One castle a day – Brecon Cathedral part 2

Hello travelers! 

Thank you kindly for all your views and clicks! We had no idea that One Castle A Day series is going to be appreciated by so many people! We understand that castles are not only popular with children and LARP (live action RPG) players anymore. It’s good to see that regular tourists are starting to appreciate English heritage as well.

If you have missed the first part of our blog about Brecon Cathedral, please click on the link below:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/one-castle-a-day-brecon-cathedral/

There are plenty of interesting things to see inside this beautiful building and we could wrote a whole book about the attractions.
However, we do not plan to bore our readers with detailed description – below you can find a greatly balanced review of what is worth seeing (with complimentary pictures). So have fun and read on!

Welcome to the Brecon Cathedral

Welcome to the Brecon Cathedral

You can't get lost with a map!

You can’t get lost with a map!

1. The Tomb of Walter and Christina Aubrey

The Havard Chapel is the place of eternal rest of Walter and Christina Aubrey of the nearby village of Abercynrig. Their tomb is one of the oldest graves in the the Cathedral. Luckily, the monument survived to our times in nearly perfect state and there is much to be admired. We do not know the exact year of Christina’s passing, but Walter left this mortal coil in 1312 and probably has been buried first. Their tomb is made of one solid piece of stone and according to the Cathedral guides, was carved by local master, maybe a member of  Brecon craft guild.  There is absolutely no doubt about their social status. Mr and Mrs Aubrey have been a very wealthy couple: both partners are dressed according to the best fashion standards of early 14th century. Christina wears a cap called a coif and barbette (or a barbet) – a band of linen that usually passed under the chin as a chin strap and was pinned on top of the head. She is dressed in a cotehardie with decorative lappets and a folded mantle. Her husband wears a long tunic and a fancy cloak.  Both have their hands held in prayer and Walter is holding what seems to be a small personal crucifix. Another cross  is carved between their heads. Two sleeping dogs are located at Aubreys feet waiting faithfully until the Day of Reckoning when the dead will be woken up by the second coming of Christ.

An excellent article about the grave apparel can be found here:
http://www.themcs.org/costume/Female%20reenactment%20costume.htm

Walter and Christina’s place of burial is by no means accidental. The Havard Chapel has been named after Sir Walter Havard (Havre de Grace), a Norman knight who arrived to the United Kingdom as a member of entourage of Bernard de Neufmarche. Walter Havard was born in 1040 in Normandy and assisted Bernard during his fight against the Welsh. For his service, Havard received lands near Brecon and a nobility title. His eldest daughter, Annie (or Anne) married Reginald Aubrey, a fellow Norman and close friend of her father’s. Since then, Havard and Aubrey families have been closely connected and were regarded as ones of the most influential and powerful clans in the region.  The grave of Walter Havard is also located in Brecon Cathedral and can be found near the tomb of Walter and Christina. Rita did some research about the Aubrey family online and she is convinced that the former Benedictine Priory of St John the Evangelist must have been an usual place where the deceased members of Havards and Aubreys were laid to rest.

It is worth mentioning that after their wedding,  Anne and Reginald moved to Abercynrig and Slwch where they kept two large households.  If you’d like to know more about the Aubrey family, please take a look at the excellent and very detailed family tree history done by professor Myron W. Evans. You can find his article at:

http://www.aias.us/index.php?goto=showPageByTitle&pageTitle=Some_family_history

The tomb of Walter and Christina Aubrey

The tomb of Walter and Christina Aubrey

Sleeping dogs at the feet of Christina and Walter, according to the medieval legends, they were supposed to protect the dead  from demons and thieves. They will raise at the coming of the Lord and wake their masters with their howling

Sleeping dogs at the feet of Christina and Walter, according to the medieval legends, they were supposed to protect the dead from demons and thieves. They will raise at the coming of the Lord and wake their masters with their howling

Heads of Christina and Walter. Christina is laying on the right and her long hair are hidden under head-wear known as barbette. Walter is laying on the right holding a crucifix

Heads of Christina and Walter. Christina is laying on the right and her long hair are hidden under head-wear known as barbette. Walter is laying on the left and is holding a crucifix

Another look at the grave of Christina and Walter Aubrey

Another look at the grave of Christina and Walter Aubrey

2.The Tomb of Gam (Games) Family

Christina and Walter Aubrey are not the only local nobles buried in the Brecon Cathedral. The powerful Gam family once had a three-tiered memorial erected near the old chapel of St Crispin, now known as the Chapel of St Keyne.  Today, all that remains, is a single wooden effigy of a sleeping lady nicknamed by the visitors as The Armless Lady. We do not know how the famous tomb looked like as no pictures or drawings survived to our day. However, the memorial have been mentioned several times in medieval texts and we know that it consisted of three separate female effigies and was built around 1550 by Thomas Gam. It  has been dedicated to Anne, daughter of Sir William Vaughan of Porthaml and her husband John (Thomas Gam’s parents), Miss Bodenham of Rotherwas and her partner Whilliam and (probably) to Miss Morgan of Pen-y-Crug and her husband, Thomas Gam.

According to legends, the tomb of Gam Family have been destroyed by soldiers during The Civil War on orders given by Thomas Cromwell himself and the two other wooden effigies were burnt. Sadly, we are unable to identify the Armless Lady but many scientists working in the Cathedral think that the statue represents Anne Gam, the oldest of all three women.

