Embroidery excitement at East Riddlesden Hall

Last weekend it was my granny’s birthday so as a birthday treat me and mum took her for a day out. We decided to go to East Riddlesden Hall because mum had visited before and really liked it but neither me nor granny had ever been.

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The house is 17th century and was a family home for many years, built and owned by the Murgatroyd family . When it came to the Trust it did not have a collection so most of the items in the hall have come from elsewhere, but there are many really interesting objects there, and loads of beautiful Jacobean embroidery!

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Although located in a very suburban area in Bradford the hall is surrounded by green fields and we were lucky that the weather was really sunny for our visit so every thing looks very picturesque. As you walk up the drive there are lights hanging off iron stands with hearts on, very cute!

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Only part of the hall still stands, with only one wall remaining of the further wing.

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There was a beautiful ornately carved bed in the first bedroom we came too. The volunteer told us that she thinks the decoration on the bed was inspired by a rhyme often told to children. The rhyme goes:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,

Bless the bed that I lie on.

Four corners to my bed,

Four angels round my head;

One to watch and one to pray

And two to bear my soul away.

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There are found angles on the wooden canopy of the bed, looking down on whoever was sleeping there, and four figures stand on the headboard, looking down towards the foot of the bed. Could these figures have been carved to fit the rhyme and keep the occupant sleeping soundly. I really like this idea, it’s a sweet notion.

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Just off the bed was a wash room with a surprising feature, a huge window that wouldn’t be out of place in a church.

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This bed was also very beautiful, if you ignore the rather obvious airbed under the bed cover. The black-work bed spread was made for the Trust in the 1960’s  and the crewel work bed hangings were embroidered in 1986 . These modern textiles follow the theme of embroidery through the ages that inhabits the hall.

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In this same room was this very ornate brass clock. It is in my ‘Treasures from the National Trust’ book ans that tells me it was made in 1685 by clockmaker Thomas Dyde.

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The landing room was used as a place the family would sit together after dinner and drink and talk. I love the idea of a family sitting around together in this space, talking until late in the night and then heading off to their rooms as they get tired. I imagine it to be like us at re-enactment, sitting round the fire and then heading to our tents surrounding the circle.

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There was a lot of the embroidery that I liked but these were some of my favorite pieces. I love the dress on this lady.

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This stunning little box, featured in ‘Treasures from the National Trust’ dates from the late 1600’s. The craftsmanship is outstanding! I also liked it’s personal display case, keeping the delicate raised work dust free whilst still allowing visitors to appreciate it’s beauty.

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In the green bedroom was spotted this rather nifty little embroidery device. It is a 19th century bobbin stand and I found myself thinking that I would quite like one of these myself!

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There were also some very ornate plaster ceilings, and I do love a pretty ceiling. Running throughout the hall was a trail to discover the origins of common phrases. In the Dining Room, where there was a very nice plaster ceiling I learnt one that really tickled me.

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The plaster for ceilings was originally mixed with beer, so on a hot day when the workers were thirsty there would have been a large supply of beer available to them. It is said you can see the bits of ceiling done in the morning and those done at the end of the day, as the designs had a tendency to get wobblier as they day went on, due to the beer. This is where the term ‘getting plastered’ comes from!

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In the other room with a very nice plaster ceiling was also a replica trundled bed made by NT furniture conservators Tankerdale that visitors are allowed to try. Of course I had to have a go, and found it quite comfy really, better that the hiking air beds we used to use camping anyway!

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Even though not all the collection is not hereditary to the hall the rooms felt really cosy, and you could imagine them having been lived in. The hall still feels like a family’s home, a very beautiful home for a very lucky family!

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After looking round the hall we had a walk in the gardens. I just could not get over how lovely the weather was, the sun was really shining and the sky so blue!

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The room cards while basic looking had some very interesting information on them, particularly the objects focused ones. Shame the story didn’t touch on the rather scandalous elements of the families history as I think that might have made for very interesting reading. However I understand it’s not suitable for all pallets especially as it was salacious enough to make the River Aire change course to avoid the family!

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It was an absolutely lovely day out, the staff were really friendly and on our was out we even met the mouse of the manor! I would very much recommend a visit to this charming family home, and hopefully you will get the same amazing weather we did!

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Going Underground!

Some days it feels like I just can’t get away from work! The other week I went to Poole’s cavern with a friend and found out that it has some unexpected links with Hardwick Hall.

I have always loved exploring caves and I really enjoyed attempting my caving badge with scouts (until the abseiling down a waterfall in the dark that is *shivers*).

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Poole’s Cavern was a much more sedate exploration of a cave complex, no harness or helmet needed! The caves were beautifully lit and the tour guide was very interesting, coping well with a large tour full of children but still fitting in lots of fascinating facts and answering all our questions. He even took the time to tell us more about the cavern on the way back.

The cavern have had some famous visitors in its history, including Mary Queen of Scotts who visited the cave in 1582 while she was under the ‘care’ of the Earl of Shrewsbury. While she was visiting Mary embraced one of the natural pillars of the cave and kissed it, claiming who ever kissed it would have good luck. However given how things ended up for her I opted not to try it!

Mary's Pillar

Mary’s Pillar

Prior to it being opened as a show cave intrepid explorers would have to crawl through a hole to get into the cavern. However in 1853 the owner decided to open the cavern to the public, so created a new entrance that was slightly more accessible, by blowing it up with dynamite!

