The cat collector or Kat-a-log part 21

Kitty, kitty, kitty!

Awww, time flies when you have a cat! And if you are dealing with an entire collection, it doesn’t just fly, it miraculously disappears!

It’s been two months since we had any update to Kat-a-log, but don’t despair, today we have another great issue for you to enjoy! And that’s not all! We have been working especially hard in the last weeks to bring you something very special dedicated to the collections so come back pretty soon if you are interested. As the old proverb says, curiosity killed the cat, so we know our readers are as curious as the felines themselves.

If you have any comments or information about certain figurines, please contact us at rdabrowicz@yahoo.com Thanks to our readers’ help, we managed to identify the makers of few unknown figurines so we are truly grateful for any tip or hint. Each contributor receives a full mention on the blog (unless they prefer to remain anonymous) and gain a title of Kat-a-log kitten for life 🙂

Below you can find all previous issues, so let’s get get crazy and start reading:

Kat-a-log Part 1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-1/
Kat-a-log Part 2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-2/
Kat-a-log Part 3: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-3/
Kat-a-log Part 4: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-4/
Kat-a-log Part 5: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-5/
Kat-a-log Part 6: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-6/
Kat-a-log Part 7: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-7/
Kat-a-log Part 8: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-8/
Kat-a-log Part 9: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-9/
Kat-a-log Part 10: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-10/
Kat-a-log Part 11: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-11/
Kat-a-log Part 12: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-12/
Kat-a-log Part 13: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-13/
Kat-a-log Part 14: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-14/
Kat-a-log Part 15: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-15/
Kat-a-log Part 16: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-16/
Kat-a-log Part 17: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-17/
Kat-a-log Part 18: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-18/
Kat-a-log Part 19: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-19/
Kat-a-log Part 20: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-20/

Now let us introduce you to six new kittens. Meow!

Kat-a-log Feline no. 84
Four sides of a cat: Glass and sunshine, Glass and wood, Glass and metal and Glass and stone
Country of origin: Malta, bought in Sliema in October 2010

Kat-a-log feline number 84 is one of the most unique cats that can be found in Olympia’s collection.  The most important thing here is that  Olympia has chosen this cat herself, which is a very rare occurrence. Usually the cats are given to her as presents or are brought to Poland as souvenirs by  her daughters’ work colleagues, family friends and various relatives.
If you look closely at this magnificent kitten, you will notice that it has been made from colorful glass. The cat has a long tail, long ears and sharp muzzle. However, it doesn’t have any whiskers, eyes or legs. This design is very abstract yet absolutely captivating. Some has speculated that this could be a fox, but they are missing obvious feline qualities here: gracefulness, typical pointy ears set far apart, large oval head and the sitting position. The figurine is quite heavy and can serve as a paper weight 🙂

If you’d like to own a kitten like that, please visit Mdina Glass, a family run business that produces the best decorative glass items on Malta for at least three generations.

Mdina Glass official website:   https://www.mdinaglass.com.mt/
Mdina Glass on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mdinaglass

Each figurine made by the company comes with a sticker places at the bottom with Mdina Glass logo.

Glass and sunshine

Glass and sunshine

Glass and wood

Glass and wood

Glass and metal

Glass and metal

Glass and stone

Glass and stone

Kat-a-log Feline no. 85
Two sides of a cat: Games of thrones and Let me tell you a story
Country of origin: UK, bought as a gift on 14th of January 2011 (Friday)

We remember buying this kitten like it was yesterday! This colorful cat sitting comfortably in an armchair has been hand-made by local artist in Ludlow, an ancient town in Shropshire, famous for its ruined castle. We found it in a souvenir store on Church Street and we were told that the figurine represents a local tale about the King of Cats.

Before we tell you about the legend, we need to say a little bit about the kitten. It is very light, made of wood and according to the souvenir  store clerk,  the cat wears a traditional 16th century vest. The cat sits on a chair with two roses that symbolizes two powerful English dynasties: The House of Tudors (red rose) and The House of York (white rose). The two houses have been engaged in a bloody conflicts known as the War of The Roses.  The war only ended when Henry VII married Elizabeth of York on 18 January 1486 in Westminster Abbey.

