Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

The second day of my visit to Yorkshire was to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.

I remember visiting Fountain’s Abbey as a child, with friends of my parents who lived in Middlesbrough.  That was some time ago, so you’d expect things to have changed, and they have.  The last time I went, there was no visitor centre, and I didn’t even know the Royal Water Garden existed!  That’s hardly a surprise though, the estate was bought by West Riding County Council in 1966 (probably after I used to visit, although I can’t swear to that) and was only acquired by the National Trust in 1983.  It is now a UNESCO world heritage site.  The National Trust has become very experienced in making its sites consumer friendly, and this is much more of an experience than just a place to visit. Nature trails and egg hunts for children, and play parks, it very family orientated.

The abbey was originally established in 1135 after some monks from the Benedictine (yes, it was that order that made the liqueur) St Mary’s Abbey in York were expelled and later joined the Cistercian order and, after many problems and troubles, Fountains Abbey was founded and built.  There is a lot more detail to it than that, all related to religious/political fighting.

Although the Abbey is in ruins now, when you walk around it, you can see how stunning it must have been in its heyday.  It is truly magnificent, even now.  I could almost hear the chanting as I walked around.  I am not particularly religious, but I appreciate the work that went into churches and abbeys.  More than appreciate, I love it and I always feel at peace in places like this.

The way the National Trust has set the sight up means, if you stick to the paths (and we did) that you walk past one side of the Abbey, and along to the Water Gardens, and back again.

Back in the fifteenth century, Studley Royal, as the estate and mansion was known, was home to the Mallory’s – a well-known family, two of whom were MPs in the seventeenth century.  The Manor House itself was destroyed by fire in 1946, although a stable block survived, and is now a private house.

We walked around almost all of the water gardens, which was a good walk, and wore out poor little Jess, Becky’s beautiful Bichon Frise.  As you walk back towards the abbey itself, there are areas for children to play, and there is a dedicated playground near to the visitors’ centre.  In true National Trust style, there are regular events for the children too.  It’s a good half or full day out, depending on your age and stamina, and I fully recommend it.

 

© Susan Shirley 2016

 

 

 

 

 

York

I stayed with my friend, Becky, in North Yorkshire recently. She’s only lived there for a couple of years, and it’s been some time since I’ve been there, so we did the full tourist thing. Our first day out was in York.

I’ve always liked York, but the last few times I’ve been, I’ve only ever had a couple of hours spare on each visit, so spending the day there was a rare treat.

Corner of The Shambles

A bit of history
York is an old city, founded by the Romans in 71 AD, on the confluence of the Ouse and the Foss. It was the capital of the Roman province in the north. The Romans called it Eboracum. After they left, and the Vikings invaded, it became the capital of the kingdom called Jorvik (which comes from the old Norse).

York became a major wool trading centre under Viking rule. It also became very important in the Church of England, after the Reformation. Subsequently, it became home to Suchard chocolate and a major railway hub.

It is likely that the area was first settled in around 8000 BC. By the time the Romans conquered Britain, the general area was inhabited by the Brigante tribe. The city of York was founded in 71 AD by the Ninth Legion.

The Romans left Britain in around 400 AD – they probably left the north earlier than that – and all was reasonably quiet until the Vikings invaded in 866 AD. The Vikings are well-known for their love of water and they made York a major river port, part of their trading route throughout Europe. They were kicked out by King Eadred. In 954 AD.

We all know that William of Normandy successfully invaded in 1066 AD, but two years later, the people of York, sick of having had their butts kicked, rebelled. At first they were successful but William was nothing if not a military strategist and he soon got the raging hump. He went about “Harrying the North,” when he is reputed to have destroyed everything from York to Durham. (I should point out that some scholars say that he could not have done this much damage. I don’t know, I wasn’t there, so we have to go with what we’ve got.)
Notwithstanding that, by the 12th century, York was prospering again, and after being granted a charter by King John in 1212, it became important in trade with France, the Netherlands and further afield.

The Minster was first built as far back as 627 AD, and the City became very important in the Christian Church, so it was a prime target for Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which took place between 1536 and 1541.
In the Civil War, the Roundheads besieged York from 22 April 1644 until 1 July 1644. After the Battle of Marston Moor, York surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax.

Inside the Minster

Clifford’s Tower
The old city walls are a short walk from the railway station, so we walked along here before walking up to Clifford’s Tower, the high point of the City. Depictions inside the tower show how the city walls would have linked with it. English Heritage, who owns the site, are making a number of changes, to make the Tower easier to access and to unearth the nineteenth century wall that is buried under the mound, amongst other things.

View across York from Clifford’s Tower

The view from the Tower is beautiful, as you walk around the viewing deck you can see quite some miles. By the way, the Tower will be closed while the restoration work takes place, so check before visiting.
See here for further information:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/cliffords-tower-york/

Taken from Clifford’s Tower

The Jorvik Viking Centre
Our next stop was the Jorvik Viking Centre. This was badly damaged during the flooding a couple of years ago, and has only recently re-opened. We had to queue for about 50 minutes so I’d recommend booking and jumping the long queue. Entry into the centre is across a glass floor (I still can’t get used to that) into a room where there is an AV providing details of the dig. From there, it’s round to a cable car area where you are taken round a depiction of a Viking village.

