Archive for the PAST PLACES Category

A Collection of Time Travel experiences and ‘atmospheres’

Posted in Architecture, BRONTE BITES, Collections, DESIGN, HISTORY, Uncategorized, YORK BREAK with tags , , , , , , , on January 7, 2021 by echostains
The Vikings make their presence known

I have always had a yearning to travel back in time.  I’ve had four of these experiences – well not actually going back in time, but pretty near.  The first one was years ago at the Jorvic Viking centre in York, where you travel in a car backwards in time and come out into a recreated Viking village, complete with all the sounds, sights and even the smells (including urine).  This has now changed and there is a different way to travel now, which I find disappointing – they should have left the experience alone in my opinion.

The house in the Rock


The second one was also in Yorkshire.  It was in a place called ‘House in the Rock’ in Knaresborough.  The owner Miss Nancy Buckle’s ancestor carved this house into rock in 1770 and generation after generation have lived in it.  Now that was like stepping back in time!  At the time we were shown around, the National Trust were doing their utmost to get their hands on the house  clean it up a bit and probably take the character away from what was/is  a family home. The place had a charm all of its own and I still can’t seem to find out if the Trust managed to get it. (I have since found out via the link since this post was originally written, that the owner was forced to vacate to enable renovations.  I have no information about what happened to it since).

House on the Strand

The third time I went back in time was when I read Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘House on the Strand’.  This is a strange book even for Du Maurier.  In brief: a man rents a remote house in Cornwall (of course) and agrees to be the guinea pig for a drug his biochemist friend has invented.  With its aid he goes back in time to the 14th Century where he has lots of adventures.  But each time he comes back reality blurs between the two worlds….  the book has intrigue and a very strange ending.

18 Folgate Street

The fourth time that I climbed into that time machine was last week when we visited Dennis Severs house, Folgate Street, Spitalfields, London.  I have always wanted to go to this house for years and have never quite got around to it – until last week.  We made an appointment and just went.  Dennis Severs, an American artist (b. 1948 -1999).  Severs moved to London and bought the run down house in 1979.   Folgate Street is very close to the Spitalfields market and at the time of purchase the area was more run down than it is now but attracting Bohemians and artists.

Dennis Severs House, one of the period bedrooms

Severs renovated and decorated each of the 10 rooms  in a different historical style, mostly from the 18th and 19th century creating ‘atmospheres’ and vignettes.  He did this on a budget of £500!  I first encountered this man, years ago in a Period Living magazine and was flabbergasted at how clever, innovative and resourceful he was and longed to see his house.  Though he lived there himself, Severs invented an imaginary family to people his house,  and he based this family upon the Huguenot silk weavers who would  have lived in the area at that time.  He called them the Jarvis family – and they are still alive in the house.  Whenever you enter a room you feel they have been there before you and just left, leaving clues like a half eaten piece of buttered toast and an upset teacup behind them.  the rooms are like living paintings.  in fact one room is actually based on a Hogarth painting!

more period drama

The house is crammed full of Sever’s collections of memorabilia, plus china, vintage clothing, ephemera.  But these are not dry museum type collections, these ‘props’ are scattered everywhere, as if it’s been casually left that way, nothing is ‘posed’.  Clay pipes lay broken in a fireplace, valentines are wedged into the frames of mirrors, cobwebs hang from the torn and damp velvet four-poster hangings in the poorest room in the house – the attic, where no fire burns.  To get a better idea of the experience (though I urge you to go if you possibly can)  Here is a short video starring the house – and the late Dennis Severs himself:-


History of House in the Rock

house in the Rock image

Jorvic Viking Centre

Denis Severs House

Read all about Thomas Hill, a linen weaver who built the House in the Rock  by his great great grand-daughter Nancy Buckle here.  We have quite a few pics of this house somewhere which I shall have to find.  This pic came from  here though

Dennis Severs House website recommended and read what people who have visited say here  Severs video from here

Unfortunately we were not allowed photographs in the house, so these images come from herehere and here

Jorvik Viking centre image  here

Stone Hats and a Shoe Tree

Posted in HISTORY, PAST PLACES with tags , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by echostains

shoe tree

A tree displaying shoes in Nevada gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘shoe tree’ (a device for preserving the shape of the shoe).  These instruments are also made from wood – but there the similarity ends.  What intrigues me about all these shoes is how they have managed to display them all, securing them into what looks like a very tall tree.  Were they all done by the same person or individuals?  Are there any pairs of shoes in there – or are they all odd?

odd or paired?