Now Henry and Elizabeth marriage is the beginning of the most fascinating tale. According to tradition, future parents were told by a seer that their first child will bring the gold age to the world. Upon learning that Elizabeth has given birth to a boy, Henry ordered him to be named after the mystical King Arthur of Camelot. Prince Arthur was a very unusual child. He was not interested in battles or court games, but spent his days reading books and learning. His teachers commented that the young prince loved Greek mythology, memorized The Oddyssey and various philosophical texts, and found a great pleasure in history and ethics. He was also an accomplished archer, a good dancer and was extremely good looking. His servants found him to be wise and kind and he was universally loved throughout the land. It seemed that the prophecy was indeed coming true – Prince Arthur received the title of Prince of Wales (heir apparent to the throne) and was engaged to the beautiful Catherine of Aragon.

Arthur was said to have a special love for animals, especially the cats. The Prince protected them and they were always feed at his court at Ludlow. He even allowed them to use all royal properties in his kingdom as their own and many cats were seen sleeping by the fire or lounging in the sunshine in front of royal coaching inn near the castle. People were gossiping that the Prince knew their language and that the cats were bringing him interesting information about the world.  Arthur passed away only at 15 years old, killed by sweating sickness and was buried in Worcester Cathedral. During his funeral procession all cats from Ludlow came to the streets and meowed sadly as the coffin passed them. Prince Arthur has never became the king but his early death didn’t remove the royal edits given to cats. All Ludlow cats have the right to be treated with the highest respect and can use all royal properties. Each year on the longest day of the year, the King of Cats comes to Ludlow and sits before the inn on a special armchair. You can talk to him if you are lucky. His name is either Tom or Peter. The royal coaching inn in now a popular pub known as The Rose and Crown, located on Church Street.

You can read another story about the King of Cats here:
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Folk-Lore_Journal/Volume_2/Two_Folk-Tales_from_Herefordshire#The_King_of_the_Cats

The Rose and Crown is open every single day and they offer a wonderful service.
Their address is:

8 Church Street
Ludlow
Shropshire
SY8 1AP

Telephone (01584) 872098

 

Game of thrones

Game of thrones

Let me tell you a story

Let me tell you a story

Rose and Crown Inn entrance

Rose and Crown Inn entrance

Kat-a-log Feline no. 86
Two sides of a cat: Salute! and I’m a philosopher
Country of origin: Malta, rescued in 2007 from Birkirkara

Honestly, we do not know much about the feline number 86. This cat is a real enigma, but we love it non the less. Olympia has personally rescued it from an old flat that Malicia has been renting in Birkirkara, long time ago. In 2007, Rita and Olympia came to Malta for the first time to visit Mal. She was living in a beautiful house of character with a very weird flat mate near St. Helen’s Basilica, in a front of a bar. The house was not in a top condition, it needed a lot of love and renovations, especially the kitchen. Since Malicia has been working long hours, Olympia and Rita prepared all meals and cleaned a little bit. During the cleaning, Olympia found a cat shaped magnet lying behind the cooker! Poor little creature was not only extremely dusted and dirty, also one of his paws was damaged. We have asked the owner of the flat if the magnet belonged to her but she was not interested in it and Olympia took it to Poland with her. She restored this little beauty to his former glory and now the cat is attached to Olympia’s fridge.  This is, ladies and gents, what we call a story with a happy end!

Salute!

Salute!

I'm a philosopher

I’m a philosopher

Kat-a-log Feline no. 87
Two sides of a cat: Madame Butterfly and Diva
Country of origin: UK, bought at Camden Market in February/March 2009

In February – March 2009 we have spent two weeks in London. We have already mentioned about that incredible time on our blog as we have covered the trip to Tower Hill in our One Castle A Day corner. But London is not only about places where heads were rolling. Large amount of time in the capital was spent arts and crafts shopping. Our stay in Camden was very fortunate because we were just few minutes away from Camden Lock and The Stables Market. We got our mom two items for her collection there. One was an amazing painting from Kenyan seller; the other was a fridge magnet from the Rachael Hale brand collection.

