Monthly Archives: December 2013

England, Day Seven – Exploring York and York Minster Cathedral

Thursday, May 23

York was founded in 79 AD by the Romans. Parts of the city wall they built is still standing and we spent some time walking the top of it. The steps to the top,

York City Wall Gatehouse Steps

are in several gatehouses along the way, some of which straddle modern streets.

York City Wall Gatehouse

There was a narrow walkway atop the wall with periodic bays extending outwards.

York City Wall

York City Wall Bay

These were useful to us for dodging the frequent hordes of school children on tours of the wall. (I don’t think that’s why the Romans built them but it’s a great design nonetheless.)

There is lots of sightseeing to be done in York. It is pretty touristy but great fun to explore. The architecture is straight out a fairytale: half-timbered buildings, cobblestone streets, narrow alleys,

York Alleys

and my favorite place name of all, The Shambles, a medieval street and neighborhood with leaning buildings and lots of little shops and cafés.

The Shambles 1 The Shambles 2

We at a proper British lunch at The Flax and Twine, a housewares and vintage shop and café in The Shambles.

The Shambles Flax & Twine Lunch

It had great old sloping floors.

The Shambles Flax & Twine Floor

And the street was so narrow, I was wondering if I should lean out the window and ask the neighbors if they were hungry.

The Shambles Flax & Twine Window

It happened to be market day in York. It was a mix of farmers market, cheap clothing and vintage items and it was fun to stroll around and explore.

York Market Day

After the market, we walked to York Minster and checked out the interior.

York Minster Interior

There was incredible stained glass.

York Minster Stained Glass 2     York Minster Stained Glass

And a huge pipe organ.

York Minster Pipe Organ 2

York Minster Pipe Organ

And an astronomical clock dedicated to RAF and Allied airmen lost in World War Two.

York Minster Astronomical Clock

The plaque below the dial reads, “They went through the air and space without fear and the shining stars marked their shining deeds.”

The explanatory plaque reads,

“THE ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK – A memorial to the men of the Royal Air Forces of the Commonwealth and their Allies who, operating from bases in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, gave their lives for us all in the second World War.

WHAT THE ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK SHOWS – The edge of the large convex disc represents the horizon as seen from an aircraft directly over York and flying South. A plan of the Minster and the the City Walls is picked out in gold in the centre. The clock’s “Sun”, represented by a gold disc, rises and sets on the horizon at the actual times of sunrise and sunset throughout the year. It crosses the vertical, South pointing wire at noon. From day to day it’s path along the silver band representing the ecliptic varies so that it rises higher in the summer than in the winter.

The dials at the bottom show, on the right, Greenwich Mean Time and on the left, the sidereal or star time.

The dial on the other side of the clock shows, the North Circumpolar Stars visible from the latitude of York (54’N) circling round the Pole Star.”

York Minster Astronomical Clock Detail

 The Chapter House, a meeting room for a group of clerics who advice the bishop, is an ornate round room connected to the main church by a short tunnel. There is a ribbed arched ceiling,

York Minster Chapter House Ceiling

Even more stained glass

York Minster Chapter House Stained Glass

And interesting grotesques over every seat around the room.

York Minster Chapter House Grotesques 1 York Minster Chapter House Grotesques 2

We wandered around the Minster for a while longer and then walked home. On the way, we passed this modest-looking building.

Auden Birthplace

Which turned out to be the birthplace of W.H. Auden, the only poet I’ve ever liked. What a treat!

Auden Birthplace Plaque

We rested at home for a bit and then headed back out for dinner and another stroll around town.

We stumbled across an interesting piece of history – the remains of a Norman House dated to c. 1180. I love the way it is incorporated into the surrounding buildings.

York Norman House

The plaque reads, “Originally a two storey building of good Normal freestone, it would have had an undercroft of wood supporting the first floor which was probably also of wood. The hall on the first floor was lit by windows, one of which remains and has a shaft with a water leaf capital between the two lights. The windows were rebated at the inside for shutters but were never glazed.”

