For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Historic Southwell


A cold but sunny winter Saturday found us in Southwell, Notts. — one of the hidden treasures of the English Midlands. The jewel in Southwell's crown is the Minster (see top and bottom pics), one of the finest yet least visited cathedrals in Britain. The style is Norman and early English, and in the fourteenth century the famous chapter house was added — ornamented with exquisite stone carvings of foliage, and the heads of 'green men' and other mythical creatures. The lead, pyramidal spires (Rhenish caps or 'pepperpot' spires) are the only examples of their kind in the UK. We didn't go in as there was a service going on, but instead wandered through the narrow streets of the town (though really it's little more than a large village; the Minster is known as the 'village cathedral'). We ended up in a little Saturday market, passing this quaint sweet shop on the way:


At lunchtime we took a break in the Saracen's Head, an old coaching inn dating from the fifteenth century. Both Charles Dickens and Lord Byron stayed here. And it was also here that King Charles I spent his last night of freedom before being captured by the Scots in nearby Kelham during the English Civil War. (The Scots handed him over to Cromwell's men — the Parliamentarians — and he was subsequently executed on 30 January 1649.) We drank our coffee in the long bar at the back of the hotel, watching the Liverpool v. Newcastle football match, but thinking back to much earlier and bloodier conflicts. The half-timbered walls, huge fireplaces and grandiose mirrors just oozed history.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice to read you early this morning. With your descriptions I feel like I was too. The way you mix present and past is very interesting and enriching. The last photo with some branchs of the top I like it. Cheers, Mick

Rachel Fox said...

One of my sisters lives here... but steps from the Minster.
x

The Weaver of Grass said...

My favourite of all cathedrals Robert - in fact the whole ambience of Southwell I love. Haven't been for a few years, so thanks for posting this.

Ruth said...

You passed by the sweet shop?

Your outing sounds lovely. A bit of history, architecture, food and drink, and even metaphor.

George said...

A nice little outing for me as well, Robert. Southwell sounds quite interesting. I'm especially interested in the English Civil War and what happened thereafter. Some distant grandparents of mine on the Whitaker side of my family (Whitaker is my middle name) were Sir John Lisle, one of regicides who condemned Charles I to death, and his wife, Alice Beconshaw Lisle. Old John was eventually asassinated in Switzerland, and his wife, Lady Alice, was beheaded after the Restoration because of accusations that she had been harboring enemies of Charles II. Bloody indeed!

Friko said...

We must have visited most English churches, minsters and cathedrals and many others north and west of the border as well, but I didn't even know Southwell existed.

An oversight we must rectify. Thanks for the shove.

Laurel said...

How pretty. I hadn't heard of this place. Great to have a new destination to visit when I'm next back visiting the in-laws.

Bouncing Bertie said...

Southwell Minster - one of my favourite churches, pleasingly but not excessively austere. This post brings back memories of attending Christmas concerts, and arriving early to ensure one was not seated behind one of the massive stone pillars and unable to view the musicians.
Cheers, Gail.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for dropping by, Mick, and glad you like the photo!

Rachel – could she be the bishop's wife of Prebendary House, Rachel?

It's lovely there. isn't it, Pat ... and Ruth: Yes! I left the remnants of any sweet teeth I might have had at the dentist ,... and now I'm trying to preserve the rest ...

George, your family history is, as ever, fascinating ...

And Friko ... tell me when you're around, and drop in for a cuppa and a chat ...

Laurel: You have to have a break from the in-laws sometimes (nice as they may be...)

BB: Yes, Southwell has a wonderful interior — not too over-the-top, as you say. The chapter house is a pure delight. The moral is: get there early!

Susan Scheid said...

Lovely place, and that sweet shop, perfect.

Goat said...

Some pleasant ambling indeed, with some nice history. I'm adding the area to my to-do list when I re-emerge from the East.

The Solitary Walker said...

Susan ... yes, it is lovely there ...and we're lucky to live nearby ... Goat, think twice though before investing in the English Midlands! I think I might recommend more profitable areas, particularly if you have limited time ...

Goat said...

OK, I'll let you know when I think I might be up for a lengthy jaunt in the Isles! Could be in a year or so, depending on how things work out here, and some informed opinion would be gratefully accepted.

Kleine Motte said...

m hoping to visit the UK this year to see my daughter's new home. Looks like there's lot's to explore.