A Lookout Point

A Lookout Point
One of many hilltop sites (this one nested within the South Downs in Sussex) where large beacon fires could be lit at the first sign of invading ships crossing the channel. These beacons were easily spied from castle towers many miles away and the signals could be relayed across the country so that reinforcements could be amassed and sent to destroy the invaders before they reached populated areas.

This stunning hilltop area has been a home to man for thousands of years. On top of the hill are burial mounds dating back to the Bronze and Saxon ages.

Wildlife has also made its home here and Blackcap is a great place to come and see the plants and animals that populate the area. Flowers such as the musk orchid, yellow rockrose, marjoram and honeysuckle can all be seen here, along with countless other plant species all of which support a huge range of insect, bird and mammal life.

The South Downs are characterised by rolling chalk downs, deep dry valleys, steep scarp slopes with wide views over wooded farmland of the Sussex Weald and glimpses of shimmering sea. The area has been inhabited by man since earliest times, as shown by hill-forts, tumuli and cross-dykes, while the South Downs Way itself was probably an important trade route in the Bronze Age.

The well-loved open chalk landscape, with its variety of wild flowers and butterflies, is a result of sheep and cattle grazing over the centuries.

The woodland here is equally varied. Coppiced hazel fringes the paths and the diversity of trees in Aschombe Bottom means a dazzling display of autumnal colours. Look out for the attractive buckthorn tree with its yellow autumnal leaves and dark purple-black berries.

The Hidden Chateau

The Hidden Chateau

Waddesdon Manor; Buckinghamshire: Descended from the Austrian branch of the Rothschild family, Baron Ferdinand, came to England in 1859 when he was just 20 years old. Following the tragic death of his new young wife during childbirth, he never remarried, but decided to look around for a suitable place to settle in England. Already living in Buckinghamshire, close to several members of his family, Ferdinand bought 3000 acres of land from the Duke of Marlborough in 1874 with the intention of erecting a property to house his growing collection of art treasures. Never intended as a home, Waddesdon Manor was designed as a pleasurable showpiece where specially invited guests could share in Ferdinand's passion for 18th century French art.

The massive building project took 15 years to complete, but the results were breathtaking both externally and internally. Designed by a French architect, Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, the 19th century brick and stone cladding was used to create a stunning Renaissance style chateau, imaginatively fitted out with authentic French interiors. Wood panelling, screens and fireplaces are just some of the 'second-hand' materials, salvaged from French palaces and old Parisian houses being demolished, that were used to create the beautiful rooms at Waddesdon Manor.

Having installed his priceless collections in their perfect setting, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild was now able to entertain selected groups of people who would appreciate the finery on display, and could indulge in the luxury of these surroundings. Regular weekend house parties were given during the 1880s and 90s, when his guests included royalty, politicians, writers and society beauties. In the absence of a long-term companion, Ferdinand's spinster sister acted as hostess at these frequent gatherings and, on his death, Waddesdon Manor was left to her. Alice's contributions include several pieces of fine porcelain from the houses of Sevres and Meissen.

In the early 1920s a Rothschild from the French arm of the family inherited the splendid manor house, and he established a stud farm at Waddesdon Manor, as well as introducing additional 18th century works of art. Ironically, the only time that this ostentatious mansion has had permanent residents was during the Second World War, when 100 child evacuees stayed with their nannies and nurses.

Battle Abbey In Moonlight

Battle Abbey In Moonlight

Battle Abbey was founded in 1070 and is an important symbol of the Norman Conquest. King Harold of England was killed in the Battle of Hastings in 1066; his remains were also butchered on the battlefield, to the point where his mistress, Edith Swanneck, recognized them only through a birthmark. The papacy later ordered the Normans to do penance for his death and the violence done to his body. Further, during the four intervening years, the Normans had marched on toe London, where William was crowned at Westminster Abbey, and then subdued many rebellions in the land. The area around York, for example, was devastated by the Normans. The Doomsday Book shows the effects of the Norman Conquest; many areas show little wealth or production.

Battle Abbey was built as an act of penance. While it was once believed that William had vowed before the Battle of Hastings to build an abbey if he were victorious, the order to begin construction was not given until 1070.

 The stone which marks she site of Harold's death. This stone marks the probable site of the high altar of the abbey church. The chapels would have radiated from the apse, whose line is marked out behind the stone. Although the monastery was built on the very spot where Harold had fallen, fatally wounded by an arrow through the eye, there is no compelling evidence that William had planned to build a monastery on that site before 1070.

The site of the battle and especially of Harold's death was not at all suitable for construction. It sloped downward toward marshland, and there was no natural water supply.

