Archive for HISTORY

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

Something to crow about?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2020 by echostains

Crow by Arthur Rackham

The other day, feeling a bit miserable looking at the battering rain and dark skies, I began to add some gothic pins to my Pinterest. I came across some crow related items and thought that it would make a good blog theme.

I was struck by the number of Crow pictures I came across.

A murder of crows

A ‘murder of crows’ is a medieval collective term for these birds. Poor people believed that the birds were sent by the devil and were really witches in disguise.

What is it about crows that makes them look so sinister? Traditionally the colour black is associated with mystery, though technically black is not an actual colour, as it completely absorbs colours. That is indeed a mystery in itself, though only one of them.

Black – the ‘colour’ of mystery

The Norse God Odin is sometimes depicted with a another black bird – a raven as his companion. As well as being a carrion loving bird (therefore associated with life and death), the black bird’s croaking voice has become associated with the ability to prophetcise the future and reveal that which is hidden.

Odin and Raven

But back to crows, who are part of the same Corvidae family of ravens. The black bird like mask worn by the Plague Doctor in the 1600s, brought a sense of not relief but more of fear and loathing whenever he was sighted.

Although sinister, the mask actually had a practical purpose. An eye was made of glass for the doctor to see out of and the hollow beak was filled with medicinal herbs, as well as providing two holes in the ‘nostrils’ for breathing .

From a crow being a bird, to a man dressing up as a crow, the association with death, medicine and the future is becoming more black than orange, especially with our political climate and global issues.

Enter The Crowman. The Crowman was also a travelling medicine man who offered ‘little brighteners’ for the ailing from his medicine bag as he went along his way. He may have disappeared but his ‘little brightener has remained in the form of Gin😄

The crowman as featured in the TV series ‘Worzel Gummidge’ was a sinister figure who created scarecrow Worzel. The Crowman makes Worzel many different inter changeable heads to suit different occasions and situations.

Worzel’s ‘Handsome’ head

Amongst these heads, Worzel had a ‘thinking’ head , a handsome head to court the ladies, a Riddle me Ree head and a posh head.

Worzel and Crowman

In Rock band Jethro Tull’s ‘Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow’ the association between death, cold and Christmas warns the listener to be charitable to others who have little and remember the true spirit of the Christmas message:

Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow. (1982)

Through long December nights we talk in words of rain or snow,
while you, through chattering teeth, reply and curse us as you go.
Why not spare a thought this day for those who have no flame
to warm their bones at Christmas time?
Say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.

Now as the last broad oak leaf falls, we beg: consider this:
there’s some who have no coin to save for turkey, wine or gifts.
No children’s laughter round the fire, no family left to know.
So lend a warm and a helping hand:
say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.
As holly pricks and ivy clings, your fate is none too clear.
The Lord may find you wanting, let your good fortune disappear.
All homely comforts blown away and all that’s left to show
is to share your joy at Christmas time
with Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.

Through long December nights we talk in words of rain or snow,
while you, through chattering teeth, reply and curse us as you go.
Why not spare a thought this day for those who have no flame
to warm their bones at Christmas time?
Say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.

By Ian Anderson
Thanks also to;

Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow lyric Here

Arthur Rackham ‘Crow’ Here

History of the Plague Doctor

Crowman legend

Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow video Here

A bit of Ruff, a bit of smooth, good patches and a golden eggstravaganza

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, DESIGN with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2020 by echostains

I have  not featured any jewellery on Echostains for quite a while so I have been looking for something really unusual – something that can send me into flights of fancy.  I am writing this on the birthdate of the Faberge egg (29th May  1885 – 1917), the day the Faberge egg was ‘laid’.  The Faberge egg is instantly recognisable – sumptuous, bejewelled and opulent.  These eggs were  developed in Russia by  the House of Faberge (1885 – 1917) The miniature eggs were Easter gifts, that were given singly and  were sometime worn on a neck chain.

The Karelian egg

The larger more famous eggs (also known as the ‘Imperial’ eggs) were originally made for Alexander 111 and Nicholas 11 of Russia.  Only 50 of these eggs were made, and 42 have survived.

The Karelian and Constellation eggs, planned for 1918 were destined never to be delivered.  Nicholas 11 and his whole family died in an assasination that year and  the year before Nicholas had  abdicated.  The eggs themselves are gorgeous, opulent and seen as a symbol of luxury – jewellers masterpieces.  But it is not these little baubles which once hung from necklaces which caught my eye, but this strange face distorting jewelery by Burcu Buyukunal.   

