Events and excursions, Summer 2016
St Martin's Church, Bilborough And The Archbishop's Palace, Southwell
Thursday 12th May - Leader Alan Langton
Surprisingly, this excursion only attracted eighteen members and friends: perhaps it did not seem a long enough excursion, or the places visited seemed insufficiently interesting, or it was too close to the Spring Meeting. However, it was the verdict of those who did attend that we enjoyed a most enlightening and interesting day. Saint Martin's church at Bilborough is the ancient parish church of the village, but during the last half century Bilborough has grown into a very large housing estate, many of the old families with church connections have disappeared, and this area of the city became high profile for the growth of crime. The Church building suffered from vandalism and guns were even found buried in the churchyard. In the 1970s an attempt was made to make the church look 'modern' with the building of a new worship space after part of the old north wall had been demolished. How the Diocesan authorities allowed this to happen is beyond belief. In 2010, moves were made to restore as much of the old beauty of the original building as possible, and with the help of thousands of pounds from Heritage funding and other sources as well as money raising in the parish, a resurrection has taken place: a Victorian barrel roof has been uncovered and old murals have been restored; the tower has been stabilised and under-floor heating installed. The stonework has been repaired and cleaned, and a new chapter in the history of the church has begun. The enthusiasm and excitement of church officials Hilary and Terry explaining all this to us was delightful.
Clockwise from top left: Members arriving at St Martin's Church, Bilborough; The Evelyn Gibbs mural; The memorial to Sir Edmund Helwys, father of Thomas Helwys; The Font, thought to be late mediaeval.
Members in the Garden at the Bishop's Palace, Southwell.
At Southwell we had lunch in the Minster cafe, and were then guided by Corinne around the restoration project of the Archbishop of York's Southwell Palace, and the newly created Education Garden. The original palace construction began about 1360 and stone from the Roman villa on the site was perhaps used. Various monarchs, and especially Cardinal Wolsey stayed at the palace, and again Heritage Lottery funding has been given for the project. We enjoyed seeing the State Chamber, and then being shown some significant features in the Minster itself.
Our last visit was to the church of the Good Shepherd at Woodthorpe, which has only been opened since 1964, and is therefore in marked contrast to the antiquity of Saint Martin's Bilborough. We were told by Monica Purdue that the church received special status for its architecture, which aims to produce an intimacy for a congregation of up to 600 people gathered around the central sanctuary area. The nave consists of two hexagons, each forty feet wide and each covered by an umbrella vault supported on a single column. The windows were designed by Patrick Reyntiens and present images of trees in the Bible (e.g. the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life, the Cross, and so on).
Leicester and Bosworth Battlefield Site
Thursday 16th June - Leader Alan Langton
Dr Mathew Morris.
A good torrential downpour greeted the start of our visit to Leicester. Fortunately, because the morning session was in the Richard III Visitor Centre, the weather did not bother our forty members. First of all, we were entertained for an hour by Dr. Mathew Morris of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Leicester, who described in graphic detail the exciting discovery of the original resting place of the skeleton of Richard III under the car park, and the subsequent detailed scientific research work done to establish the accuracy of the assumptions about the remains. We then had the opportunity to go round the Visitor Centre and to see the new tomb in the cathedral.
After lunch we journeyed to Bosworth - and the sun came out and shone warmly as we toured the site of the battlefield of 1485 and learned about the corrections that have more recently come to light about the precision of the positioning of the various armies on that fateful day. Bill, our tour guide, was excellent and provided us with easily understandable facts about the complexity of the development of the battle. The day ended with tea in the cafe and the opportunity to look round the very informative and well-presented Visitor Centre.
Top row: statue of Richard III outside the Centre; the grave under the car park, showing how the skeleton was found; mediaeval tiles adjacent to the grave. Middle row: His Majesty's tomb in Leicester Cathedral; members walking through Ambion Wood, where some of the fiercest fighting took place; the spring where the King is reputed to have drunk before the battle. Bottom row: members enjoying tea; replica of King Richard's boar symbol found on the battlefield.
Kimbolton Castle and Buckden Towers
Thursday 14th July - Leaders Penny Messenger and Margaret Trueman
Thursday 14th July turned out to be a beautiful, warm and sunny day. Quite unexpectedly so in a dull and rainy week. We travelled to Kimbolton, via a comfort and coffee stop at Peterborough services, where we were met, after a drive through some very attractive countryside, by Mrs Nora Bolton and her husband who gave us a most interesting tour of the castle. There has been a castle there since the eleventh century but the present house dates from the late Stuart period (1690-1720) and very little of the mediaeval castle can now be identified. Much of the Tudor and Jacobean manor house survives but is mostly encased in more recent plaster, stone and panelling. The stone exterior, Saloon and South Range were designed by Vanbrugh, whilst the brick Courtyard and the Great Hall are rather earlier and are thought to have been the work of the King's Lynn architect Henry Bell (1647-1711). The lead pipes for rainwater were deemed 'the finest in England' by Nicolaus Pevsner.
The castle's most famous resident was Queen Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII, who lived there until her death in 1536. The house was later owned by the Dukes of Manchester (the first earl came from Cambridgeshire and wanted 'Godmanchester' as his title. However, King James 1st' did not wish a subject to have 'God' in his name). The fortunes of the family declined and in the 20th century the castle was bought by Kimbolton School.
Top row: Kimbolton Castle; entrance to the Great Court; ornamental metalwork on the drainpipes; Middle row: members admire the Pellegrini murals on the Great Staircase; Vanbrugh's original drawings for the portico; St Antony Mary Claret, founder of the Claret Centre at Buckden. Bottom row: Buckden Towers; the Tudor knot garden.
Amongst the greatest treasures of the Castle are the wonderful murals by Pellegrini (1675-1741) which adorn the Grand Staircase and the Chapel. Although the Castle is now a school, the atmosphere is still that of a great house. The Head's Study and the Senior Common Room are both a delight, as are some of the classrooms.
After Kimbolton we travelled a short distance to the village of Buckden. The village originally lay on the Great North Road but is now bypassed by the busy A1. Buckden Tower is also a mediaeval building with additions from Tudor times to the 19th century. It was originally a Bishop's Palace for the Bishops of Lincoln and lay conveniently on the road between London and Lincoln. The great Bishop St. Hugh of Lincoln (bishop from 1186-1200) stayed there on a number of occasions. Many royal visitors came over the years, including Katherine of Aragon who was sent there to live for a few months before being transferred to Kimbolton. Later Henry himself came with Jane Seymour. The 19th century house was bought by Mr James Marshall (of the firm of Marshall and Snelgrove) in 1870.
Other owners followed, but in 1957 the religious connection was restored when the house passed to the Claretian Missionaries. The Claretians were founded in 1849 in Spain by Saint Anthony Mary Claret, who worked tirelessly for the poor in his native Spain. The house is now called the St. Claret centre where we were made most welcome and enjoyed a buffet lunch. We were given a tour of the whole complex of buildings and shown the lovely Tudor knot garden, which on a warm July day was seen at its best. The day ended with free time to enjoy the village and a cup of tea in a local hostelry.