Friday, 28 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real,some not - 'X'

X - EXmoor House

I hope you will agree that this is one way to deal with the troublesome letter 'X'.


Exmoor House, Dulverton, Somerset
(20 July 2010, by Nilfanion - CC BY-SA 3.0)
Exmoor House was built as the Dulverton Workhouse. The golden lettering above the door declares that date to have been  -


The west half of the 'T' shaped layout was the men's and boys' accommodation with the women and girls in the east.
After 1930 only vagrants' casual wards remained; later it was used as the Exmoor training centre for girls.

It then became the Rural District Offices. Today it is the Headquarters of the Exmoor National Park Authority.

Dulverton lies in the valley of the River Barle; river and valley are a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The river passes under a pre-historic clapper bridge. The name clapper derives from the medieval Latin "claperius" - a pile of stones. The bridge appeared in a commemorative series of Great Britain's postage stamps in 2015.

Tarr Steps
It's now a scheduled ancient monument and dates from c1000BC.

The stone slabs making up the bridge weigh up to 5 tons each and according to local legend were placed there by the devil to win a bet.

Now doesn't 'X' have associations with the devil??

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'W'

W - Top Withens

This is another house I had never heard of.


Top Withens, Haworth circa 1900
(Source: Law, Alice 1923; p149 "Patrick Bramwell Bronte." - Public Domain)
I suppose the Haworth name should have given me a clue.

The house is now a roofless ruin but it does have an explanatory plaque.

Top Withens - Bronte Society Plaque
(18 May 2005 - by Dave Dunsford - Public domain)
It's a long time since I read 'Wuthering Heights' but early in Chapter 1 Mr Lockwood finds out that -

"Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliff's dwelling. "Wuthering" being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones."

You have to read on to find out more as I shall also have to.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Reflections - Thematic Photography

Having missed out on the basement theme last week, I thought that the weather might restrict me this time. However Samwin basking in the reflected sun saved me in the end.


After snow showers had created roadside puddles, reflections reminded me it is supposed to be spring.



Just before I had to jump to avoid the spray from passing cars.

To ponder on other reflections switch over to Carmi's thematic-photographic-410.

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'V'

V - The Vyne

I first I heard about this 16th century country house at Sherborne St John, near Basingstoke was on a very recent 'Flog It' TV show on the BBC.


The Vyne
(30 June 2015 - By Martinv - CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Vyne was built originally for Henry VIII's Lord Chamberlain.The portico on the north front was added in 1854.

Sir Charles Chute bequeathed it to the National Trust in 1956 and each year it now hosts concerts, plays and family events.

It houses The Vyne Ring or Ring of Silvianus, a gold ring probably dating from the 4th century found in a ploughed field in 1785. The property of the Roman Silvianus, it was stolen by a person named Senicianus.

Decades later, and miles away at Lydney in Gloucestershire, a tablet was found at the Roman site known as Dwarf's Hill. This contains an inscribed curse. Silvianus tells the god Nodens that his ring has been stolen and he knows who by; he wants Nodens to sort him out, "Among those who bear the name of Senicianus to none grant health until he bring back the ring to the temple of Nodens."

In 1929, archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler called in J R R Tolkien to advise on the name of the God. Days later Tolkien apparently  began writing "Lord of the Rings".

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'U'

U - Uncle Tom's Cabin and ?

From Uncle Tom’s humble cabin to Brideshead Castle, fictional dwellings have often played a vital role in a novel’s success..

During the American Civil War, President Lincoln is reported to have said to an author, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!”

The author was Harriet Beecher Stowe; the book, once advertised on a poster as “The Greatest Book of the Age”, was Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Stowe in an angry reaction to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.


 Full page illustration by Hammatt Billings for Uncle Tom's Cabin [First Edition: Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1852]. Shows characters of Eliza, Harry, Chloe, Tom, and Old Bruno.
George Orwell described Uncle Tom’s Cabin as “the supreme example of the ‘good bad’ book…..also deeply moving and essentially true.” 


Like the book multiple film versions have told the story of the fleeing slaves, the death of little Eva, and eventually the death of Uncle Tom at the hands of the evil Simon Legree. It is more difficult to visualise the cabin of the title as it only features in an early chapter of the book entitled “An Evening in Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. 

The description of it and its contents shows how sparse it was: “The cabin was a small log building, adjoining the master's house. The front, covered by a large scarlet bignonia and a multiflora rose, left hardly any of the rough logs visible. Inside, a bed in one corner was covered with a snowy spread; and by its side was a piece of carpeting; that corner was the drawing-room.

“In the other corner was a humbler bed, designed for use. Some brilliant scriptural prints and a drawn, coloured portrait of General Washington adorned the wall over the fireplace. A rough bench was situated in the corner. A table with rheumatic limbs, covered with a cloth, and brilliantly patterned cups and saucers, was drawn out in front of the fire.”

[The above text is taken from my article, 'Houses in Fiction', published in The Lady magazine in October 2008.]


And now to the ? I could have written about another house for U. Can you recognise it from this extract?

"Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me."

Monday, 24 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'T'

T - Tolethorpe Hall


Tolethorpe Hall, Little Casterton, Rutland
(By Dave Crosby - 22 June 2013 - CC BY-SA 3.0)
This is the venue of the Rutland Open Air Theatre, the 'home' of the Stamford Shakespeare Company.

This June they will be performing 'A Midsummer's Night Dream' and 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

The first manor house on the site was built by the Norman de Tolethorpe family in the 11th century The setting of the hall overlooks parkland with the River Gwash running near by.


I cannot say that I have ever visited the hall, but before we left the area in the early 1960s I had helped to clean out the Gwash further upstream. I also played cricket against the Tolethorpe Park team.

The Stamford Shakespeare Company acquired the then near derelict hall in 1977. I'll confess that we have also never been fortunate enough to attend any of their performances.

For more details of this year's programme visit http://stamfordshakespeare.co.uk/ and don't forget to book dinner in Tolethorpe Hall itself.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017 - Houses, some real, some not - 'S'

S - Saddlers Cottage


Saddlers Cottage, High Street, Ketton
This is the house in the Rutland village of Ketton in which I was born, eighty years ago next month.

The house of grey Portland stone and roof of Collyweston slate still retains its old character. I remember it in the 1940s and 1950s when the front had a grey wooden fence, a garden gate and a double gate across the drive at the left. It was fun to swing over them from one side to the other.

On either side of a concrete path to the front door were lawns each with diamond-shaped flower beds in their centre. At nine or ten, I had to cut the edges and woe betide me if I snipped off any flowers. They were in more danger from flailing sticks used to swat bumble bees attracted by the asters.

A rambling rose covered the head-high, wire fence between the lawn and drive. A small gate from the drive near the house opened onto a stone path crossing the front to the lawns and flower beds. Right of the house was a short path from the pavement into the garden of the landlord; he kept a beady eye on us especially as our Airedale, Punch, had killed his cat when it trespassed on ‘his’ lawn.

The drive up the left continued to the back boundary fence and contained a gate through which you could enter a stonemason’s yard – but only if he wasn’t there; he wasn’t keen on kids pinching his apples and plums from trees which were covered in the dust from the monuments and gravestones he made.


Those houses you can see in the background on the left are where that stonemason's yard used to be, The tree on the left is the apple tree I used to climb.

As you can see the wooden fences have gone, replaced by those stone walls. There are no gates. It had no name.

Now a nameplate (not visible in the photo) proclaims it to be 'Saddlers Cottage'. My father's family were saddlers before the motorcar came along.