Reykjavik, The Final Adventure

I started my day in Reykjavik doing something I haven’t done in over 3 weeks. I slept in. Now this was only until 9, but it was great waking up without a schedule. Once out of bed I walked around and found a crepe cafe for some breakfast. I had a nice little crepe with Toblerone hot chocolate to drink. After that was some shopping, dropping it off at the hotel, then going to a church. You can take the student out of Gothic architecture, but you can’t take the Gothic architecture out of the student. But before I show it, a note on the weather. Somehow it was actually sunny outside this afternoon. Somehow whenever I go places, like Edinburgh, or Conwy, the weather always turns sunny even though it should be raining. I should probably check for horseshoes before going through security. But on to the main attraction now.


But with the change in weather and some patience, you get pictures like this.


In England this was not a luxury to be able to go back and visit buildings in better weather, except Coventry, so I ended up going back tree times to get good pictures.

This is the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. It was built in the middle of the 20th C and that’s about all I know about it. It’s different travelling to churches and not having an architectural historian present. But I do know what the inside looks like.

It is very reminiscent of the original Gothic cathedrals and has almost all of the hallmarks of them, save the transepts and a  few other specialized features. And because I have done a few of these before on the trip I went up the tower to take a look around. But being a modern building, the way up was quite civilized. An elevator took you up to the clock room, then a simple stair up to the viewing area.


After that was out of the way I went walking around, and somehow I managed to walk into this.


Completely forget the name of it, but here’s some more pictures.

After this it came time for lunch. Now anyone who knows of my dislike of seafood will find this rather shocking, but for lunch I went and tried some local Icelandic food. Fermented Shark.


The cubes are the shark, the spiky things are dried fish (didn’t really eat those), and some rye and flat bread. I will now attempt to describe how the shark tasted. It is the consistency of a rubbery scallop, with a smell of burning and alcohol. At first it is tolerable with a slight taste of pumpkin somehow, then it starts to burn and the best way to describe the way it burned is it’s not like a strong whiskey, but like you swallowed some chlorinated pool water. And I didn’t absolutely hate it. I had all the pieces and was not unsatisfied with the meal. I wouldn’t order it again, but I tried it and was not disappointed.

So after that experience it was just back shopping and walking. Around Reykjavik there are a bunch of colourful houses and also one with some interesting graffiti on them.


Then when the sun came out I went down to the water to get some good shots of the view.

And that is pretty much all. Afterwards was dinner at a bar, then back to the hotel and writing this up. All tomorrow holds is waking up, getting everything packed and travelling back to the airport and home.

It has been an incredible three week ride. Literally walking through English Gothic Architecture and everything it holds. Climbing up towers and feeling them sway as the bells ring, being served tea in a parish church, seeing the leaves of Southwell that could make grown historians weep, going to Stratford and rowing a boat on the Avon, feeling the emotion of a bombed out cathedral, and going to Oxford. Then there’s everything that isn’t in the course. Meeting great people, going to Scotland and Wales, drinking beer and having tea with your professor, and eating everything from Haggis to Fermented Shark.

It’s come to that time where I would just like to thank everyone for their support and well wishes, especially my Uncle Brian whose idea this blog was and without whom this trip would have been a lot harder to realize. It’s been a blast, ’till next time…



Hello Iceland!

Iceland. The one place where it can be rainy, windy, and chilly, and be perfect weather. I flew into Iceland this afternoon and the airport is a 45 min bus ride away from Reykjavik. On the bus ride you get to see the expanse of the Icelandic countryside. Rolling hills, mountains in the distance, patches of grass, and black pumice covering the land. The low clouds and the sound of the wind give a very natural indescribable feeling that makes you know you are in the northern most capital in the world. After making my way to the hotel and getting settled in it was time to explore the city. So I went out, turned right, and walked till I hit the ocean.


To get to this place though, you have to go down what seems like an industrial park, but then you get to a path that takes you along the water for a bit, and then come up to this.


It is just an art instillation, but if you can fight the 40 km/h wind and the 2ft wide rocky path to get to the top, you are treated to a fantastic view of the harbour.


During the afternoons we spent free in Stratford and Oxford, we were told that the cities reward exploration and wandering. It is especially true here. You wouldn’t really think to go down the road to where this mound is, but if you did you got to see something truly unexpected (at least for me). And that was what the rest of my time wandering around tonight has been. I haven’t bothered with a map or guidebook, just looking to see what places look interesting. And it will be the same tomorrow. I was debating on whether or not to book a tour and go outside the city, but there is so much shopping and sightseeing to be done in town that it is the best thing to do in the short amount of time here. I’ll save the tours and excursions for the next time I’m here.

