Archive for December, 2016

Textus Roffensis. Photo by Keith

Textus Roffensis. Photo by Keith

When Keith and I recently visited Rochester Cathedral we took the opportunity to visit the exhibition space in the crypt. This traces the history of the Cathedral through items from its collection.

Head of a medieval Bishop's crozier. Photo by Keith

Head of a medieval Bishop’s crozier. Photo by Keith

Reliquary.  Photo by Keith

Reliquary. Photo by Keith

The centre of the exhibition is a copy of the Textus Roffensis (The Book of Rochester).

Textus Roffensis. Photo by Keith

Textus Roffensis. Photo by Keith

The Textus Roffensis is a codex of books probably written from around 1120 AD and bound together in the 14th century. It was written by a monk at Rochester in a local ‘font’ known as Rochester Prickly. It is in two languages Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Latin. Part of the codex contains the only existing copy of King Ethelbert of Kent’s code of Laws, which originated from around 600 AD. It also comprises a copy of the Coronation Charter of Henry I, used by the Barons as a template when composing the Magna Carta. Other items include documents relating to land holdings of the Cathedral and other legal documents. Together they seem to comprise a reference book to be used in legal disputes involving the rights and holdings of the Cathedral.

A truly great story of the Parrot of Fleet St!

Stephen Liddell

Following on from my discovery and subsequent blog post on John “Mad Jack” Mytton – The craziest man in history!  I was overjoyed to stumble across another hilarious character of history whilst out on a Charles Dickens Walking Tour on friday.

Everything was going well and then we reached one of the points of the tour, the fabulously old Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street, London.  Famously the pub has a sign on the outside proclaiming it was rebuilt in 1667 just after The Great Fire of London along with a plaque illustrating all of the monarchs who have been and gone during the length which the current pub has been operating…. not to mention that much of the pub is much older still.

15622175_739764119510249_72745606837920513_n One of the most famous pubs in London but far from being the oldest.

My lovely American guests from New York were peckish and…

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Images of Rochester Cathedral

Posted: December 29, 2016 in History, Kent, UK
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Rochester cathedral from the Castle

Rochester cathedral from the Castle

The Nave

The Nave

The Great Organ

The Great Organ

The Christmas Crib

The Christmas Crib

Steps worn away by centuries of Pilgrims

Steps worn away by centuries of Pilgrims

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The church of St Magnus stands at the northern end of London Bridge. It is first recorded in 1128 although it is unclear when it had been built. The dedication of the church has been a subject of discussion over the centuries with 3 possible candidates being favoured:

  • Magnus of Anangi, a bishop executed under the Roman emperor Decius in the 3rd century
  • Magnes, another bishop, persecuted by the Roman emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century
  • Magnus, Earl of Orkney a man of gentleness and piety who was killed by his cousin in a family power struggle in 1118 and was canonised in 1135.

It was not until 1926 that this was resolved and the declaration made that the dedication was to St Magnus of Orkney.

Until 1831 the road leading from London Bridge into the city passed the doors of the church and the site included a separate chapel dedicated to Thomas-a-Becket for pilgrims on their way to the saint’s shrine in Canterbury (when this fell out of use it was converted to a house and a warehouse and subsequently demolished in the 18th century).

The unassuming church entrance which was passed by all those crossing London Bridge

The unassuming church entrance which was passed by all those crossing London Bridge

 

This was an important church and by the 14th century the patronage (the right to appoint the rector) was in the hands of the Pope before passing to the Abbots of two nearby Abbeys, the crown (on the dissolution of the monasteries) and finally to the Bishop of London. Its list of medieval rectors included Myles Coverdale, who was the compiler of the first complete English language translation of the Bible.

The history of St Magnus’ is one of fire. This was a crowded area of the city without much space between buildings and as such a constant fire hazard. In 1633 42 houses at te north end of the bridge were destroyed by fire but St Magnus managed to narrowly escape any significant damage. It was not so fortunate in 1666, being only 300 yards from the bakers shop of Thomas Farriner, where the Great Fire of London started. Rebuilding began in 1668, under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren, and by 1676 the church was re-opened although building works continued until 1687. Interestingly, when Thomas Farriner died in the 1670s he was buried under the main aisle of St Magnus.

The clock on the Tower was presented in 1701 by Sir Charles Duncombe, Lord Mayor of London that year. Its position meant that anyone entering the City across London Bridge would know the time.

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In 1711 he also presented a new organ to the church.

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In 1760 a fire in an oil shop to the south-east spread and destroyed the roof and damaged the structure and in 1763 some outbuildings including the vestry were demolished to ease the access to the bridge. In 1827 a fire in a nearby warehouse spread to the church and caused enough damage that it had to be closed for 6 months.

The re-building and re-siting of London Bridge, a little way upstream of the Medieval bridge, took place between 1823 and 1831 and made a major difference to St Magnus as people crossing the bridge no longer passed the church.