We will write about the Kenyan painting some other time, let us tell you about the lovely magnet. We found it in a curiosity shop, full of extravagant gadgets on 23rd February 2009, on the outskirts of the Camden Lock. The shop had a beautiful black toaster in the window and we absolutely fell in love with it. Unfortunately, it cost a small fortune, so we had to skip it, but we left the store with a bunch of feminist post cards (they were later sent as late Valentines), jewellery and the mentioned magnet. We don’t remember the name of the lovely store but here’s the window picture; if somebody recognizes it; drop us a line and a proper credit will be given.

Rachael Hale brand is known to be the home of “the world’s most lovable animals”. It started out as a family business of a female photographer based in Auckland, Australia around twenty years ago and soon became one of the most recognizable brands that use stock photography on wide range of accessories. The magnet we bought for our mom has a beautiful black cat portrait on it – mom loved it as it reminded her of her cat Salem.

Rachel Hale is flagship part of Dissero Brands – a rival of Swedish Ikea on the home décor front. Over the years, they have worked with many photographers and designers and it’s quite hard to tell who, was the artist behind the photo on our magnet.

The original photographer is now known as Rachael McKenna. In 2007 she has left the company and moved to France to work again as a freelance artist and book author. She is currently in NYC working on her new project “The New York Dog”. You can visit her LinkedIn profile here:

fr.linkedin.com/pub/rachael-hale/18/127/926

You may also want to see the links to her previous company:
http://www.disserobrands.com
http://www.rachaelhale.com
https://www.facebook.com/rachaelhalebrand/
Or visit her official page at: http://rachaelmckenna.com/

 

Madame Butterfly

Madame Butterfly

Diva

Diva

Camden gadget shop where we purchased the magnet. If you know the name of it, let us know!

Camden gadget shop where we purchased the magnet. If you know the name of it, let us know!

 Kat-a-log Feline no. 88
Two sides of a cat:  Classic tea-set (with a cat) and Reflections
Country of origin: Poland, bought as a gift in 2009

Slim, sleek and shining – this beautiful kitten was bought by Rita in March 2009. We have mentioned this before in an earlier issue of Kat-a-log, that Rita has spent 8 months working for a video game company in Wroclaw. During her stay, she discovered a shopping gallery with an entire floor dedicated to hand painted Polish pottery. Sadly after so many years, we do not remember the name of this  store, but Rita recollects that it was located somewhere near the main square. This particular cat figurine is known as a “mother cat” and could only be purchased along with another porcelain feline, a small kitten. Meant as a set for the customers, those two figurines are not a true match – they represent two different styles and probably have been made by two different companies. There are no signs or names on the bottoms and we cannot give you full details who made them. If you recognize the maker, please contact us and we will be able to investigate further. It is worth mentioning that figurines painted in blue, with dense patterns like those you see on the pictures below, were traditionally made to decorate kitchens and dining rooms. Rita did some research online and this pattern could be ether fleur de lis or a peacock. What do you think?

Classic tea-set (with a cat)

Classic tea-set (with a cat)

Reflections

Reflections

Kat-a-log Feline no. 89
Three sides of a cat: Grand champion, Royal pottery and Time is eternal
Country of origin: Poland, bought as a gift in 2009

Now, we will take a closer look at the baby kitten that Rita was forced to buy. Don’t get us wrong, the kitten is lovely and has been placed in Olympia’s kitchen along with its “mom” described just above. To tell you the truth, it was a lucky coincidence that somebody decided to match both cats together as Rita probably would have never purchased two very similar looking figurines that day. The baby kitten is obviously smaller, lighter and sounds hollow. Its blue floral pattern covers the entire figurine except for the cat’s face. It has blue ears and tiny whiskers. Again, there is no name or a logo on the bottom and we cannot determine who made this figurine. Both Kat-a-log kittens (number 88 and 89) has been photographed at Marianne Dabrowicz’ house (our grandmother) and she demands a mention on the Internet in return for her kindness. Antiqued silver mirror tray, tea set, decorative plates and clock used in this photo-shoot are from 1950’s.  Marianne has turned 90 this year so let’s have a collective “Helloo!” in her name.