That’s all for today, and actually more than I thought I would see. But tomorrow is when everything happens, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what it will be. I don’t even know.

The Final Trip to Oxford

The last two site visits we had this week were to Oxford. In Oxford we looked at various colleges and their buildings and some other separate monuments.

The first visit to Oxford started with visiting Iffley church. This church is out of order chronologically speaking, but it is another great monument to see and worth the time spent there.


Iffley church was built in the 12th C. by Geoffrey de Clinton, whom we have already met previously at Kenilworth Castle. Iffley church is special because it fits into the power of architecture category as well. Here we have a grand decorated Norman church in the middle of nowhere. But all that aside, it was an impressive building to look at.

After Iffley, we moved on to the main attraction which was Oxford university and its various collegiate buildings. The first stop on the tour is every 10 year old’s dream.



In actuality this is the Divinity School, but it was used for various scenes in the movies including the Yule Ball practicing with Professor Mcgonagall and Madame Pomfrey’s hospital in the first movie. A lot of the buildings at Oxford are practicing the Gothic Revival/Neo Gothic style. It has progressed from a style that is imitated at places such as Arbury Hall, to a style that is used for it’s practicality and qualities of fluidity. This shift is due the works of A.W.N Pugin and John Ruskin who changed the philosophy of the architecture. Gothic became viewed as superior because it was able to accommodate any form of building and had less rules associated with it, as opposed to classical.

We went next to Brasenose College to see the chapel.


Almost all of the collages have impressive buildings and chapels. What’s special about this one is it was actually open to the public and had an excellent example of a hammer beam ceiling.

What the hammer beam ceiling does is use the fan vaults to span the space, but the space is too large to use them practically, so the triangular beams supporting the vaults are added. From here we went to have lunch. The only thing was that most of the gardens where we wanted to go charge admission, so for us we sat on the steps outside one of the gardens which was good enough. After lunch we went to Wadham College. 

At Wadham College we saw another example of the new Gothic building campaign that was taking shape. But one thing about the Gothic that is seen here is that it is in it’s Infancy. it is still competing with Classical and will not be fully utilized until later in the 18th C. which is what we looked at on our next trip to Oxford.

Here is Wadham College chapel.

The reason for the small size of the seating arrangement is because of the number of people that would be attending each service. There is not a large amount of people that would be present at each service, so the seating doesn’t have to be large enough for a full congregation.

The next trip to Oxford we looked at two buildings. We started briefly looking at a monument build to three Protestant martyrs that were burnt at the stake in the 16th C. It was designed by G. G. Scott in 1841 in the Gothic style, but was made to look like it belonged in the 16th C. But shortly afterwards in 1855 the Oxford Natural History Museum was built in the Gothic style, but it can’t be mistaken for a medieval building. This is the progression of ideas put forth by Pugin and Ruskin.


The museum was designed by Benjamin Woodward, and overseen by Ruskin. But by the end of the buildings construction Ruskin no longer liked the building. The reason is because he though it went against his principles for a good Gothic Revival building. Some of his principles are use of light, truthfulness of materials, and life. The building can tick most of the boxes, but also diverges from some. Why it diverges is mostly due to the use of a new material called cast iron in it’s construction. It is not a material that is made by human hand, but is machine made, and can sometimes lead to useless ornament that might not have to be there. But none the less it is a gorgeous building.

Our next and final stop of the course *sniff* was to Keble College. Keble College is one of the great  19th C. Gothic Revival buildings. It was designed by William Butterfield and shows how versatile Gothic was meant to be.

The poly chromatic brickwork and the bricks themselves show the building as Gothic revival because the forms are there, but the execution is pure 18th C. At this time Oxford was all built out of stone, but the stone was poor quality, and at the time of Keble College, brick was high quality. Butterfield used this to his advantage by using the different colour of brick to create a lasting effect, rather than painted stone that fades. But for the form, it is still lofty, decorated windows, pointed arches, etc. All the Gothic hallmarks are there. Especially on the inside.

The inside of the chapel at Keble is also an example of what the interiors of all the other churches would be like. For example at Lincoln, traces of paint can be seen on the stone carving, but today we only wee the stone and assume it was always that way.

