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June 12, 2017

Quirky Travel Review: Verdant Works Jute Museum, Dundee

Quirky Travel Review: Verdant Works Jute Museum, Dundee

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee - image zoe dawes

The Scottish city of Dundee is said to be built on ‘Jam, Jute and Journalism’ and a visit to Verdant Works Jute Museum introduced me to the Jute industry, about which I knew nothing.  Housed in a former jute mill in the Blackness area of Dundee, it was opened in 1996 as a museum dedicated to telling the story of this aspect of the textile industry.

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee

Verdant Works Jute Museum

‘The jute collections cover the entire history of the jute industry. It covers topics such as manufacturing, research and development, end products, quality control, textile engineering, the industry’s Indian connections, and the lives of the workers. Objects include machinery patterns, jute and flax products, small tools, technical drawings, plans, and quality control and testing equipment.’ Wikipedia

Moisture tester Dundee Jute Museum Scotland

Black and white images of factories belching smoke, enormous machines, men, women and children dressed in drab clothing standing proud (tired?) beside this equipment flicker through the film auditorium. Until the 1857 Factory Act was introduced, limiting working days to 10 hours, it was common for young boys to toil for up to 19 hours a day. Other facts leap out; in 1863 the average life expectancy for a Dundee man was 33 years. By the end of the 19th century the production of textiles was the dominant industry in Dundee, directly employing around half the working population. Their textiles were being distributed all over the world …

Jute - Dundee and the World, Scotland

Women outnumbered men three to one in the mills, an imbalance in the labour market that gained Dundee the nickname of ‘she town’. It created a unique and tough breed of women, born out of being the main providers for the family. The mill girls were noted for their stubborn independence. “Overdressed, loud, bold-eyed girls” according to one observer and often ‘roarin’ fou’ with drink – characteristics that caused consternation among the ‘gentlefolk’ of Dundee. verdantworks.com Women continued to play a key role in Juteopolis until the well into the 20th century.

Female Jute factory worker, Dundee Scotland

It was salutory to find out how market forces were at work over a 150 years ago. In 1855 the first jute mill in India was set up, using machinery and workers from Dundee and by 1900 had taken over as the world’s leading jute producer. (I remember working with shoe-makers in Clarks factory Kendal, where the footwear manufacturer was closing down UK production as it had all been outsourced to Eastern Europe and South East Asia.) The jute museum does an excellent job of combining fascinating facts, industrial equipment, historical reconstructions and hands-on experiences.

Verdant Works Jute production Dundee

Displays include the wagons transporting raw fibrous jute, massive machinery, information boards on the complex process involved in production, colonial life in India, office managers, the daily lives of factory workers and modern-day uses of jute. It’s gives an excellent insight into one of Scotland’s most important industries. Verdant Works Jute Museum is a must-see attraction for any visitor to Dundee.

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee Scotland

Many thanks to Visit Scotland for hosting me in Dundee, Jennie Patterson for showing me round and sharing her passion for the city, the owners and staff at Tay Park House for their hospitality and Dundee City for a very enjoyable visit to Dundee.

More about Scotland: Delicious Food and Drink in Dundee

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Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee Scotland

May 29, 2017

An illuminating bus tour of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, Germany

An illuminating bus tour of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, Germany

Nazi Party Rally Grounds video Nuremberg

I very nearly didn’t go. There were a number of tours on offer that day and I was torn between culinary (and beer) highlights of Nuremberg, a walking tour of this historic city in Bavaria or the Train Museum. The idea of visiting the Nazi Party Rally Grounds was not so appealing, mainly because of the very negative connotations of the name, a part of history many of us want to forget. However, a number of people had already done the tour and said it was excellent. I am so glad I listened to them. Here’s why …

The Nazi Party Rally Grounds Tour

Nazi Party Rally Grounds bus tour Nuremberg

Lest we forget; that’s the resonant message from World War I, yet we do forget and we shouldn’t. The Nazi Party Rally Grounds Video Bus Tour is run by Geschichte Für Alle (History for Everyone) and outlines ‘the use of architecture as a theatrical backdrop to the various events, explains the function of the rallies themselves and the way in which Nuremberg has dealt with its National Socialist legacy.’ I was on a shortened version of the full day tour; we had three hours to get an idea of what Hitler envisaged and what remains today.