I hesitate to call them robots, but there are certainly life-sized animated models of humans and animals as the cable car takes you around the village, telling you what life was like. These animated models are throughout until you come to a boat which has two real humans talking as though they were Vikings – a trifle disconcerting.
There were only two human skeletons found when digging the site, which surprised me, however, there were many other artefacts such as coins, jewellery, cookware, etc. I’d definitely recommend this is you have any interest in history at all.

We had a nice lunch in one of the many dog-friendly cafes in the city, The Nook, before making our way back to Becky’s. (We were dog-less on the day in question, but previous visits with her canine have taught Becky where to go.)

York has all the standard shops that you’d expect and a Fenwick as the main department store in the city centre. There is also the Castle Museum, the Railway Museum and the Minster – which is beautiful, although we didn’t do the full tour. It only takes two hours from King’s Cross on the high-speed train – definitely work a visit.

© Susan Shirley 2017

Victorian Women’s Clothing

I’ve written about a few Victorian women recently, which got me to thinking about other aspects of their lives, the first one being clothing.  As someone who loves clothes, especially the simplicity of what we wear nowadays, Victorian women’s clothes are a source of fascination to me.  As a child, up until the age of about 11 or 12, when I managed to persuade my mum it was no longer necessary, I had to wear a petticoat under neath a dress or skirts and blouse, but that was nothing compared what Victorian’s wore.  I dread to think how they coped in the summer!  Here’s a quick run through of the typical clothing worn by Victorian women:

In the early Victorian days, everything was sewn by hand, so there was no mass production of clothes. As a consequence of this, clothing was expensive.  Rich people didn’t have a problem but the poor would probably have made their own clothes and there was a lot of “hand me downing” going on.  Even when I was a child, I remember having “best clothes” (a habit which I still have trouble getting out of) – in Victorian times, best clothes were saved for church on a Sunday, thus referred to as “Sunday best.”  Things did start to change after the invention of the sewing machine in 1851, but it was quite some time before clothes became really cheap.

Florence Nightingale, in typical Victorian dress

The crinoline was invented in 1856 – prior to this, dresses tended to have a simpler, more Empire line shape – think Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.  The crinoline changed all this.  In the early days, it was almost like a circular hoop that filled out the whole of the skirt of the dress, although in later Victorian days, it became just a bustle at the back of the outfit.

Despite this, the underclothes remained pretty much the same.  It started off with stockings, which were really long socks, not what we would think of as stockings.  They stopped just above the knee and were held up with garters.  They weren’t elasticated the way mine were at school, they were lace, which by it’s manufacture, conferred some elastic properties.   By the end of the nineteenth century, the garters were attached to corsets…. I’m still not feeling it.

Emmeline Pankhurst

The important bit of the undergarments were what were in those days called drawers, which were basically flaps of material without a crotch.  I suppose they didn’t feel the cold with a long dress.  A sleeveless chemise which came down to the knees was worn over this.  This formed the first layer of the clothing.

Next came the corset, frequently strengthened with whalebone, sometimes steel.  The corsets fastened up at the front (ribbons were common fastenings) and had draw strings at the back to pull them tighter.  The idea was that they’d pull in at the waist and push up the bust – hence the very pert look we so often see in period dramas.  I’m thinking there are some benefits to corsets, although some women took it to extremes and tied them so tight they could barely breathe.

Four Victorian women, including Marie Curie and her sisters

The actual Crinoline (the name is a combination of the Latin words for hair and linen, because it was originally made from horsehair) was like a steel cage, flexible enough to collapse when sitting and strong enough to support the skirt when standing.  Later on, the crinoline fell from favour and changed to become a bustle, just supporting the back of the skirt, but in the early Victorian days, it was the full thing.

At least one petticoat went on top of this, which would be decorated at the bottom, intended to show under the dress or skirt (it started with one and more became fashionable later in the era).  The upper part of the body was covered by a plain chemise although underwear became more decorative as the era progressed.

Finally, we get to the dress, which might have been one or two pieces.  Again, as the era progressed, it became more common for women to wear separate skirts and blouses.  The dress had all manner of fittings to make it more decorative – collars, cuffs, under-sleeves, etc.  Capes, shawls, jackets would be worn over the top, both inside and out.

Early in the period, flat shoes were worn, but gradually boots became more fashionable, and they became longer, as in higher up the leg, as time went on.

Older and married women all wore caps indoors, outdoors, they were either covered by a bonnet or just a hat was worn.  By the end of the 19th century, caps were no longer generally worn, but hats were worn outdoors.  (I remember my mum always wore a hat outdoors when I was a child, as did my dad, although that changed for both of them by the 1970s.)

Gloves and jewellery, fans and parasols were also important accessories, at least for wealthy women in Victorian times.  It was all very proper – and I dare say hot and uncomfortable.  I wonder where I can get a full outfit to try for a day?

 

© Susan Shirley 2017