Posted in Food, rural life, Travel

Ancient Steps

Today, besides like 5000 miles (an exaggeration of course but it felt like it) in a car, we also took a few steps alongside the ancient

Hadrian’s wall.

The sheer size (117 km) and location (middle of nowhere really) of it make it quite a logistical accomplishment. It makes our rock walls look little but they had a legion of 80 men per section. This thing, in places, has stood the test of time since being completed in 128! That’s a legacy all right.

We had been to the wall in 1998 on our first trip with our children. I can remember them climbing up it and walking along it for quite a ways. We had also stopped at a old Roman fort site.

It was on our list to make a stop and so I picked a random spot off the map to have lunch and hike along it for a ways.

Our lunch spot was actually the old quarry site so it was a good hike to the top of the escarpment.

The vista at the top was worth it. Along the way we saw a couple of cool things.

I now want one of those stile gates as they are so easy but I digress. Off to the top for the vista.

It wasn’t a long stop and not a wordy blog post but it was the highlight of our long travel day.

Bernie

Posted in Travel

Medieval Steps

Today we ventured into the medieval past and stepped back to 1460 at Gainsborough Hall. This is a wonderfully preserved specimen of a rich baron’s home.

As two people who love architectural and historical details it was a win win for sure. Add to that how well it was presented and the fact that we got in for the “concession” rate available for seniors it was a double bonus.

The great hall is so wonderfully preserved. The ceiling alone is worth the admission price. The stone tower, the buttery (where the butler stored the beer,wine and meed) and the pantry added to the ambience.

The half timbered building was started by the Burgh family who have the most interesting history and connections to royalty. It was built between 1460 & 1470 by Sir Thomas Burgh; a wealthy, powerful and flamboyant man.
His grandson died in 1528, leaving his eldest son, sir Thomas as head of the family. In 1529, his son and heir, Sir Edward, married Catherine Parr, The couple would stay at Gainsborough Old Hall until 1530, when they were granted their own manor in Village of Kirton-in-Lindsay.(see side note in an upcoming post about that town and my connection to it).

In this hall both Richard the 3rd and Henry 8th dined. The latter visited Gainsborough twice; once in 1509 and again in 1541 with the doomed Queen Catherine Howard. The Queen was accused of indiscretions both at Gainsborough & Lincoln and she was executed. Catherine Parr, by this time a widow became the final wife of Henry 8th.

But what really fascinated both of us was the kitchen rooms. They hadn’t been modernized anywhere along the way and the interpretive displays were so well done. Even the ceiling was fascinating with a cupola for letting out smoke still intact. The size of the fireplaces was so massif and the 2 bread ovens were amazing. The kitchen servants lived above the kitchen in assorted little rooms.

The family had the east wing complete with the tour room while the guests stayed in the West wing. Outside on south was a garden which replaces the original market that stood there. It’s a great example of what a medieval garden would have looked like.

The windows alone show the amount of money that was poured into this establishment. That doesn’t even touch upon all the other items that highlight what am amazingly well preserved manor home this is.

We climbed the 49 steps up to the top of the tower. We saw the amazing views but also the Tudor Rose carved into a ceiling that Henry 8th was never going to see even though it was put there to prove their loyalty. Instead; tourists hundreds of years later stare at it and are amazed at the workmanship.

There are more pictures, says the person with hundreds of photos on her phone, but alas I have not figured out how to do a slide show of them here from my phone. I also can’t remember what program my friend uses for putting hers into a gallery of nine. So that means that’s it for this post.

Bernie

I just learnt tonight that my cousin and her husband went to a Hunt Ball in the late 70’s in the great hall before it became a museum. How cool is that?