This is the kind of traveling I’d hoped for – unexpected finds and ancient history. Totally worth the tired feet at the end of the day!


England, Day Six – Nottingham, York

Wednesday, May 22

We took time to see a little more of Nottingham before we got on the road. There is some pretty architecture in the city – lots of Art Nouveau detailing.

The Zara Building built 1903-4

The Zara Building built 1903-4

The Zara Building built 1903-4

The Zara Building window detail

I also liked the combinations of old buildings with modern shops on the ground floor.

Nottingham Old and New 2 Nottingham Old and New

We found a few cool vintage shops. I really wanted this great suitcase picnic set but couldn’t see a way to get it home. I found a nice black scarf with white polka dots instead.

Vintage Picnic Set

We headed out of town towards York but decided on a whim to stop at Bolsover Castle. It was pretty cold and windy but that meant hardly any visitors. We spent a couple of hours exploring.

It looks forbidding from the outside but from what I gathered was really built more for the entertainment of a wealthy aristocrat and his playboy son.

We walked through huge red gates.

Bolsover Castle

Which opened up onto the Great Court with an old copper beech tree in the center.

Bolsover Castle

There was a scale model and a floor plan of the castle at the entrance.

Bolsover Castle

It’s only a model.

Bolsover Castle

The Riding House Range on the left looked to be fairly intact with some sections being restored. From

“William Cavendish was an avid horse rider and had this range of buildings built in the 1630′s to accommodate, train and show off his horses. Cavendish trained in horsemanship at the Royal Mews and was considered an authority on the art of Manège [specialized horse training similar to dressage], so much so that he was engaged as tutor to the Young Prince Charles (later to become Charles II).”

The floor of the Riding House:

Bolsover Castle

A cool pattern of oak arches supporting the Riding House roof:

Bolsover Castle

The Terrace Range, a set of state rooms, banqueting halls and kitchens for entertaining royalty, was mostly ruins.

Bolsover Castle

There was enough remaining, though, to get a rough idea of the layout of the kitchens, hearths and larders.

Bolsover Castle

It was interesting to look up from the lowest level and see the chimneys and a fireplace on the top floor.

Bolsover Castle

From the rear of the Terrace Range, we had a nice view of pretty English countryside.

Bolsover Castle

After leaving the Terrace Range, we explored the Little Castle. It was in fine shape with lots of vibrant paints but it wasn’t clear how much was restored and how much was original.

Bolsover Castle

There were some gorgeous rooms in this castle.

Bolsover Castle

In some rooms, every inch was decorated. This is the ceiling of the Star Chamber.

Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle

We climbed a worn staircase with tiny doors to get to each floor.

Bolsover Castle

We strolled through the Fountain Garden and saw the Venus Fountain with some rather…adult sculptures. I love the little alcoves built into the walls of the garden – clearly designed for secret romantic trysts.

Bolsover Castle

We wandered back to the car and headed on towards York. We checked into our lodging at 23 St. Mary’s and took a stroll before supper.

We were centrally-located and only a couple of blocks from the Museum Gardens and the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey. There has been an abbey on this site since 1055. It underwent several changes of leadership/affliation over the next couple of centuries. These ruins are all that remain of the wealthy Benedictine abbey built between 1271 and 1294.

York St Mary's Abbey 1

The abbey was mostly destroyed after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539. Bits and pieces of the abbey are still visible and the stone provides an interesting contrast to the lush grass.

St. Mary's Abbey

It was a good setting to try out my infrared filter. It seems to work best with a variety of textures like trees and stone.

St. Mary's Abbey

We walked past York Minster which we planned on visiting the next day. There has been a church on this site since 627. This most “recent” version was built over the course of 250 years  – from 1220 to 1472.

York Minster 1

Like Notre Dame, the closer we got, the more elaborate the detailing.

York Minster     York Minster

York Minster     York Minster

York Minster     York Minster

We had supper and called it a night.