Thursday, 30 June 2011

A bit more - getting there slowly.


A little more depth added in the foreground and definition elsewhere, but not finished with it yet. Moving on now to the top of the piece to deal with far distance and trees.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Masons and Canons Ashby - additional information.

I've had 3 emails, and quite a few hits for the first posting I did on Canons Ashy, and I believe the interest stems from the information given about its early Masonic connections, and those origins in the trade/craft of stonemasons.

I am therefore, going to copy out the information from the NT handbook which was in the room, as this gives more information and fuller details for those interested.  It is written by Clem Hatzel and the sources are at the bottom of this posting. The paintings were uncovered from layers of paint, and appear as originally painted. The National Trust do a talk about this room, and are able to give much more information; a link to the property if you wish to contact them appears on the original Canons Ashby 1 posting.

The mystery of the Winter Parlour.

In the early 14th century operative masons were organised in site lodges (from the Latin for temporary lean-to site structures) used for meetings, rest periods, tool storage.

These were ruled by a fellow elected from their own lodge membership, master masons were barred from the lodge. The lodge was responsible for work conditions, wage rates, qualifications and regrading of members. By 1350 the population had been decimated by the black death, there was a shortage of masons and wage demands rocketed. The final outcome was that to practice a trade or profession one had to be a member of a guild holding a Royal Charter. Guilds became regional and masters could now mix with the other grades of member. The masons trade contracted severely in the 16th century. Henry VII demolished castles, his son closed the monasteries and associated buildings, a preference for building in brick and wood developed. Masons allowed members of other trades (middle classes) to join their guild provided they were freemen. According to the masons they were obliging the non-operative, members who wanted to retain the old religious ceremonies and rites.  My own more cynical interpretation is its good for what little business there is about. By 1666 the masonic lodges were so packed with non-operative members, a new guild was formed to represent the working masons!

The original Drydens come from the right area in Britain to have been associated with early freemasonry. Indeed the motto adopted by Edward Dryden, Antient as the Druids, could have been taken straight out of early 17th century non-craft freemasonry. The Brotherhood was and still is a male club, therefore one room is for entertainment, the other for rituals. As a secret society non-members are barred.

It is possible that a CA Lodge which included non-operative members was formed when Sir John Cope separated his house from the Priory buildings. John Dryden, who was demolishing the rest of the priory and using the materials to build his house was probably a member, he had to provide external site lodge facilities whilst the house was being built and could finally have brought the lodge meeting room into the house when non-operatives exceeded working masons. The Winter Parlour was probably decorated whilst John was still alive.

One last point, it is claimed the servants didn't like the parlour decor when it became their room. Did they not like it or being aware of the rites which had been conducted there were they afraid of it or did Edward decide the sacred decor was not suitable for the uninitiated and had the panelling painted with cream distemper?

The Symbols identified by Dr. Hill:

Crowned head on a platter - the motto probably indicates authority.
Head with slipped crown - probably depicts weakness/dishonour/loss of authority.
Column surmounted by a lion - Masonic symbol for strength
Five Arrows - depicts balance and harmony
Inverted crescent above a dagger - Masonic clouds, associated with the apron and depicted in the Temple of Solomon
Scallop and staff - symbols of pilgrimage to Compostela Santiago, likely to be Templar because the scallop alone was used by pilgrims.
Boar's head on a cushion, no neck - symbolises courage, authority, antagonism. The boar's head without neck is only found in Scottish heraldry.
Red moline cross (surrounded by 8 minor crosses) - the Templar cross appears in the coat of arms of more than one Northamptonshire family.


Stephen Knight (The Brotherhood isbn 0246-12164-5)
Rev N Cryer - The Development of English Freemasonry from 1350 to 1730
Dr. Peter Hill - Private letter identifying symbols.

Friday, 24 June 2011

A morning spent painting stones.

Just thought I'd show you the progress so far.  I'm being very slow these days....must be the sunny weather.  It's going to take a while I think to build up the layers to get the textures and colours right.

Canons Ashby House, Daventry - Posting 3 - Books, Textiles, Graffiti and Poaching Guns.

Canons Ashby isn't the most exciting or interesting of the National Properties I've seen lately, but it has a warmth to it. It's not dripping in expensive pictures or porcelain, but it has an interesting history and pleasant gardens.  The restaurant is also good, being cheap compared to other NT properties in the area, and much nicer. Two courses for £7.50 (chicken pie and veg, fruit crumble and cream)

The Book Room.  This room was constructed in about 1590 by Erasmus Dryden. It wasn't always used as a book room, being a parlour and a billiard room in the past.