Grand champion

Grand champion

Royal pottery

Royal pottery

Time is eternal

Time is eternal

 

Wow! What a great update it is! And a long one as well.
We love telling stories behind each figurine and we hope you enjoy reading them.

Please come back very, very soon as we have an excellent special edition of Kat-a0log coming right up!

Have a pleasant day and don’t forget to pet your own kitties.

XXX
Olympia, Rita and Mal Dabrowicz (with Marianne as a super-special guest :D)

 

 

One castle a day: A trip to London part 2

Ahoy travelers!

Welcome on board, welcome! Please sit down comfortably, fasten your seat-belts and be prepared for another adventure. We might not be traveling through space and time but still, amazing places are waiting to be discovered. Our photographer-in-chief, Malicia is signalling that we are ready for a take off. London, here we go again!

If you have not seen the first part of our review from the trip to London, please click on the link below and our excellent board computer will display all information on your personal screen:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/one-castle-a-day-a-trip-to-london-part-1/

Coat of Arms at at the Main Entrance to The Tower of London

Coat of Arms at at the Main Entrance to The Tower of London

As you know, Tower Hill offers so many attractions and ancient nooks that you can wander around for ages and you won’t see everything that’s truly worth viewing. We remember spending there so much time, that our feet got sore from walking and we had to sit down to take a rest. Since resting is boring and walking is fun, let’s not waste anymore time and take a closer look at the most impressive building in the neighborhood: The Tower of London!

1. Tower of London

Don’t be fooled by the name – The Tower of London is not just a single tower. This is a majestic castle constructed on the north bank of River Thames and is formally known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress. In direct opposition to the castles we have seen before, Tower of London isn’t ruined – it is a fully functional museum opened for visitors. If you ever have a chance to see it, please take a full guided tour.  Be prepared to pay a lot of money, especially if you are traveling with friends or family, but it is so worth to see it all!

The Tower of London - be afraid, be very afraid...

The Tower of London – be afraid, be very afraid…

The castle has been founded sometime around 1066 during the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror. To fully celebrate his new found victory and strengthen his rule over Britain, the new king and his advisers undertook what the historians call the most extensive castle building program in Europe’s feudal history. William is credited with founding more than 47 castles; another 30 probably have been built by his generals and knights. The majority of castles survived to our times but many have fallen into disrepair or were taken down. One thing is worth mentioning here -bricks and stones used to constructs William’s castles were of excellent quality, they were re-used in creation of other buildings even several centuries later!

Designed to become a symbol of power and authority, The Tower of London was considered to be the most important castle by the new ruling elite. Its thick defensive walls and tall steeples dominated the surrounding area and brought fear and respect to local residents. Popularly known only as a prison, the castle consists of a complex of several separate buildings within two rings of walls. A 50 meter (160 ft.) moat is also included. We can easily call it a multi functional building: a fortification, prison, status symbol and splendid royal residence constructed to the newest and most luxurious standards in one.

All along the Watchtower!

All along the Watchtower!

The Tower of London has been extended several times, especially in 11th, 12th, 14th and 17th century, additional works were also necessary to fix the damages suffered during the London Blitz. During Williams’s reign, the castle was a center of politics, cultural events and administration. In later centuries, the Crown used this massive castle almost exclusively as a prison or defensive post which greatly contributed to the poor reputation of this magnificent structure. Throughout the medieval period (especially during Tudor times when many people have been imprisoned there) the Tower was a mere symbol of oppression. Londoners bitterly hated it and were afraid to even mention the castle by name. At some point, discussing the Tower was forbidden in local pubs and inns as it was spoiling the moods of the patrons.