After Keble, we were set free in Oxford for the afternoon. After lunch on the lawn of the Natural History Museum we went to the top of the tower on St. Mary’s to get a good view of the city.


Then we just went shopping. And one store that you can find in Oxford and almost nowhere else is the Oxford University Press book store. It is a dangerous place to go. Luckily I knew I had little room left in the suitcase, but still walked out with a few books, because really, why not?

While Oxford was our last site visit, our true last day was yesterday. Friday consisted of class in the morning giving feedback and a very heartfelt thank you to our Professor Peter Coffman. He had planned this course for over a year and was even more excited than us to be able to do this. He is truly an amazing Professor and person. We then proceeded to go into Coventry for some afternoon tea and the final farewell. We had tea, sandwiches, laughter, and a good time. Afterwords we all had a group hug and parted ways back to the residence. Then we had dinner at various bars depending on budgets of time and money, then when all assembled back at residence had our final goodbyes.

After spending three week travelling around England you get to know people and make new friends. It was hard for all of us to leave, but we knew it had to happen at some point.

But as far as my journey is concerned, it isn’t over yet. On my way out of Coventry I decided to be a bit nostalgic and walked the same route from the train station to the bus station that I did upon arrival three weeks ago. This is then the experience that I talked about coming upon the cathedral.

The left is what you see first, then keep going, then you are faced with the photo on the right. I walked around and then noticed it was sunny for once. I hadn’t got a good picture of the stained glass in the new cathedral, so I went in and took this.


Then walking around the old cathedral, I came upon this shot.


It was a very nice and solemn end to my time in Coventry.

Currently I’m in a very spacious hotel room staying the night till my flight to Iceland. Yes, Iceland is my next adventure for a short two night stint. So don’t go anywhere yet because I’m saying goodbye to England, but saying hello to Iceland.



Arbury Hall

On Wednesday we went to Arbury Hall, which is a stunning mansion built to imitate the Gothic style that we have been looking at the past couple of weeks. The house started out as an 11th C. priory until the dissolution of the monks where it fell into disrepair. A rich lawyer from London bought the estate and then turned it into a Elizabethan manor house, then it passed to the Newdigate family who still reside there today.

The outside of the house is still in the fashion of the Elizabethan manor house.


But the inside is where the high class money laden British aristocrat vibe really comes out. No pictures were allowed to be taken inside, but if you google image search King Henry VII Chapel Westminster Abbey, the ceiling of that is what is imitated on the inside of most of the rooms in the house.

The day started off with walking around the grounds and taking all the pictures we could of the outside and the grounds. The grounds consists of the cows seen in the last post and a garden. Other than that it is mostly farm land and countryside.

After the walk of the grounds we had lunch in the guest/stable house which is the other building you can see in the pictures above.

After a very nice lunch and some tea we had our tour of the interior. Out tour consisted of partly a family tree history lesson and a lesson on what parts of the house was built when. I shall spare the aristocratic details and focus on the architectural side of things. Though I will mention that on some side table there was a signed picture of the Queen and Phillip from not too long ago. So as it was joked about by some of us we thought we could detect a slightly posh accent in the way the cows were mooing.

As renovations were starting in the house, they began in the small chapel. This began in the late 17th C. and was not plastered and vaulted like the other rooms, but had stone carvings in it like the ones found in Southwell or Lincoln. Once completed the chapel was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Next in the school room the first of the plastered pendant vault ceilings was seen. In the time that the renovations we taking place, the mid 18th C., it was fashionable to go on he grand tour of Europe as a young gentleman and bring back items and ideas for your house. Also in this time is when Gothic architecture was making a comeback in popularity. As seen at Shobdon below, they were playing with creating an idealized version of Gothic architecture.


The ceilings at Arbury were designed to imitate the high Gothic pendant vaults and other parts of the house imitated other features of Gothic as well. As we progressed from the school room to the sitting room to the saloon, the ceilings got more and more intricate. The other parts of the house that imitated Gothic were the fireplaces. The fireplaces had mantels that referenced the great Gothic tombs. Inset into some of the mantels were small carved plates, probably taken from Italy during a grand tour. At this time I was busy looking at all the old books in the book cases, but I heard mention that either these plates or ones similar were inspiration for the Wedgwood plates. As we went through it was good to get into the heads of the aristocrats of the time. The way they acted by taking something that was perceived as old fashioned and out of date and put it back into the spotlight shows the progression of architecture history from medieval Gothic to Gothic Revival, which is the subject of the next post.