Gam Family (also known as The Games) were descended from Dafydd Gam, a Welsh soldier killed at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Dafydd died on the battlefield fighting for Henry V and could have served as the King’s bodyguard. Again, if we are to believe the legends, Dafydd loved Henry like a brother and respected him so greatly, that he protected him with his own body in the last stages of the battle. When Henry was forced to fight against Jean I, Duke of Alençon, Dafydd saved his life and mortally wounded the French noble. Before his own death, Gam has been knighted and the grateful Henry promised to provide for Daffydd’s widow and his children. It seems that the king has kept his promise. 100 years  after the battle of Agincourt, The Gam family had large estates in Breconshires and was counted among the richest and the most influential clans living in the area.  In his book entitled “History of the County of Brecknock”, historian Theophilus Jones, wrote that  Sir Dafydd Gam’s relatives have profited from his service to King Henry V “for they (his descendents) are immediately seen rising in importance, increasing opulence and numbers for several succeeding centuries”. In the early 16th century, two branches of The Games lived in close proximity of Brecon. One was the family of Edward Games who built the Elizabethan mansion of Newton. The other was the family of John Games whose home was the old, fortified manor-house of Aberbran.

This beautiful sleeping figure is known as The Armless Lady.

This beautiful sleeping figure is known as The Armless Lady

A full view of the only remaining figure from the tomb of Gam Family

A full view of the only remaining figure from the tomb of Gam Family

Looking at The Armless Lady, we can easily  recognize her high social status. She is dressed in an elegant long gown with ruff around her neck and lace sleeves and is wearing a beautifully decorated cap or a French hood. The chemise under the  gown is adorned with jewellery and  gold chains. The Lady is praying and her eyes are closed.

You can learn more about the Gam family here: http://lynnwright.com/GainesFamilyinWales.htm
A very well written article entitled Gams versus the Borough of Brecon is available at: http://welshjournals.llgc.org.uk/browse/viewpage/llgc-id:1380216/llgc-id:1384427/llgc-id:1384498/getText

Another  interesting project about Tudor effigies can be found at:  http://www.tudoreffigies.co.uk/browse/default.asp

3.The Tomb of David and Lady Williams

The last tomb we would like to mention in this blog is located in the South Aisle of Brecon Cathedral. It contains the earthly remains of Sir David Williams and his first wife, Margaret Gam. It is hard to tell exactly when this alabaster monument has been created. Rita talked to the Cathedral guides trying to find out more about the couple and she was given two possible dates. Margaret’s effigy seems to be at least decade older than the figure of her husband and probably has been carved around 1595. David’s effigy is thought to have been commissioned upon his death in 1613. Both figures were subsequently joined together, creating a family grave.

David Williams has lead a very interesting and colorful life.  He was born around 1536 in Gwernyfed , in the parish of Glasbury, Brecknock as the youngest son of Gwilym ap John Vychan  and Margred Ferch Rhys. His family has been well connected and had ties to the most powerful clans in Breconshire including The Gams, The Aubreys and The Prices. David’s first cousin was Sir John Price (or Pryse), Thomas Cromwell’s trusted adviser and Henry VIII’s judge during King’s divorce to Anne Boelyn. John and David have been educated at Oxford and in London. Family’s connection allowed David to find employment at the Court for himself and soon he started working as a Judge of Peace. During his successful career, David has been appointed as attorney-general for five of the South Wales counties in the Great Sessions (1581-5), recorder of Brecon and Carmarthen (1587-1604), Member of Parliament for Brecon (two terms in 1584-93 and 1597-1604) and finally as the Justice of the King’s Bench. Sir Williams has been married twice: first to Margred (Margaret Games) and later to Dorothy Lutton, a widow.
He had at least 13 children including his heir, Sir Henry Williams,  a skilled politician and respected MP in his own right.

His wife, Margaret Games (or Gam) was the daughter of John Gam (the notorious sheriff of Brecon) and Anne Vaughan. On her mother’s  side, she was connected to The Havard and Vaughan Families and proudly emphasized her Norman heritage. She bore her husband at least 4 daughters and 5 sons.

The eternal resting place of Sir David Williams and his beloved wife, Margaret

The eternal resting place of Sir David Williams and his beloved wife, Margaret

More detailed look at Margaret Williams' effigy

More detailed look at Margaret Williams’ effigy

You can learn more about Margaret’s family tree here: https://histfam.familysearch.org//getperson.php?personID=I95876&tree=Welsh

Additional information about David can be also found at: http://wbo.llgc.org.uk/en/s-WILL-GWE-1536.html

More information about Brecon Cathedral graves and archeology can be found here. the blog is an excellent source of information and we cannot recommend it enough:
http://heritagetortoise.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/brecon-cathedral-again-and-again/

4. The Markings

While visiting the Cathedral you may notice strange symbols carved on stones and slabs. Those mysterious marks are not runes, even if they look quite similar. They are  some sort of medieval signatures, a small sign that could identify certain stonemasons among  many apprentices training in Brecon under the watchful eye of the guild masters.  Rita is still insisting that the markings make a great secret alphabet that can be used as an ancient language of the Dwarves 🙂

There are around 30 marks to be found around the building and looking for them is quite challenging and fun. Olive L Bacon wrote an excellent article about the markings for Welsh Journal. Please read it here:
http://welshjournals.llgc.org.uk/browse/viewobject/llgc-id:1384427/article/000024116

Markings left by stone masons

Markings left by stone masons

5. Pulpit Angels

These three unique wooden angels decorating the bottom part of the pulpit,  are the only remaining parts of the 14th century chancel roof. The original roof  has probably been damaged somewhere between 1536 and 1541 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and then subsequently taken down during the 19th century restoration. As the new roof didn’t require ornaments and decorations, the angels have been placed at the base of the pulpit. A very interesting thing is that the figures are not just simple sculptures. They are corbels formerly supporting the main beams of chancel roof.