We do not intend to write a historical essay about the castle. If you require more information, please refer to Wikipedia or visit the official site of The Tower of London at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/

The old walls surrounding the Tower of London

The old walls surrounding the Tower of London

However, there is a few very interesting facts that you might want to hear. The first person ever to become imprisoned in the Tower was Bishop Ranulf Flambard. Ranulf was kept under the lock and key after he demanded high taxes from the local inhabitants circa 1100. This unlawful act earned him a luxurious cell with two personal servants and a right for a party once in a while. Bishop didn’t enjoy his golden cage and bribed his captors to help him escape. During an official evening meal with the security guards on 2nd of February 1101, Bishop managed to dissolve a sleeping medicine in wine and escaped on a rope through the window when everybody fell asleep. This act of bravery earned him his freedom but also accusations of witchcraft and selling his holy soul to the devil.

In the 14th century, Margaret de Clare, Baroness Badlesmere spent a full year in the Tower after the assault on Queen Isabella. When Isabella arrived with her royal guards to Leeds Castle, Baroness not only refused her the admittance but also ordered her archers to shoot at the Queen. Isabella’s guards protected the monarch but six of them have lost their lives. Please don’t judge Margaret de Clare too harshly. Queen Isabella is popularly known as She-Wolf of France. Extremely well educated, highly intelligent and ambitious, she has met her match in Margaret. Both women have a lot in common: they were married young for political reasons and were expected to follow and serve their husbands. They had to live in turbulent and unstable times and fought hard to find their own place in the world. Historians believe that Isabella’s unexpected arrival at Leeds Castle during pilgrimage to Canterbury was a clever plot to attack Margaret’s husband, Baron Badlesmere who fell out of royal favor. Margaret knew that allowing the Queen into the castle would not only disrespect her husband’s direct orders but also give Isabella a chance to destroy the plans for rebellion against Edward II. Margaret paid a dear price for her loyalty: she and her children were imprisoned and  Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere was killed. Isabella’s victory was short-lived too. Her own son, Edward III ordered the execution of her lover Roger Mortimer, removed her from the court and kept her away from politics and power.

The famous Torture Chamber

The famous Torture Chamber

And if we are mentioning Roger Mortimer, we have to say that he was the  main hero of another famous escape from The Tower that took place in 1322 when Sir Mortimer, 1st Earl of March was sentenced to imprisonment in the lower part of the castle. Thanks to generous bribes handed to the sub–lieutenant and his men, Earl escaped the royal prison in a boat, but spent several hours digging his way out through a wall with a shovel.

It is worth mentioning that The Tower was not only the place of torture. Joan of England (1321–1362), known as Joan of the Tower was born there on 5th of July 1321. The youngest daughter of Isabella of France and Edward II was connected to the fortress throughout her entire life. As a princess, she visited the Tower repeatedly over the years and was given her own private quarters. Later, when her husband, David II of Scotland has been imprisoned there by Edward III, Joan was granted the rights to visit him in hopes to produce an heir to the Scottish throne. As you can imagine, sex was not enjoyable and Joan never got pregnant.

According to popular beliefs, The Tower is haunted by several ghosts: the murdered Princes (Edward V and Prince Richard), Catherine Howard, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford and even a grizzly bear!

A perfect gift card. Let's go shopping!

A perfect gift card. Let’s go shopping!

2. The White Tower

In the heart of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress stands a massive white building commonly known as The White Tower. Again, despite the name, White Tower is not technically a tower at all – it is a keep, also known as a donjon. In medieval castles, the keeps were always the strongest structures designed to withstand prolonged sieges and attacks. As the rest of the fortress, The White Tower served several purposes. As a self reliant building, the keep offered a solid protection in case of a war. Thick stone walls rising nearly up to 30 meters could survive not only cannon balls but also mortar fire, the most advanced weapon known to a man in the middle ages. The keep had a luxurious interiors suitable for a the royal couple, several administrative rooms, garrison, servants quarters, a chapel and towers that offered a perfect look out points.

