Between catching plague and prepping presentation notes, I did manage to get some living done and just didn’t have the strength to type away at a keyboard about it. None of it is going to involve epic storytelling this week, but to get back into the swing of things, I’m giving all you lovely a photo story of all the non-course related things I’ve been up to over nearly the last month. (Sorry, sorry… Will try not to let it happen again!)
So what did I manage to photograph? Well, I stopped in at St Margaret’s Church on the way to visit Abbey Park…
St Margaret’s Church is an ancient Anglican parish church situated on St Margaret’s Way in Leicester, England. It has been designated a Grade I listed building by English Heritage.
In 1086 the Bishop of Lincoln held two churches in Leicester, which were presumably St. Margaret’s and its chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, Knighton. The dedication of neither is given in the Domesday survey and it is not known how they came into the possession of the bishop.
Parts of the transept of St Margaret’s date from c. 1200, and parts of the aisles from the late 13th century. Most of the church was rebuilt in Perpendicular style c. 1444, under William Alnwick, the Bishop of Lincoln. The west tower, which is 108 feet high, was built at that time. It contains a ring of 14 bells including a flat sixth.
The church of St Margaret stands at the north-east corner of Churchgate. A church, presumably on this site, is mentioned in Domesday Book, but no trace of this remains in the present building, although fragments of an aisleless church, thought to date from pre-Conquest times, have been found beneath the present floor level, near the chancel steps.
The church was beautiful and the people there for mid-week services were lovely. Had a cup of tea and talked with them about how they kept up such a massive building and still tried to keep to the Christian mission of good works. (Basically, it’s a challenge.) From there I continued on to my planned destination of Abbey Park, which houses the ruins of the old Leicester Abbey with the burial of Cardinal Thomas Wosley (of Tudor era fame) as well as the charred remnants of the Cavendish House, which looks like something straight out of the video game Fable II.
A fairy ring! A naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms. They are found mainly in forested areas, but also appear in grasslands or rangelands. Fairy rings are the subject of much folklore and myth worldwide—particularly in Western Europe. While they are often seen as hazardous or dangerous places, they can sometimes be linked with good fortune.
Did you know that all swans are owned by the Queen?
Abbey Park has an area of 57 acres, and contains the site of the 12th century Leicester Abbey, which is marked out with low stone walls, and the ruins of Cavendish House (built in the 17th century by William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire using stone from the abbey). The house was used by Charles I after the siege of Leicester during the English civil war in 1645; after he left, his soldiers set fire to it leaving the house gutted. The charred stone window frame is still visible today.
Opened in 1882, this park still reflects the Victorian era with formal gardens and bandstand. Later additions include the Chinese garden, model railway, pets corner and a large play area for children of all ages. There is also a cafe, and large grassed areas suitable for ball games.
The area on the east bank was low-lying meadowland, with very few features and was subject to flooding. The area was purchased from the Earl of Dysart as part of a flood alleviation scheme in 1876 and plans were made for creating a much-needed public open space.
A competition was held in 1877 to design the new park and it was won by the firm of William Barron and Sons. William Barron was one of the most famous gardeners in Victorian England. As well as the gardens, William Barron also designed the bandstands, rustic bridges and summerhouses. However, his designs for the lodges and pavilion were not used and James Tait, a local architect, was employed to design them. The park was officially opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales, on Whit Monday, 29 May 1882.
The Abbey of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, also known as St Mary of the Meadows, was founded in 1143 (or possibly 1139) by Robert Beaumont, second Earl of Leicester, also known as “le Bossu” (the Hunchback).
Robert le Bossu ensured that the Abbey was richly endowed. He provided it with all the possessions of the college of secular canons (ie canons who lived in unenclosed communities) that his father, the first Earl, had founded at the church of St Mary de Castro (the church that lies within Leicester Castle). These holdings included all churches in the town of Leicester, as well as the church of Lilbourne (in Northamptonshire) and the manor of Asfordby, and various properties in Leicester. In addition he provided the Abbey with a number of other churches, most of which were in Leicestershire, but which included two in Northamptonshire, and one in Berkshire, along with the manor of Knighton and other properties. So from the start the Abbey was a very wealthy foundation.
The most famous incident in the Abbey’s long history was the death, in 1530, of Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey’s death was part of a sequence of events that was to lead to the Dissolution of the Abbey. In the autumn of 1530 a warrant for treason was issued against him and he was ordered to return to London. Wolsey only got as far as Leicester Abbey, where he fell ill and died on 29th November. He was buried in the Abbey graveyard and the site of his grave is now lost.
Cavendish House ceased to be a residence of any kind after 1645 as a result of the events surrounding the Battle of Naseby. In 1645 the Civil War was going badly for Charles I. He only had effective control over Wales, the West Country and parts of south Midlands. By late spring, Parliamentary forces under Sir Thomas Fairfax were besieging Oxford, the Royalist capital. In an attempt to draw Fairfax from the siege of Oxford, the King’s army marched on Leicester.