A wooden sculpture of an angel  decorating the pulpit

A wooden sculpture of an angel decorating the pulpit

A closer look at the scultpure

A closer look at the sculpture

6. Mysterious Paintings

Above the pulpit, an observant visitors will notice a silhouette of a bird painted on the stone pillar. This black bird is probably a raven, the emblem of Philip Havard – one of the first mayors of Brecon.  Another theory says that the bird is an eagle, a symbol of St John the Evangelist and the patron of the first church.  We might never know the truth, but the majestic bird is one of the greatest mysteries of Cathedral. Another painting, located on the other side,  is said to depict  the town’s medieval coat of arms.

Raven or an eagle?

Raven or an eagle?

Brecon's Coat of Arms... or a Dalek?

Brecon’s Coat of Arms… or a Dalek?

7. Baptistry

Located in the west end of the Cathedral, the stone baptistry doesn’t look that impressive at all. At first sight, it’s almost boring: massive, plain, uneven. Very easy to miss. Don’t make that mistake! The baptistry is of Norman origin and is the oldest thing in the whole Cathedral. Some historians say that it hasn’t even been made in the UK, but was brought by the Norman knights with them. If you look closely, you will notice uncommon reliefs – monsters, fantastic beasts, masks  – all entwined in a ritual dance. The baptistry is badly damaged but the scars and cracks make it even more beautiful. Take a closer look at it if you are visiting, but do not touch. This is the only baptistry of this kind in the country and it would be a sin to further damage it.

Norman Baptistry

Norman Baptistry

8. The Cathedral grounds

After spending a lot of time inside the building, it’s nice to take a walk around the Cathedral, especially if you are lucky and the sun is shining. We  visited Brecon on a cold winter day and it looked majestic and beautiful. We cannot wait for the summer to pay another visit. The Cathedral volunteers informed us that the trees growing in the yard are actually lime trees and they look stunning in full bloom. Brecon is home to internationally recognized Jazz Festival and many concerts are taking place in and around the Cathedral. It must be a heaven on earth: a summer day, good music and peaceful surrounding. We shall be there!

Massive tower of the Cathedral gives the whole structure a defensive character

Massive tower of the Cathedral gives the whole structure a defensive character

Deanery and  neighboring buildings were once a part of the monsatery

Deanery and neighboring buildings were once a part of the monastery

Another look at the tower from the yard

Another look at the tower from the yard

Former monastery buildings are now used as living quarters for the priests and parish archives

Former monastery buildings are now used as living quarters for the priests and parish archives

Closer look at the Deanery

Closer look at the Deanery

Front of the Cathedral - upper rooms are used for choir practice and lower rooms as vestries.

Front of the Cathedral – upper rooms are used for choir practice and lower rooms as vestries

Rita's favorited picture - looks almost like a postcard!

Rita’s favorite picture – looks almost like a postcard!

We hope that you have enjoy our review of Brecon Cathedral.
If we have missed something, please let us know!

Visit us again soon, a fantastic blogs are going to be posted soon!
Till the next time,

xxx
Rita and Mal

One castle a day – Brecon Cathedral

Welcome, welcome!

Do you remember the ending of our last post? We promised to introduce something new and fresh to our good, old blog. The time has come to present you a brand new category: One castle a day.

Brecon cathedral   - A view from The King's steps. Photography by Joyce Jenkins. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – A view from The King’s steps. Photography by Joyce Jenkins. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral - The east end of the Cathedral. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – The east end of the Cathedral. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

You might be wondering what is hiding under this fancy title. Tourism would be probably the best short answer we can come up with, but you know us, we do not like short descriptions! The preferred explanation is:  One castle a day is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce our readers to all wonderful and unique places that we have visited during our travels. Those magical places are full of history, art, culture and are extremely picturesque! We are talking about anything that humanity can be proud of: castles built on mountain tops and dramatic cliffs, beautiful mansions that once belonged to the nobility, temples, cathedrals and other places of worships, architectonic wonders, open spaces and town markets, gardens, pubs and museums with an interesting past. Malta and United Kingdom are beautiful and deserve a wide spread recognition. If you love traveling as much as we do, discovering local gems and going against the travel industry dull and predictable standards – this is a place for you. We have always considered following a tour guide to be a cultural suicide. Have you ever felt the same? Are you asking too many questions that nobody can answer? Is the group waiting for you, because you got lost following a secret path? Is your resident at the hotel getting a heart attack that you discovered a shortcut to some ancient tomb that only local archeologists knew about? Do you carry your camera everywhere you go and you put all Japanese tourists to shame? Welcome to the club! Please note, that despite being adventure seekers, we are never rude or difficult. We respect all views, rules, opinions and traditions. We do not put ourselves and anybody else around us to danger. Questioning safety signs, good advice or common sense is a big no-no. Our motto is simple: do not bother, do not destroy, do not steal, do not harm, take a lot of pictures and live to tell the tale. We are modern Tourist Raiders, Lara Croft style and very proud of that     fact. As the Tenth Doctor used to say: “You don’t need to own the universe, just see it. To have the privilege of seeing the whole of time and space. That’s ownership enough”. Seeing and being in certain places at the right time is enough for us. If you feel the same, please join us and  become a reader of One castle a day!