Map of Nazi Party Rally Grounds Nuremberg 1940 - image Lencer

Map of Nazi Party Rally Grounds Nuremberg 1940 – image Lencer

Our guide, Werner Fiederer, welcomed us aboard the coach and told us we’d be seeing some video footage from A Triumph of Will. This 1935 propaganda film of Hitler and the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, was was directed, produced, edited, and co-written by Leni Riefenstahl. Werner then gave some background history to the ‘success’ of the Nazi Party and Hitler’s megalomaniac plans for Germany and the world. He explained why they resonated with a populace exhausted from one world war and broken by the privations of the Weimar Republic.

'A Triumph of Will' by Leni Riefenstahl. Nazi Rally Gournds BusTour Nuremberg Germany - photo zoe dawes

‘The Triumph of Will’ by Leni Riefenstahl.

Our first stop on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds tour was the Congress Hall (Kongresshalle). It was intended to seat 50,000 with a self-supporting roof. It was started in 1935 but was unfinished. Left derelict for many years, in 2001, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds) was opened with the permanent exhibition Faszination und Gewalt (Fascination and Terror), located in the northern wing. In the southern building, the Serenadenhof, the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra have their home.

Nuremberg_Aerial_Kongresshalle Aerial photo of Congress Hall - photo Nicohofmann

Aerial photo of Nazi Party Congress Hall – photo Nicohofmann

As we drove into the Congress Hall arena, the sheer size of the edifice took my breath away. It represents the audacity of Hitler’s terrifying vision. A few months’ before, I’d seen the Colosseum in Rome for the first time; this massive monument to Imperial Rome is genuinely awe-inspiring. The Congress Hall in Nuremberg, which was inspired by the Colosseum, is simply chilling. We got out of the coach and had time to wander around and get a feel for what it might have been like in Hitler’s day. Incongruously, the wooden stalls for the famous Nuremberg Christmas Market (Kristkindlesmarkt), are stored on the ground floor.

Zoe Dawes at Congress Hall Nazi Party Rally Grounds Nuremberg Germany

Inside the Congress Hall arena

From here we drove past a tranquil park. Through the coach window, I glimpsed yachts drifting round the lake, rowing boats skimming across the water, runners jogging round the perimeter, children playing beside the shore and a colourful mural celebrating Nuremberg’s Volksfest. Behind this tranquil scene loomed the Congress Hall …

Park by Nazi Party Rally Grounds Nuremberg

Next stop was the Zeppelin Field, so-named because in 1909 Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin landed with one of his airships in this location. Werner told us it was one of architect Albert Speer‘s first works for the Nazi Party and was based upon the Pergamon Altar, a monumental Greek structure built in 2nd century BC, now reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin. It was here that Hitler laid on his biggest shows, with seating for up to 200,000 to witness his messianic speeches from the ‘Führer’s Grandstand‘. There used to be a huge gilded swastika towering over the stadium. It was blown up by occupying American soldiers  on April 25, 1945. This clip (uploaded onto YouTube by themadchopper) was edited from the original filmed by L.B. Fenberg.

Werner explained, “Speer designed the stadium to become a “cathedral of light”, created by 130 high-power anti-aircraft searchlights ringing the field at intervals of 40 feet (12m) casting brilliant beams of light high into the sky. For an audience with very little to entertain them, this would have been a stunning spectacle, equivalent to a huge firework display today.” The podiums for the searchlights can still be seen.

Zeppelin Field Grandstand Nuremberg Germany Nazi Party Rally Grounds - photo zoedawes

Zeppelin Field Grandstand

Today it all looks rather shabby. A car with L plates waited for us to cross over to the grandstand. The area is now used for learner drivers,  various sports and races, concerts and festivals. The grandstand is gradually crumbling away, as the German authorities decide what to do with it. ‘Albert Speer … claimed that he had used special building materials to ensure that the complex would be like the remains of the Roman Empire and “last for a thousand years”. He could hardly have been more wrong.’ (The Independent article.)

