It’s frequently claimed that the arts and cultural life of the UK revolves around London; that visitors, funding and innovation sit unfairly weighted within the capital. However, there are many incredible attractions outside of the capital, including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a hugely rich hub for art and sculpture, but most excitingly the landscape which surrounds it is so integral to its offering, making it uniquely special.
A new visitors’ centre has been built recently, providing a wonderful hub to your visit, with great coffee and a brilliant shop, and therefore somewhere perfect to shelter from any possible inclement weather [not that Yorkshire would ever suffer from that…].
There are a huge variety of sculptures from a number of artists, including Barbara Hepworth, Damien Hirst, and Henry Moore, and we particularly loved some of the more colourful artworks and how they were offset against the slightly grey day. Below is Niki de Saint Phalle’s Buddha:
Last weekend we found ourselves in beautiful York for a wedding of two close friends. They had chosen The Hospitium in the York Museum Gardens, an intimate 14th century, two-storey building which was the perfect setting for their ceremony, dinner and dancing.
The next day, we met up with some family for a stroll around the centre of York, which is one of our favourite cities (and, for once, we weren’t there to sing!). The day started as every Sunday should [apparently], with tea – and this time we went all out at Betty’s. Yes, we probably should have gone to Harrogate, but this Southerner had never experienced Betty’s at all and was too excited to wait any longer. It lived up to the hype: silver teapots, cosy corners and very good tea.
We walked down the cobbled streets to explore some of the less well-known attractions, with the Minster still always in sight around the corner.
We love you, Yorkshire! The time between Christmas and New Year was perfect for a few days exploring the North of England (while trying to stay out of the floods), where one of us comes from. Leeds Art Gallery was one of our stops, home at the time to the British Art Show, which meant it was almost completely full of contemporary installations. We did put in an [early] appearance in the creative children’s section, as you may be able to tell…
And made sure we took a look at the one room which remains constant amid the changing exhibitions; home to Renaissance and Victorian works by a range of artists, The Temptation of Sir Percival was one which caught our eye. Painted by Arthur Hacker in 1894, it depicts Percival, one of the Round Table knights, being tempted in his piety by a beautiful, predatory maiden. Excalibur of course features in the painting, as the counterfoil to her advances, and we particularly liked the use of colour and emotion in a classical scene.
Neither of us had visited Lincoln for a long time (I had once, at university) and had forgotten quite how stunning it is. Perched up the appropriately-named ‘Steep Hill’, the cathedral looks out over the city.
As John Ruskin said, “I have always held and proposed against all comers to maintain that the Cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles.” [And I whole-heartedly agree with him.]
Building started in 1088, under William the Conqueror’s instruction, and in heavy Norman style, opposite the castle he had already built across the city. Around 100 years later, a fire and an earthquake between them caused extensive damage to the great building, and parts were rebuilt in the Gothic style, which included the use of flying buttressing to enable huge stained glass windows, and pointed arches replacing the original rounded ones.
After Nostell yesterday, we then headed to Hardwick Hall. Although pretty cloudy (see below), it was stunning. This year, the house is celebrating its association with Arbella Stuart, niece of Mary, Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick’s protegee. Bess, Arbella’s grandmother, built the house and attempted throughout Arbella’s youth to realise her not insubstantial claim to the English throne. Arbella had other ideas, however, and ended up imprisoned in the Tower after a secret marriage.
Gripping as it is, the experience of the house runs alongside and yet beyond these two fiesty Elizabethan women. Built in 1590, the house is one of the earliest examples of English Renaissance architecture, and seems to herald the arrival of the ‘country house’. Its very structure has been built to accommodate the more traditional hierarchy of master and servant, with very separate living quarters and ceiling height and scale to reflect the seniority of that room’s inhabitants. It also sees a move toward the more decorative architectural style, and a departure from the fortifications of castles of old.
Today on the blog we have two very special properties to help you make the most of that National Trust membership! (Even without it, entry fees were reasonable.)
We have a family in Leeds, so headed up there for the weekend. First stop was Nostell Priory, featuring a beautifully symmetrical exterior… [although, if you look closely, you’ll notice some damage on the left-hand side from a fire in 1980]
And an interesting lighting project, From Gloom to Glow, where they cast light on previously hidden objects. It certainly made for some dramatic photographs!
I suppose Cambridge is easier to get to from London. And it is quite pretty, I guess. And a *fairly* good university… [I’m not going to rise to any of this. Some people are just jealous.] Nonetheless, I was very excited to give the tour of my own university, way up at the other end of the country in the tiny city of Durham.
Even more special to me, though, was a visit to my old college, University College, or Castle as it’s known. It is, indeed, a castle, built in the 11th century [although the keep was rebuilt in Victorian times] to defend against marauding Scots, and was lived in by the Prince Bishops before the students took over.
I lived in the keep, with a very lovely roommate:
Sang (often hungover) in the tiny Tunstall Chapel, built in 1540:
I had a “fun” weekend of flat hunting, so unfortunately we didn’t have time to go anywhere this week. Instead, here are some pictures from a trip I made to Lotherton Hall while I was at home visiting my parents over Christmas.
The hall is an Edwardian house and country estate, which is also home to a bird garden with an impressive selection of over 130 different species.
Over Christmas, while at home with my parents in the North, I visited the nearby Donkey Sanctuary.
The sanctuary is home to a variety of donkeys who have been rescued from poor treatment elsewhere. This site is one of many across the country run by the national Donkey Sanctuary charity, which was founded in 1969 by a Yorkshire-woman, Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE.
While I was back North, I spent a day in Bradford, which has a variety of free museums run by the council. Being a bit of an engineering nerd naturally meant that the Industrial Museum was first on the list. They have a variety of machines, many of which are kept in working order and run throughout the day.
After exploring the steam engines, there is a section dedicated to the evolution of the printing press, and how the process was gradually automated and optimised.