From Sunday till Thursday we had Ginny and Graham with us on the boat. Having collected them from Sarah and Alex’s place in Surbiton on Sunday morning, we drove to Waitrose in Witney for a giant grocery shopping expedition. How we slotted things into the car around four people’s luggage I am unsure, but clearly my spatial awareness is still functioning – shame I am no good at all at Rubik’s cube though! Not too many things had to be placed around anyone’s feet except David’s.
From Waitrose and a drive through the town (we were on a tight schedule to make sure we weren’t late for lunch), we drove to Minster Lovell. David and I have both done OS walks here a number of times with friends who came to stay with us when we were living in Church Enstone – the introduction to it was via Lynne Hayes whose walking group David gatecrashed when we were in residence next door to her.
The walk is extremely interesting and very picturesque, but on Sunday we couldn’t be late for lunch! So a walk through the churchyard and an examination of the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall were our limits. There is always a slight anxiety when showing someone something that impresses us when we’re not sure if the new person will have a similarly awed reaction. However Ginny and Graham were suitably impressed – as NZers we share the awe at the extent and age of the history that is so visibly on display here. We have a long (non-European) history in NZ, but given the building materials available in NZ (wood, flax, mud), not many places have survived – at home, redoubts, forts and hangi (cooking) pits are viewable, but as many are on private land without the wonderful system of public footpaths and access that operates here in the UK, we often cannot easily see them.
The Minster Lovell Hall (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/minster-lovell-hall-and-dovecote/) was owned by a supporter of Richard III, and he was dispossessed by Henry VII when Richard was killed. (Please get Josephine Tey’s book Daughter of Time [available on Kindle] and read a researched account of Richard III – it will disabuse you of the untruths in Shakespeare’s play, which is what most of us take our view of that period from – not that I blame Shakespeare, mind you: he was fed the same lies as everyone else.)
|The entranceway with cobbles dating back over 500 years|
|Inside the Great Hall|
|The kitchens were directly in front of where we are standing|
|The tower which still has the remnants of a staircase|
From the website:
There has been a manor house at Minster Lovell since at least the 12th century, but the major part of the ruins seen today are those of a large new house built by William, Baron of Lovell and Holand, in the 1430s after his return from the French wars. Through marriage and good fortune William was one of the richest men in England, and he built his house as a demonstration of his wealth.
William’s son John, a prominent Lancastrian and servant of Henry VI, was rewarded with the position of master forester of the neighbouring royal forest, Wychwood. By contrast, John’s son Francis, the ninth baron, served the Yorkist cause, and was created Viscount Lovell by Richard III.
Following the defeat of the House of York in the battle of Bosworth in 1485 the hall passed into the hands of the Crown (ie confiscated – McD note) and eventually, in 1602, into the possession of the successful lawyer Sir Edward Coke. His descendant Thomas Coke, later Earl of Leicester, was in residence in 1721 and in 1728 he assumed the title Lord Lovell of Minster Lovell. The hall was, however, abandoned in favour of the Cokes’ seat at Holkham, Norfolk, begun in the 1730s, and in about 1747 most of the buildings were dismantled, the east and west ranges and the kitchens being demolished for building stone.
One of the amazing things about this place is the ease of access and lack of guardrails, fencing and restraints in place. The walls are clearly strong and stable, and no one needs their access limited. But honestly, it is being able to envisage the everyday life of people living here, because of the extent of the remains and the explanatory signage that makes it so special.
Then on we went – mustn’t be late for lunch. We had booked at the Crown Inn, two doors up from where we used to live in Church Enstone. Tony and Caroline are still the proprietors, Tony is the chef and Caroline front of house. The food is still great and the service is friendly and warm. Ginny and Graham were both very impressed. And the menu still includes the salmon fishcakes in a thai chilli mayo – absolutely yummy! Roast pork for mains and no desserts required – that was sad as there were some lovely choices available. But it was a good thing, as how would I choose among the crème brulee, the chocolate mousse and the panacotta? Unkind!!
A walk around the village after lunch – it was nostalgic for David and me and we once again thought how lucky we had been to have had the opportunity to live there.
Then into the car and back to the boat – we weren’t on a deadline, but we had Tony and Helen from nb Holderness joining us for dinner so we had to look sharpish. Given the overindulgence at lunch which I had somehow foretold, I had planned pumpkin and sweet potato soup, extensive nibbles and a Helen-provided dessert. Still too much!!!
Tony was in fine form, performing for the antipodeans, and it was a late night! Helen, as always, was lovely …