Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Inside Ightham Mote

This post has taken me a little longer to publish than usual as one of my followers Andrew from http://highriser.blogspot.com/ wanted to know why Mote was not spelt as moat. This had me stumped and I just couldn't find the answer on Ightham's website or literature or google (although it must be there somewhere). So today I phoned the National Trust at Ightham Mote who told me it was the old French word for moat.

Ightham Mote began life in the 1340s with a Great Hall of which the roof still survives today.

Over the next 300 years, a chapel, crypt and two rooms known as solars were developed until the buildings had formed a quadrangle around a courtyard.

The crypt

Looking into the chapel through the hole in the wall of an adjoining room. During medieval times only ordained men were allowed into the chapel whilst mass was being conducted by the priest. Others watched from another room. The height of the hole was such that you could see the altar only when you were kneeling down.

Sir Richard Clement bought the mote in 1521 and as he was an admirer of Henry VIII he had symbolic tributes such as the Tudor Rose and the portcullis painted on the roof of the new chapel building.

During its 690 years the Mote has in the main been owned by only two families, neither of which were particularly wealthy . As a consequence neither family knocked down parts of the house or did major rebuilding. They just modernised it as and when necessary.  So it has six centuries of different types of  decor and styles. In 1985 the property was bequeathed to the National Trust which undertook extensive conservation and repairs to the property taking until 2004 to complete. It is quite an unusual building to wander around as you go from medieval to Tudor to Victorian to 20th cent.

During Victorian times the Butler was responsible for the safe keeping of the family's silver. It was stored here in this large safe inside the butler's pantry.

The Oriel room - the family drawing room.

Original roof can just be seen through the ceiling.

A painting of Igtham Mote by Winston Churchill which is displayed in the library.

A few photos of  the gardens

Monday, 29 April 2013

Tate Modern

This is the Tate Modern art gallery on the South Bank of the Thames, London. It was once the Bankside power station but is now (according to wikipedia) the most visited art gallery in the world with an average of 4.7million visitors a year (this could possibly be because our national art galleries have free admission). It closed as a power station in 1989 and reopened as a gallery in 2000.

The advantage it has over conventional art galleries is the size of its biggest exhibition area - the turbine hall which is 5 storeys high. This usually displays large specially commissioned work by contemporary artists. Yesterday when I visited there was quite a different kind of display.

This was part of Hyperlink, a 3 day festival of art, music and fashion, exploring the idea of '6 degrees of separation'. In the Hall was Sail Away which was featuring hundreds of small boats made from paper money, maps and tickets. There was a workshop where you could make your own boat and then add it to the exhibition. I was just sorry I didn't have enough time to stay and take part. It looked like fun.

Sharing with OurWorld Tuesday.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

The wrong end of the stick

I had always thought that a moat around a castle or large manor house was there as a form of defence. Close the gates, pull up the draw bridge and you could pick off your enemies as they tried to cross the water and scale the walls. So I was curious as to why Ightham Mote was moated as it is not situated in a particularly defensive position being lower than surrounding countryside.

When I put this observation to a local guide I was told that from about the 14th cent onwards they used the mote for hygiene purposes as it had flowing water fed from a local stream. There were pipes in the walls to allow human sewage to be pushed through into the water below. This was done with a wooden stick which they believe is the origin of the phrase ' to get hold of the wrong end of the stick'!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Walk around Ightham

Yesterday's walk with U3A started from the car park of a National Trust property - Ightham Mote in Kent. As I have probably said before I don't have a sat nav and much prefer to navigate by using a map. Although in theory this is fine, I quite often get lost especially when trying to negotiate some of the very narrow lanes that criss cross the county of Kent but then one of the targets on my bucket list was to discover new(to me) villages in Kent. I seem to be doing this with alarming regularity but as long as I set off early enough I usually get to the starting point on time. Yesterday was a little different as I only got lost once and arrived at the meeting point almost an hour early but unexpectedly the weather was glorious.

For once it was a beautiful blue sky and a warm (yes warm) breeze. Whilst waiting for the rest of the group I wandered off on my own and just enjoyed the wild flowers that seemed to have appeared overnight.

 I can never tire of wild primroses.

Bluebells were just beginning to open.

Once everyone arrived we started by walking past  Ightham Moat, a medieval manor house. (I'll write a separate post about this wonderful building later).

We walked through woodland where the floor was ready to explode into a blue carpet of bluebells.

We walked across farmland although I was chatting so much I forgot to take many photos of the different types of countryside.

We then came to the village church of Shipbourne. Inside the church they were packing away the remains of a Farmers' market so we were a little late to fill up on cakes and pastries

Outside the church we saw this sign. I have heard of this before but never come across the reality of a small community printing their own currency. The small village of Shipbourne had decided to try to encourage the local community to buy locally. You exchange your sterling currency in the local pub (The Chaser) and then spend it at the market. The man I spoke to said it was working very well as after the market had finished, most people then went into the pub to spend any money they had left.

Our walk then took us across the Fairlawne estate. A very large estate now believed to be owned by a Saudi Arabian family. Apparently there had been some dispute about walking across the land but as there are documented public rights of way going through the gardens, we can legally walk through as long as we strictly adhere to the paths.

Looking at this tree you can see the large bunches of the parasitic plant mistletoe growing on it. I wonder if they will harvest them at Christmas. Then it wasn't long before we arrived back at our starting point just in time for lunch.

Sharing with weekend reflections.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Oast houses in Kent

These strange looking buildings are called Oast houses and are found mainly in Kent. Their purpose was to dry the hops which are an important ingredient in the brewing of beer.

The buildings have 3 or 4 floors where the freshly picked hops were spread out to be dried by the hot air coming from a fire at the bottom. The floors were very thin and allowed the hot air to pass through and then escape through an opening in the roof. Once dried, the hops were then sent to the brewery where they were used to add flavour to the beer. This method has been used since the 16thcent. but it wasn't until the late eighteenth century, when beer drinking became more popular,that these round buildings with the conical shaped roof were developed.
Nowadays hops are dried on a much larger scale and the majority of the oast houses have been converted into houses.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013


The Cutlers' Company is one of the most ancient in the City of London having received its first Royal Charter from King Henry V in 1416. It is a guild of traders whose function is to protect its members and ensures that a high standard of work is maintained. Their trade was to produce implements with a cutting edge such as knives and swords. Over time their wares changed to cutlery, razors and scissors

At the front of the Cutlers' Hall there is a terracotta frieze by Benjamin Creswick. There are 33 figures in the frieze showing the four aspects of the trade: forging, grinding, hafting and finishing.

Forging shows the worker plunging the metal into the heat and then it being beaten into shape. Grinding is sharpening the knives. Hafting is the putting the handles on the knives. Finishing shows someone heating and polishing the final product and making sure it works.