Brecon cathedral   - A view from The King's steps. Photography by Trevor Clarke Photography. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – A view from The King’s steps. Photography by Trevor Clarke Photography. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral - A view looking east showing the choir and chancel with the cathedra by the south column of the crossing.  Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – A view looking east showing the choir and chancel with the cathedra by the south column of the crossing. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Our readers have probably noticed that the idea for a tourism column on our blog is not that new. We have already had three previous blog entries dedicated to our journeys published last year, but it wasn’t until now, that we decided to turn separate blogs into a real series of posts. Please click on the links below to see where we have traveled so far:

Eastnor Castle:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/one-castle-a-day-visit-to-eastnor-castle/

Goodrich Castle:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/one-castle-a-day-visit-to-goodrich-castle-part-1/
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/one-castle-a-day-visit-to-goodrich-castle-part-2/

All three blogs have now been renamed and moved to the new category. You can find them now by using  All Categories menu on the right hand side of our blog.

Now, our next trip is taking us to the lovely and ever-green land of the Welsh. In early December 2013, Rita traveled to the ancient town of Brecon to see its famous cathedral. You must know that Rita has a certain fondness for British cathedrals. Not only they are completely different from Polish ones (which are taller and more elaborate),  but every cathedral is truly unique and you will not find two identical ones.  Living  in Hereford for more than three years, Rita has become quite an expert on cathedrals: she knows a lot about their history, how they were built, what kind of sculptures you can find inside and who is buried where. The three counties (Herefordshire,  Worcestershire and Gloucestershire) are known as the Cathedral Shires and gave her a lot of  research material! Brecon cathedral was the first Welsh cathedral Rita has seen and it made a huge impression on her.

Brecon Cathedral - the St Lawrence Chapel just after being re-ordered in 1993.  Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – the St Lawrence Chapel just after being re-ordered in 1993. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral - The Cresset Stone - a medieval vessel to contain flammable material to provide light. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – The Cresset Stone – a medieval vessel to contain flammable material to provide light. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Few words need to be said about the town of Brecon. We mentioned that it is ancient but not many people know that this small town of just 7.000 people is older than London! Roman fort known as Y Gaer (Latin Cicucium) has been established around AD 50 at the cross roads linking South and Mid-Wales. This strategically important location gave Y Gaer some prominence over other forts located several days of march away and 15 years later (AD 75) tall stone walls and three guardhouses have been built to protect the settlement. As the fort grew, more and more houses were added and soon the fort was big enough to house 500 cavalry men along with their horses and support staff. Today, the remains of stone walls and the gates unearthed by prominent archeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler, can be seen on  a private farm near the city and are under the protection of Cadw (http://cadw.wales.gov.uk) In recent years, Brecon (known in Welsh as Aberhonddu) became a popular market town and tourist destination. Except for the Brecon Cathedral, tourists can see a well preserved medieval market, medieval castle now turned into a hotel, St. Mary’s Church with an unique set of 8 bells, St. David’s Church (locally named Llanfaes Church), magical Ffynnon Dewi (David’s Well) and the historic Plough Chapel that is the home of one of the oldest non-conformist congregations in Breconshire. A long walk around the city walls offers beautiful views of Brecon Beacons mountain range including Pen y Fan , the highest point in southern Britain at 886 m (2,907 ft) and the Brecon Beacons National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog).

Brecon Cathedral - Main nave with the cross Photography by The Brecon Cathedral Archives. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – Main nave with the cross Photography by The Brecon Cathedral Archives. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral - Bronze crucifix in detail. Photography by the Brecon Cathedral Archives. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – Bronze crucifix in detail. Photography by the Brecon Cathedral Archives. Used with permission

Despite a long history, Brecon Cathedral is one of the youngest cathedrals in the United Kingdom.  Until the establishment of the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon in 1923, the Brecon Cathedral was known only as the Parish Church of St John the Evangelist. The building istelf is over 900 years old and has been built on the hill overlooking the River Honddu and the main market. Standing in the church yard, you can see the whole town unfolding right at your feet and even recognize the faces of people passing through the main square. The church location is not accidental as the place has been chosen very carefully by Bernard de Neufmarché. Bernard was one of the most successful Norman invaders that defeated Welsh forces in 1093. He received huge portions of land in Powys as a reward for his faithful service to William the Conqueror and ten years later established the powerful Lordship of Brecon.  To fully cement his rule over his new domain, Bernard erected a castle, only two miles away from the remains of  Y Gaer fort.

Brecon Cathedral - the St Lawrence Chapel today.  Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – the St Lawrence Chapel today. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Beautiful winter picture of the Brecon Cathedral by unknown photographer.  Used with permission from Brecon Cathedral Archives.

Beautiful winter picture of the Brecon Cathedral by unknown photographer. Used with permission from Brecon Cathedral Archives

As other Norman warriors, Bernard de Neufmarché was a deeply religious man. Christian monks were an important part of his entourage and they quickly became administrators of the newly created kingdom. Their excellent education, ability to read, write and speak local languages, helped to effectively communicate with local folk, collect taxes and set out new rules. Bernard’s gratitude literally showered them with privileges: monks were given rights to build monasteries and churches on their benefactor’s lands, they could freely convert locals and received large sum of money from Bernard’s private fortune. Roger, the confessor of the Lord of Brecon and another monk named Walter, received permission to build a small monastery with Priory Church only 250 meters away from the main castle. The Priory Church located on the north-eastern side, has been constructed according to Norman tradition: the walls were tick and nearly 3 meters tall, the church yard was long and narrow and the building was probably cruciform in shape. Sadly the original church didn’t survive to the present day. All that remains is the foundation of the monk quarters, the remnants of a cloister on the outer west wall of the south transept, the church font and stonework near the east end of the nave. Some scientists are considered that both the castle and the Priory Church were built on the site of an even earlier building – probably a Celtic temple or an Insular Christianity Church (Celtic Church) but no traces of such structure have ever been found.

