Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Coventry's Awe-Inspiring Cathedral II

I was fortunate enough to make another visit to Coventry to hear a talk at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and have time to visit the new Cathedral when the sun was shining. Not everyone likes the new building's exterior, but no one can fail to be moved by the awe-inspiring atmosphere within it. I have mentioned some of the modern masterpieces that beautify the interior elsewhere - the Sutherland Tapestry, the Baptistry Window, the Beyer tablets and others, but with sunshine was able to see them again in a fresh light. Click the heading for some more photos.

See Coventry's Awe-Inspiring Cathedral
Coventry Cathedral

An Inland Voyage at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

Stephen Pochin with members of one of the canal families

Robert Longden was a machinist at Alfred Herbert's main Edgewick works in Coventry while pursuing photography as his hobby as a member of the Alfred Herbert Photographic Society (which later became the Coventry Photographic Society),  particularly photographing the canal boats and families who lived on them around the Hawkesbury canal junction. Many of his fine black and white photographs, developed in his darkroom under the stairs of his house, were thrown out by his wife after his death in 1957, and the rest were lost until his great-grandson, Stephen Pochin (himself a photographer) found and restored them from the original slides.

Stephen gave a fascinating talk on Robert Longden's work in the gallery at The Herbert displaying some 40 of his best surviving photographs, explaining their history and the scenes depicted. Particularly moving was the presence at the talk of several of the children shown by Longden as living on the barges, some of who spoke of their hard but happy lives on the water before the canals were nationalised and their way of life ended.

Click here for a description of the exhibition by a canal enthusiast and the heading for some more photos from the talk

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Travels in Hampshire and Berkshire

Bill Reed at the Lychgate into Litchfield Churchyard

On Sunday, I met an old friend, Father Frowin Reed and his father Bill, who had come over from Tennessee to stay while Frowin looked after the Roman Catholic parish of Didcot. Bill Reed and I drove down to Newbury, a town he had visited last in 1965 when he was serving in the US Army, and then on to Litchfield and Dunley.

Bill's family has ancient connections with Litchfield. He had a particular interest in one Nicholas Webber who was vicar of Litchfield and died in 1657, and had a copy of his will which contained familiar local names such as Kingsmill and Cold (now Cole) Henley. Bill searched the graveyard for signs of him and we found one gravestone marked NW, but the date - 1706, was a generation or two too early to have been his. But another ancestor by the name of Biggs who had eluded search so far, turned up in the church itself when we opened a newly presented book of Psalms and inside was the inscription 'In Memory of Lilian Biggs 1917-2007'.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Lucie Winterson's Exhibition

Lucie Winterton is an artist who bases her work on natural materials like sand and water which she directs to flow over photographs of rivers and landscapes. She says: 'Over these I work pigments, earth and acrylic wash - tipping and tilting the surface of the canvas and using big brushes and mops to move the paint around. I watch and partially control the bloomings of colour, sedimentations of sand and the tide lines that dry at the edges of pools'.

She has a fine exhibition at 60 Threadneedle St in the City. Click the heading for more photos.

Click here for some more of her paintings

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Favourite Blogs - The Master Draper Blog

The current Master of the Drapers' Livery Company, Maj-Gen Adrian Lyons, describes his blog thus:

'I think Master Draper Blog is the first time that any master of a London Livery Company has ever tried to describe his/her year leading one of these fascinating organisations.

The Drapers' Company is one of the older livery companies and because of the importamce of the finished wool cloth trade to London, and the wider English economy, five hundred years ago we are ranked as the third company in seniority.

Today there are over a hundred livery companies in London focussed on an extrordinarily wide range of trade related and charitable activities.

Our website gives a good overview of what we do across a wide range of charitable activities.

I hope my blog will describe a year where ancient ceremonial, promoting a wide range of charitable activity and maintaining a great organisation to continue its proud traditions into the future will blend together to create an interesting insight into one of London's great institutions'.

I am proud that the Master of 'my' Livery Company has taken up this very modern challenge. Already his posts are revealing details of the Company's work that the Liverymen themselves have little current knowledge about and are very glad to learn. He should also help to dispel some of the unwonted mystique surrounding these purely charitable institutions as well as encourage deserving beneficiaries to find willing sources of funding in these straitened times. But it's going to be a hard act for his successors to follow!

Click the heading to read the blog itself


Seen from the garden

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Favourite Blogs - Spitalfields Life

Dennis Server's House at 18 Folgate St

Spitalfields Life is a captivating blog by an unnamed 'gentle author' who introduces himself evocatively thus:

'In the midst of life I woke and found myself living in an old house beside Brick Lane in the East End of London.

Over the coming days, weeks, months and years, I am going to write every single day and tell you about my life here in Spitalfields at the heart of London. How can I ever describe the exuberant richness and multiplicity of culture in this place to you? This is both my task and my delight.

Let me disclose to you the hare-brained ambition I am pursuing, which is to write at least ten thousand posts about Spitalfields life. At the rate of one a day, this will take approximately twenty-seven years and four months. Who knows what kind of life we shall be living in 2037 when I write my ten thousandth post?
I do not think there will be any shortage of material, though it may be difficult to choose what to write of because the possibilities are infinite. Truly all of human life is here in Spitalfields.
It is my custom to walk everywhere in London and I discover things on my walks, so you will also find stories here from the many places that are within walking distance of Spitalfields.
The days go by quickly and I am always eager to discover more stories. It is through meeting more people and learning more about this place that my understanding will grow and this project will evolve. I am open to all approaches.

Every Sunday, I get up early and walk to Columbia Road Market, buy some plants and write a weekly report to create an account of the seasons at the flower market. Knowing that I must not disappoint you enables me to get out of bed and fills my garden with plants too.
Like Good Deeds and Everyman in the old play, let us travel together. I promise to keep writing to you every day and it will be an eventful journey we shall have together.'

The 'gentle author' - who I believe to be a man, although that simple fact is never made clear - has made good on his promise; a new post arrives each morning - beautifully drawn stories of people, shops, streets and buildings, filled with sympathetic insights into the lives of those he describes. I doubt whether any part of London has been so closely observed. For me, it's a mixture of Gilbert White and the prose of the unnamed writer who used many years ago to pen a weekly column for The Field. And although it began only in August 2009, it's already a masterpiece.