It was a very nice day in the country side looking at a very beautiful old mansion. It might not have been as rich in the actual history of architecture, but it was rich in the cultural side of architecture. Architecture does not progress without cultural changes and different societal preferences. What Arbury Hall is is a bridge between the Old Gothic that was seen as unnecessary and ugly, to the Gothic revival period in which a new brand was created for English architecture.

The Final Week

I knew it was coming, but didn’t think it would be this soon. As the course winds down, we are only visiting three places this week, and of those three, two are the same. The two posts about them will come by the end of the week, and I want to take the time now to summarize my experience of the trip. And what a trip it has been.

It feels like both yesterday and last month I stepped out of the train station and ran into a bombed out cathedral in a town I’ve never been to before. Since then I’ve settled into my room at the university, met great people, traveled around England, Wales, Scotland, and learned so much about architecture and even a little more about myself. The first week was spent getting to know people, getting into a routine, and figuring out all the store hours of places you can buy food. Luckily there is a Tesco a 5 minute walk away that is open 24hrs. Then just as things start to get normal, I pack up and go to Edinburgh with someone I just met that week. The weekend trip was great, but something odd happened when I came back, and happened again getting back from Wales. Getting back to Coventry felt like getting home after a trip away rather than arriving back at your hotel after a day trip. It could be the feeling of getting back to school, something that is familiar, or getting back to what simply has become the status quo. Walking around Coventry now I know which way is which, where all the landmarks are, what bars to go to, what ones not to go to.

As far as the course is concerned, it is the best one ever. Travelling around England with the best professor ever talking about a thing you love is something that doesn’t happen in a class room no matter how entertaining the lecture is. One thing this course teaches you that can’t be taught in a class room is perspective. In a lecture you look at pictures and listen to what the speaker has to say and draw your thoughts and conclusions from that. Just like I have been doing by writing this. But going and looking on your own with the background of information and informal lectures about specific parts that you can see give you the chance to experience and feel the building. You look at something 20 different ways and draw 40 different conclusions. For example my visit to Plas Mawr. I studied the house in a course this past semester. As I was walking around the house the lecture was playing in my head and I could place everything and understand better the reason for everything. This perspective of being in the location adds meaning and understanding of what you are looking at.

Another form of perspective that is taught is a more personal one. If you told me a few years ago I would travel by myself for three weeks going to foreign places, apart from not speaking, I wouldn’t have believed it. But now I’m here and want to stay for another three weeks. But yes mom, I am coming home as planned.

The next two posts will be out soon and are about some very nice, and in one (or two) case(s) very well know from a certain movie franchise.

Till then, here are some more cows.


A Weekend in Wales

A group of us decided to go see Conwy Castle in Northern Wales for the weekend. The trip started on Friday with a train ride up to Conwy. Normally train rides are uneventful, which is a good thing. But when we got on the train up to Conwy, there were only 10 people total on the train car including two guys who were celebrating a 51st birthday. One way that the guys were celebrating was bringing a fresh pack of cider and giving out a can to everyone. So there the five of us are getting onto a train to Wales being handed a cider as we get on by a guy with a thick accent who had clearly had a few himself. Have I mentioned I like this place yet?

We arrive in Conwy around 11:30pm and have to get to our hotel about 5km away. We elect to get a taxi, but don’t know where to get one. So we head to the closest bar and politely ask if they can call a taxi for us. They do but it wont be there for another hour, so we stick around for a drink. Not a bad deal for either party. We get the cab and head up to the hotel. I knew the hotel was in the town called Llandudno and that the hotel was close to the ocean. But once we arrive we are on the main strip that is right across from the beach and the hotel is in the fancy classical style (remember this is an architecture blog) row buildings. Next morning everyone wakes up and we are greeted by this outside the hotel window.


Upon seeing this and having discussed it last night we decide to walk to Conwy along the more picturesque route. And it was.

The walk was beside a golf course, then the side of the river mouth overlooking the mountains on three sides. As you approached closer the castle came into view, as it was intended by the creator of the castle King Edward I.

King Edward I built the castle to help secure his hold on the Welsh. It worked for a period, but eventually the castle fell, then it got retaken, then taken back. It is a complex history and one I am not too familiar with, so i’ll stick to the pretty pictures.

