Recent Visits

Cotswolds September 2019

Sue Denney and Pennie Harrison are to be congratulated on what turned out to be a very enjoyable cultural and social few days – excellent hotel, great food, extremely comfortable coach, and good humoured, skilful [and patient!] driver.

Twenty-two of us set off on the morning of Thursday 26th September. Weather forecasts – especially after the glorious sunny warmth of the preceding weekend – were not altogether promising, but we were all looking forward to an interesting few days.

On our way to Wroxton House Hotel in Oxfordshire, we visited Hidcote. This late in the year, the garden was not at its best, but there was still lots to appreciate and admire.

Friday 27th September saw us at Compton Verney, a beautiful Georgian House, now an Art Gallery, set in sweeping parkland. We could only sample a fraction of the collections on display, but I think some of us will definitely plan another visit.

The afternoon visit to Snowshill Manor saw us experiencing the worst of England’s Autumnal weather! Wind, and rain of Biblical proportions, landed on us as we were tackling the steep uphill 15 minute walk from car park to house; paths turned into rushing streams, and the carpark became a lake, but extreme wetness did not deter us from walking round this amazing place, with the biggest and most varied collection of anything and everything, packed from floor to rafters in every room and corridor that I for one had ever seen!

Stratford-on-Avon on Saturday 28th was experienced mainly in sunshine however, and the backstage tour of the Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres was fascinating. There was also time to stroll around part of this famous town before moving on to Charlcote Park to tour the house and vast grounds.

Sunday was for exploring Wroxton Village or for just ‘chilling!’ Wroxton Abbey is a Grade 1 Jacobean mansion owned by Trinity College, Cambridge, currently let to an American University College. The public can explore the grounds/garden however, and it was a privilege to walk through the magnificent mature woodland expanse, with lakes, the odd waterfall and lots of squirrels, before setting off to view Broughton Castle in the afternoon.

Broughton Castle was a delight, a real highlight of our trip, and happily the rain waited until we were inside, and we emerged later into a bit of welcome sunshine. This atmospheric castle has been used in many films and tv productions, including ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, ‘The Madness of King George’ and ‘Wolf Hall.’ The explorer Sir Randolph Fiennes and actors Ralph Fiennes and Joseph Fiennes are direct descendants of the aristocratic family who have been the owners since the 14th century.

Our final day was spent at Upton House, full of amazing paintings and porcelain to view, and a vertiginous garden to explore. Once again, we beat the odds with the weather, the rain holding off until we were boarding the coach for our journey home, tired but happy!

With thanks to Kay Coope, who provided this report and the pictures.

Van Gogh 29th July 2019

Who would have thought that a journey to the capital in July could flow so well? With no traffic hold-ups, we reached The Tate in two hours, the last part of our journey enlivened by commentary on new buildings along The Thames by our excellent driver, Andy.

The exhibition was a joy- not overcrowded, well organised and coherent. It was based on Van Gogh’s time working in a London Art Gallery, hence The Tate as a venue. There were large scale images of Victorian London to set the scene as we entered, followed by art which had influenced Van Gogh by its faithful depiction of poverty and need, such as etchings from Gustav Dore’s “Illustrations of the London Poor”.  There were many examples of Van Gogh’s own work portraying the outcast and the impoverished.

Setting paintings by his predecessors against Van Gogh’s own work took up the first rooms of the exhibition. The final room showed Van Gogh’s enduring influence on those who followed. There were, for example, several “Sunflowers” amongst which were those of Winifred and Ben Nicholson. Not alike in subject but in style were several other works including two by Francis Bacon, clearly reflecting the expressionist style of the Dutch artist.

Van Gogh’s work from portraits to landscapes was well represented and the 3D effect of the thickly applied paint struck the eye powerfully, unlike the flattened effect of the many prints we have all seen.

The journey back was equally stress free. We counted ourselves fortunate to have travelled on a beautiful sunny day with such ease, filling us with confidence for further coach trips to London.

Claire Sarkies

The Trumpington Cross – 21st November 2018

Our secretary, Jane Woods’ close association with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on Downing Street in Cambridge, made it possible for a group of us to visit the museum on the 21st November 2018, to hear the Keeper of Collections, Imogen Gunn , talk about the rare Anglo-Saxon jewelled cross now known as The Trumpington Cross.

We heard that it was discovered during excavations occasioned by the housing development at Trumpington Meadow, only three miles from the museum. Four graves dating from the 7th C were found next to each other. One grave contained treasure. It was not obvious to archaeologists at first that they had found a rare piece, since the cross had lodged sideways in the vertebrae of the skeleton. Pictures reveal that it looked rather like a pound coin stuck in bone.

Although The Trumpington Cross is tiny, only 34mm in diameter, it is a work of great beauty and craftsmanship. The lustrous red of the garnets is complemented by the rich gold setting. The jewels are set in gold foil which enhances the light-reflecting quality of the garnets, thought to have come from as far away as Sri Lanka. The wearer was a Christian of high status to own such a piece.

The owner’s importance in the community is also shown in the manner of her burial. She was buried in her bed, wrapped in a blanket of wool. Many of us had heard of ship burials, such as the famous one at Sutton Hoo, but the concept of a bed burial was a new idea. Dr. Gunn regretted that archaeologists could shed no light on the reason for this custom, but 20 examples have been found.

As well as the cross, an exquisite gold pin to hold a veil in place is also on display. We could only marvel at its delicacy. A fine gold chain connects two pins, each headed by tear drop shaped garnet, again set in gold.

If you are shopping in John Lewis or walking along Downing Street, take a step off the street into the beautiful ground floor display area of The Archaeology and Anthropology Museum where you may marvel at the treasures for yourself.

Reports (and/or photos) of visits always welcomed! Please send them to the Honorary Secretary, Jane Woods at hauxwell125@gmail.