The Celts: Art & Identity, British Museum

I wouldn’t strictly say that the British Museum is a place of worship – though it can be a spiritual experience visiting there. However, I visited the exhibition with my friend who is pagan, for whom it really was a chance for pilgrimage.

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Queen Mary Harp, 1450, National Museum Scotland

Continue reading “The Celts: Art & Identity, British Museum”

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Guyhirn Chapel, Cambridgeshire

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There is nothing more exciting, nor indeed more ‘Fen’ (and I use that term as a Fenner) than collecting a key from a roadside veg stall, walking along a drain bank to visit an exciting historic site!

The site in question was Guyhirn Chapel, which I noticed with help of the CCT’s app. (I love it lots.) It was near where some friends I was visiting live and I thought I’d make a stop off on my way home.

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The chapel was built in 1660. Purpose built for Puritan worship, the stone above the door dates to the very last year of Cromwell’s Commonwealth. Visiting it made me vow to find out more. I mean I know the Civil War was important, but being in this space brought it home.

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And what a lovely space. The chapel is small, but has the original benches – placed close together to discourage ‘popish’ kneeling. The interior is whitewashed and the clear glass makes for a light interior. There has clearly long been concern about graffiti, as this painted slogan on the wall attests:

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“Persons are persistently requested not to deface the Woodwork of this chapel by cutting or writing upon it.”

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I am so used to looking for the extravagant in churches, that I totally fell in love with the simplicity and elegance of this place. I mean – look at the brickwork on the floor!

Interestingly, the side facing the road is stone, whilst the back of the chapel is made from cheaper brick.

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The chapel has a very cute bell-cote, with the original bell and as well as the benches, the pulpit is also original.

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I think my favourite part of the fittings were in fact the hat pegs. If you’re a Puritan, you need somewhere to hang your enormous hat (think the man on the Quaker oats packet).

It’s worth getting the key to see inside as there are some really informative interpretation panels inside (in fact, it would be great if they were online somewhere). They put the chapel in its local context and tell about its rescue and renovation in the 1970s.

If you’re in the area, do visit. it’s a perfect gem.

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Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire

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Whitby had been a familiar name to me since the module I studied on Anglo-Saxon England when I was at university. It stuck in my mind as the location of the Synod of Whitby, which in 664 AD decided the future flavour of the Northumbrian church. Would they be Roman, or Celtic, in outlook. St Hild, as the abbess of the dual monastery and nunnery caught my imagination. Women did stuff in the past!

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The abbey stands on a headland, above the present day town on Whitby. In the seventh century, this was a separate settlement named Streaneshalc. What stands now, is an eleventh century rebuild inspired by the previous community that had dissipated under Viking attack. The original site would have been closer to what is the cliff edge today, behind picture of the abbey above.

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I really enjoyed seeing the footprint of the first church laid out in the grass. It really helped to imagine how churches, cathedrals and abbeys expand beyond their original limits. Every religious building is a process, but it’s great when you can physically make the comparison.

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But seriously, check out the vaulting! It’s pretty inspiring!

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How are you doing, H Wrine?

Recently the Abbey has suffered with illegal metal detecting which is particularly selfish on the part of those illegal detectorists. The past belongs to us all and by denying finds to experts, they deny everyone the right to knowledge of this particular places past.