The Tower stood astride the walkway from London Bridge until 1831

The Tower stood astride the walkway from London Bridge until 1831

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The church again narrowly survived significant damage during a warehouse fire in 1847 but was seriously damaged in 1940 when a bomb which fell near London Bridge blew out all the windows and damaged the structure. It was to be 11 years before repairs made it possible to hold services in it again.

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St Magnus stands today surrounded by the changing scenery of the waterside city area, somewhat dwarfed by the tower blocks. Its Tower pointing to the sky rather reminds me of a child in a group of taller Children holding up his hands so that everyone can see that despite all that has happened to it over nearly 1000 years it is still here.

Aerial photo of St Magnus (Photo by Duncan -  https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/)

Aerial photo of St Magnus (Photo by Duncan – https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/)

Waxwings

Posted: December 26, 2016 in Birds, Natural History
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Adult (top) and juvenile Waxwing

Adult (top) and juvenile Waxwing

Some more pictures of the Bohemian Waxwings seen in Strood last week.

Juvenile Waxwing

Juvenile Waxwing (absence of yellow markings)

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Christmas Greetings

Posted: December 25, 2016 in Announcements

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Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year

 

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In 1926 when workmen were building a new roadway for the local council offices adjacent to Orpington railway station in Kent, they came across some the remains of a building. This was quickly identified as a Roman villa and some preliminary work was carried out before it was covered over. It was not until 1988 that the villa was actually excavated and investigated. Part of the remains was then preserved within a building and opened to the public.

Plan of Villa remains

Plan of Villa remains

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The villa is thought to have to have been occupied between 140-400 AD and to have been the centre of a family farming estate. At its largest, the villa had around 20 rooms and parts of 10 of these can be seen in its current preserved state.

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Roman Floor

Roman Floor

Finds from the site

Finds from the site

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Evidence of the rest of the villa can be seen in the surrounding grounds

Evidence of the rest of the villa can be seen in the surrounding grounds

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The first record of a Cathedral on this site is from 604 when King Ethelbert donated a plot of land for its building and Justus was appointed the first Bishop. In 1082, following the Norman conquest, a priory was added by Gundulf, the first Norman Bishop of Rochester and the following year he began work on a new Cathedral. This was completed and consecrated in 1130 and its importance is testified by the presence of King Henry I at the consecration service. However, this building was badly damaged by fire only 7 years later. In 1180 a rebuilding was started, transforming the existing building into the gothic style.

West Door

West Door

 

The Nave

The Nave

The Cathedral was plundered and desecrated by rebel troops in 1215 after the city has held out in favour of King John. Despite these setbacks, the building continued to grow and in the following 40 years the two transepts were added.

The Nave

The Nave

The Cathedral was again damaged by military action in 1642, this time at the hands of the Parliamentarian forces. The Cathedral as we see it today underwent a major restoration project in the late 19th century.

The Ithamar (early bishop of Rochester) chapel

The Ithamar (early bishop of Rochester) chapel

The Great Organ

The Great Organ

Waxwing

Waxwing

A good start to the morning with my first record of Grey Wagtail in the garden before I left to join Keith for a day in Rochester.

Our first stop though was on a housing estate on the outskirts of Strood, where a group of Waxwings has taken up residence attracted by the berry bushes. This attractive winter visitor is irruptive, that is the numbers in the UK depend on the success, or otherwise, of the winter-berry crop on the continent of Europe. The poorer the continental crop the more birds find their way to the UK in search of food. It took us about 10 minutes before the birds appeared and they then proceeded to visit various berry trees in the area around us, usually returning to a perching tree before going off to find more food.

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After this we went into Rochester to visit the Cathedral and get some lunch before taking an afternoon walk along the River Medway, along what had been the dock quays but what is now and open space and a riverside path. The bird count was not high but we did find 3 Common Sandpipers, a few Common Redshank and Oystercatchers and a Stonechat.

Riverside Walk Rochester

Riverside Walk Rochester

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Common Redshank

Common Redshank

Not the longest list but very satisfying to get such good views of the Waxwings

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Bohemian Waxwing [sp] (Bombycilla garrulus)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

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Standing on a site adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral, the first reference to St Augustine’s is found in the 12th century. The original church was destroyed by the Great fire of London and was rebuilt to a design by Christopher Wren shortly afterwards. This building was destroyed by bombing during the second world war and the decision was taken not to rebuild it. The tower was restored in 1954 and was in 1967 incorporated into the buildings of the new choir school of St Paul’s Cathedral.

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The following interesting tale was found on Wikipaedia:

The church cat, named Faith, became quite well known after the air raid which destroyed St Augustine’s. Days before she was seen moving her kitten, Panda, to a basement area. Despite being brought back several times, Faith insisted on returning Panda to her refuge. On the morning after the air raid the rector searched through the dangerous ruins for the missing animals, and eventually found Faith, surrounded by smouldering rubble and debris but still guarding the kitten in the spot she had selected three days earlier. The story of her premonition and rescue eventually reached Maria Dickin, founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) and for her courage and devotion Faith was awarded a specially-made silver medal. Her death in 1948 was reported on four continents.