Brecon Cathedral - The nave from west end Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – The nave from west end Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral - The Baptistry at the west end. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – The Baptistry at the west end. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

The present building is a mixture of two distinct styles. The Church of St John the Evangelist has been rebuilt in Early English style around 1201-1215. Sanctuary, chancel, St Lawrence Chapel, tower and both transepts are  in perfect condition and if you are looking for raw, untouched examples of this style, please look no further.  The main nave, back aisles were re-created around 1330 and are much more elaborate. They represented English Decorated style that became popular in XIV century.  In his book about Brecon Cathedral, the Very Reverend John D.E Davies (former Dean of Brecon) writes that the church and the monastery in the middle ages looked completely different. He theorizes that the walls of the Cathedral must have been adorned with frescoes  depicting the lives and martyred deaths of the Welsh Saints, scenes from the Bible and crests of the local nobility.  The town of Brecon has had several very active craft guilds and the members  for sure had their own dedicated places of worship, separated from the common public. Colorful arrases and hanging tapestries could have decorated the altar, main nave and probably the chapels as well. Church interior was rich, vibrant and bright – a distant call from the plainness we can see nowadays.

Brecon Cathedral leaflet - part one

Brecon Cathedral leaflet – part one

Brecon Cathedral leaflet - part two

Brecon Cathedral leaflet – part two

The most striking element of the interior was definitely a massive wooded screen  – a truly unique boundary between the monastic part of the Cathedral and the parochial one.  It hasn’t survived the XIXth century renovation of the Cathedral but you can still see the marks made by stone corbels that supported the structure on north and south walls.  The screen is known in mainland Europe as Lectorium and allowed the monks to walk above the main nave of the church. Traditionally, each lectorium also had a small balcony that allowed the priests to give sermons or preachings to the common men gathered below. A huge crucifix (known as rood) was placed usually in the middle of the screen. Brecon’s golden life-size rood was so realistic that pilgrims were afraid to touch it. It became so famous that hundreds of people from Wales and  beyond would travel many miles just to see it during their lifetimes. The rod was destroyed in 1538 during the Reformation on personal orders from King Henry VIII.  Nearly half a millennium later, a wooden “replica” of the crucifix was brought back to Brecon and now hangs above the main nave.
You can find more information about it  here:
http://breconbeacons.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/rood-cross-returns-to-brecon-after-nearly-500-years/

Brecon Cathedral - Lancet windows in the south wall of the chancel, a prime example of the Early English Gothic style.  Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – Lancet windows in the south wall of the chancel, a prime example of the Early English Gothic style. Photography by R.J.L Smith. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral - before the alternations and renovation made by Gilbert Scott in 1860's.  Engraving reproduced from A Shirt Account  of the Church of St John the Evangelist or Holy Rood at Brecon, printed for the first time by D. C. Dallas in London in 1873. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral – before the alternations and renovation made by Gilbert Scott in 1860’s. Engraving reproduced from A Shirt Account of the Church of St John the Evangelist or Holy Rood at Brecon, printed for the first time by D. C. Dallas in London in 1873. Used with permission

Brecon Cathedral is a fantastic place for a family trip, especially in the summer. After visiting the main church and having a walk around the old monastery buildings that have been converted into Diocesan headquarters, visitors can rest in the Pilgrim’s cafe (they serve excellent roasted lamb in mint sauce and bread pudding!) or stop at the  Heritage Center to learn more about Brecon and the Cathedral. There is also a small shop where Rita got all her precious booklets and postcards.

If you’d like to visit, please note down the address:

Becon Cathedral
The Cathedral Office
The Cathedral Close
BRECON
LD3 9DP

Tel 01874 623857
Email admin@breconcathedral.org.uk
Official website: http://www.breconcathedral.org.uk /
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BreconCathedral
More information:
http://www.breconcathedral.org.uk/~stmarysb/cmsAdmin/uploads/BRECON-CATHEDRAL-1-21.pdf
http://www.britannia.com/celtic/wales/sacred/breconcath.html

This is not the end of our adventures at Brecon. Please return in few days time to see more pictures from this wonderful place.
Please remember: one castle a day, keeps the boredom away!

Have a great day!
xxxx
Rita and Mal

Worcester Annual Victorian Christmas Fayre 2013 part two

Ayeeee!

Happy New Year, dear readers! Welcome back in 2014! We are planning on making this year a great one so you can expect a lot of excellent material: interviews, reviews, reports and photo essays. We are also planning several high profile updates soon, so be sure to check out Vanadian Avenue quite often.

Worcester Christmas Fayre official logo

Worcester Christmas Fayre official logo

Coming down to business – we have chosen our favorites stalls at Worcester Annual Victorian Christmas Fayre and we literally cannot wait until we introduce you to those excellent artists, bakers, craftsmen and all-around nice people. Seat comfortably and let us take you for a real stroll through the narrow Victorian Streets of Worcester!