Nazi Party Rally at the Zeppelin Field Nuremberg Germany

Nazi Party Rally at the Zeppelin Field

Back on the bus, we watched more video clips of Nazi Rallies and Hitler’s speeches to the masses as well as a short clip from Charlie Chaplin‘s 1940 movie ‘The Great Dictator‘. In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated that he could not have made the film if he had known about the true extent of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the time.

The Great Dictator- Charlie Chaplin - Nazi Party Rally Grounds Tour - Nuremberg - photo zoe dawes

The Great Dictator- Charlie Chaplin

Our final stop was the Great Road (Große Straße), almost 2km long and heading directly towards Nuremberg Castle, which we could see in the distance. It was originally intended as a parade road for the Wehrmacht, the united armed forces of Nazi Germany. We saw the original grey and black granite paving slabs, apparently made to be the exact length of a Nazi goose-step. As we drove back into the city, I glimpsed the remains of stone ‘seats’ where the crowds would sit to watch the troops march past. A chilling reminder of what might have been …

The Great Road - Nazi Rally Grounds Tour - Nuremberg Germany

The Great Road 2017

Returning to the centre of Nuremberg, I wondered what differences there would be in the world today if Hitler had won the war. Impossible to know, but as a couple of friendly locals directed me back to my hotel, I was grateful that he had not achieved his insane vision, and appreciative of a chance to see how modern day Germany is dealing with this sinister legacy.

For more details of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds Video Bus Tour, which includes a visit to the Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg Trials were held, go to Geschichte Für Alle. Many thanks to Werner Fiederer for his informative and balanced insight into this challenging era and to German National Tourist Board for inviting me to visit historic Nuremberg.

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Nazi Party Rally Grounds Tour Nuremberg - image zoe dawes

March 8, 2017

Celebrating the life and tragic times of Branwell Brontë

Celebrating the life and tragic times of Branwell Brontë
The Bronte Parsonage Haworth Yorkshire - by zoe dawes

Brontë Parsonage Museum

The ‘Pillar Portrait’, half way up the stairs of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, says it all. The most famous sisters in the world gaze enigmatically into the distance, dressed in simple Victorian dresses, drab colours reflecting what might be perceived as their drab lives. They were ‘stuck’ in some remote Yorkshire village on wind-swept, rain-drenched moors, spending their days writing or travelling away to teach children in other people’s homes. In the painting, between two of the sisters is a paler, blurry column which, on closer inspection, shows the outline of a male figure. That ‘pillar’ is actually the artist Branwell Brontë, who painted himself and his sisters around 1833. For some reason, possibly composition, he then painted himself out of the portrait and, until recently, he’s been painted out of history too.

The Bronte Sisters - Pillar Portrait at Bronte Parsonage

The Brontë Sisters ‘Pillar Portrait’

The lives of these creative siblings were, in fact, highly creative; Charlotte, Emily and, to a lesser extent, Anne Brontë, are known to readers around the world today for the dramatic novels they wrote in their father’s parsonage in Haworth. The lowly governess got a make-over as a romantic heroine when troubled employer Rochester fell for his daughter’s teacher in Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë). The Yorkshire moors will forever be associated with moody Heathcliff and his doomed love in turbulent Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). The trials of the abused wife of an alcoholic husband were tackled for the very first time in harrowing detail in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Brontë). However, brother Branwell Brontë is notorious as the drunken, layabout brother who came to nothing and died an alcoholic’s death in his late-twenties. But there are many more layers to their story and the place to learn all about it is the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

Bronte Parsonage Dining Room Haworth Yorkshire - image zoe dawes

The Dining Room; costume from ‘To Walk Invisible’, Charlotte’s portrait and head of Branwell Brontë

I’ve been here many times over the years and each time am struck anew at the inspiring yet tragic story of this curious family who produced such creative talent and died such sad deaths. Last month I returned, this time to see a new exhibition which throws light on Branwell Brontë and adds a poetic note to his helter-skelter life.

