Monday, July 17, 2017

Art Gallery of Western Australia - Centenary Gallery

The Art Gallery in Western Australia was opened on 31st July 1895 by Sir Alexander Onslow, the third Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.  Originally the gallery was housed in the Jubilee Building as part of the State Library and Museum.  Shortly after Federation in Australia, on the 24th July, 1901 HRH The Duke of Cornwall and York, later King George V, laid the foundation stone for the Beaufort Street Art Gallery.  The Art Gallery Act of 1959 gave control of the Western Australian Art Gallery to a board of Trustees appointed by the Governer of Western Australia.  

In 1978 the Art Gallery was renamed the Art Gallery of Western Australia and a new building was commissioned to house the states art collection.       Charles Sierakowski, a Polish architect who had survived the occupation of his country by the nazis, was commissioned to design the new art gallery.  The main building designed by Sierakowski is a modernist building with angular walls allowing art to be viewed at wide angles.  A cast iron spiral staircase is the central feature of the gallery, with vistas across and between the nine viewing galleries.  The building was said to have been inspired by the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.  Attached to this beautiful modern building is the Centenary Gallery.  

The Centenary Gallery was initially the Perth Police Courts.  The building was restored and opened in 1995 as a venue to exhibit Western Australia's collection of 19th and 20th century paintings and decorative arts.  The building was originally built during the Western Australian gold rush.  The Gold Rush changed the face of Western Australia, which until that time had been a poor state.  The economic boom resulted in new buildings in Perth.  

Western Australia's acting chief architect, Hillson Beasley designed the building.  It was designed in the style of French Regency and has a mansard roof, which was not common in the architecture of Perth at the time. Western Australian materials were primarily used in the construction with limestone being quarried and transported from Donnybrook, in the states south west.  Local jarrah, from the forests in the south west,  was used to build the flooring and interior furnishings.  The building had stained glass features and press metal ceilings.  The building also had four cottages beside it to house the police and their family, a mortuary, a laundry, a yard and a stable for twenty four horses.

The Centenary Gallery in the Western Australian Art Gallery still retains much of the original building including all the jarrah Court fixtures and two holding cells.  Visitors to the gallery have claimed to see apparitions.  Cold spots have been reported in various parts of the Centenary Gallery.  EVPs have been recorded by paranormal investigators in the preserved Court room.  I personally spoke to a guard at the gallery that assured me it was haunted and some blessing ceremony had been held to appease the spirit.  I have also experienced the cold spots in the gallery.  

It's a fantastic place to visit and in my opinion houses some of the most spectacular art pieces that the Art Gallery of Western Australia owns. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sally Lunn's Historic Eating House and Museum

One of the oldest buildings in Bath, Sally Lunn's House stands on the foundations of a Roman building dating back over 1800 years.  The human use of the hot springs at Bath were believed to have started 10000 years ago but the Celts, Romans and Christians venerated the springs as a sacred place.  The Celts erected a shrine structure around 700 BC, dedicated to the goddess of water, Sulis.  Soon after the arrival of the Romans in England in around 43 AD the Celtic Goddess was taken over by the Roman Goddess Minerva, a healing deity.  From around 65AD the Romans built more and more elaborate structures and temples at the springs.  

Sally Lunn's House is built on two structures.  The first structure was a Roman building.  The cellar level of Sally Lunn's has evidence of Roman inhabitants.  The remains of a Roman hypocaust, an ancient type of central heating that was used to heat buildings and Roman baths,have been discovered.  Painted plaster, Samian pottery, pottery from the Roman Period and mosaic tiles have also been excavated.  The remains of a mortarium, or mortar, used to tease flavour from various plants, also hints at the possibility the site was used for the preparation of food.  

In 1091 the Norman King William II, granted chaplain and doctor, John de Villula, the Bishop of Wells,  the city of Bath and the existing Saxon Abbey, built around 757AD.   Work began on a massive Norman cathedral, complete with a Bishop's Palace.  Work was interrupted by a fire in 1137 but the cathedral was finally consecrated between 1148AD and 1161AD.    The cathedral became home to Benedictine Monks. By the 1500s the Norman Church was seriously run down resulting in Bishop Oliver King instigating repairs.  In 1539 Henry VIII dissolved the Monastery and dispersed its land and structures.  

Bath Abbey became the property of the Colthurst family.   Henry Colthurst sold it in 1612 to John Hall of Bradford-on-Avon.  A lease was then granted to carpenter George Parker in 1622.  Parker built the present timber framed house on the remains of the south side of the Abbey.  In the north cellar of Sally Lunn's House the foundation wall of the monasteries refectory and kitchen are still evident.  The remains of a large faggot oven are also visible.  The faggot oven is a design that dates back to Roman times and was popular until the seventeenth century.  A bundle of tied together twigs, a faggot, were burnt in the oven, the ashes were then removed and the oven was cleaned with a scuffle, a stick with a cloth on the end.  The stones retained the heat and could be used to bake bread.  

