Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Wedding

Exactly one year after she got engaged, my daughter got married on Monday to the man of her dreams. Although  bitterly cold, the day was full of joy.

Congratulations to Laura and James

Saturday, 23 February 2013

St James' Graveyard and Dickens

  St James' Church, Cooling is well known for its association with Dickens who lived in a nearby village. It is believed that he used the graveyard of the church as inspiration for the opening of his book 'Great Expectations'

'Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried.'

Within the graveyard is this grave of 13 children of two families whose ages ranged from 1 month to one year and a half.  Erosion has meant that there is no longer an insciption on the headstone but it is thought the children died in the late 18th cent. The graves are now known as 'Pip's graves' from the reference in the book

'To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long which were arranged in a neat row beside their (parents')grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine -- who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle' --


Thursday, 21 February 2013

St James' Church, Cooling, Kent

The church of St James' in Cooling, Kent lies in a very isolated place not like most churches which are in the centre of the village. This one is surrounded by fields and marshes leading down to the Thames Estuary.

The church was built in the latter half of the 13thcent.

This is the view from the churchyard.

Inside the church it is very light and spacious but there are some quite unusual features once you start to look around.

This is a 500yr old timber door still hung on its original
hinges but it doesn't lead anywhere as the doorway is blocked.

This is the metal latch attached to the door.

At the end of the nave is a doorway leading to a small vestry which was probably added in the 19th cent. The walls of which are covered with thousands of cockle shells which are the emblem of St James.


The church was so eerie and silent and was absolutely freezing inside. Then  I suddenly noticed the  reflections on the wall and for a moment they looked like ghosts which made me jump.
In my next post I will show you some photos of the graveyard which was the inspiration for the opening of Dicken's book. 'Great Expectations'.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Woburn Walk

The area of Bloomsbury is very much known for its literary connections.  The pre Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in  Bedford Square and close by in Gower Street is RADA (Royal Academy for Dramatic Art). Here there are 3 theatres and lots of rehearsal rooms where the likes of John Gielgud, Glenda Jackson and many, many more now famous actors learned their trade.

Round the corner is Gordon Square with more Georgian terracing. At No. 64 lived the Stephen sisters who on marriage became Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolfe. Along with Virginia's husband Lionel they formed the Bloomsbury group in the 1920s. They were a group of artists and painters who enjoyed a different life style that was shocking to many at that time.

A couple of streets away is Tavistock Square where Charles Dickens lived between 1851-60. It was here that he wrote several novels including Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities.

Off Woburn Place is Woburn Walk. A delighfully quaint lane with cafes on either side, their seating overflowing onto the pavements. In warmer weather a haven for sitting and chatting.

At one end of the Walk is the house where the Irish poet WB Yeats lived from 1895 to 1919

I wonder if these same places inspire the literary world of today.

Monday, 18 February 2013

St Mary's Chiddingstone

This is the church of St Mary's in the village of Chiddingstone in Kent. It appears there have probably been 3 or 4 churches on this site, the earliest one being Saxon and  mentioned in the 'Doomsday of the Monks' dated 1086. Part of the present church dates back to the 14thcent and additions such as the tower were built in the 15thcent. The church was struck by lightning in 1624 and extensive damage was done which required the rebuilding of part of the church but it is not clear how much renovation was done. Evidence in the form of receipts recording the amount spent £649 (approx £250.000 in today's money) and what was bought give historians an idea of the amount of work undertaken.

The small graveyard surrounding the church made it difficult to take a reasonable photo as I couldn't step back far enough.

The tower contains 8 bells which were recast after the fire of 1624. During the 18thcent the bells were always rung on Royal birthdays, Gun Powder Treason Day (5th Nov), and Coronation Day.

This is the Font, which was made from sandstone  in 1628 by a master mason. It cost £3. 10s in old money.
This brass chandelier was a gift to the church in 1726.

This is a picture of the Hatchments which hang from the walls in the South aisle. On the death of a person, a hatchment of their coat of arms was displayed above their doorway during the period of mourning (12 months). It was then removed and placed in the church as in the picture below.

The hatchments were made of wood, framed in black and the coat of arms painted in oils. I have never come across these before. The earliest one at Chiddingstone is from 1627 and the latest one is from 1852. If you want to see more of Chiddingstone Village look at

Sharing with Our World Tuesday.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Chiddingstone Village

Chiddingstone Village is a pretty Kent village dating back to Tudor times. Little has altered over the centuries apart from the number of cars parked in the High Street.

There is just the one row of these medieval buildings which are  typical of the Kent style with half-timbered sides, gable ends and stone hung red-tiled roofs.