Branwell Brontë

Born in June 1817, the fourth of six children, Branwell’s mother died when he was only four years old. He had five sisters, two of whom died within weeks of each other, aged 11 and 12 years. He showed some talent in literature and art and his adoring father, Patrick Bronte, had high expectations of his only son. Branwell’s self-destructive tendencies appeared relatively early; maybe paternal pressure and creative sisters contributed to this. Drug and alcohol addiction plus a possible affair with a married women were elements of his rackety adult life. He died on 24 September, 1848 at the parsonage, ‘… most likely due to tuberculosis aggravated by delirium tremens, alcoholism, and laudanum and opium addiction, despite the fact that his death certificate notes “chronic bronchitis-marasmus” as the cause.’ [Wikipedia]

Branwell's Room curated by Simon Armitage at the Bronte Parsonage Museum Haworth - image zoe dawes

Branwell’s Room

The Brontë Parsonage Museum celebrates his bicentenary with two significant works, Branwell’s Room and Mansions in the Sky, both curated by renowned Yorkshireman, Simon Armitage. “As a poet of this landscape and region I recognise Branwell’s creative impulse and inspirations. I also sympathise with his desire to have his voice heard by the wider world …” Branwell’s Room is a collaboration between Armitage and Grant Montgomery, production designer for the excellent BBC production To Walk Invisible which focuses on the last three years of Branwell’s life and his challenging relationship with his sisters and father. (Costumes from the TV programme are on display throughout the parsonage.) The room is an evocative representation of what it could have looked like at that time, with rumpled bedclothes, unfinished poems, a discarded laudanum bottle plus writing desk and sketches. It’s as if he’s just popped out the Black Bull pub and will be rolling drunkenly back up the hill at any minute.

The Black Bull, Branwell Bronte's local pub in Haworth Yorkshire - photo zoe dawes

The Black Bull

In the Bonnell Room is an exhibition entitled Mansions in the Sky. 11 objects relating to Branwell are on display, including his letter to William Wordsworth when he was 19 years old, from which the exhibition gets its title. There is also the macabre sketch A Parody showing death leaning over a bed and Branwell’s wallet. Lying alongside are poems by Armitage giving a personal response to each item. In an interview in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner he explained he was trying to imagine what Branwell would have been like today. “One of the objects in the exhibition is his wallet and I wanted to think about what it meant to him – it was always empty. In the poem it becomes a contemporary object; there’s a condom in there, his dealer’s phone number, a credit card with cocaine on the end of it.”

'Mansions in the Sky' Branwell Bronte exhibition Haworth - photo zoe dawes

‘Mansions in the Sky’ exhibition

The Brontë story unfolds throughout the Haworth parsonage via the rooms which hold many original items of furniture, clothing, footwear, art works, writing paraphernalia, first editions and much more. Fans of the sisters’ books and poetry come from all over the world to see the home where they produced such enduring works of literature. Their brother Branwell now gets the attention he deserves, in a unique and moving tribute to this sad figure who longed for recognition and is finally getting it in a little village on the edge of the Yorkshire moors.

Mr Bronte's Bedroom with Branwell and Emily Bronte costumes - Haworth Parsonage

Mr Brontë’s bedroom with Branwell and Emily Brontë costumes from BBC ‘To Walk Invisible’

The Rise and Fall of Branwell Bronte exhibition is on display until 1st of January 2018. Wordsworth’s letter is on loan from the Wordsworth Trust until August 2017. For more information contact the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

If you enjoyed this, you will probably like David Hockney at Saltaire, Yorkshire

 

January 3, 2017

Exploring Kendal Castle on a sunny Cumbria day

Exploring Kendal Castle on a sunny Cumbria day
Kendal Castle - Manor Hall

Kendal Castle – Manor Hall

The kite’s red wings rattled noisily as it soared higher and higher over Kendal Castle into the clear blue sky, its string held firmly by a guy in a big puffa jacket. “Can I hold it, Dad? Please, can I?” begged the young girl beside him. “OK, but you must wrap it round your hand REALLY tight.” An anxious few moments as he transferred the string in a complicated manoeuvre to her small fist. She squealed with delight as she felt the kite’s impatient tug as it swooped and flipped in the chilly breeze, silhouetted against the afternoon sun.

Kendal Castle and kite Cumbria - photo zoedawes

Kendal Castle and kite

It was New Year’s Day and perfect weather for a walk to blow away last year’s cobwebs and overindulgence from the night before. Having just had lunch with my aunt and uncle, who live in the town, I’d come up to Kendal Castle for some fresh air.