Visiting Christmas markets always makes us feel like we have hitched a ride in the TARDIS and moved back in time to 1870’s. The stalls owners are dressed in traditional Victorian outfits and capes, ladies carry elaborate umbrellas and the gentlemen wear hats and ties.  Being Doctor Who fans, we are super happy, when asked about the time, most men take out fob watches and open them.  The stalls are lit up in the dark by torches and oil lamps, food is being cooked on great frying pans, wandering group of artists are entertaining the crowds by playing and singing carols, magicians are mesmerizing the public with their tricks – all of this looks like a scene from a Who Christmas Special. The past comes to life around you and everything is so extremely real, that you start believing to be a time traveller yourself. It is a wonderful feeling and if you haven’t experienced it first hand yet, then you are mission out a lot. Please take a look at the link below to read more about the Worcester Christmas Fayre 2013.

https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/worcester-annual-victorian-christmas-fayre-2013

Worcester Fayre picture taken from Visit Worcester website. Please visit them at:  http://www.visitworcestershire.org/about-worcestershire/Worcester-Christmas-Fayre.aspx

Worcester Fayre picture taken from Visit Worcester website. Please visit them at: http://www.visitworcestershire.org/about-worcestershire/Worcester-Christmas-Fayre.aspx

Are you ready now to learn about our favorite places at the market?  Ready, steady and here we go!

Pollyfields – The smell of Christmas
Website: 
http://www.pollyfields.co.uk
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PollyfieldsUK
Address: Pollyfields, 9 South Street, Torrington, Devon , EX38 8AB

If we could nominate one stall in The Most Beautifully Designed Stand category, Pollyfields would be taking the first prize home. We have to admit, we visited many markets and culinary shows since 2011, but we haven’t come across anything that spectacularly perfect until now. The stall has been designed in the smallest detail and as we were told, setting up everything took more than 6 hours. Other exhibitors needed on average about 2-3 hours to prepare their stores for opening, nearly three hours less.  Careful preparation was an instant success with the public. Pollyfield stall became the most popular store on the market and many people stopped to take a picture. As you can see on the pictures below, Pollyfields crew arrived with a huge Yule Goat decorated with dried flowers and fruits. The Goat was named Harry (maybe after Mr Potter, who knows) and measured nearly 150 cm. Rita has witnessed an older gentleman trying to buy it for his granddaughter, but the goat was not for sale.

Yule goat at Pollyfields stand

Yule goat at Pollyfields stand

Pollyfields was launched 14 years ago by Fiona Jackson after breeding rare sheep on a Devon farm proved to be a hard and challenging task. Instead of sheep, Fiona decided to make use of her crafting skills and founded a design company. Home design is still a big part of what Fiona does, but today Pollyfields concentrates on producing ecological home decorative elements: fragrances, potpourri, garlands, flower arrangements and other interior furnishings. Their Christmas collection includes: hampers, garlands, pomanders, tree and window decorations, door wreath, cinnamon sticks, candles, orange organza sachets, hot chilli candle circles and a unique line of Christmas essence oils. Fiona and her team design and hand make each item in the company’s catalogue supporting not only the local economy but also beautify the English countryside (flowers used in her arrangements come from Fiona’s own farm). Mrs Jackson always wanted to be an artist and she worked hard to turn her dream into success.  Pollyfield creations have been featured on TV, in magazines (Good House Keeping, Woman and Home, Country Living) and Fiona is a invited to the most prestigious design exhibitions in the UK and abroad.

Details of Pollyfields stall at the market

Details of Pollyfields stall at the market

Christmas door wreath for only 10 pounds - a real bargain!

Christmas door wreath for only 10 pounds – a real bargain!

Home decor at its best

Home decor at its best


Taylor Made Frames  – Every painting needs a frame
Website:
http://www.taylormadeframesbristol.co.uk/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TaylorMadeFrames
Address:  Bristol (formerly of 63 Broad Street). Please call: +44 7905 891978
Christmas Fayre is not only about presents, sales or food. It is a great place to meet interesting people and say hello to old friends. We exchanged greetings with several exhibitors from previous years,  two companies from Flavors of Herefordshire Food Festival, a couple of artists from H-Art and various other arts and crafts events we have attended in the past. Everybody knows everybody and if you are a new addition to the club, sooner or later you will be introduced to the rest.  Good people at Severn Cider (we will write about them very shortly) were kind enough to recommend their neighbour Les, when Rita complained that she was not able to find a suitable frame for her latest artwork. The recommendation led us to Taylor Made Frames,  very well known framing specialists from Bristol with more than two decades of experience. Until recently, Les the owner of the company and his team, had a store in Bristol’s main shopping district on Broad Street, but moved to different location. The big change became a great opportunity as they now offer home and business visits to measure artworks and estimate the costs. You no longer have to carefully plan to transport your treasured paintings to the store – Les will arrive at your place to collect the painting, discuss the frames and then return it you after the work is done. Simple solution, time saving and still a great quality. Rita is very hard to please, but frame selection offered at the market truly impressed her. And if she was, so will you. Trust us on that! Taylor Made Frames are also collaborating with Grant Bradley Gallery and are framing pictures of artist that exhibit there. You can learn more by visiting the gallery’s page at: www.grantbradleygallery.co.uk/framing.html
A nice selection of frames , dream come true for all artists

A nice selection of frames , dream come true for all artists

Frames were not the only things offered by Taylor Made Frames. You could also purchased original painting and they would be framed on the spot

