Friday, October 31, 2014

Imagining Medieval Leicester

  In my attempts to nibble around the edges of some blockbuster epic projects of yore, and resurrect some interesting photographs, I have tried two Flickr tours of medieval places, Beverley and Pickering, small and charming towns in Yorkshire. So, in a fit of enthusiasm, I have attempted something a little more tricky.
  Leicester is a town whose post-medieval history has cut swathes through its historic past, but it is possible to put together a mental picture of the size and shape and nature of the town through surviving bits and descriptions while plodding up busy streets, dodging traffic and getting lost in labyrinthine parks. It's not like York where you can perambulate leisurely around the walls and fit the picture of the city together and conceptualise the spaces. I'ts like a jigsaw puzzle with lots of bits missing.

  There are relics marooned by traffic.

Some very splendid buildings.

Some sites practically deserted and incomprehensible.

Some things displaced.

And some which have gone forever.

  As our travellers John Leland, Celia Fiennes and Daniel Defoe all had a bit to say about Leicester, we can see how it changed. Links to other photographic sites have been included, as I had not spent as much time in Leicester as some places and some buildings were just not accessible at the time. And of course it is just a wee bit topical right now.
  The system is as before. Start here then click your way through, scrolling, meandering and diverting as you will. Eventually all these bits and pieces will come together into something with coherence and some themes. Optimist, me.
  Now I had better give my brain a rest and just get on with cleaning up and cataloguing all my medieval images. Besides, I'm sick of trying to copy type 16th and 17th century spelling. Bon voyage.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Another Medieval Day Trip - Pickering, Yorkshire

  Continuing the theme of trying to integrate some old resources into little explorations of medieval places (See previous blog post for the background.) the latest little adventure is to Pickering in Yorkshire. This fits the baby steps into small and not too complicated sites, as Pickering has just two notable medieval monuments, a church and a castle.
  The down side of following the formula that I started with Beverley is that neither Daniel Defoe nor Celia Fiennes seem to have visited Pickering, or they were asleep in the coach when it rattled through. This rather messes with the concept. Leland had a few words about it though, so all is not lost.
  The church in Pickering is mainly noted for its 15th century wall paintings, one panel of which, the Corporal Acts of Mercy, I illustrated a couple of postings ago. The tour shows all the paintings, although some of the photographs are a bit dodgy as the lighting conditions can be pretty awful. The pictures were taken by myself on two different occasions and by my son Eddy on a third, and as luck would have it the sun was shining through the clerestory windows on different sides of the church, so something is cobbled together. You can see the scheme, and maybe imagine the totally different aesthetic of a medieval church in its heyday, with coloured imagery jumping out in all directions.

  A huge St Christopher greets all wayfaring travellers who enter the south door of the nave.

The story of St Catherine of Alexandria is told in strip cartoon form as narrated by Jacobus de Voragine in the Golden Legend. And there's much more painted along the nave walls.

  There are tombs, including this handsome knight.

  Although we don't have any descriptions from the 17th century travellers, there is a suitably romantic early 19th century steel engraving that shows the motte and bailey castle is a rather more decrepit and decayed state than it is today. Either English Heritage have tidied and reconstructed it something savage, or 19th century artists liked to embellish the romantic decrepitude of historic places, and they always had sheep or cows and rustic yokels in them.

  In its preserved state it serves as a pretty picnic spot for those who like a touch of history with their potted meat sandwiches and pork pies, and then there is a chance for an excursion on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, one of the best historical steam railways in England. That isn't medieval but it's damned good fun.
  To do the tour, start here . Read the blurb, look at the map, click on the first picture and off you go. You have to scroll down to get the commentary.
  Now, in this meandering ramble through old resources, where do I go next? 

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Little Experiment in Medieval Beverley

  Many years ago, when computers had numbers that ended in *86 and Windows 3.11 was considered the ultimate improvement, I started messing around with multimedia to see how it could be used to present various aspects of medieval history. I was way, way too early. Everything I did back then is now unusable, and Medieval Writing was the only project to be rescued from the wreckage and developed in newer formats.
  Other projects that were being worked on included a guide to the medieval church, of which the only relics are some extracted text files and a Glossary of the Medieval Church, now on the web in totally primitive form. There was an animated medieval atlas, which rapidly morphed into something that looked like a cross between Dungeons and Dragons and Pacman. Another blockbuster epic was a Toolbook project on the nature of medieval towns and the significance of their surviving forms, based on York, Lincoln and Norwich. Then there was the project that never was, about the changes to town and country at the English Reformation, as seen through the eyes of John Leland and some later travellers.
  I have recently been cleaning up, recataloguing and putting on Flickr my collection of medieval digital photographs, all derived from old slides. Not all brilliant photographs by any means, but all telling interesting stories. So here is the experiment. Take a small medieval town, not so spectacular as York, Lincoln or Norwich, but more manageable. Find all the pictures, put them into a Flickr album arranged in a logical narrative and include commentary by Leland, Daniel Defoe and Celia Fiennes by pretending that they are actually adding comments to the Flickr images. Put them all on the map at high resolution, then see if it works. So here is .... ta da .... Beverley.

  It includes big and spectacular things and things now completely missing.

Hidden things.

  Disregarded things.

Displaced things.

  And things you have to hunt around to find.

  So start with the Flickr album Beverley. Read the general blurb on the main page, then click on the first picture. You have to scroll the page down on each picture to get the commentary, which is annoying. Then just click through the tour. If you go back to the main album page, you can also click on the Map link and it shows you where all the pictures were taken, which should get you here. If you click on the Map link under each individual picture, it shows you everybody else's pictures, but many of them have not been placed so accurately on the map, so that might get a bit confusing.
  I would appreciate any feedback. Is it fun? Is it informative? Is it incomprehensible? Is it so bloody annoying that you feel like hurling your computer out the window? Be honest, but nice about it. Please direct any comment to @HipBookfairy on Twitter, as comments directed at this blog are nearly all ads for internet gambling or fake handbags and I have taken to deleting them by default.
  Might try something similar for some other small medieval places before tackling the biggies. And meanwhile I have to continue the donkey work of cleaning up and cataloguing digital photographs.