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This owner was the 6th Duke of Devonshire, also known for cutting up tapestries and turning beds into throne canopies at Hardwick Hall! For many years the cavern was lit with gas lamps, which I think is a completely mad idea but never lead to any dramatic incidents, amazingly.

The biggest stalagtight in the cavern is known as the flitch of bacon. Apparently it used to look more pig like before explorers discovered the big sparkly rock hanging from the ceiling and snapped the end off! Honestly it could make you cry.

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The Flitch of Bacon

Further into the cavern there are stalagmites nick named poached eggs, for obvious reasons. There are some stalagmites that are now dead, because people have been touching them. The oils on people’s hands have coated the top of the stalagmite and will prevent it from growing any further. They also turn black, a perfect example of how damaging touching can be, not only in historic houses.

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The Poached Eggs

At the end of the cavern there was a beautiful sparkly rock. It was very interesting and the guide pointed out different parts that looked like different animals, including a swan and a dog. I couldn’t capture the stunning sparkles on my camera so you will have to go in person to truly appreciate how beautiful it is.

Sparkly Rock

Sparkly Rock

After our trip underground we had a wander around Buxton and found a craft fair in the park. I bought a beautiful frog pin cushion, combining two of my favorite things, frogs and sewing! I also had some very good luck in the charity shops too, a very successful day out all round!

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My frog!

My frog!

A lovely birthday in Leeds

It was my birthday at the end of March and what better way to spend my birthday than at one of my favorite ever museums, Leeds Royal Armouries!

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That banner is made of chainmail btw!

Leeds Armouries has always been one of my favorite places to spend the day; family days out, watching the joust with cousins, to getting the £1 summer holidays bus deal from Huddersfield, spending hours there with so many of my favorite people. I even used the museum as a case study in one of the essays I wrote while I was at uni.

Pretty amour

Pretty amour

Even though I have been many times before I always managed to spot something new that I had never noticed. And there are so many fascinating and pretty things there, I don’t think I could ever get bored.

The famous Hall of Steel

The famous Hall of Steel

It has been a few years since I last visited so I was really excited to go back, especially as my good friend has just started working there too. We did nearly get a little lost because in the intervening years the area around the Armouries has sprung up, it’s almost unrecognisable but thanks to those trusty brown signs we found our way.

My very lovely little brother indulged me all day so we spent hours in the Armouries, with a little pizza break halfway through at the convenient Pizza Express right on the doorstep! I got to re-visit the elephant armour I have always loved, that originally came from Powis Castle!

Elephant!

Elephant!

I love the interactives in the War Gallery, including holding swords, pulling bows and a quiz on different types of weaponry (which me & Jake aced!). Behind one of these interactives is also a video that I love to watch, a man in a full suite of armour doing a cartwheel!! The video is to prove that it can be done but I just keep imagining my friends who own similar get ups attempting it and the outcome probably not being quite the same. I can tell you one thing, I wouldn’t even attempt it for fear of seriously injuring myself and whoever I landed on top of!

Jake playing with one of the interactives

Jake playing with one of the interactives

So much of the collection at the Armouries is not only functional but also really beautiful. I love that something made for such a practical and often not very friendly purposes is also an object of beauty.

More pretty armour

More pretty armour

A slightly random little detail I liked where the stands for the guns in the upper section of the war gallery. The display focuses on WW1 and showcases the evolution of weaponry throughout the conflict, very interesting. The stands for the guns are metal hands, showing how the items would have been held, a really clever idea.

The handy stands

The handy stands

Though the collection at the Armouries obviously has a large part to do with war and violence the Armouries take an admirable stance on educating about the importance of peace, with several displays talking about work being done to end war and violence. I find the most shocking and interesting gallery is their ‘Self Defense’ gallery where they include a display of weapons handed over during a weapons amnesty in Leeds. It is a very emotive display and I thinks it sends a really powerful and important message.

More pretty things

More pretty things

The self defense gallery shows items used for personal protection throughout the ages, including this little piece that I have always liked for just how over the top it is. It is an Apache Revolver and combines a gun, knuckle duster and knife. Talk about over kill!

Ouch!

Ouch!

We also discovered on our visit that there was some conservation work happening live! I was very excited about this and dragged Jake off to see it.To tie in with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo the Armouries are cleaning and restoring the model scene of the battle. There is a post about the work on the Royal Armouries Blog with some fantastic photos of the detail of the pieces!

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It looks like a project that you could really get stuck into, a long haul but very rewarding in the end I’m sure. The whole thing is being cleaned but some of the lead figures have corroded. Where this has happened limbs might be missing so conservators are remodeling pieces and restoring the figures. It sounds like very delicate work on a tiny scale! Conservator Cym was kind enough to pose for a photo for me with the sections she is currently working on. Each section is about one meter squared in size and there are ten in total. Keep up the good work guys and thanks for sharing!

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The gallery that often comes closest to being my absolute favorite (it’s a very tight competition) is the Oriental gallery, for the amazing beauty and craft in so many of the objects. This gallery also has some really fascinating videos to watch, so we spent a lot of time in here. I just love the attention to detail that has gone into making these objects so ornate.

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Beautiful stirrups

This coat of plates also features some amazing embroidery. It is an 18th Century Chinese Cavalryman’s Brigandine, pretty and practical.

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And there are sparkles on these handles encrusted with mother of pearl. Beautiful!

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I already can’t wait for my next visit, to see what changes between now and then and discover something else I’ve never spotted before. Quite jealous I can’t be there for the amazing Easter joust this weekend but I’ve been working. Well . . . there is always next year! All in all an awesome way to spend my birthday!