Saturday, 27 September 2008

The Old Roman Road and St Margaret's Church

St Margaret is an interesting name for any church because this saint is mythological much in the same way at St George is. The image above shows St Margaret of Antioch - several legends abound and the above illustrates Margaret the Virgin's struggle with the Devil who took the form of a great dragon and swallowed her - she escaped this fate only to be later burned, drowned and beheaded (she was hard to kill).
[ref: The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker]

The front entrance of St. Margaret's Church - built on the site of a Norman church, it dates back to the 13th Century. Just a few metres away from the old Roman road, Ermin Street. I have been unable to trace anything about the history of this lovely old church and remain rather fascinated as to why it was named after a mythological saint. The name Margaret can be traced to Sanskrit Marga "the Gate" or "the Way".

A detail in the masonry - a defaced head. Defacing images was common place at the time of the Puritans though I do not know if this is what has happened here.

A detail from one of the old stained glass windows within the church; oak-leaves and wild flowers.
Ermin Street (Way) an old Roman road

Ermin Street in Stratton St Margaret is built on the old Roman road which ran from Glevum (Gloucester) via Corinium (Cirencester) to Durocornovium (Wanborough) where there was a Roman settlement on to Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester). Stratton (originally Stratone) comes from the Latin word 'strata' meaning paved way or street. There is archaeological evidence that there was a small military town and trading post in the area and close to the junction of the their two major roads near the present day Stratton St Margaret. This was also known as Durocornovium so was probably part of the Wanborough settlement.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Winterbourne Monkton Church

St Mary Magdalene Church
The little Norman church at Winterbourne Monkton near Avebury - not really part of Swindon at all, but just a short bus ride away (no.49) through the beautiful, rolling Wiltshire countryside. This was my first visit to the church and village see entry "Bean field on a blustery day". The church is open to the public during daylight hours and is epitomises peace and tranquility in its beautiful setting on the edge of the World Heritage Site - Avebury.
Note from a leaflet in the church:
In about 928AD Glastonbury Abbey aquired Winterbourne Monkton and the Monks settled the village. They had a small building for worship but it is not clear if this was the foundation of the present church or not. However in 1133 there was a Chapel which is now the chancel.

A detail from the famous Norman font depicting a Sheela Na Gig - a fertility goddess figure. Most of these were later destroyed under Oliver Cromwell and this is a rare remaining example. It is interesting that this church is named after Mary Magdalene as historically she is meant to be the 'the Woman who knew the all' or 'Mary the Light-giver' and is associated with the feminine trilogy ruling birth, love and death.

Monday, 8 September 2008

STEAM - Swindon's Railway Heritage

Today I made a spontaneous (first) visit to the STEAM museum - and most interesting it turned out to be. The museum is very cleverly laid out with recordings, films and sound effects bringing it to life at every turn.
I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend the Railway Festival being held this weekend on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th September.
Ken White, Swindon's legendary artist who started his working life in Swindon's Railway Factory as a sign writer will be present. Ken has worked all around the world and has achieved considerable fame - he still lives Swindon, though as far as I am aware, the Borough does not actually own any of his work.

One of the three paintings by Swindon artist, Ken White. They hang in what is now the Designer Outlet Village - once part of the Engine Factory. This one shows the men leaving the factory by the Rodbourne bridges - the road and bridges remain unchanged.

The Evening Star comes home - for the Railway Festival

One of the evocative displays in the STEAM museum - a large photo display with real machinery in front of it, giving the allusion of men actually working.

The Designer Outlet Village (on a quiet day)

A back alley that runs between the small houses of the Railway Village - where many of the original railway workers lived.