My first question is ‘why?’  How does this enhance the face?  By  distorting her face, do we then notice how attractive the woman really is?  They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, different ‘looks’ have their admirers, as do fashion, design ect. Maybe one day ‘beauty’ will be played down to be the new beauty. It is this example which  reminded me of how Elizabethan ladies used to paint their faces white and how patches made of velvet were used on the face in the 18th century to disguise blemishes, make the face appear even whiter or draw attention to certain facial features depending on  where they were placed.

circa 1780 patch box

‘Her patches are of every cut,
For pimples and for scars;
Here’s all the wandering planets’ signs,
And some of the fixed stars.’

 In this very short video we see the owner of the painting ‘Une Dam a sa Toilette’ by French painter Francois Boucher (  1703 –  1770)  explain the delicate operation of patch application.  Boucher ‘s art is known for his  voluptuous and idyllic subject matter which is well suited to the Rococo style.  His patroness was  the famous Madame Pompadour, he painted many portraits of her.

There are also accessories which are used to glamourise. Whirls of cigarette smoke enveloping beautiful women in black and white movies  lend such mystique and intrigue to the silver screen. The actuality is rather different.  Cigarette Smoke permeates everything it touches, including, flesh, clothes and hair – there’s nothing mysterious about that, but I was quite tickled about this cigarette collar – though I think they missed a trick by not making it a prisoners or slave’s collar to emphasis the entrapment of the noxious weed. The ‘chain’ association is still there though, and there is something of the chain smoking beagle about this collar.  These types of collars are not new though – the actual shape of  the ruff collar goes back to the sixteenth century and were worn by men, women and children.  The pleats of the ruff was accomplished by the use of  cone-shaped goffering irons. which were heated.  Ruffs were made from a lot of material.  Elizabeth1 had a ruff of ‘ten yards for the neck and hand’.  During starching, ruffs could be coloured with vegetable dyes, though Elizabeth herself disapproved of the light blue colour;-

“Her Majesty’s pleasure is that no blue starch shall be used or worn by any of her Majesty’s subjects, since blue was the color of the flag of Scotland”

Stiff collars, smooth complextions, disguises used as enhancements – beauty will always be subjective and is indeed in the eye of the beholder.


Karelian egg image here

Lots of these beautiful eggs here

Distorting jewlery from here

Patchbox from here

Video by AndSper with thanks

Romanov Assassination information here

More about Boucher here

Smoking Dietrich from this article

Elizabeth1 image here

The verse and the source of a lot of delightful information about the history of the patch can be found in Chambers Book of Days

Left holding the Keys

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, DESIGN, HISTORY, LIVING IN THE PAST: NOSTALGIA with tags , , , , on April 2, 2010 by echostains

medieval casket key

I love old keys.  We even found a massive one in the cellar of our house, and we’ve no idea what lock it was supposed to fit.  The previous owners said that the owners before them said it belonged to the house.  It must have belonged to a massive door which we can’t find….

Alice tries the Golden key

I was always intrigued by the key that Alice finds in Wonderland.  Keys are always symbolically linked with finding the way into other worlds or secret places.   When we lose our keys – we lose the keys to our worlds!  Dramatic? Of course!

the secret garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

When a key appears in a story, you just know it’s going to be a good tale.  I’m thinking of Alice in Wonderland, The Secret garden’ and ‘The Golden Key by the Brothers Grimm to name a few.

Keys have been around a long time.  Just look at this Roman key.  The Romans learnt how to cast from the Greeks but the Egyptians had locks too.  Keys are associated with locked towers (usually with maidens waiting to be rescued), treasure chests, rites of passage (key to the door when you are 21 years of age) and prison.

a chatelaine

In Medieval times the Chatelaine was a very important memeber of the household.  She was the lady of the house (castle) who held all the keys.  She wore her keys on what is known as a Chatelain – an ornamental appendage attached to the girdle of the woman.  the keys to the wine, the cellars, caskets, as well as handy household items like scissors, thimbles etc.  these were all attached by small individual chains to each items.