Sally Lunn's House has changed little since the seventeenth century and is a great example of Pre- Georgian, Bath, which was dominated by gabled roofs and narrow streets. Charles II was restored as King in 1660 after Cromwell and the somber mood of the country was replaced by more joy and lightheartedness.  Bath became a popular resort amongst the wealthy and fashionable.  

In 1680 a young French Huguenot refugee called Solange Luyon arrived in Bath.  She was able to find employment with a baker who operated in Lilliput Lane, near the Abbey.  Solange originally had the job of selling the baker's wares from a basket in the lanes around Bath Abbey. Unfamiliar with the pronunciation of the name Solange, she became known locally as Sally Lunn.  It was soon discovered that Sally had a talent for baking and she began to make a rich brioche bun, most likely inspired by French festival bread she would have sampled in her youth in France. Sally Lunn's bun was made to be coupled with both sweet or savoury accompaniments.  The bun quickly became a popular Georgian delicacy. The buns became a treat at the fashionable breakfasts held at the spring gardens in Bath.
During the 1700s Sally Lunn's House was renovated with the street level being raised and a cellar made out of the original ground floor.  A grand reception hall with Hanoverian Arch was created on the ground floor.  The fireplaces and ovens were modernised to burn coal.  In 1798, with the closure of the Spring Gardens, the rights to Sally Lunn's recipes where sold to baker William Dalmer.  Using a custom built portable oven, Dalmer sent Sally Lunn's buns out each morning.  In 1743 the Duke of Kingston, who had acquired the land and house  from John Hall sold Sally Lunn's House to William Robinson.  The house was sold several times and from 1781 to 1786.  James Wicksteed operated a seal engraving business from the premises.  The building became a bakery again around the turn of the century.  It went through the hands of several families before being taken over by Edward Culverhouse who baked there from 1903 until he emigrated to Australia in 1919.  The next owners, the Griffiths family, turned the building into a general store but it became rundown.  

In 1937 Marie Byng-Johnson acquired the building and carried out extensive restorations during which a cache of Sally Lunn's recipes were discovered. Sally Lunn's House was restored to its former glory once again becoming the home of the famed Sally Lunn buns.  

It is believed that Sally Lunn's House is haunted by a Benedictine monk that is heard chanting at night.  During the time that the Benedictine Monks inhabited the large Norman Cathedral, the Black Plague swept through the monastery claiming the lives over over half the monks.  

Bath is a beautiful historic city and what I remember most was the beautiful rose coloured stone that many of the buildings are constructed of.  Sally Lunn's Historic Eating House and Museum is a lovely place for afternoon tea and to sample one of the famed buns.   

Westminster Abbey

Located in the City of Westminster and one of the most notable religious buildings in Britain, Westminster Abbey is mainly a Gothic style Abbey.  Sulcard, a Benedictine monk reported in 1080 that the church was founded at the site in the seventh century.  The site was then known as Thorn Ey or Thorn Island and it was built in the time of Mellitus, the first Bishop of London, in the Saxon period.  A tradition claimed that a young fisherman named Aldrich, had a vision of St Peter near the site, a vision that has resulted in the tradition of salmon being offered to the church by the Thames Fisherman. This tradition is continued today and observed annually by the Fishmonger Company, an incorporated company of fish and seafood sellers in London.  

Records exist that cite the origins of the Abbey as being in the 960s or early 970s when Saint Dunstan, an important minister of state to several English Kings and King Edgar the Peaceable, installed a community of Benedictine monks on the site.  Somewhere between the years of 1042 and 1052, one of the last of the Saxon Kings, Edward the Confessor, rebuilt the Abbey to provide himself with a church and a place for Royal burial.  Built in the medieval European style of Romanesque the church was completed in 1060 and consecrated in 1066.  A week after the consecration of the church, Edward the Confessor died and was buried in the church.  His wife Edith was also buried in the church following her death nine years later.  King Edward was succeeded by Harold II, who was probably coronated in the church, however the first documented coronation in the Abbey was William the Conquerer later that same year.  The only depiction that remains of this original church is in the famed Bayeaux Tapestry, an embroidered cloth that depicts the events leading up to and of the Norman Conquest of England, particularly the Battle of Hastings.   