And some more…

And may as well have some fun while i’m there,


It was great to see a full fledged castle and to be able to climb up all the towers and go into all the rooms. You got incredible views of the area, which is I guess why the castle was built in that spot. After the castle we went and had some lunch. Where being that I was in North Wales decided to have the fish and chips.


After lunch came the part of the trip I was actually looking forward to more than the castle. The next stop was to Plas Mawr which is an Elizabethan manor. The reason for my excitement about going there rather than a castle are two things. One is I have studied it in class and fell in love with it then, and two, the restoration of the decoration is incredible for a 16th C. house.

This is the inside of the house,


And this is the inside,


Lets start with who built this house. The house was built by Robert Wynn, thus the R W in white and blue. Robert was the son of a local land owner and was a member of parliament for Queen Elizabeth. The connection with the queen is the reason for the Tudor roses. The crest in the middle is the family crest. The painted Caryatids are to showcase the knowledge and prestige of Robert by him knowing about the classical world.

There are the other parts of the house, such as the kitchen, sitting rooms, gardens, bedrooms, but they are more or less typical style of the age.

The other more decorated parts of the house are the master bedrooms, the great hall, and the attic. The attic may be strange to fit into the decorated category, but the craftsmanship in it is great.

Master bedroom with all the amenities.

The Great Hall.

This was his dining and entertaining space. Decorated with Caryatids all around with Tudor roses and crests on the plastered ceiling. An interesting crest that is seen in other places of the house in the one on the bottom right. It is the family crest of  Roberts wife Dorothy Griffith.

The attic is the one place in the house where you can see the restoration work that has been done to the house. The house was in really bed shape until recently when it was restored as a museum. All the beams in the attic show what they did for the restoration.

The reason for an attic to have this much extravagance was because t was meant to be the ceiling of the great hall. However as the carpenter was building the trusses, the masons kept on building up, including two towers. Once it came to putting the roof on, the towers got in way of the trusses, so they had to be cut and this spoiled the view of the trusses, so a flat ceiling was put in with the plaster ornamentation.

You could also get great views of the castle from the towers.


That night was spent wandering around where our hotel was in Llandudno.

Sunday was just a relaxing day spent reading the new Harry Potter book and travelling back to Coventry. So to sum it up it was; castle, glorious  16th C. house, North Wales, ocean breeze, serenity, Harry Potter.





To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub.

The thought that can run through your head at midnight as you finish the day’s blog post and are only half way through. I know there are a few Shakespeare buffs reading this, so forgive me if I misinterpreted the quote out of context. But it said sleep.

Yes, on Friday we went to the home town of The Bard himself. The day was pretty relaxed course wise. we started off at Holy Trinity discussing the different era’s that can be extracted from the walls, and then a quick tour of some other noteworthy buildings in Stratford.

Touring Stratford, the Shakespeare connection is unavoidable, so to follow will be less a lesson on architecture, but more a tour of Shakespeare.

We start off the day backwards at the grave of Shakespeare located at Holy Trinity Church. The church begins as an Early English Gothic building, and then is changed over the different periods of Gothic. One interesting point about this church is the floor plan. It is called a weeping church because the transepts and chancel are at an angle to the nave to symbolize the tilted head of Jesus on the cross.


Inside the chancel is where this can be found.


The grave of Shakespeare. Both a notable place, and a place where if you don’t know what you’re looking at you won’t know what it is. From here you can walk through a very well preserved 16th C. town down a road that takes you past two other important buildings. One is the Grammar school where a young Shakespeare learned about his love of writing and storytelling.


The next building that you we visited was what you can make out in the background. That is the Chapel which has remnants of a medieval painting. It is pretty faded now, but it gives a sense of what the painting was like in medieval times.


The next stop for us in the reverse chronology of Shakespeare is his birthplace. It is your average timber frame house. Shakespeare’s father was the mayor of Stratford at the time and this is why Shakespeare had the opportunity to go to school and accomplish what he did.


After this we had the afternoon to ourselves. The rest of my day followed a pretty relaxed pace. Some of us went for some milkshakes and then wandered to the lawn beside the RSC to have lunch by the river Avon. After lunch we walked around, looked at some other buildings, did some shopping, and had a beer. But one thing rather fun we did was four of us rented a row boat and went for a trip down the mighty Avon. It was about what you could expect from four early 20-something guys in a boat. I was rowing because I was the only one who knew how and had any sense of not tipping. But the two that were steering the boat had attention spans rivaling a goldfish, so half the time was spent laughing, the other half was all of us yelling out directions. It didn’t help that one of the navigators was attempting to read some Shakespeare sonnets. That was quickly taken away and given to the one not doing anything. Once we made it back we toured for a bit more (on land) then made our way back to the bus. It was an enjoyable Friday, but I found it lacking one thing. I know my dad would have loved to be here too. Walking around and looking at everything Shakespeare, seeing the special places I went to and to others that time didn’t allow. Then having a nice family picnic on the banks of the river and taking in a play in the evening. But I guess that is what next summer is for.