Henry Dryden had the oak bookcases made in the 1840's.  Most of the important books from the Book Room were sold early in the 20th century, including a celebrated copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare, which was recently re-sold in New York for £4.2 million.

The room guide told us that the NT have started to collect appropriate books again, including some of the works of John Dryden, the poet laureate, who was related to this family of Drydens. He visited apparently but never lived here.
 Not amongst the most spectacular of my "bed collection" but a pretty one nonetheless.
 Close up of the embroidered bed spread, above.
The plaster ceiling in this room has a small painted panel. There is no evidence that the rest of the ceiling was painted anything other than white.

You can see that the fireplace above, has 2 iron rods in it. This is to support the weight of the the fireplace above it and also a bit of the ceiling.

The whole room was apparently moving into the garden and the external walls were in the lead on the journey, being 18 inches out of true, before the NT stepped in to rescue it. The ceiling has a wooden frame underneath, from which the plaster work hangs. They've had to build internal scaffolding behind the walls and above the ceiling. You can't see any of it of course, and it seems to have done the trick.
 Close up of the painting on the fireplace. At one point the entire thing was painted white, which suited the room to be honest, but it has been stripped back very carefully to reveal the original colours.
 Another, not too grand, bed for the collection.
 Opposite the above bed, the NT have done work to recover the original medieval paintwork.

The top pictures are scenes from the bible, but with clothing and landscapes from the area at the time of painting.

The biblical scenes are done in grey, and where you can see a white outline, this was originally thick black lines. The paint has fallen off to reveal the plasterwork.

I thought the donkeys ears were a little large, but what do I know??!

Not medieval graffiti, but definitely graffiti probably left by builders just a little later. When this door way was plastered over and a new one put in, someone couldn't resist leaving their mark.
 The tapestry behind the bed. I took this photo as I was interested in the colours of the tapestry which remain quite vibrant compared to others in the house, and I also liked the way the leaves had been done.  I can see this being inspiration for some future trees!
Finally, a poaching gun.The spike on the bottom was where the gun was fixed to a fence post.  It allowed it to rotate freely. Trip wires were fixed around it, so that when an unsuspecting poacher tripped over the wire, the gun swung towards him and fired.

Nothing was said about how successful it was.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Canons Ashby House, Daventry - Video of The 17th century Chamber Organ


I was photographing this, when a couple of German ladies asked about it. The National Trust these days are very hands on, and asked if she could play and would like a go. Hence the video above. I feel very lucky to have been able to hear this very old instrument and imagine the entertainment it must have given all those years ago.

As with lots of small organs, it's difficult to establish its exact age, but from the style of the mouldings, construction and stops, it's about 1675.  Similar organs exist and are known as "Father Smith Chamber Organs", but this is thought to be older. It's builder also constructed two others at Compton Wynyates and the Galpin Organ at Canterbury Cathedral no less.

It was probably used for music meetings, perhaps accompanying sacred music at services in the house.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Canons Ashby House, Daventry - Posting 1-Masonic symbols, and marmalade cutters

The outside views of Canons Ashby House (National Trust, maps etc here)

Canons Ashby has been the family home of the Drydens since Elizabethan times. The story of Canons Ashby, which has been little altered since the 19th century, is presented as if it were being seen through the eyes of Sir Henry Dryden, an eminent Victorian.

The Winter Parlour
(Early history and the Masons)

(Since writing this posting, information has been expanded on and can be viewed here)

Its history goes a lot further back though, and in the early 14th century, stone masons organized themselves into site lodges (lodges, from the Latin meaning lean-to storage area) which they used for meetings, rest periods, and for tool storage.

By 1350 the population had been decimated by the black death and there was  a shortage of masons and other trades people, and wage demands rocketed, and resulted in a Guild, so that in order to be a professional or trades person, you had to be a member of a Guild which held a Royal Charter. 

During the 16th century, the population grew, but Henry VII started to demolish castles,  Because there was not much work for the masons, their lodges expanded to include other trades and professions, providing they were "freemen". This was the start of the freemasons.

The Brotherhood was and still is a male club. Edward Dryden was associated with early freemasonry and John Dryden provided the lodge facilities in his house, and the Winter Parlour was probably decorated with lodge symbols during that time. You can see them painted onto the wood panelling above.

Some of the masonic symbols: 
Crowned head on a platter - the motto probably indicates authority.
Head with slipped crown - probably depicts weakness/dishonour/loss of authority
Column surmounted by a lion - symbol for strength
Five arrows - depicts balance and harmony
Inverted crescent above a dagger - masonic clouds associated with the apron and depicted in the Temple of Solomon
Boars head on a cushion - symbolises courage, authority, antagonism.