This building which is now the Post Office is first mentioned in a deed of 1453. Over fifty years later in 1517 it was bought by Sir Thomas Boleyn, father of Ann Boleyn who was the 2nd wife of Henry V111.

This house was built around 1550. It is astonishing to think that these houses have been here for almost 500 years and are still in use today! I wonder if buildings built today will survive for that length of time.

No village is complete without an inn. The building now known as the Castle was first referred to in 1666. In 1730 it was turned into an inn called The Five Bells but is now The Castle Inn.

The National Trust bought the entire village, including the Castle Inn, houses and post office, in 1939 to ensure its preservation. Over 70% of all the buildings are over 200 years old.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Tavistock Square and 7th July

Whilst walking around Bloomsbury last week I came acoss this memorial plaque.

It was a day I will never be able to forget. I had taken a group of 11yr old girls into London,early that morning, to play in the finals of the London Cricket Tournament which were being played in the Hub in Regent's Park. I had a parent accompanying me and when we arrived in London it was obvious that something was wrong. At first we were told that the tube wasn't working because of a power failure which didn't make any sense as they had closed all the tube lines not just one or two. We knew then that it must be some kind of terror threat and realised that we needed to avoid all forms of public transport and that the safest place to take the children would be the park as it would be unlikely for that to be attacked.

 We decided to walk from London Bridge to Regent's Park which is a walk of some distance. The noise of sirens going off was deafening but we convinced the girls that this was what central London was like early in the morning because of the heavy traffic. They never questioned us and chatted away on their long walk.

By the time we reached the park all transport had been stopped and mobile phone signals were blocked. I had desperately been trying to contact the school to let them know we were safe but hadn't been able to get through. The cricket competition was going ahead with those teams that had managed to get there. We still were unaware of the full extent of the attack but there was a telephone landline at the centre and I was able to let the school know we had arrived safely.

We spent quite a few hours in the park with the girls playing cricket and seemingly having a good time whilst behind the scenes all the teachers were frantically trying to work out how to get the children home safely. The only transport being allowed in and out of London were the black taxi cabs. I envisaged an even longer walk for the girls as we would have to walk about 5 miles to get South of the river before we could pick up any transport. Unbeknown to me a rescue plan was being put in place back at school as the Head contacted any parents who were black cab drivers to make their way to Regent's Park to try and locate us. Without mobile phones this was harder than you would imagine. Luckily I used the landline to phone the school to let them know the route we would be walking and to arrange a possible pick up spot outside Central London. Now knowing black cabs would soon be looking for us I decided that we would just wait on the side of the road which circles the park until the cabs found us. We didn't have to wait too long.

It wasn't until I got back to school and handed the children back to their parents that the full impact of the day hit me. The devastating scenes of four bomb attacks were all over the TV channels. I couldn't stop shaking knowing what could have happened. The final explosion had happened as we were walking to the park. 

Four suicide bombers struck in central London on Thursday 7 July, killing 52 people and injuring more than 770.The co-ordinated attacks hit the transport system as the morning rush hour drew to a close.
Three bombs went off at or around 0850 BST on underground trains just outside Liverpool Street and Edgware Road stations, and on another travelling between King's Cross and Russell Square.
The final explosion was around an hour later on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, not far from King's Cross. (BBC website)

Monday, 11 February 2013

Pied Bull Yard

I came across this yard quite by accident. It is just around the corner from The British Museum. The very name aroused my interest and I wandered through the archway to discover some interesting shops and businesses. 

I couldn't find much information about the history of the yard except that it was noted on a map in 1746 as a stable yard and then in the  1841 census it was more like a typical Victorian mews with a coachmaker, upholsterer, dressmaker, livery keeper and coachmen listed as living here. At present there is a bookshop with a coffee shop, a small art gallery, a camera shop and Truckles bar/restaurant.

Sharing with 'Our World Tuesday'

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Chinese New Year 2013

I had decided to go into London to see the Chinese New Year parade but I didn't leave the house early enough nor did I realise the times of the trains had been changed. By the time I got to Trafalgar Square the parade had finished. Just my luck that this year it actually started on time at 10am. Even though I was there by 10.45 and fought my way along the parade route I still missed it. The weather was awful - pouring with rain and bitterly cold.

 I did see some of the costumes on my way to China town. They looked quite sad without their owners to bring them alive.

Despite the weather China town was overflowing with people looking to buy decorations or food.

There were lanterns strung across many of the roads. China town covers quite a large area near Leicester Square and today no traffic was allowed on any of the roads in that area.

Had the weather been more conducive to hanging around I would have watched some of the entertainment in Trafalgar Square where there was 6 hours of singing, dancing and various other performances. They say celebrations in London are second only to Asian celebrations.

Just as I was leaving 3 Chinese ladies wished me a Happy New Year and posed for a photo.