William was known for bringing many Normans over to staff his new government, and in like fashion, he also brought monks from Marmoutier in France and materials for the abbey from the continent. William generously endowed the abbey with property, and granted the abbot jurisdiction over the people and land within a 11/2 mile area around the abbey. The abbot was, therefore, exempt from the jurisdiction of the local bishop, a privilege which was not challenged until King Stephen's reign in twelfth century.

The abbey church was the first structure completed. The east end of the church was finished in 1070, while the rest was completed by 1094. The church was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. William would not live to see this event, but his son William Rufus, who died an early and tragic death, was present. Nothing remains today of the church but the outline of the apse and the stone which marks the spot of the high altar.

Abbot Gausbert was responsible for building the dormitory, which was near the remains of the reredorter, or latrine. This abbot also presided during the construction of most of the abbey church. The second Abbot, Henry, erected the stone gate tower, which became part of the much larger gatehouse. The gatehouse was built during the Hundred Years' War for added protection against raiders. The fourth abbot, Walter de Luci, rebuilt the cloister. Little remains today of this once beautiful area of the monastery. During his reign, the abbey's exemption from Episcopal jurisdiction was challenged for the second time. The Bishop of Chichester appealed to the pop, while the abbot appealed to King Stephen. The dispute was not settled until the reign of Henry II, who decided in favor of the abbot.

The abbey's royal patronage declined when Henry II's son John became king. In return for a large cash grant, he allowed the abbey to elect its own abbot. The abbey's independence was once again challenged in 1233, when Ralph Neville, Bishop of Chichester, once again claimed jurisdiction and appealed to the papacy. An agreement was reached preserving most of the abbey's independence. In the period which followed, most of the abbey's buildings were rebuilt, and other additions were constructed.

The fourteenth century brought many challenges and calamities. During the Hundred Years' War, the French raided the coasts of England, particularly the counties of Sussex and Kent. The gatehouse was constructed in 1338-1339 to aid in the area's defense, and the abbey organized the defense of the Pevensey-Romney area and led local troops against a raiding party at Wincgelsea. This gatehouse is considered one of the finest examples in England. There are battlements on all four sides, and arrow loops and round end-holes. There are two human heads in the gate passages; one is William, who smiles happily in victory, the other is King Harold,who looks for reinforcements which never came.

Many monks died in the Black Death. Like so many other monasteries, the number of monks never again rose to its pre-plague heights. In the sixteenth century, the Reformation would put an end to the abbey's successful history. Thomas Cromwell's agent, Richard Layton, said, "so beggary a house I never see, nor so filthy stuff" when he visited the abbey. The abbey's income of 800 pounds a year qualified it as one of the great houses, and it was dissolved in 1538. Henry VIII pensioned off the abbot at 100 pounds a year, and gave the abbey and its lands to Sir Anthony Browne. Browne razed the church, the chapter house, and the cloisters. He converted the abbot's house on the west range into a mansion; after World War I, it became a school, which can be seen in the background of this photo. Browne also rebuilt the guest range, supposedly as a residence for Edward VI, the youngest child of Henry VIII, and his half-sister Elizabeth. Neither of them ever lived here.

The Cloister Font

The Cloister Font
The early fonts may be divided into two types.  In the East they were generally small square or circular basons, but occasionally elongated on four sides, and so make the shape of a Greek cross.  In the West they are for the most part octagonal or circular, forming a wide shallow bason.  Their normal depth is under 3 feet ; in some cases the utmost capacity of the bason was only 15 inches.

In Cornwall there are a few interesting instances still extant of Holy Springs, possibly used as baptistries, and protected by chapels ; and the same are to be found in Monmouthshire as well as in Wales.  But the almost invariable rule in these islands seems to have been to place a font in the body of the church ; in all events this custom was universal amongst us in post-Conquest [after the Norman conquest in 1066] days.

The font itself was as a rule of stone, and it was usually lined with lead, save in some of those instances where an imprevious stone, such as granite or Purbeck marble, was used.  Wooden fonts were occasionally in use in those early days, but they were always considered irregular, and in later times uncanonical.

Prior to the reformation, a style of font ornamentation became common, and that was to depict the seven sacraments of the medieval Catholic church.  Fonts at the time were generally octagonal, so each of these sides featured an image of the sacrament, with the eighth side often carved either with the image of the penitent donor, other a depiction of Christ's crucifixion.  These fonts could also be elaborately painted in bright colors. Other subjects also could be depicted, including images of the four apostles, Christ's baptism, the Last Judgment, the martydom of a saint, Communion, Mary and child, the Trinity, and Our Lord in Glory.
Other fonts could feature heraldry, with carvings of the heraldic arms of important local patrons, especially in the 13th and 14th centuries.  For instance, the arms of Archbishop Arundel, who lived from 1397 to 1414, are carved on the font in Sittingbourne, Kent.

Some fonts had protruding edges or carvings, such as a rams head.  These may have had some practical purpose. Other fonts had kneeling benches made of wood or stone.