Sunday, 28 December 2008

Stained Glass in Christchurch

Out walking around Old Town today, I happened past the Old Lady on the Hill, the familiar landmark of Christchurch. I wrote about Christchurch on Christmas Eve last year see: so will not duplicate that again. Today, however, I wandered into Swindon's most famous church with the intention of looking at any stained glass that may be inside. I quietly walked around and what a treat it was. Most of the glass is traditional; there is a magnificent nativity window, a detail from which is above; also a beautiful contemporary window which was made by stained glass artist John Hayward in 1987 to replace a window which had been vandalised.

Posted below is a selection of the windows - one of Swindon's hidden treasures which I recommend to anyone who wishes to spend a few reflective moments in this lovely church.

The above window was made and donated in 1987 by stained glass artist John Hayward FSMGP. He has beautiful windows in churches all over London and in Sherbourne Cathedral where he lived until his death in May 2007.

A detail from a window made in remembrance of Fitzroy Pleydell Goddard - it was the Goddard family who donated the hill-top site for the church built in 1851 (architect Sir George Gilbert Scott).

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Lydiard Park - archaeological survey

The view of Lydiard House (West Swindon) from the wooded area on the far side of the park.
English Heritage are currently undertaking a full archaeological survey of Lydiard Park using their Total Station Theodolite which takes measurements with millimetre accuracy from which it is possible to draw a map of the archaeological features in the park. The Lydiard Park project aims to restore the 18th century landscape but in order to do so it is important to understand all the earlier and more recent phases of the park's evolution. So far they have discovered evidence ranging from agricultural use during the Medieval period to hut platforms, roads and boundaries associated with the World War 2 military which once occupied the Lydiard events and sports field.
Reflections - from the bridge leading to the wooded walk

The frozen lake at Lydiard Park - a flock of seagulls sitting on the ice in the cold sunlight

The painted window at Lydiard House

The exquisitely detailed painted window can be found in the apse of Lady Diana Spencer's dressing room at Lydiard House. The window is truly beautiful as each diamond shape contains a unique painting of intricate detail. Created by Dutch artist Abraham van Linge in the 17th century who also made the stained glass window in St Mary's Church at Lydiard Tregoze; to view the window in greater detail click on picture to enlarge it. Under the window stands a rare and beautiful Socchi desk - there are apparently only three known to survive and the other two are both in Florence.
Lady Spencer was an artist in her own right and painted delicate floral designs for Wedgewood China.
Note: Lady Spencer was an ancestor of Princess Diana being her great, great, great, great, great, Aunt.

This detail of a boat with a half furled sail was the signature of Abraham van Linge and appears on all his stained glass windows.

A detail from the embroidered bed cover in the guest room at Lydiard House which replicates the the diamond pictures of the window.

The bed in the guest room at Lydiard House

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Evening falls on Clifton Street

The corner of Clifton Street and Radnor Steet in Kingshill area of town, as the winter sun goes down. The building on the corner used to be a dairy and across the road (where I stand to take the picture) is a building that looks as though it may have once been a stable. Across the road on Radnor Street stands a red brick building that was once Clifton Street Primary School - now a small electonics workshop. A slightly ramshackle part of town that holds clues to the history of 'new' Swindon as it spread uphill with the coming of the Great Western Railway. My own small house, which is nearby, was built in 1884.

Clifton Street today - not hard too hard to imagine how it might have been when the terraced houses were still quite new, a century a so ago. Corner shops; horse drawn delivery carts and homes that did not need to be locked.

Overlooking the back gardens of Clifton Street through the railings of Radnor Street Cemetery. The winter sun sinking fast even though it is only mid afternoon. A half moon is visible in the clear cold sky. Later as I return home in the early evening, it is dark and crisp with a thick frost forming on the pavements.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Inside the historic old Town Hall

The marble statue of Charlotte Corday in the foyer of Swindon Dance
Today I wandered into the old Town Hall (see previous post 'The Old and the New') which is now occupied by Swindon Dance - I must start by thanking Barbara, working on reception, for showing me around and giving me the history of the wonderful marble statue that is by the entrance. The statue was carved in the 19th century by MICH' IORETTI and was donated to Swindon Borough council by Alderman Powell, a great supporter of the arts, sometime between the wars.
Here is the fascinating history of Charlotte Corday (1768-1793):
Charlottle Corday was born at Saint-Saturnin, France on July 27th 1768 - she considered herself devoted to the 'enlightened' ideals of her time but was a supporter of the monarchy when the French Revolution began in 1789.
As the revolution progressed, factions arose within the national convention. Corday favoured the more moderate Girondins rather than men such as Marat and Robespierre who wanted to destroy the monarchy. The Girondins were expelled from the convention in early summer 1793 and took refuge at Caen - Corday then went to Paris and devised a plan to gain access to Marat where, on July 13th 1793, she stabbed him in the heart while he was in the bath-tub. She was immediately apprehended and executed on July 17th 1793.
Edit made 8/12/08: Graham Carter who has helpfully commented on this blog in the past sent me the lyrics to an Al Stewart/Tori Amos song - called Charlotte Corday: Thank you once again Graham for your input and knowledge, here are the lyrics.

If you hear a step upon
Your stair tonight
If you see a shadow in
The candle light
It's only your imagination
Leading you astray
See her for a moment
Then she'll slip away
The ghost of Charlotte Corday
She wanders down the hallway
In a long black dress
And lingers by the fireplace
Like a faint caress
Just what it is that brings her here
No man alive can say
See her for a moment
Then she melts away
The ghost of Charlotte Corday
Stars in the window like a panoply
Covering everything
River of night
Stars in the window
See them shining for
Anyone else, anyone else
The clock ticks in the dark and now
The night is still
The air is like a murmur
On the window sill
All at once there's someone there
That only you can see
Seeking the forgiveness
That will set her free
The wind has taken away
The words she wanted to say
The sky is now turning grey
The dawn is turning away
The ghost of Charlotte Corday

The beautiful stained glass windows on the staircase

This historic panel holds the names of all the fallen local men who died in the First World War. The inscription at the top reads: "Their glory shall not be blotted out. Their name liveth forevermore"

The mural over the door of the dance studio, Nature - Mother of the Arts. Painted by an artist named Carleton Atwood in 1979. So far, I have been unable to discover anything further about the artist.

The dance space studio - light and airy with high ceilings and mirrors reflecting in mirrors.

Barbara from the reception desk kindly took me down to the basement where there were two 'safe' rooms with heavy lead doors. The building was something of a labyrinth with a winding staircase hidden at the back of the building - I think it led to the clock tower but this part of the building is closed to visitors.