It’s strange to think of all these shoes baking away in Nevada in the summer and frozen in the winter,  though no stranger than the shoes or other objects preserved by water at famous prophetess Mother Shipton ‘s petrifying well in Knaresborough Yorkshire

the Hanging Well

This is one of England’s  oldest visiting attraction (1630). The magical qualities of the water preserve by petrification the objects (including shoes) which are displayed.

Mother Shipton (Ursula Southill) herself was said to have been born in a nearby cave and prophesied many happenings.  Her prophesies took the form of poems, but there is still some debate about her authorship.

Mother Shipton's cave, said to be her birthplace

 The Hanging well (as it is known locally) still displays two petrified hats – a bonnet and a top hat which were left by a couple on their way to York races in 1854.  I have visited Knaresborough a few times.  It is a delightful and picturesque historical market town and dates from around Norman times.  Among the attractions is The House in the Rock (which we went into many years ago).  Next door to that is a chapel that dates from the Middle ages also set into the rock.  I have photographs, of the hanging well, Mother Shipton’s cave and from inside House in the Rock.  I shall do another post about House in the Rock when I find my pictures 🙂

Info from here

images from here   and here  and also here   Mother Shpton’s own website  Thanks also to this site  for the shoe tree images

The Ghosts of 2010


Although I have cut down on my  posts from one per day to one every 4 or 5 days in 2010 starting in August, I managed 256 posts.  I hope to improve on this year and continue to build up Bookstains, which is proving popular. This year Echostains celebrated 16 artists birthdays (another area I intend to improve on).  Some earlier categories have gone and I have plans for some new ones.  This year saw the arrival of slide shows and polls.  WordPress is a learning process and I’m still learning:-)

PS This video was completed in 2010 and was supposed to go on New Years day.    I have had to revise it because it was originally over 20 minutes long 😀

Ecclesiastical public bars

Posted in DESIGN, Lancaster, LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA, PAST PLACES with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by echostains

The Parish York

I first came across a church that had been turned into a public house a while ago when we went to York.  I loved it! (see ‘Throwing yourself on the mercy of the parish these days’……….post)   At first I felt a bit uncomfortable about the idea, – but the conversion was so tastefully done and it meant that the church was saved from perhaps demolition or a really drastic bad modernisation, so  I was very much inclined to approve of it.

The Friary Lancaster

On our trip to Lancaster we found yet another chapel that had been coverted into a pub.  The Friary, on Rosemary Lane has a completely different feel to the Parish in York.  The decor I suppose could be called Shabby Chic or Boho: some of the textiles and colours are not for the faint hearted, but there are original touches here and there.  The light fittings in particular are highly inovative, in the sense that they have been fashioned out of rather unusual recyclable materials.  An oil drum, for example, split in half and the inside encrusted with glitter hangs over a table illuminated by bare bulbs.

ten greenish bottles

A wire frame with hanging bottles provide another eye catching light arrangement.  What looks like part of a tyre, is fashioned to become another unusual lighting design.  Strange vinyl sofas with matching covered tables, interspersed with velveteen seating banquettes.  All this – and carpets, red snooker tables.

Footage and Firkin Manchester

This pub used to be owned by the Firkin group, who like to convert old buildings into pubs.  We have one in Manchester which used to be an old cinema – and it’s most interesting pub which still has the balcony.  In the Friary the real ale has gone from this pub now and it’s mainly for students and owned by the Scream group.