Kendal Town and River Kent from Kendal Castle - photo zoedawes

Kendal Town and River Kent

Kendal town spreads out towards the Lake District fells (hills), the River Kent flowing gently towards the coast. Hard to believe that a year ago it burst its banks in one of the worst storms we’ve had for years, flooding houses and businesses, causing huge damage and many to be homeless for far too long. I wandered over to the ruins of the medieval Manor Hall; children were scrambling over the walls and chasing each other around the lower vaults.

Playing at Kendal Castle Cumbria - photo zoedawes

Children at Kendal Castle

Kendal Castle was probably built in the late 12th century as a fortified home for the Barons of Kendal. It was sold to the Parr family a few hundred years later. Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr was once thought to have been born here, but as the castle was already in disrepair in the 1500s that’s not likely. The Manor Hall and the North West Tower (originally called the Troutbeck Tower) plus a couple of underground cellars and walls the courtyard and moat. are all that’s left now. Throughout the site there are information boards telling the history of the castle and illustrating what it might have looked like when it was the inhabited.

Kendal Castle Tower and view Cumbria

Kendal Castle Tower and view

The wind was cold but the sunshine brightened up the day. New Year’s a time for reflection, looking back as well as forward. I thought of all the amazing places I’d been lucky enough to visit over the past 12 months. Highlights included having a female gorilla in Rwanda walk over my feet, clambering across the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, feeding flamingos on Aruba in the Caribbean, driving through the Rockies on a Canadian road trip and finding the quirky quokka in Western Australia. However, I always love coming back home and on the first day of a new year, this is exactly where I wanted to be …

Kendal Castle and Tower

Kendal Castle and Tower

Sitting on a wall beside the tower were two young girls, oblivious to everything but their conversation. I thought of all the dramatic changes in the past year, the famous people, part of the fabric of our growing up, who’d died, and the major shifts in world power. The future is always unclear, but this new year brings greater uncertainly than for many a long time. The future is in the hands of these youngsters; we owe it to them not to mess up the present …

Sitting on Kendal Castle walls

On Kendal Castle walls

As I wandered back down the hill, a woman in an electric wheelchair zoomed past, her scarf rippling out behind her. She waved and said, “Gorgeous day isn’t it! Makes you happy to be alive.” It was and it did …

For lots more really useful information on arts and culture, heritage, shopping, activities and much more, check out Visit Kendal.

Kendal Castle Video

 

November 27, 2016

Historic Heysham: off the beaten track in Lancashire

Historic Heysham: off the beaten track in Lancashire

OK, so Heysham may be more well-known for being home to a nuclear power station than for its historic attractions. It’s an ugly blot on the landscape of glorious Morecambe Bay. Visible from virtually any point around the coastline, one good reason to go to Heysham is that you can’t see the power station from here, unless you peer round the point. So, now you know the worst, let’s look at the reasons why you should visit Heysham Barrows.

St Patrick's Chapel at Heysham towards Morecambe Lancashire

St Patrick’s Chapel towards Morecambe

This little promontory at Heysham provides an escape from the suburbs of Lancaster and Morecambe, with stunning views across the Irish Sea towards the Isle of Man, the Lake District fells and the Lancashire coast. It’s had visitors going back to time unknown. Evidence of Stone Age (Neolithic) man has been found around the headland including stone axes and hammer heads (now in Lancaster Museum) and Barrows (burial places) can be found in the area. The curious Heysham stone graves near the chapel ruins are thought to date back to the 11th century. Four of the indents are body-shaped and two are straight-sided, cut into the rock and often now filled with water.The holes at the top were probably for wooden crosses and it is possible that they could have been used not for one body each but for the bones of many dead people. They are some of the earliest known graves in Christian England.

Stone graves at Heysham overlooking Morecambe Bay

Stone graves overlooking Morecambe Bay

According to an excellent article by Sandhak, ‘Evidence is too abundant for there to be any doubt that St Patrick was the first to preach the gospel in Heysham. St Patrick was a Roman, the son of a Roman and grandson of a christian preacher … The date of the Chapel at Heysham can be assumed to be about 445 AD … ‘ You can read more about St Patrick and the history of Heysham here. Others think the chapel may date back to about 750AD. Whatever the truth, the chapel, with its curved Anglo-Sazon style arch, adds a romantic, gothic feel to the headland, overlooking Morecambe Bay.

