Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Pride of Northampton

On the Market Square

Becketts Park

This one is rather tenuously called 'Alion Carr'and is based on one of Northamptons famous sons - The Comedian Alan Carr who was born in Northampton.

Outside All Saints Church

This fine fellow was standing guard outside the Town Hall

Popped into Northampton Town Centre one lunchtime last week on the works courtesy bus. Or the 'Magical Mystery Tour' as I like to call it. The bus is an experience in itself as you are never quite sure if it will turn up. It is always a relief to arrive safely and without any road rage incidents or driver getting lost!

On arrival in the Centre I was greeted with a strange sight ? Lots of different multi coloured 5ft lions mounted on plinths. All very bizarre even by Northampton standards.

Apparently the Pride of Northampton will be a ten-week public art exhibition organised by Northampton Borough Council working with specialist art events and education company Wild In Art.
Each lion sculpture is sponsored by a business, individual or community group and local artists have decorated the lions and bring them to life. At the end of the summer the sculptures will be auctioned to raise money for charity.

I can't help thinking that there are going to be some 'interesting' sights particularly on a Saturday night when the pubs anc clubs are emptying??

Whatever happens i'm sure it will be a 'Roaring Success'and the 'Mane Attraction' groan.......

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Hellfire Caves

Sukis Ghost

Amongst the labyrinth of Gothic arches there have been a number of reported ghostly sightings.
Suki was a servant girl who was employed at the nearby Public House, the George and Dragon. Apparently she was most appealing and had high hopes of being noticed by the local squires and nobility. She desired to be a bride of an aristocrat. As such, she kept herself pure and rejected the propositions of the local lads who grew increasingly irritated by her manner. There came a day when a young and wealthy nobleman visited the George and Dragon and seemed quite taken with Suki who flirted “most seriously” with him.
After he departed the angry local lads who had witnessed this interchange decided to teach Suki a lesson. Apparently, they wrote her a letter purportedly from the young man that she had just met. It stated the he wanted to elope with her and that she was to meet him in the caves in her wedding dress. Suki did as she was asked and arrived at the caves to find that she had been tricked and it is said that “Stones were thrown”. It seems that one struck Suki on the head and she collapsed to the ground. Horrified at what they had done the young men carried her to the Inn but she died during the night. Her ghost is said to roam the caves and is also sometimes seen at the George and Dragon and many paranormal experts have claimed to have been able to make contact her.

Unfortunately we didn't have any sightings although a lot of people claim to have seen the ghostly figure of lady in a wedding dress.

The mysterious 22 steps ??
Along the passage between The Circle and Franklin’s Cave you will discover the Roman numerals XXII deeply engraved into the chalk wall. Nobody knows for sure why they were carved at this point and various explanations have been proposed. The most interesting is that they mark the starting point from which an undisclosed tunnel can be discovered that leads to hidden caves and passages that contain the real secrets of the Friars of St. Francis. A contemporary poem from this time refers to this as a possibility:

Take 20 steps and rest a while;
Then take a pick and find the stile
Where once I did my love beguile.
'Twas 22 in Dashwood's time,
Perhaps to hide this cell divine
Where lay my love in peace sublime.

The entrance to the Hellfire Caves

The Caves were originally excavated by Sir Francis Dashwood in the 1750's. They were and still remain totally unique. Dashwood was a man whose name has become a byword for hedonistic debauchery, and who is today best remembered as a leading light in the most infamous of all the so-called “Hell Fire” clubs!
The caves were all dug by hand and it is still possible to see the individual pick marks on the wall.
John Wilkes (1725 – 1797), the radical politician, and an enthusiastic member, described their gatherings as “A set of worthy, jolly fellows, happy disciples of Venus and Bacchus, got together to celebrate women in wine”. I suppose thats one way of describing it ??

The select central core of just thirteen “apostles”, led by Sir Francis Dashwood, included Lord Sandwich, John Wilkes, the painter William Hogarth, poets Charles Churchill, Robert Lloyd and Paul Whitehead, whilst American, Benjamin Franklin, was reputed to have been an occasional visitor.
The animosity felt by Lord Sandwich for John Wilkes would lead him to pursue a vendetta against him that would see Wilkes expelled from the House of Commons and ultimately, lead to his being jailed for three years.

Despite the fact that these self -styled monks certainly indulged in a goodly amount of sexual frolicking, and did include mock religious services in their rituals, there is no evidence to suggest that, as has been frequently claimed, they ever practiced Satanism.

The rumour that they did, was probably begun by their enemies in the late 18th Century, and gathered momentum throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries.

There is, however, a delightful, though spurious, tale that at one of the meetings, John Wilkes concealed a baboon, which he had dressed as the Devil, in a chest beneath his seat.

At an appropriate moment, he jerked a cord which opened the chest and the creature jumped onto Lord Sandwiches shoulders who, believing that he had conjured up the Devil, cried out “Spare me gracious Devil: spare a wretch who never was sincerely your servant. I sinned only from vanity of being in the fashion; thou knowest I never have been half so wicked as I pretended: never have been able to commit the thousandth part of the vices which I boasted of…”.

At the height of the Wilkes scandal, Sandwich is supposed to have exclaimed at him, “Upon my soul Wilkes, I don’t know whether you’ll die upon the gallows or of the pox” “That depends, my lord,” replied Wilkes “on whether I first embrace your lordships principles or your lordships mistresses”.

This was pretty much the beginning of the end of the Hellfire Club..

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

West Wycombe

One of the amazing Red Kites that are a familiar site all over West Wycombe.
At one stage in the early 20th Century they were almost extinct.
The reintroductions in The Chilterns have been a particular success. They really are a magnificent bird. Between 1989 and 1993 90 birds were released in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. By 2002, 139 pairs were breeding in the area, a real success story.

The unmistakable church of St Laurence perched high on West Wycombe Hill with the famous 'Golden Ball' at the top of the tower. Sunday worship at 11am each week.

It was a steep climb up the hill to the Mausoleum

The Dashwood Residence

A view of the Dashwood Mausoleum taken from the top of the Belltower at
St Laurence Church West Wycombe. It was a long climb up but well worth the
effort as youwill see from the other photos.

West Wycombe is a lovely, though tiny, village, comprised of a single high street of timber and flint buildings, on the outskirts of which sits the magnificent seat of the Dashwood family, the beautifully Palladian West Wycombe Park.

On the summit of the steep conical hill across the road from the house, is the immense Dashwood Mausoleum, behind which towers the strange golden ball that sits uneasily on top of the church of St Lawrence. Meanwhile, hewn out of the hillside beneath are a series of caves, reached via an entrance that has been fashioned to resemble a gothic church and which adds to the overall essence of eccentricity with which the overall estate seems to made up of.

The person responsible for all this was Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781), a man whose name has become a byword for hedonistic debauchery, and who is today best remembered as a leading light in the most infamous of all the so-called “Hell Fire” clubs.