Frames were not the only things offered by Taylor Made Frames. You could also purchased original painting and they would be framed on the spot


Severn Cider – Let’s quench the thirst
Website:
http://www.severncider.com
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/severncider
Address:  The Old Vicarage, Awre, Newnham, Gloucs GL14 1EL

The wonderful people from Severn Cider are old friends we have met at Worcester Beer Festival. Incredibly funny and ever-helpful, the Bull family has been in cider making business for three generations now and their brewery is a multiple award winning business. They received 5 gold medals for all kinds of bottled craft cider and perry and in 2010 their exclusive Brown Snout brand has been rewarded the mark of excellence by CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale Association). If you need a trusted opinion, our dad is a big fan of their Dry Sparkling cider and requested few bottles to be sent to Poland last year just because he was in a mood for this particular drink.  Severn Cider was founded by Nick Bull and his son Tom and they are still in charge of the company. The brewery is  located in small village of Awre, near Newham in Gloucestershire, very close to the ancient Forest of Dean. This part of England is known for its crystal clear ground waters and fertile earth, perfect for orchards and ecological farming. Severn Cider’s orchards produce popular and rare breads of apples (including Box Kernel apples that originated in Awre!) and have never been sprayed nor fertilized. A careful production, makes the cider truly chemical free and can be enjoyed by everyone including vegans. In recent years, the demand for Severn Cider grew rapidly and now you can purchase the cider and perry all over the UK: either directly through the company’s website, allied pubs and shops or a large network of independent stores and deli. Did you know that Severn Cider ales are available in Tate Modern, Tate Britain and the Houses of Parliament in London? That’s how good they are!

Casks full of Severn Cider ales - a perfect treat for cider lovers

Casks full of Severn Cider ales – a perfect treat for cider lovers

Emma  - the gracious host at Severn Cider stand, dressed as a Victorian barmaid.

Emma – the gracious host at Severn Cider stand, dressed as a Victorian barmaid.

Claire Waters Contemporary glass artist
Website: http://www.claire-waters.co.uk
More information: http://everycloudboutique.co.uk/page_2743803.html
Address:  Unit 2, Middle Farm, Charlton Horethorne, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 4NL

Claire Waters is an acclaimed artist specializing in creating contemporary glass art for business and private homes. As Rita has a life-long interest in glass creation, you can only imagine how happy she was to see such a renowned creator at Worcester Christmas Fayre! Claire’s works are truly breathtaking: if you like dreamlike, abstract works full of light and changing colors, you will be delighted. Claire has an BA (Hons) degree in Architectural Glass from Welsh School of Glass in Swansea and is known to use  multiple techniques to create elaborate glass paintings:  traditional leading, fusing, sandblasting and acid etching. Mrs Waters is inspired by the beautiful coast of Dorset: the changing sea, dramatic shoreline, high tides, wild beaches, sunlight reflecting on surface the water – the magical world enchanted in the glass is so real, you can almost feel the salty wind on your face. Claire often uses sand, rock and wild grass in her creations portraying busy harbor life or local wildlife: dragonflies, water birds, endemic flowers and plants.  We had a bit of bad luck trying to photograph Claire at her stall. The first time we approached Claire, our batteries died and we needed to charge them at the nearest library. When we arrived for the second time, Claire was on her lunch. None the less, we had a lovely chat with her and still managed to take several nice pictures.

Claire describes her art with those words: Inspiration for my design work comes from the surrounding environment, my fascination with natural form and naturally occurring pattern. My designs have fundamentally derived from a desire to express our relationship to nature. However, my work is not about depicting actual objects from nature, or reproducing specific images or concepts, but rather about embracing the qualities of nature and creating organic ‘abstract’ art. Not to reproduce nature but to represent it”.

Her
works have been exhibited many times and Claire is represented by several nationwide galleries.

Claire Water's card attached to one of her artworks

Claire Water’s card attached to one of her artworks

One of our favorites works - it was almost as tall as Rita

One of our favorites works – it was almost as tall as Rita

Claire Water's artwork during Worcester Christmas Fayre

Claire Water’s artwork during Worcester Christmas Fayre


Croome Cuisine – The best cheese in town
Website:
http://www.heff.co.uk/pages/FOODIE/Buying-Local-Food/Croome-Cuisine.htm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Croome-Cuisine/323691571061031
Address: Croome Cuisine, The Dairy Pond Farm, Whittington, WorcestershireWR5 2RQ,

All cheese lovers are now asked to pay attention. In our humble opinion, Croome Cuisine is probably the best producer of cheese in the West Midlands. Generally, we try to avoid such compliments but this time, it is well deserved. Let us explain and you should have no doubts why they deserve all praise coming their way. Croome Cuisine has been established in 2009 by Nick Hodgetts, a cheese maker with more than 20 years of experience. Since the beginning, his company received fantastic reviews from clients and other cheese business professionals. Nick and his team reside on Pond Farm, close to the picturesque village of Whittington in Worcestershire where they produce more than 60 different kinds of cheese. Nick’s skills in cheese-making are second to none. He has received eleven gold and silver medals from British Cheese Association, several grand titles from International Cheese Festivals and Supreme Champion Cheese Award at the prestigious Three Counties Show for his delicious mature cheddar Herefordshire Hop variety, which is now regarded as a British cheese classic. We will not count honorable mentions or awards received at local level – there are just too many of them! To buy a piece of Hobsons Ale and Wholegrain Mustard mature cheddar, we had to queue for nearly half an hour and we are not exaggerating at all.  It was very hard to speak to the crew as they were extremely busy serving waves and waves of cheese to hungry customers. Several quick pictures have been taken, so please excuse the poor quality. Croome Cuisne’s cheeses are not only delicious and flavorsome, they are also healthy (low fat and no artificial preserves) and ecologically made. If you ever have a chance to try them, do not hesitate.