St Patrick's Chapel, Heysham Lancashire - image zoedawes

St Patrick’s Chapel across Morecambe Bay

This area is owned by the National Trust and the noticeboard has information on St Patrick’s Chapel. It shows an artist’s impression of what the chapel and graves may have looked like may have looked like hundreds of years ago.

St Patrick's Chapel National Trust Information Board

St Patrick’s Chapel Information Board

Behind the chapel is a walled section which rises up to a rounded peak; this may have been part of a small monastery. I love to walk up the hill and sit on the wall looking out across the sea and simply enjoy the fresh air and lovely views. In autumn the gorse is a vibrant yellow, adding a welcome dash of colour. I was there in September for a photo shoot with photographer Clare Malley. It  was rainy and overcast when we arrived but the skies cleared for a while and the gorse positively zinged against waters of the Bay and the misty mountains of the Lake District.

Gorse bushes on Heysham Barrows overlooking Morecambe Bay and the Lake District hills

Gorse bushes overlooking Morecambe Bay and the Lake District hills

Nearby is St Peter’s Church, a simple Victorian building used by the local inhabitants of Heysham. The old village has a quaint atmosphere with attractive cottages, a decent pub and a couple of very good cafes. It’s benefiting from the regeneration of the area, following the opening of the new M6 link road. Heysham Port provides ferries and freight shipping to the Isle of Man, Ireland and UK ports and this road is speeding up connections to the rest of the country.

St Peter's Church Heysham Lancashire

St Peter’s Church

Of course, this means it is now easier for tourists to visit Heysham and hopefully get up on the Barrows for a bracing walk in some of the loveliest scenery in Lancashire. Just make sure you keep your eyes ahead and don’t look at the hideous carbuncle round the corner; it’s well worth the trip.

The Quirky Traveller on Heysham Headland

On Heysham Headland

 

July 23, 2016

Charlestown, Cornwall: Poldark puts it on the map

Charlestown, Cornwall: Poldark puts it on the map

Charlestown Harbour Cornwall - image zoedawes

Winston Graham set his ‘Poldark’ series of historical novels in Cornwall, where he’d lived for over 40 years. In the recent TV adaptation of Poldark, the full glory of the dramatic coastline has entered all our homes. Ross Poldark (curly-locked Aiden Turner) and his lady-love Demelza (red-head Eleanor Tomlinson) spend a lot of time galloping across rocky cliff tops, wandering moors, quaffing ale in crowded inns, dallying in Cornish manor houses and canoodling in the clover. Cornwall has never looked so good. (Neither has Aiden Turner …) The tiny harbour of Charlestown stands in as an 18th c version of Truro, and filming has been going on there for Series 2 that starts September. Following a visit to nearby Eden Project, I decided to detour from St Austell to have a look round.

Heida Reed as Elizabeth and Jack Farthing as George Warleggan during filming of Poldark in Charlestown. BOTL20150921C-006_C Image Cornish Guardian

Filming Poldark in Charlestown, Cornwall – image Cornish Guardian

Real life is not a travel brochure; and on the day I visited, it had been raining hard and was still cloudy. Nor was there any sign of Mr Turner and crew. Even so, the charm of this quaint Grade II Listed Harbour is immediately apparent. Unlike many places in Cornwall, it’s still relatively unspoilt. Built by entrepreneur Charles Rashleigh (hence the name) in the late 1700s to support clay mining and fishing industry, it retains an air of Georgian elegance. The Inner Harbour is currently home to Square Sail (who own the harbour) Tall Ships, which add to the authentic atmosphere.

