Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two Henges and an Abbey

I can’t believe it has been two weeks since last I updated. Apologies. We have been doing a lot, as the next few entries will show, and our time in Bath, and our semester, is drawing to a close.

Thursday, April 23, took us to our next but last student excursion, a tripleheader, as it were, to Lacock Abbey and to Stonehenge and Avebury. It was a crowded day, a bit rushed, but, I think, worth it in terms of the experience.

Felicity, who was our guide in Bath and Bristol, took us through the village and abbey. The abbey dates back to the early thirteenth century and continued as the centre of a prosperous medieval woolen village until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monastaries. It was converted into a home in the mid sixteenth century and later came into the hands of the Talbot family, who gave it to the nation, through the National Trust after World War II. Because of its age and beauty the abbey and the village are often featured in films, most notably the Harry Potter series.

From there we were off to Stonehenge. What to say about Stonehenge? except that far more has been written about it than we know about it. Suffice it to say that the area has been regarded as special (sacred, holy) by humanity for more than ten thousand years. The first stones erected here were put up probably around 3000 BCE and the complex was created as we see it (at least partially) between 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE. How did they do it? Why? We really don’t know.

The final stop is a lesser known complex of stones, less fully preserved, but larger than Stonehenge, that at Avebury. The sites may have been linked in prehistoric times, and interpreters have suggested that Avebury with its vaguely sexual symbology, may have celebrated life, just as Stonehenge may have had some curative purpose or have served for noble burials. Bottom line—we don’t know.

So, enjoy the images.

Our guide Felicity starts the tour.

This is the tithe barn, one of the few remaining in the area, where folks brought their 1/10 offerings, in this case to the nuns at the abbey.
The gaol, a single dark room intended to punish miscreants in its very aspect.
Going through the village
The lady chapel of the village church was boarded up during the Reformation and only opened in the early twentieth century. As a result the polychrome of the middle ages, which the Victorians assiduously removed whenever and wherever they could, remains.

I took a lot of pictures of it.
The village

This is the abbey itself, built in the late 13th century and in the hands of one family, the Talbots, from the Reformation until after World War II when they gave it to the nation. If the abbey looks familiar to those of you interested in photography, remember it as the home of Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the photographic negative

Next came Stonehenge. What more is there to say about Stonehenge? It's been there, in one form or another possibly for 10,000 years. Was neglected for much of the time after its building until the 17th century. And is simply a magical, mystical place and irresistible to photography. Enjoy.
Our group, plus an unidentified interloper on the left

What it may have looked like in 2000 BCE

Next came Avebury. Less well known than Stonehenge, it was larger and is less intact. The earthwork, which is the meaning of the word henge, is much more obvious here and the stones are more accessible, as you will see below.

Megan Hart taking a picture of Jennifeer Do atop a stone. Jennifer said she thought I was coming over to scold her for climbing. All I wanted was an image. Getting down was less easy than getting up, but she made it.
And that was it.

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