Rowboat Avon 2


Power and Architecture

On this trip we looked at architecture that showed power through design, function, and patronage. The first stop was to a true English castle. Kenilworth Castle is located between the cities of Coventry to the north and Warwick to the South. Kenilworh castle was originally built in the 1120’s by Geoffrey de Clinton. Geoffrey was a very trusted member of court to King Henry I and Geoffrey was tasked to built this castle to quell any thoughts of rebellion from the people of Warwick.


In the 14th C. John of Gaunt, the third son of King Edward III, member of the House of Plantagenet, built his own addition onto the castle. His addition was to serve as a grand residence for himself. Being the third son of a king, John was not likely to become king, so he used his still formidable strength to take ownership of Kenilworth and build himself his own castle.


In this time period, defense was not the main priority of castles, and at Kenilworth the Norman keep was still maintained and used as the defensive part of the castle.

The next part of the building campaign was a love story to Queen Elizabeth I. In the 16th C. Elizabeth gave control of the castle to Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester. The courtship of Dudley to Elizabeth was well known, and Dudley used the gift of Kenilworth to build his own section to express his love and loyalty to Elizabeth.


It did not work out for Dudley, but it worked for us to give us this impressive compound.


Starting on the right is the Norman construction, and then center is the work of de Clinton, and on the left is the residence of Dudley. But what is more amazing and rare than seeing this, is that weird blue canvas you can see behind the clouds. Somehow it was actually sunny in England that day, and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. But we kept calm and carried on to the next location which was St. Mary’s Warwick.

With a castle it is easy to tell how it relates to power, but with a church it is harder to tell, but this picture might help.


This is a side chapel on the church to house the tombs of three powerful patrons of the church and surrounding area.

They are (from left to right) Robert Dudley, Holder of Kenilworth Castle, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and Ambrose Dudley, brother to Robert Dudley and Earl of Warwick. They had more titles, but it would take a while. The church became a symbol in Warwick of the power of these families and reminders to those who follow to lead a life like those who are entombed here. The church had some other interesting parts, such as a smaller chapel for prayer, or pseudo classical carving, but this is the part the pertains directly to the power that architecture can have.

The last stop on our power trip was to Lord Leicesters hospital. If the name Leicester looks familiar it is because the hospital was renovated by Robert Dudley and his title Lord Leicester is used for the hospital. Like Fords Hospital in Coventry, this is not a hospital, but a retirement home. Only this is a retirement home for retired servicemen. This gives the building a rich history, but also associates it with power because it is part of the military establishment and is influenced by both the Lord and the Crown.

At this building, scars can still be seen from a bitter battle that had the nation divided.


All political joking aside, the hospital still functions as a residence for 8 retired men and their spouses, and also a Regimental Museum of the Queen’s Own Hussars.


This hospital was a fascinating place to tour, but the bulk of our time was spent listening intently to the curator of the museum and doing something else rather cool. The curator was telling us about the history of the regiment, and what exhibit they had. He then said they had some uniforms for people to try on, so the group of us crowded around trying stuff on. Now nothing fit me, all the jackets had rather small shoulders, but two thing did fit me.

The first was a saber from around 1850 that as the curator put it “was used in anger” in England’s wars of the time that we were allowed to play with and swing around.


And second was something really fun. As with all Great Halls there is weaponry on the walls. One section of the wall were some muskets that were issued to the men living in the hospital. In the 1800’s or so there were some rebellions going on and the crown issued the residents guns based on the fact they were loyal military men and could shoot. So the curator saw our interest and went up and took down a Brown Bess from the 1800’s with bayonet for us to try out.


I have just conferred with an expert in military stances of this time period while writing this and I am slightly off, but I still got to hold the gun, so really, a minor grievance in my view. After play time was over it was tea time. We went to the cafe down stairs and had some tea to finish off the day. It was a fun and exciting day, and as I mentioned before, it was actually sunny!!