The Friary Lancaster

All in all, I did prefer the Parish in York, I thought the space better utilised.  Although the Friary is a good size too, the layout is a little too haphazard and the layout chaotic.  But  that’s probably part of its charm:)  I suppose it’s a sign of the times that the only time some people go into a church is to worship at the bar.  But at least these buildings are being put to use and they are attracting their own congregation.

Excellent Friary Church outer shot from here

Lancaster legends, lunatic chairs and witches

Posted in HISTORY, Lancaster, PAST PLACES with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by echostains

Lancaster castle John O Gaunt gateway

In our relentless quest to travel further and further into the world, we often forget places which are relatively nearest to us.  Lancaster, for example is  only an hour or so drive away from us, yet until recently we had never been there.  Lancaster is the county town of Lancashire, famous for the Pendle Witch trials of 1612 where  9 women and two men were tried at Lancaster Assizes, 10 were found guilty and were hung.

Lancaster Museum

The town itself is a very busy place, the river Lune runs through it, colourful barges and delightful pubs and restaurants abound.  The Museum has a marvellous collection that ranges from early civilisation up to the present day.   I really like the way the collections are displayed and grouped, going back through time.  There are lots of artifacts that have been found in Lancaster.  The most fascinating one, I thought, was a body that had been found under a car park  (I think) in the centre.  The coffin was hollowed out of a tree and the body wrapped up in a cloth shroud.  But all that remained of the body was the fingernails and toenails!  Of course you weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, which was a shame because there were some wonderful artifacts.

Lancaster Prison

Lancaster castle is a big black imposing place – there’s nothing romantic about it  Having gone up to the entrance (John of Gaunt’s gateway) we were a bit disconcerted to find that this entrance was actually the doorway to a working prison and we were queueing up with relatives of the prisoners…..  Apparently this is a common mistake.

Having found the right entrance we were shown around by a the castle’s archivist Eric Wilkinson whose knowledge of the castle’s history and the informative and highly entertaining way he made the castles history come alive, made the hour-long tour go by only too quickly.   It was easy to forget that part of the castle is in fact a prison and that the Crown court still sees a lot of action, it’s  done so for over 200 years.  The walls in the court are covered in heraldic shields of all the counties of Lancashire and ornate carving provides an impressive backdrop to this historical room.

lunatic chair

I got to sit in a ‘Lunatic chair’.  It is a restraining chair that was used to confine ‘awkward’ prisoners.  the more they struggled, the more the leather straps self tightened.  Luckily for me, the chair was strapless when I sat in it 🙂

We were also incarcerated in a tiny dungeon, the door was locked and the light turned out.  To say it was creepy would be an understatement…..  of course yet again we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the prison (security risk).  


 But outside we took some of ‘Hanging Corner’.  This little place is where a lot of hangings took place.  Standing on the car park where the prisoners bodies were buried in quicklime, facing the church on a sunny day, a slight chill was felt. 

 Castle tour (lunatic chair and scolds bridle and inside pics of the castle here)

Castle John O Gaunt gateway here and prison sign here

About Lancaster here

The Big Ship Sails (from the Fourth plinth)

Posted in ART, DESIGN, exhibitions, PAST PLACES with tags , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2010 by echostains

SEPT 2009 a-merry-plinther-taking-the-air

I wrote a bit about Antony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth project (One and Other) a while ago here and here.  The empty plinth in Trafalgar Square London  UK attracted a lot of criticism  at the time.  People who volunteered for this were chosen randomly and each allotted an hour to perform on the plinth (one very hour).   This lasted from  6th July – 14th October 2009 and lasted 100 days.   There were some stunning performances (and some best forgotten).

The plinth is now empty, but not for long, the work of UK artist Yinka Shonibare MBE whose work explores colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation will fill this space. Shonibare explores through the media of sculpture, film, painting and performance and installation. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004.  One of the main components of his work is his use of brightly coloured African fabrics which he buys from London markets.