Even by today’s standards, The White Keep is a gigantic building, strikingly impressive. It has been founded in 1065, but the construction started more than a decade later, sometime between 1075 and 1079. Archaeological testing also proved that at least two long breaks in construction occurred:  the first in 1080’s and later around 1090–1093. We do not know the reasons for the pauses but historians debate that they were probably caused by financial difficulties. Constable of the Tower, the oldest existing military title in Britain, was usually given to the most senior soldier stationed in the castle. The Constable was in charge of the  entire fortress when the King was away. The position was especially prestigious as it came with personal lodgings, servants, royal grants of land or money, fantastic salary and sometimes a noble title. Not to shabby, eh?

The White Tower

The White Tower

We visited the tower several years before it underwent a 2 million pounds restoration in 2011.  Right now the monument is a sparkling gem as the pollution gathered during the centuries has been successfully removed. The frontal facade has been restored to former glory and was bleached with traditional technique used to whiten walls since the reign of Henry II.

3.  St. Thomas Tower and The Traitor’s Gate

St. Thomas Tower is one of 21 towers constructed around The Tower of London as an additional protection to the White Tower and the inner walls. Constructed around 1270 on orders of Edward I, St. Thomas Tower lies in the heart of the great fortress. Along with two other neighboring towers, the Wakefield Tower and the Lanthorn Tower, they are known as the Medieval Palace as they served as royal lodgings for Edward and his father, Henry III. Historic Royal Places charity managed to reconstruct Edward’s private bed chamber withing St. Thomas Tower and it is now open to visitors. It consists of 13th century furniture (four post bed, chests, table and chairs), beautifully painted fireplace and wall decorations. St Thomas Tower can be rented for wedding receptions through May to September and will accommodate a party of 40 guests. Just be warned, the price to pay will be royal!

A gate build underneath St Thomas Tower is known as the Traitor’s Gate. It was built by Edward I to provide an easy water gate access to the tower straight from the river Thames. Originally intended to deliver food and weapons , the Gate  gained a sinister reputation in Tudor era.  Royal prisoners were brought to Tower on a barge, passing under the  London Bridge where they could see the heads of killed prisoners displayed on pikes. Both, Queen Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas More, entered the Tower by Traitors’ Gate.

St. Thomas Tower and The Traitor's Gate

St. Thomas Tower and The Traitor’s Gate

3. Tower Bridge

Located near the Tower of London, The Tower Bridge has been named after the fortress. Built between 1886 and 1894, it was officially opened by Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) and Princess of Wales (Alexandra of Denmark) on 30th of June 1894.
The Tower Bridge is one of the instantly recognized symbols of the capitol and is universally known. There is little need to describe it as the bridge is as famous as the Queen, red phone boxes or The Beatles. We can add that it took 5 architects to oversee its construction, nearly 500 engineers and thousands of workers. The bridge is 244 meters long and its twin pillars anchored in the river bed weight 70.000 tones each.  Tower Bridge is extremely popular with tourists and sometimes it’s hard to pass on the other side of town without stopping because somebody wants to take a picture! Expect  larger crowds in 2014 as the bridge will be 120 years old!

The bridge serves also an an art gallery. Please check the official website at: http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/TBE/EN/

Lower view of Tower Bridge

Lower view of Tower Bridge

Tower Hill panorama with The Tower Bridge.

Tower Hill panorama with The Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge as seen from River Thames

Tower Bridge as seen from River Thames

4. The battle of Canary Wharf

As you know, Rita and Mal are huge fans of Doctor Who. Being in London, we just couldn’t resist visiting one of the locations used in the show. For “normal” human beings, Canary Wharf is an important business district and second  financial center in the capitol (the other being City of London). For a respectable Whovian, it is a site of a deadly battle between Daleks and Cybermen, with humanity trapped in a crossfire (July 2006). Thanks to the Tenth Doctor and several of his associates, mankind survived this horrendous experience but many lives has been lost. It is here that The Doctor also lost his beloved companion Rose after she became trapped in an alternative universe without the ability of ever coming back again.

