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.