Bosham

Some time ago now, I posted my comic about the story of the Bosham Bells.

I recently had the chance to return to Bosham and revisit the church that features in this story.

The village of Bosham sits on Chichester Harbour.

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The earliest parts of Holy Trinity Church date from the Saxon period, though there are many additions of Norman and later medieval date. The church is featured in the Bayeux Tapestry, and a replica of this section, made in memory of a local resident, hangs on the wall.

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When I visited the church as child, the feature that most fascinated me was the memorial to King Cnut’s daughter.

Though I also liked going down the short set of steps into the church’s crypt.

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This time, I noticed the evidence of graffiti and traces of wall paintings.

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As well as the font, which had once been kept covered “to ensure the Holy Water was not stolen for witchcraft”.

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I didn’t get to hear the bells in the church, but I went outside to the graveyard, looked up at the bell tower and remembered how, when I was six or seven, I had stood at the edge of the water and strained my ears to hear the great bell calling from the bottom of  Bosham Deep.

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Dr H

 

The Devil and Dartmoor

Buckfast Abbey detail

I’ve recently returned from The Past in its Place conference, held at Buckfast Abbey, Dartmoor. The conference was organised as part of an interdisciplinary research project exploring  the ‘history of memory’ in a range of English and Welsh locales from the early medieval period down to the modern era.

I heard many excellent papers at the conference, and have come away more interested than ever in the different art styles and forms of documentation and communication produced in the past. My own contribution was a short paper about the growing role of comics in communicating academic research to a wider audience, as well as their potential use within academia. (Anyone interested in this subject should think about coming along to the Applied Comics meet up in London on May 9th.)

Devil in Dartmoor

I also created a comic for the conference (more on this soon), narrating two stories connected to the great lightning storm that struck Widecombe-in-the-Moor church in 1638. One of these stories is a folktale, which sees the Devil descending on the moors in order to claim the soul a local sinner.

The Devil was no stranger to Dartmoor, if the placenames and folklore of the area are to be believed. Among his many activities, the Devil seems to have taken an interest in trying to disrupt the building of churches in the area. As part of the workshop, we walked up the hill from Buckfast Abbey, to the site of Holy Trinity Church, Buckfastleigh. According to legend, 196 steps were built leading to the church in order to place the church out of the reach of the Devil, who was prone to pulling down at night any building work completed during the day.

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The church is also the burial place of Squire Richard Cabell, whose extremely dubious reputation led to tales of him rampaging around the countryside with a pack of hellhounds after his death in 1677. The folklore associated with the squire may (or may not) have provided part of the inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The church has a complex and troubled history – incidents of body snatchers, lightning strikes, damage from bomb blasts, fires and rumours of satanic rites (see here for a full account). Following a devastating fire in 1992, the church was reduced to a shell, open to the elements.

P1090021On the day when we visited, the Devil seemed to be far away.

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The sun shone and the graveyard was carpeted with flowers.

P1090018Watched by the jackdaws that nest in the church, we explored the ruins.

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Everywhere, plants and tiny saplings, tried to claim the building.

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P1090029On a sunny spring day, the site was beautiful.

Still, I would not wish to go there at night, or suffer the consequences of running around the squire’s tomb seven times widdershins.

Dr H

Bath Walks within the Walls: Walk 1

A bright (though cold) day lured me out of the house to follow Peter Smithson’s Walk One from his book Bath: Walks Within the Walls.

Bath Walk 1

Dr A and I had chosen to start with Walk Two, as Walk One runs along a route that we often follow into and out of town. We thought that Walk One might be of less interest, as it features familiar paths. But seen through Smithson’s eyes, the city takes on new dimensions.

Photos by Dr H. Quotes by Peter Smithson are written in orange.

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The walk starts in South Parade.

This is my favourite part of Bath. Decent snuff-coloured buildings and the widest pavement I know.

Smithson has a thing about wide, raised pavements. Raised walkways were a feature of the recently demolished Robin Hood Gardens, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson.

The walk moves into the car-free Duke Street.

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Notice here for the first time in the Walks, the street name cut into the string-course and the effect it has of making the string-course look as if it was provided for that purpose. 

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Smithson admires the pediment and Tuscan Columns above the entrance to Pierrepont Place.

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He then moves on to Abbey Green.

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Here under this tree with the world shut out, traffic very slow, stone paved road, stone kerbs still intact, stone pavement… a real inhabited cavity in the ‘live-shell’.

Smithson then takes a sentence to pass the tourist hotspots of Bath – the Baths and Pump Rooms, the Abbey, Pulteney Bridge – all paid no heed.

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What interests Smithson is Laura Place. He describes this as one of Bath’s geometric oddities – of greatest interest in the resolution of corners.

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He declares the experiment a failure. Great Pulteney Street, leading out of Laura Place, is a favourite with directors and film crews of period dramas. But it does not gain favour with Smithson.

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Looking up Great Pulteney Street one feels a kind of desolation; one is in the grip of the continental drift towards abstract space… Street has become route.

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Smithson finds some details to admire, and notes the fanciness of the architecture. But his praise is reserved for Sydney Place.

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 This is architecture.

The last section of the walk leads through Sydney Gardens, over the railway and back along the canal.

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When Smithson was writing the Walks, the canal was in a terrible state; neglected and unused.

Now, the canal has been restored and is busy with boats, walkers and cyclists.


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Along the way, Smithson notes Cleveland House, once the Kennet and Avon canal headquarters (apparently one of the first purpose-built office buildings in Europe).

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The building sits above a tunnel, inside which is a small hole, through which workers on the boats could pass bills and messages to the clerks in the office.

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From here, the Walk follows the canal back to the station, past the backs of ordinary houses, by…locks, allotments, gardens and fields.

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Dr H

 

Bath walks within the walls: Walk 2

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Walk 2 of Peter Smithson’s Bath Walks within the Walls (Bath University Press) starts just across the river from Bath Spa staion and leads up hill and down vale (then up hill again) in a pleasant loop around the outskirts of Bath.

Photos all taken by Dr A. Quotes from Peter Smithson are written in orange.

DSC_0013 DSC_0014Fire Insurance Wall Plaque on house on Southcot Place

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Pause at the junction with Rosemont Lane. From now on the walk is real rus in urbe for behind the present walls and hedges are the mounds and terraces of previous occupancy now in transition.

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At the time of writing in 1966 this building was empty a House-shell inhabited by school-girls, their singing hanging in the damp air.

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That rabbit should really watch out for this fox.

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We encountered a lot of signs.

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Though we weren’t expecting this one.

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The track peters out under an arch of a disused railway in a steep field, terraced and bumpy. What can have once been here?

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We followed the springs.

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The raised pavement or access deck of the extraordinarily nice Widcombe Terrace.

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Widcombe Crescent. Paired doors with the centre window over them false (it is over the party wall). Bizarre really, but gentle and unassuming.

In spite of breaking the no-talking rule, Bath had certainly induced its reverie in the walkers. That and hot feet. We headed home.

Only four more walks to go…

Dr H