Charlestown Harbour ship - image zoedawes

The Outer Harbour has original buildings which add to the period feel of the place I walked along the wall and gazed out across St Austell Bay. It was easy to imagine ships setting sail from Charlestown in its heyday, taking their cargo of clay around Britain to feed the growing pottery business and fishing boats bustling off along the coast at dawn. Large waves slapped against the stones and seagulls swooped around in chaotic flight as the wind picked up …

Charlestown Grade II Listed Harbour Cornwall - image zoedawes

There’s a sloping shingle beach which didn’t look too inviting;  a group of school kids were huddled up beside the steps and two children, sensibly clad in wet-suits, were diving off the harbour wall. I made my way past the freshly-painted old fishermen’s cottages, some of which offer B&B accommodation.

Charlestown Harbour cottages Cornwall - image zoedawes

 One of the main attractions in the village is Charlestown Shipwreck & Heritage Centre. It tells the history of Charlestown and tales of shipwrecks and smugglers. Smuggling was at its peak between 1700 and 1850 when a full time living was to be made from the ‘trade’. These men were known as ‘free traders’ because they plied their ‘trade’ across the English Channel supplying not only luxury goods, but everyday items as well. With the government imposing extortionate taxes, many everyday items such as salt, tea and handkerchiefs were not within reach of the common man so the Free Trade was relied upon for these basic necessities; unbelievable when smuggling today is synonymous with more dangerous trades such as drugs and weapons.”

Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre - zoedawes

 There are displays on The Titanic and World War II, a viewing gallery over the harbour accessed through a disused clay tunnel and lots more for children and adults. I was getting a bit peckish so I had to choose between the Pier House Hotel (the big cream building on the Harbour side) or the Tall Ships Creamery. Tempted by local ice-cream, I went to the Creamery. Good choice – simple fare, friendly service and yes, very good ice cream!

Tall Ships Creamery Charlestown Cornwall - image zoedawes

 My final stop was the Charlestown Gallery, which has just the right balance of tasteful of Cornish souvenirs, combined with original, quirky craftwork made by the owner, Gemma. I got a bright blue keyring and Gemma told me stories about the filming of Poldark. Seems that Aiden Turner is as genuinely lovely as he is hunky …

Charlestown Gallery Cornwall - image zoedawes

 Having spent a very pleasant couple of hours I left to explore more of the Cornish coast. The skies were clearing and I was in for a lovely sunset at Polkerris Beach. Ross Poldark may not have made an appearance in Charlestown, but this little slice of Cornish history had made a big impression and well-worth the detour.

Cornish Shells and ingots at Charlestown Harbour - image zoedawes

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Charlestown Harbour and Poldark in Cornwall Pinterest

May 18, 2016

Quirky Travel Photo: the ‘Great Men’ of Milan at Casa degli Omenoni

Quirky Travel Photo: the ‘Great Men’ of Milan at Casa degli Omenoni
The House of the Titans - Milan Italy zoedawes

The ‘Great Men’ of Casa degli Omenoni

Tucked away in a little backstreet near Il Duomo, Milan’s famous Cathedral, is Clubino, an exclusive gentlemen’s club. Historically it is better known,  appropriately, as the Casa degli Omenoni – the House of the Great Men (rebuilt 1565-67). Adorning its facade are eight enormous male figures with serious features. They were made by sculptor Antonio Abondio, to a design by renowned Italian sculptor Leone Leoni (c1509 – 1590) to decorate his own mansion. They are Atlantes (Titans), named after Atlas, decorative supporting figures, their heads bowed to take the weight of the structure above.

Casa degli omenoni milan italy zoedawes

Casa degli Omenoni facade with ‘Atlantes’

I was shown this impressive building during a walking tour of Milan with Milanese travel blogger Simon Falvo; you can read her fascinating blog Wild about Travel.  It’s great to go round with a local as you get to see sights that a tourist often misses. I only spent 24 hours in the city and barely scratched the surface of its many historical and architectural treasures, but these figures made a big impression. In his poem ‘The House of the Titans’ George William Russell refers to “… the tender shadow of long-vanquished pain and brightening wisdom …” which sculptor Abondoni has captured beautifully in these evocative figures.

Casa degli Omenoni Atlantes Milan Italy zoedawes

Casa degli Omenoni

If you visit Milan, search out the Casa degli Omenoni; you’ll find it at No 3 Via degli Omenoni; well worth a detour from nearby Piazza Il Duomo .

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The Great Men of Milan Italy Casa degli Omenoni - image zoedawes

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