to America in 1789, bringing with him the knowledge to build his own textile mill. He did this in defiance of British law, which forbade the exportation of industrial secrets. In America, Slater established his own mill on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island (with the backing of local bigwig Moses Brown, whose family's money financed the university from which I received my Ph.D.). The Industrial Revolution—based on Slater's theft of Arkwright's patent, which was in turn stolen from inventor Thomas Highs—had come to America.

The Masson Mill was in continuous operation from 1783 until 1991, and reopened in 1999 as a "working textile museum." The old machines are working again in the old part of the mill (pictured above), and the new part of the mill houses a four-story factory outlet center. In 2001, the Derwent Valley was inscribed as a World Heritage Site for its importance as "the cradle of the Industrial Revolution."
The Peaks Revisited, Part III: Peveril Castle

Peveril Castle's ruined Norman keep.

In the first years of the Norman occupation of Britain, William the Conquerer parceled out lands to the nobles who fought with him at Hastings. Among those knights was William Peveril, who was granted land in what is now the Peak District, where he built himself a castle. Sir Walter Scott, who was under the impression that William Peveril was an illegitimate son of the Conqueror, wrote a novel called Peveril of the Peak, set during the Popish Plot of 1678. The novel, published in 1823, begins:

"William, the Conqueror of England, was, or supposed himself to be, the father of a certain William Peveril, who attended him to the battle of Hastings, and there distinguished himself. The liberal-minded monarch, who assumed in his charters the veritable title of Gulielmus Bastardus, was not likely to let his son's illegitimacy be any bar to the course of his royal favour, when the laws of England were issued from the mouth of the Norman victor, and the lands of the Saxons were at his unlimited disposal. William Peveril obtained a liberal grant of property and lordships in Derbyshire, and became the erecter of that Gothic fortress, which, hanging over the mouth of the Devil's Cavern, so well known to tourists, gives the name of Castleton to the adjacent village."

Seth and Peter looking out from the keep.

Scott wrote that Peveril "chose his nest upon the principles on which an eagle selects her eyry, and built it in such a fashion as if he had intended it, as an Irishman said of the Martello towers, for the sole purpose of puzzling posterity." Today, little remains of the castle but some of the northern curtain wall and the ruined keep, built under Henry II in the 1170s. The castle, though in what would seem to be a highly defensible site, was never used as a military stronghold, and seems to have served mostly for administrative purposes, and as a base for hunting parties. Today, the castle offers a good climb up from Castleton, with fine views around the Hope Valley.

Next: The Industrial Revolution on the Derwent River and a Medieval Hall

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Peaks Revisited, Part II: On the Trail of Jane Eyre

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Eyres were lords of the manor in Hope and Hathersage. Sir Robert Eyre fought at Agincourt and returned home to the village of Hathersage to renovate the local church (pictured above). The church is full of Eyre family memorial brasses, including those of Sir Robert and his wife, Lady Joan, on their altar tomb in the sanctuary. At left is the memorial brass of Ralph Eyre (d. 1493) and his wife. Robert Eyre is said to have built seven houses around Hathersage for his seven sons. One of these houses was North Lees Hall (pictured below).

In 1845, Charlotte Brontë visited a friend in Hathersage, and stayed in the parsonage near the church. At the time of her visit, Hathersage was already known as the burial place of of Little John, Robin Hood's right-hand man. The village was also known as a center of pin and needle manufacture. But Charlotte Brontë seems to have been most inspired by the Eyre name and by North Lees Hall, standing in the shadow of the dramatic cliff known as Stanage Edge. In her imagination, North Lees Hall became Thornfield, the home of Mr. Rochester, where young Jane Eyre comes as a governess for Mr. Rochester's ward, Adele. Brontë describes Thornfield as follows: "It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable; a gentleman's manor hours, not a nobleman's seat; battlements around the top gave a picturesque look."

Poor Jane spends some of her time in the novel wandering brokenheartedly on the Peak District moors, such as those that lie beyond Stanage Edge (pictured above). In the 2005 film version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) somehow finds herself on Stanage Edge with the wind blowing through her dress. Pictured at left is Keira; below, even more stunning, is Clara striking a similar pose.

Haddon Hall. Peter is holding an umbrella borrowed from the nice man in the ticket booth.

In the 2006 BBC Jane Eyre, the scenes at Mr. Rochester's Thornfield were filmed at Haddon Hall, the beautifully-preserved medieval manor house of the Manners family just south of Bakewell, Derbyshire. It was raining heavily when we arrived at Haddon Hall (about which I will say more in a later post), but we were pleased to discover that Andrea Galer's costumes for the BBC Jane Eyre were still on display (the exhibit was supposed to end in June, but will now run into August). Below are (1) Jane's governess outfit and Mr. Rochester's everyday suit, in the banqueting hall, (2) costumes on display in the great hall, where several scenes in the BBC adaptation were filmed (the costumes were worn by Blanche and Lady Ingram, and Mr. Rochester's ward, Adele), and (3) Adele's costume.

Next: Peveril Castle