Secular Coventry

Up to now, we have only looked at sacred buildings, meaning buildings that have to do with the church, but this time we looked at secular buildings, meaning buildings that don’t have to do with the church. We started at Fords hospital. Only it is not a hospital, but a retirement home, and has been since its construction in the 16th C. This building is unique in that fact that it is still used for its original function 500 years later. Fords Hospital is also a prime example of Half Timer construction. It is the classic method used and the one clearly associated with the medieval ages. This particular building is built using the close form technique because the upright timbers are as far apart from each other as they are wide. It is built using all English oak and because of the way oak matures to become rock hard, the building is almost indestructible apart from fire. To which the Germans tested in 1940 by dropping a bomb on it and only one room having its wall knocked out. The wall was later repaired after the war using salvageable timbers from the Cathedral, which is just down the road. We had a guided tour by one couple that resided there, and they even gave us a quick tour of their flat to see what the rooms were like. You might think that the inside could be quite cramped and dark, but it was the opposite. And coincidentally the wall that was taken down by the Germans was their living room wall, and you couldn’t tell that anything has happened.


In the center of the house is a small courtyard that has all the charm you could expect. And through the courtyard is the garden.

Out next stop was to St. Mary’s Guildhall. In Medieval times the guilds became a powerful entity and were essentially the trade unions of the day. Their Guildhalls were their meeting and entertaining space and used to showcase the power and wealth of the guild. Here is the grand hall where great feasts would be held and kings entertained.


In most buildings of this age, the stained glass does not survive, but here the stained glass window at the front , at the very least, is the original glass. DSC02172

This tapestry is also original of the Guildhall. Back in the days of grand stone buildings tapestries served many purposes. One was obvious, it was to tell a story and depict special events. Another was to showcase your wealth and affluence by how extravagant the tapestry was and how much you can afford. Sumptuary laws weren’t something practiced in those times. The other reason for tapestries were purely practical. As mentioned, they hung in stone buildings and the tapestries kept the rooms warm and the drafts down.

After the Guildhall we stepped down a few pegs on the social ladder and went to the Weavers House. The weavers house can be best bluntly described as the slums of Coventry. Today the rich houses are located on the outskirts of the cities, but in the 16th C. the rich houses were within the city walls and the poor workers houses were outside the walls.


This is the backside of the house, and the true restored 16th C. house is the one on the left, and the front looks exactly the same. This row housing was built for workers that didn’t live out further in the county tending farms. In this house, as the name implies, a weaver and his family lived here.

Those five pictures show the full extend of the house and all of the rooms where an 8-12 person family would live. You have the main room with a table, stools, fireplace, and pantry. A bedroom for the parents, and an upstairs work room that is taken up by one loom. And living there can be just like you imagine it. The soot from the fireplace everywhere, and rats you see often enough to give them names and back stories.

Going into the world of secular architecture gives you a much wider view of life. In sacred architecture you get variations from Southwell to Brixworth, but certain things are expected and has rules to follow (more or less). But in secular, the architecture all depended on your wealth and social status. If you had money, you lived with all the modern day comforts, if you didn’t, you lived with the modern day rodents. It was great to see this because it is not often taught widely and you can find plenty of kids books on castles and great cathedrals, but to my knowledge, not too many about living in the poorest conditions with your floormate Rodney the Rat.

Lincoln Cathedral

On Tuesday we took a two hour bus ride up to see one of the greatest English Gothic Cathedrals. Lincoln Cathedral was first built in 1069 just after the conquest. Part of that original church still remains as part of the west facade, and the rest of the cathedral was built it the Early English and Decorated Gothic styles.


The five arches that you can see are the remains of the Norman church. The windows and sculptures are a later edition from the Gothic periods, but the doorways are Norman.

The doorways are perfect examples of the Norman style that we have seen before. The exquisite beakhead and chevrons matched with the sculpture on the columns and capitols make for an impressive entrance.

One thing that must be said about this cathedral before I show the inside is the photography I did this day. I only got shots of the West facade and no other sides of the building because we were all hurriedly going to the inside. And for a good reason too. On the inside I took 177 pictures in the first 40 minutes. In total this day I shot over 320 pictures. And I wish I had more. The inside is so spectacular, detailed, and massive, that there are so many details that you could photograph one section of wall almost an infinite amount of ways. With that said, here is the best representation of English Gothic that set the rule book for the direction of English Gothic cathedrals.