In 1245 under the edict of Henry III, the current Westminster Abbey began construction.  Henry III, a devotee of Edward the Confessor, built the new Abbey in Anglo-French Gothic style.  Henry III also planned for the Abbey to be a place for his burial following his death.  Work on the Abbey continued between 1245 and 1517.  The architect Henry Yevele, a master mason, was mainly responsible for the construction of the Abbey.  A unique Cosmati Pavement was commissioned for in front of the high altar.  The Cosmati's were a Roman family of sculptors and architects that specialised in geometric mosaics.  They used a technique called opus sectile or cut work which involved inlays of elaborate triangles and rectangles made of coloured glass and stones.  

The location of Westminster Abbey, being in close proximity to Westminster Palace, the seat of Parliament, meant that the monks and the abbot became a powerful force following the Norman Conquest.  The Abbot of Westminster Abbey was often called to perform royal service and was given a seat in the House of Lords, the Upper House of the British Parliament.  No longer obliged to perform spiritual leadership, a task that had been given to the reformed Cluniac movement after the mid tenth century, the Benedictines achieved a high degree of identification with the secular life of their times, in particular the upper class life.  The Abbot was known as the Lord of the Manor, a lordship coming from the feudal system of manorialism, as a town of two thousand to three thousand people grew around the Abbey.  The monastery became employers and consumers, building dwellings and stores.  

In 1503 Henry VII added a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The construction was created in the Perpendicual Style of architecture, characterised by an emphasis on straight lines.  Stone for the construction was imported from Caen in France, Portland Stone from the Isle of Portland and Tuffeau Limestone from the Loire Valley.  By 1536 the income of the Abbey was only second to Glastonbury Abbey, with an annual income of  between £2400 and £2800.  

In 1539, Henry VIII assumed royal control of Westminster Abbey.  By 1540 the Abbey was given the status of a cathedral by charter and the archdiocese of Westminster was established.  By granting the Abbey cathedral status through the issuing of letters, a legal instrument that was a published order from the monarchy, it was guarded against being destroyed during this time when Henry VIII was ordering such actions towards other abbeys.  In 1550 the Diocese was formally dissolved but in 1552 the Abbey was recognised as a second Cathedral for the Diocese of London.  Queen Mary I restored the Benedictine monks to the Abbey during her reign but they were evicted again by Queen Elizabeth I.  In 1560 Elizabeth I reestablished the Abbey as a Royal Perculiar and made it the Collegiate College of St Peter.  In this form it was a non cathedral church, headed by a dean and attended by canons.  

The Puritanical Iconoclastics, a group of English Reformation Protestants, damaged the church in the 1640s.  Their aim was to purge the church of any Catholic practices.  English architect Nicholas Hawksmoor was commissioned to design the two western towers of the Abbey.  They were constructed in Portland Stone between 1722 and 1745.  The walls and floors were adorned with Purbuck Marble.  In the nineteenth century Sir George Gilbert Scot, famed for his Gothic Revival Architecture, completed further restoration and rebuilding of the Abbey.  

Up until the nineteenth century Westminster Abbey was the third most famed seat of learning after Oxford and Cambridge. During the Blitz the Abbey received minor damage.  In the 1990s famed Russian painter Sergei Fyodovo created two icons for the Abbey.  

Long a place of coronation and burial for Royalty, in the Middle Ages Westminster Abbey also became a burial place for aristocrats.  Monks and clergy were buried in the cloisters.  Such people as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Chaucer are buried in the Abbey.  The funeral of Princess Diana was held at the Abbey on the 6th September 1997.

Just inside the great West door of Westminster Abbey is the grave of the Unknown Warrior.  The warrior  is an unidentified British soldier killed in the European battlefields during WWI.  The Abbey has an organ built by the organ company Harrison & Harrison which was first used during the coronation of  King George VI.  Overhauled in 1977, there are ten bells that make up the ring of Westminster Abbey.  There are also two service bells cast in 1585 and 1598 by Robert Mot, a Sanctus bell cast in 1738 by Richard Phelps and two unused bells cast in 1320 and 1742.  Pope Benedict XVI became the first Catholic Pope to set foot in the Abbey.

There are two different entities that are said to haunt Westminster Abbey.  The first is a monk called Father Benedictus.  He is said to be a full bodied spirit seen by many people and has actually chatted to some visitors to the Abbey.  He floats because the floor was supposedly realigned. He is most often seen between 5 and 6pm.  The other ghost sometimes sited is believed to be the Unknown Warrior.  He has been seen walking near his grave , his head down, before vanishing into thin air.  

This building is so iconic and what always amazes me is the age of the building and that fact the site was used for the same purposes for even longer still.  This beautiful place is well worth an explore.