Croome Cuisine stand  was very busy throughout the day - we managed to take only several quick snapshots

Croome Cuisine stand was very busy through out the day – we managed to take only several quick snapshots

Closer look at the Croome Cuisine stand

Closer look at the Croome Cuisine stand

Pomegranate Authentic Lebanese Cuisine – So good you will not believe it!
Website:
none
Contact: pomegranate.alc@aol.com
Address:
126 Cowley Road, OX4 1JE Oxford, Oxfordshire
Pomegranate Authentic Lebanese Cuisine is a small business established in 2011 by a group of immigrants from Lebanon and Egypt. They might not have a fancy restaurant, a social media pages or official website, but they have won the hearts and stomachs of many food festivals goers. We do not know much about them as we discovered their stand on Sunday evening when everybody else was already packing up. The gentleman who prepared our dinner spoke about his hometown (Damascus in Syria), the ongoing war and hardships of daily life. Listening to his tragic story, we truly had tears in our eyes – his family stayed behind and he travelled half the world to find a better future for himself and his kids.  People like him are the true heroes – they work extremely hard, are not afraid of cold or rain and will never complain that they had to travel a long distance from place to place. We feel blessed that we had an opportunity to try real Lebanese food: chicken shawarma marinated with a traditional recipe, handmade falafel, halloumi wraps with salads and kofta cooked on a unique rotating grill. The food can only be described as heavenly and the service was excellent. It didn’t matter that our meal was prepared on the street stand and we ate from plastic trays using disposable utensils – the whole experience felt like a feast in the best restaurant on Earth! It was one on those moments that are truly important in life: you discover something unique, you are able to taste food from the other side of the world, you learn few words in a strange language (Hello and thank you) and cherish the memories for the rest of your days!  All we can say is THANK YOU guys for the wonderful experience. We owe ya!
Salad bar at Pomegranate stand

Salad bar at Pomegranate stand

A closer look at out plates - it was delicious!

A closer look at out plates – the food was delicious!

The unique grill in its whole rotating glory

The unique grill in its whole rotating glory


Elefair – Gift-ware with a humanitarian message
Website:
http://www.elefairy.com
Contact:  elewalk@hotmail.com or ele@elefairy.com
Address:
57 Windermere Road, Nottingham, NG7 6HL

Is anybody looking for an ordinary hero? If so, let’s us introduce you to a very inspirational young woman who is out to save the world and succeeding! Ele Walker was barely 19 years old when, in 1998, she decided to travel to Nepal and work there as a teacher. The housing conditions were poor, she was far away from home, on the other side of the globe and could rely only on her own skills and intuition. She was however surrounded by beautiful mountain village, friendly townsfolk and art. Soon after arrival, Ele discovered that almost everybody in the village was making something: clothes, tools, pots, jewellery, paintings. There was no supermarket, no cars, no electricity and Internet but somehow people had all necessary items and lived perfectly happy lives. Surprised by her discovery, Ele decided to purchase several hand made objects and bring them to the UK as souvenirs for family and friends. The gifts were so stunning and so original that more and more people approached Ele asking if she could bring something more. Over the years, Ele traveled to Nepal more than 20 times. She grew to love the people and the country and decided to make it  her second home. She was even adopted into local family and is now treated as a native.  Since 2000, Ele and her friends have been bringing hand made artworks and clothes from Nepal under the Fair Trade movement. The company is called EleFair and provides the local artist with international markets for their works. All items are priced fairly and money collected from the sales returns to Nepal to fund schools, build wells, roads and help locals to start their own small businesses. Ele is also sponsoring Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre run by another English lady – Jan Salter who has lived in Nepal for over 35 years.  You can visit the organization here: http://www.katcentre.org.np/

“Magical” is the only word that can honestly describe EleFair stand at the Victorian Fayre. The volunteers were dressed in one of the best costumes we have seen this year, the artworks were brilliantly displayed: leather handbags, silk scarves, cards fashioned from tree bark paper known as “Lokta”, traditional musical instruments, silver jewellery and long beaded curtains were selling like hot buns on a cold day. We loved the large lampshades made from colorful fabrics and photo albums made from tree bark and ecological paper. The prices were a bit high, but hey, we will not complain as each item purchased by UK customers is helping artists from developing countries to start a professional career!

Handmade leather purses and traditional Nepali drum EleFair trade stall

Handmade leather purses and traditional Nepali drum EleFair trade stall

Decorative foam curtains were very popular with the buyers

Decorative foam curtains were very popular with the buyers

A Victorian gentleman entertained the ladies with songs and funny dance moves

A Victorian gentleman entertained the ladies with songs and funny dance moves

Thank you kindly for sticking with us to the end. We love discovering new companies, items and artworks and we could continue writing this report till the morning light! Worcester Victorian Fayre 2013 is over but the Chamber of Commerce is already accepting applications for the next edition. Hurry up, fill it in and maybe you will be lucky enough to be featured on Vanadian Avenue!

Please come back soon as we are preparing a brand new section on our blog and you do not want to miss it!

xxx
Rita and Mal