Posted in Random ramblings

The “Story”

They sat, side by side, anchoring the material together alongside their sisterhood. Shaded from the autumn heat by the veranda, their cane chairs creaking as they stitched. The quiet conversation lost to the sound of the crispy colourful leaves rustling in the breeze. The scent of fall in the air hidden by the tantalizing aroma of the turkey roasting in the oven. Much earlier in the day the brothers had dispatched, with minimal wasted movements or chatter, that job. Now they were tidying up after the harvest season and anticipating how tasty supper would be.

Thanksgiving on the farm meant turkey and dressing but also apple salad, turnips and pickled carrots. The pumpkin pies, handcrafted by the mother, were cooling and the morning milk had been separated for whipping cream. The likes of which could not be found in a store, ever.

The farm sits nestled back from the road with the tall red barn beckoning the prosperity that these second generation farmers were enjoying.

100% of what I have written is conjecture except that implies someone like an expert witness who can draw conclusions. What I’ve written is a romantic vision of my ancestral home deep in the heart of Midhurst County Ontario.

The two women on the porch are my grandmother, Jean Boady Spence, and her sister Eunice. In the fall of 1916 they would have been intently sewing on her trousseau and wedding gown as her wedding was set for January 1917. Her mother, that my dad remembers as grandma Spence, would have been overseeing their activities. Were all four brothers still there, of that I’m uncertain. I’ve never done a World War I search to see if Ernest, Harvey, Jim or John served overseas but being from a farm perhaps not. I don’t recall any family stories from my dad or uncles about relative in the trenches.

I also know that my Bompa, Henry Norman Dunn, was born in Ontario and moved west with his brother, Jo in 1904. How he met my grandmother my mom and I do not remember if indeed we ever knew. We do know he went east to marry her and returned in the spring to Ogema, Saskatchewan. But sometimes the barren facts seem so sparse that I like to daydream of stories and scenes from their life.

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Which begs the question of why I never asked my Nanna her life story. She died when I was 22 so I had ample opportunity but somehow at the time it didn’t seem important. So now I am drawing out stories from my mom, looking at my scribbled notes from talking to my dad and hitting the internet to see what it says. Apparently it’s good to have a unique name.

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But now the details lay lost in time. Tidbits remain half forgotten half remembered by a few relatives. So much becomes blurred as time marches on and yet the old photos remain. Sadly there is no one to point out who is who. But is it important?

I find myself grappling with this question on a threefold front.

As a new grandmother I wonder what will be remembered of my life and times after I am gone. Will our grandchild(ren) know how her grandparents met or where they were married? What info will have been passed along and what will have slipped away into dust.

But I’m not being just morbid here because sharing and knowing your family history is like your own tree of life. And the second front demonstrates that. My dad’s younger sister moved to British Columbia in the early 50’s so her children didn’t get to do family suppers and holidays with a big family. They weren’t, intrinsically on an absorption level at the dining room table, exposed to the same amount of family lore. I started back down into the family tree because of a request from my BC cousin. Her mom is gone now and so when she needed some info for her son’s upcoming wedding she turned to the prairie cousins. I had the info because I’m interested and love the bigger “longer” picture backwards.

Which is why, on the third front, I’m saddened. On my mother’s parental side we’ve had world wide reunions since the 1980’s. The England Canada visiting started during the second world war with my Uncle, continued with his cousin to Moose Jaw and then my mom to England in the 70’s. Our Bowyer Bradford side was having a family gathering in Riverhurst and when two Ontario cousins and the English/Auzzie cousin showed up a world wide theme was born. Every five years we travelled somewhere; Australia, England, Ontario or good old Moose Jaw or Riverhurst. No one this year wanted to host in Ontario and I was seriously tempted to myself even though it would be hard from a distance. We created such good connections from our reunions and fostered ties that were forged before 1900 in Bottisham England.

Four generations of Bradford’s

I guess times change and people move on. If we keep the individual family connections up then Baby A will remember going skiing at her grandmother’s cousins place in Castelgar or Spencer will remember getting together with Felicity in Liverpool. Those threads of memory can bind us together.

Bernie