Our walk around the Cathedral started in the cloister, where we also had lunch.

After the cloister we went into the Chapter house. This chapter house is just like the one at Southwell Minster. A room for the clergy to have meetings. Like at Southwell the room was lavishly decorated, but as you can imagine, on a grander scale.


There is no grand foliage and decoration like at Southwell, but it is not a run down cottage either. The loftiness of the space and the rib vaulting done is spectacular and the carving that is present is it’s equal but I would still argue that Southwell is better. Somehow this space seemed almost cold and clinical, while Southwell felt warmer and gave a more intimate feeling with it being smaller and lavishly decorated.

After the Chapter House we moved into St. Hugh’s Choir. This choir is named after the Bishop that commissioned it’s construction. A very special part of the chior is that it had one of the best master masons to have lived. The features that are found here are incredibly inventive and changed the direction English Gothic took as opposed to French Gothic. One of the things he did was this arcade along the north and south walls.


What is revolutionary is the separation of of the two syncopated arcades. They are completely separate from each other and have different heights of column, colour of column, and shape of the pointed arch. This grandness can be compared to the same arcade that is in the nave section at the bottom along the back wall, but was done by a different mason because the one that did this died.


Another part of St. Hugh’s Choir that is new and inventive is the roof. This is the roof in the nave of the Cathedral.


Impressive, yes, but very ordered and geometrical one it is broken down. Now here is the roof in the choir, titled the “crazy roof”.


Quite different. And here is the rest of the choir that goes with it.

After the Choir comes the rest of the cathedral with the nave, transepts and crossing.

The two transepts with the windows are perfect examples of the difference between Perpendicular Gothic and Decorated Gothic. The one on the left is Perpendicular because it is geometric in pattern, and the one on the right is Decorated because it is all over the place. A side note on the decorated window is that the glass in it was recently restored and it contains about 78% original Medieval glass which is very rare.

That is a quick tour of the Cathedral and it’s history from the ground, but we also got a roof tour here at Lincoln, So here is that portion now.

Starting in this room we can see the addition that was made onto the original Norman church. This little chapel is the bell ringers chapel now but was also once the sanctuary chapel. That is in medieval times if an individual wanted sanctuary from the law they would enter through the separate door and have their own sentencing in the church, where the gift shop is now located.


The first image shows the outside of the Norman building with its arched entrance, and the new addition. The second picture is on the upper level of the room showing the main side entrance of the Norman building and how Medieval walls are made. The addition was made by going over the openings and making a skin around the original part. The third picture is some original Medieval graffiti of the crucifixion.

The next part of the tour was up onto some balconies, both inside and out.


After this we moved further up into the roof above the nave. Here we could see the innards of the construction which is the exact same as was seen in Hereford, but on a larger scale.

Some very cool information about the carpentry of the roof is the wood that is used. It is all English oak and comes from Sherwood forest. The oldest timber used was cut down in the year 980 approx. and the “youngest” timber used was cut down in the 1200’s. They also keep replacement slabs of oak in the rafters to acclimatize them. Only they are acclimatized for over 50 years at least before they are used. And when I say slabs, they are literal slabs and beams of oak sitting everywhere. Also because of the ongoing restoration work that is needed there is a forest nearby with oaks that were planted specifically for the cathedral and are earmarked to be cut down in about 200 years time.

After the tour of the wood room, which one must admit was very tempting to inquire about some of the oak, we went up to walk the length of the nave through the triforium. The triforium is the second level arcade through the Cathedral. On this level some churches use this space for everyday use, but at Lincoln, it was only a storage area. But this still gave a great view of the nave and along the North transept where we went down to end the tour.

One last thing that must be seen is some of the detail on the choir screen. On each side of the screen is a doorway with some sculptures that do rival Southwell. And some on the screen itself.

Lincoln is a place that commands return visits. Though no twice, five times, twenty times, fifty times, but every space chance that you get. The detail alone can occupy the time, but there is the history and research that goes with it that you can learn so much from. Places like Southwell or Hereford are also places that you need to visit many multiples of times to appreciate, but the grandeur and historical significance of Lincoln is what pushes it over the top. It was consecrated in 1069 by William the Conqueror, rebuilt as a Gothic Cathedral, witnessed a battle between the English and French literally on its doorstep, influenced and changed the direction of English Gothic, and at one point while it still had it’s spire was the tallest building in Europe at over 500 ft.

Well worth a two hour bus ride.