Thursday, 23 October 2008

Waltham Abbey

Yesterday we woke to our first frost of the season which resulted in glorious clear skies so it was not a day to stay indoors. It's a spontaneous decision so let's go somewhere fairly local. Waltham Abbey is the choice, just 30 minutes drive.

On our way into the abbey gardens we pass this little bit of history, the excavated ruins of Bloomery Forge, dating from 1200 AD. It was used to smelt iron to produce metalwork for the abbey.

The wall we see was part of the Chapter House and was restored after the dissolution of the monasteries using the rubble from the ruined cloisters.

. There has been a church on this site since the 7th century. The stone church erected by Harold Godwinson,later King Harold II, in the 1050's, replaced an earlier one which had housed a famous cross brought from Somerset. Harold had been healed of a paralysis after praying before the Cross, and it remained a focus of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and the probably site of his grave lies outside the present building.
The community of 13 secular canons established by Harold was replaced by one of 26 Augustinian canons in 1177, when Henry II re-founded and enlarged the church to 3 times it's present length as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. It became an abbey in 1184.
Waltham was the last of the English Abbeys to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540. The church you see today was just the Nave of the Romanesque church.

We will walk around the outside and look at some of the architectural features.

And now we will take a look inside.

The ceiling

The Chancel

The Lady Chapel

And inside, looking out. A mixture of images and reflections

An ancient Fresco on the wall of the Lady Chapel

The Denny Monument dates from 1600. The Denny family acquired Abbey lands from the Crown after the dissolution.

The site of King Harold's grave
Apparently some locals place flowers on the date of his death

We are now ready for lunch and these little private tearooms face onto the Abbey gardens.

We go inside and have some delicious homemade tomato and lentil soup
Should I mention the Carrot Cake!

The other side of the tearooms which are attached to the Inn in the town square

Some of the old ruins

Time to go home now but I thought this mural of the Bayeux Tapestry at the town Museum entrance interesting.


Anonymous said...

How wonderful to be able to drive 30 minutes and be in such a beautiful and interesting place like the Abbey! What a special blessing.


Patsy said...

Wonderful history, funny they are laying on there side. I miss your visits to my blog.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, you should mention the carrot cake!
I love it when you have had a splendid outing you top off the day with snacks. That's the way to live!
Such a lovely place and I'm only sad I never went there.
Harold Godwinson - now that's name.

Anonymous said...

Hia Barbara- that was utterly fascinating- seeing the ceiling with the months of the year personified and the zodiac signs. I was looking at the merge of the building styles too- as if they had local masons working in the Norman style still but with a more modern possibly continental architect. Such a difference in styles. I was enlarging so many of the pictures. Thank you for taking a pic of the old fresco. It is so easy to forget just how much decoration there was in early Medieval Churches that was designed to teach the illiterate, inspire, and illustrate the Bible. Wonderful post.

Lorrie said...

Another great visit. And of course you should mention the carrot cake - yum!
I have to choose a topic for a paper for my English history course and I think I'm going to do one on English architecture around the time of the conquest. I'll look up this site for more research.


Judy said...

What a beautiful tour...on the spur of the moment! How fun to be able to things without a lot of planning on occasion. And thanks for including the history...most interesting.

Vee said...

Is Blogger back yet? I sure hope so...nothing worse than losing a comment!

This visit to Waltham Abbey was very interesting. I always like to enlarge the photos...that way, I actually found King Harold up above the door...the door's trim looks so tire tread. ;D

Also found the likenesses of the deceased very amusing...the gent lying on his side on top of his lady also on her side.

Were those astrological signs on the ceiling? I think so.

You always know how to end a day the right way...tea (???) and carrot cake.

Oh, I do like the new items that you were able to add to your sidebar. I'm so glad that it's finally working for you again.

Aubrey said...

It's always interesting, a little hard to process, that there were civilized people in the 7th century, when here, all the people were living in teepees and houses made of sticks. English history is so fascinating.

Tess Kincaid said...

A lovely Abbey tour! Thank you!

Every time I come to your blog the song "robins and sparrows, blue jays and larks..." (you know the rest)comes into my head! ;^)

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

A fascinating place. That ceiling is wonderfully decorated.

In the second "chancel" photo I was studying the nativity scene and then looked at the row of carvings above it. I see the Lamb, symbolic of Christ, and then I see a wolf (fox?) and heron to the left. The wolf is drinking from a bowl and the heron is standing over him. The same pair is also on the right but the heron is feeding the wolf. I wonder what that is all about?

Sue Krekorian said...

I was fascinated to visit Waltham Abbey with you, as I was there a couple of weekends ago. It's one of my favourite places, partly because of its recycled abbey walls. I must also blog about that day - and then the next day, when we went to Ingatestone, Margaretting and Mountnessing. I used to play darts in that Inn when I was a lass!

Tina said...

I have always loved Abbeys and Cathedrals. I am glad I live near a very nice Cathedral.
Have a wonderful weekend, dear Barbara. x

Schotzy said...

Oh my , Waltham Abbey! I love it for a very special reason.When I retired I starting taking an oil painting class from my 89 year old friend who was a professional in her heyday and she had been commissioned to do the cloisters of WA years before. She had loved
it so much that she started another one later in life but had laid it aside for many years. When she started teaching a few of us she took it out of mothballs to finish and as she applied the last stroke, she said, "Now, Carolyn, this one is for you." Of course, I was awestruck but it now hangs in my great room and I have blogged about it several times. It is in several pictures on my blog and in the sidebar. It is the focal point of my secret place where I commune with God. The light streaming through the iron gate seems to shine right on me as I read and study God's WORD! Awesome! I want to go to Waltham Abbey so badly some day!

Tess Kincaid said...

I had to look forever to find this and when I did, it didn't have the lyrics I learned as a child. But the melody is the same. We sang it in grade school! ;^)

Our version had robins, sparrows, blue jays and larks in an English Country Garden. Here's the link with the tune and lyrics:

Schotzy said...

So glad you came to visit! I am a substitute teacher now that i am retired. I "sub" 20 days a year as part of my retirement package.
I do follow your blog- it is so fascinating to me! I love all your traavelogues! Keep posting!!! Please!

Mmm said...

more fantastic pictures--another lovely tour. thank you for indulging us.

BTW, love your new masthead. I suspect all those piccies are from your own garden flowers, correct?

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I could almost smell the crisp, clear, cool air! Beautiful pictures. I especially love the doors!

Mike said...

Looks beautiful. I'll put it on my list :)

Janie said...

Hi Mum
Finally put my last post up for 2008, over at From Under The Maple.

Hopefully it will come out of hibernation in the New Year.

Love Janie

Susan said...

We love to visit the magnificent old churches. We tried to visit a lot of them in our 4 years of traveling around the U.S. & Canada.

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