How this sequence of events led to the destruction of Cavendish House is unclear. All we know for certain is that on arrival in Leicester, Charles lodged at Cavendish House, as a guest of the dowager countess, and that he stayed there until his army marched south on 4th June. By the time Fairfax had secured the town, however, Cavendish House had been severely damaged by fire. We do not know who set fire to the house or circumstances under which it happened. The only other certainty is that the Cavendish family decided that they had no need of a residence just outside Leicester, so the mansion was neither re-built nor demolished.
The Cavendish family remained owners of the estate, which by then included a large area to east of the River Soar, until they sold it in 1733. As the house was no longer in use as a residence the Abbey precinct was given over to agriculture, horticulture and orchards, whilst the ruins of Cavendish House were left to decay. The progress of this decay can be traced through a series of engravings and sketches made in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
By the nineteenth century the Abbey was owned by the Earls of Dysart. In 1876 the 8th Earl sold the land to the east of the river, then known as Abbey Meadows, to the Town Council in order to facilitate a flood relief scheme. The Town Council then set about turning the area between the River and the canal into a public open space complete with a bandstand, a boating lake and curving walks. Abbey Park as it was named was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1882. The site of the Abbey, however, was still a market garden.
About a week later, I was treated to a fantastic English rendition of Thanksgiving to keep the homesickness at bay. If only it had kept the regular sickness at bay too, but alas! There was turkey and green bean casserole, and it was altogether wonderful. 🙂 Christmas could finally begin, so after a grueling round of Trivial Pursuit, Christmas music was played and a tree put up!
Finally, this weekend saw some of us adventure out into the county and visit Bradgate Park. Only 4 miles out of the city, but it felt much further out than that. Will definitely go back at some point to enjoy the nature and solitude of it all.
The area now enclosed as Bradgate Park was one of a number of parks surrounding Charnwood Forest. Since medieval times it has been part of the Manor of Groby. In the reign of Edward the Confessor, the area was owned by Ulf. The manor, along with some 100 others in and around Leicestershire, was awarded to Hugh de Grandmesnil in the eleventh century as reward for his assistance in battle to William I.
The name Bradgate is thought to derive from Norse or Anglo-Saxon, meaning ‘broad road’ or ‘broad gate’ respectively. The first mention of Bradgate Park is from 1241, by which time it was laid out as a hunting park, although rather smaller than the current boundary.
It remained in the de Ferrers family until 1445, when it passed to the Grey family after William’s only surviving daughter married Edward Grey. The inquisition into the estates of de Ferrers, made after his death, mentions the park, with “herbage, pannage and underwood, worth 40 shillings yearly”. The Grey family retained it for the next 500 years, and in the 19th century was opened to the public several days a week.
The park was originally enclosed using a bank and ditch topped by vertical pales of oak. These first ditchworks cross the River Lyn east of the Little Matlock Gorge. A parker, living in a moated house, was the only occupant, maintaining stocks of deer for the lord of Groby Manor to hunt. The park was greatly extended by the first marquis in the late 1400s, to occupy land previously farmed by both Newtown Linford and the now lost village of Bradgate. Lichen dating of the dry-stone walls suggest that the north and west boundary walls were built in the 17th and early 18th centuries, when Bradgate was still occupied by the earls of Stamford.
Edward Grey’s son Sir John Grey of Groby married Elizabeth Woodville, who after John’s death married King Edward IV. Their son Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset prepared for building Bradgate House in the late fifteenth century but died before he was able to begin. It was his son Thomas Grey, 2nd marquis of Dorset who built Bradgate House, the likely completion date being 1520.
A prominent landmark is the folly known as ‘Old John’ on the top of the highest hill in the park. Built by the Greys in 1784, the folly is, by local legend, a memorial to John, an estate worker killed in a bonfire accident during celebrations of the 21st birthday of the future eighth Earl of Stamford.
In 1905 the estate was bequeathed on the death of the 7th Earl of Stamford’s wife to the earl’s niece, Mrs Arthur Duncombe. Limited public access had been allowed while the park was in the hands of the Greys. In 1928, the ancient Deer Park with the ruins of Bradgate House was included in the sale of the whole Grey estate and the Park was bought by local businessman and British United Shoe Machinery founder Charles Bennion who gave it in perpetuity to the people of the Leicestershire.
The visible geology in Bradgate Park ranges from some of the oldest rocks in England to the youngest. The rock outcrops were created in conditions varying from volcanos rising out of the ocean, to magma flowing deep underground and from tropical deserts to Ice sheets. Within the park the outcrops are widely distributed as hillside crags and outcrops, both along the valley sides of the River Lin and on the hilltop of Old John. They include rocks with some of the oldest known developed forms of fossil animal life in Western Europe.
The landscape is rocky moorland with a covering of coarse grass and bracken. Several spinneys of woodland are enclosed by stone walls and are not accessible to the public. There are a number of magnificent specimens of ancient oaks several hundreds of years old.
The park still has herds of red and fallow deer, which probably have an unbroken occupancy since medieval times.
I am now convinced that not only do most fantasy themed video games base their storylines off of English history (Fable, Dragon Age, and the like, I’m looking at you.), but they base the background of the game off it too. Walking through Bradgate felt eerily familiar.
So next week will either be Friday or severely delayed until the weekend after as we’ve got a week of intensive hands-on courses this week and then I’m off to Fuertaventura with my favorite fellow adventurer for a week. Will hopefully speak again soon!