Edmund Blair Leighton 'The Keys'

Keys are  associated with freedom or captivity of course and have provided many TV programmes involving rescue and escape .  But they  also have been used in paintings too.  Edmund Blair Leighton  (b.London 1853 -22) an English painter of historical scenes painted ‘The Keys’.  I don’t know why there isn’t more information about this Victorian artist.  His subject matter and his style is most Pre Raphaelite.  He did a wealth of paintings – all very beautiful, see them all HERE


Wonderful and interesting Roman keys here

Roman locks here

Gorgeous treasure hunting keys here

information about chatelaines here

John Tenniel gallery here

The Secret Garden, read it here

Preserved in time – Peruvian mummies

Posted in BODIES IN PRESERVATION with tags , , , on March 25, 2010 by echostains

cherchen man with tattoos

There are lots of ways the dead can be preserved.  The elements help. So far I have explored preservation by earth (well peat really) with the Bog bodies.  Then there was water (Otzi the ice man) frozen in ice and found in the Austrain/Italian alps.  But earth and water aren’t the only elements which can make time stand still.  Air also has its part to play.  Dry humid air has contributed in preserving the most famous mummies of all – the Egyptian mummies.  But these bodies have been treated with nitrates and bandaging.

The first body found was a Tocharian woman who was probably sacrificed

Lots of conditions can lead to natural mummification.  Sometimes the air is too dry, the ice is too cold, the ground is arid and these can preserve the bodies, sometimes for thousands of years.

this woman was approx 40 yrs old her stature and red hair indicate european descent

The Taklamakan mummies were found in 1980s on the edge of an old Silk Road in a remote desert in what is China.  The bodies are not embalmed but preserved naturally by the dry sands.  They are tall with red gold hair and it is believed that they are European descent.  Interestingly, the woman’s cloth garment is identical with Celtic cloth.

Here’s a small film which features her among other bodies:-

The Loulan Beauty as she may have looked

Another  Mummy, also found in China is obviously Caucasian.  She is known as the Loulan Beauty and she was found in the ruins of an ancient city on the edge of the Taklamakan desert.  She is thought to be over 4000 years old, stood 6ft 1 in. and is a European Caucasian ( before the Chinese got to China) she was over 40 years of age when she died.

The Loulan Beauty as she was found

It never ceases to amaze me what endurance the physical human body has and how nature can destroy or preserve our shell, leaving clues for  those who come after us.   The spirit shall go on, but we can learn a lot about ourselves by studying our past.

PS  My latest poem  is called ‘Acrostic Alphabet-ish’ here

More about the Taklamakan mummies here

Images from here

Staying at Wuthering Heights (as one does…..)

Posted in BRONTE BITES, PAST PLACES, YORK BREAK with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2009 by echostains

the old hall by day

the old hall by day

We stayed over night in Haworth for the first time.  It was wet and windy, living up to it’s wuthering reputation.  We stayed at Haworth Old Hall, built in the 1600s and full of atmosphere.  This was the original Wuthering Heights!  I’m talking about the very first  film  of Emily Bronte’s book, made in the 1920s of course.  Apparently this film has disappeared and the Bronte Society would very much like to get hold of it! Read about it HERE

the window above the door was our room.  You can well imagine this as Wuthering Heights!

the window above the door was our room. You can well imagine this as Wuthering Heights!

The place itself is full of character and serves wonderful meals.  Flag floors, stone, wooden floorboards, mullion windows and big fireplaces – what more could you want?  A bat did lose its way and fly through our window..but that only added to the visit!  We were assured that this was VERY unusual and NOT an everyday occurrence (I don’t want to put anyone off staying here – it’s fab and the staff and hosts are very friendly and generous!).  So I suppose that the bat must have been an omen of some sort meant just for us …hope it was a good one lol!

old Hall by nigth, a rainy one at that

old Hall by nigth, a rainy one at that


So many mysteries lately, disappearing films, visits from bats and the unearthing of a possible Bronte painting Lots to think about.

Haworth Old Hall – A Great place to stay, read about it HERE

Recently read: ‘The Bronte’s Haworth’ The place and the people the Bronte’s knew by S. R. Whitehead

Posted in BOOKS! DEAR READER I READ IT, BRONTE BITES with tags , , , on May 6, 2009 by echostains




I bought this book on my recent visit to Haworth.  I got it from the Parsonage Museum shop where there are copious amounts of Bronte books, new ones are coming out all the time and it’s hard to keep track of them.

This book one deals with the Bronte’s relationship with their village,the people who lived there and the Bronte’s  own place in the community.  The book has some old pictures which I’ve never seen before.  It is well written and informative and sets the famous writers in context to their environment.  It is a short book, (just over 150 pages or so), but it is well worth reading to get the idea of the environment the Brontes lived and ultimately died in and the history of the Church and village in its moorland setting.  If going to visit, then this book is  a must.