Mr and Mrs Andrews without their heads by Yinka Shonibare

Among his pieces, Shonibare has also taken famous paintings and given them his own expression. Mr and Mrs Andrews without their heads (Gainsborough) is one example.  He has also recreated these paintings in carefully posed videos.  His work is multi layered and deserves a place of his own (which I will go into later)

Yinka Shonibare MBE and a small model of the ship

The Fourth Plinths latest tenant shall be ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ by Shonibare.  This is an exact replica of Nelson’s famous Flagship in The Battle of Trafalgar   HMS Victory with African looking fabric sails which are actually Dutch wax fabrics: these are significant to the artist’s work:-

 “The Dutch wax fabrics were originally Indonesian-influenced fabrics, known as batik. The Dutch tried the Indonesian market with industrially produced versions and then subsequently [when this failed to work] they turned to West Africa, where they’re now known as African textiles,” Shonibare explains. “It’s an apt metaphor for understanding that behind a fixed idea or stereotype there are other complex layers……” (rest of the interview here)

detail-of-shonibare-fabric the swing after Fragonard

 Shonibare hopes that people will want to engage with his art and debate about it.  I wish that I could have actuallyseen this piece but we were too early – it goes up tomorrow.  Perhaps later in the year we shall have another trip to London.  I shall definitely be taking photo’s of this if we do!

Excellent interview about this artist here
images from here and here and here

Don’t forget to read my Blog Spotlight interview with artist blogger artatexit0!

artistatexit0 blog

Nature’s Copy

Posted in PAST PLACES, Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 22, 2010 by echostains

Simulacra (plural) or simulacrum  is an archaic term for a ‘likeness’ or a similarity.  It can be used as ‘representation’ in an art form like a statue  or painting in post modernism.  Photorealism can be termed as a form of artistic simulacrum,  or where the artist is copying a photo so that the painting is a copy of a copy.

Ivy tree St Annes Holy Well Scotland

French philosopher and postmodernist Jean Baudrillard argued that the term is not a copy of the real but a form in its own right. He sums it up in four  ‘realities’; 1. Truth in its own right – a reflection of reality, 2. a perversion of reality, 3. pretense of reality (where the model doesn’t exist) 4. simulacrum – that which bears no relation to any reality whatsoever.

doctored or natural?

doctored or natural?

The simulacra that I am interested in is an imitation of a recognised reality in nature.  See kirstyfliesfree ‘s wonderful photograph to see how this works in nature.  Trees in particular lend their form to the human body shape. Sometimes they can make you stop in your tracks……

Escaping criticism by Caso

Trompe l’oeil an original Baroque term literally mean ‘trick the eye’, it is an optical illusion like this painting by Caso which shows a boy climbing out of his framed painting.   Trompe l’oeil is usually reserved for vista’s: beautiful views from mythical windows, but false bookcases, interesting perspectives, and murals.

old man rock

In prehistoric times recognised natural forms would be seen as Gods incarnate – and it’s easy to see why our ancestors were awe-struck.  Fantastic  natural simulacrum occurs all around the world – and this gallery has an extensive range of images.  It’s hard to remain stoney faced whilst looking at them:)  I wonder if that’s where that term came from?

“Simulacrum (plural: -cra), from the Latin simulacrum which means “likeness, similarity”, is first recorded in the English language in the late 16th century,
used to describe a representation of another thing, such as a statue or
a painting, especially of a god; by the late 19th century, it had
gathered a secondary association of inferiority: an image without the
substance or qualities of the original………”

Don’t forget to check out my BLOG SPOTLIGHT  post here! 

This  site has some wonderful examples of natural simulacrum
St Anne’s Holy well image here
Trompe l’oeil information here
Maybe photoshopped image from here

A postcard from London

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, DESIGN, HISTORY, LONDON (JAUNTS), PAST PLACES with tags , , , , on May 8, 2010 by echostains

Just a short slide show of some of the places we went to and the sights we saw in our recent trip to London.  From treasures of the V and A which would fill a whole post,  to the Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields where some of Jack the Ripper’s victims frequented…..

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