 The Kitchen

There was no running water in the house, and no electricity until 1947. This space would have had an open fire for cooking, prior to the range.

Love this one on the right. Its a casserole oven.

There is nowhere to make a fire and no chimney.  Hot coals were taken from the fire (see above) and put into a shallow depression in the top of the stone. The pans were then put on top and the stew cooked slowly for several hours.  There was a space underneath to rake out the spent coals.
 Bread oven.
The dairy.  There is light in this room, and it is cold (as well as damp)  It was thought that butter was made here.
 Can you guess what this is?  Its a Victorian  marmalade slicer.  You put the quartered oranges in the tube at the back and press home with the wooden bung.  The handle at the front moves from left the right and slices the orange as it's pushed through.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Warwick Castle - 4th (last) posting. Trebuchet firing.

Warwick Castle's Trebuchet, firing, here  Apologies for the windy day making the sound quality poor!

A trebuchet (pronounced, tre-bew-chay) is a seige catapult. The one at Warwick Castle was made out of the finest English Oak. Now this isn't patriotism on my part, but is due to the genetics and environment in which English oaks grow; they form a dense, slow growing, heavy and therefore very strong wood.   The trebuchet pictured above is 22 tons of solid oak. It has an ash arm (ash being lighter and much more flexible which allows more spring and therefore greater distance when firing)  The counterweight is 6.5 tons.

If you look at the trebuchet closely you will see some wheels in the centre that look like something a hamster would use for exercise.  A team of 4 men would crawl inside the wheel arrangement and walk around, winding a rope around a centre cog. This would pull the arm of the trebuchet down to the ground where it was fixed to prepare for firing. This could also be done by horses pulling the rope away from the trebuchet. The counter weight rises to the top of the frame.

(below, French Trebuchets; photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

A stone boulder is loaded into the sling. This could also be wrapped in burning cloth if a fire ball was required. (There's a lot of wood inside a castle) One trebuchet against a Castle wall wouldn't have much immediate effect but they were used in batteries of up to 40 or 50.  As well as boulders, it was important to demoralize the enemy to prevent long seiges, so rotten meat, urine, and toilet waste, entrails, and the heads of prisoners were also fired. Polluting the drinking water and spreading disease were also very important weapons of war.

In fact, spreading disease and mayhem were more important than battering holes in castle walls. It was necessary to gain entry, but a castle was a useful thing to capture, and you wouldn't necessarily want one full of holes! Imagine the horror of rotting carcasses hitting the ground around you at over 150 mph.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Warwick Castle - 3rd posting - Eagles, Victorian goings on including Great Grandpapa's, and the Great Hall

In 1898, Daisy, Countess of Warwick hosted a weekend party at which the principle guest was the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII.

Part of Warwick Castle is laid out with Madam Taussaud's waxworks to recreate the scene.  Most hilariously, you are met at the door by a Victorian servant of some kind, who sticking to her character, primly asks where you are from. She then leads you into the room pictured on the left, and introduces you to the throng.  DH and I were announced as the Count and Countess of Royal Leamington Spa!! Made me laugh.

As you near the figures there must be a sensor which triggers a recording as you approach, giving the idea that Daisy is talking to you.

Now, I'm especially interested in this exhibition as family legend has it that my Great Grandmother was Ladies Maid to Daisy, and my Great Grandfather was valeting for the Prince, and they met at Warwick Castle, whilst waiting up for Daisy and the Prince, who were notoriously, having an affair.

My Great Grandfather was in Royal service, becoming Steward of the 5 castles (sort of like a Butler that also did the accounts!) so the story is perfectly feasible.  My Grandmother, was the nasty one mentioned on this blog before, here.

The Boudoir
This is a waxworks of Daisy and her ladies maid, or as I like to say, Daisy and Great Granny!!

I'm sorting out some photos for my mother, and found this, very appropriate, one of  Gt Grandad done up in costume at one of the Palace fancy dress parties. Fancy dress parties were a very popular pastime I think, as I have many similar party photos but with differing costumes.

The Great Hall, filled with armoured knights and weaponry.
And bits of amazing furniture.

Another bed head

I loved this room. Such a pretty blue with all that gilding.

Plus, another pelmet for the collection.
The Tudors, courtesy of Holbein.
Henry VIII
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn at the top facing Henry, and her sister Mary at the bottom, facing away. This is because Anne was married to him and Mary wasn't. It was Mary though who gave him an illegitimate son, and who slept with him first.

Can you see, on the left, who popped in to show me around!
Lovely, if worn, embroidered chair
One of the eagles from the Falconry display. This was the one, they managed to get to soar over Guys Tower and land. Spectacular.

This is Archie, the son of the above, who will change his feathers when grown.