We have paid our respects to brave Torchwood operatives and the common men and women of London who sacrificed everything for the sake of our planet. Enjoy the pictures and don’t forget to watch an excellent documentary about the battle entitled “Doomsday” produced by BBC with memorable performance by David Tennant (as Tenth Doctor) and Billie Piper (as Rose Tyler) among others.

Canary Wharf just two years after the battle

Canary Wharf just two years after the battle

The site has been known to Whovians simply as Doomsday

The site has been known to Whovians simply as Doomsday

Our trip to London Town is slowly coming to an end. We hope that you have enjoyed this strange mix of history, modern photography and a bit of science-fiction!

Our next destination will be a true castle again, so stay tuned!
We will see you shortly.

Don’t leave anything on board (except for tips for the captain and the crew!)
XXX
Rita and Mal

 

One castle a day – A trip to London Part 1

Hello, hello!

Welcome dear travelers! What a busy period of time we have had! The February is here already, UK is enjoying a spring-like treatment and Mal is having a stormy weather in Malta with loads of hailstorms, torrential rainfalls and cold winds. After the wettest winter in living history (or in the last 250 years), United Kingdom is enjoying some well deserved break and it seems that Malta has packed her bags and sailed away to visit some relatives near The Puget Sound 🙂 (if you didn’t know, Malta is twinned with the beautiful Bain Bridge Island in Seattle!)

Cherry blossom tree in early March - classic Gothic spring

Cherry blossom tree in early March – classic Gothic spring

We are trilled to tell you that the travel series entitled “One castle a day” proved to be a real hit! Two-part review of our recent visit to Brecon Cathedral brought a lot of traffic to our little shrine. We are now seriously considering updating this series on a monthly basis – there’s so much we have seen and we desperately want to share our voyages with you. You can expect reports on Tintern Abbey, Worcester, Brockhampton Estate, Chepstow Castle and many more in the next weeks to come so don’t be lazy and visit Vanadian Avenue as quickly as you can!

Inspired by our success, Malicia checked our archives and started looking for some fascinating stories we could tell you straight away. Our visitors seems to like cathedrals, old churches, medieval effigies and thrilling tales filled with blood, murder, rivalry, plots or tragedies. We have asked ourselves a question – is there a place near us that could have it all? Of course there is! The answer was so obvious that for a moment, we felt silly that we have never thought of it before. London, the capital of Great Britain, is one of the most beloved cities on the planet. Millions of people travel half the world just to spend a couple of days there.  On the other hand, some visitors say that London seems to be completely deprived of mystery and romance. It is so well known, that literally almost every attraction can be seen online from every angle. All tourist friendly places have been reviewed so many times by so many people, that it’s really hard to find something new.

All Hallows By The Tower Roman portal

All Hallows By The Tower Roman portal

Still, Londinium remains very special to us. We might not be the most original bloggers on the World Wide Web, but we have to add our two pounds to the existing blogosphere about the capitol. Don’t you worry, we will not take you on a tour around the Buckingham Palace (maybe not yet but we certainly plan to go there one day!). We have chosen something dark and sinister, especially for your enjoyment. Believe us, there are still places in London that can scare the living daylight out of you and blow the socks off your feet – like Tower Hill. We traveled to London quite some time ago, in 2009 but the memories are still alive. If you love Doctor Who, this enthralling but a bit creepy atmosphere, like something bad is about to happen, then you will love this review as well.  So, lets take a walk around a place where heads rolled by a dozen.

1. All Hallows-By-The-Tower

In middle ages, All Hallows-by-the-Tower was known as All Hallows Barking. The name was taken from the Saxon Abbey at Barking where the church was first established in 675 AD. Before the church was constructed, the place has been carefully picked up by the builders – there is some historic evidence that an earlier building once stood at the top of the hill that now overlooks the Tower of London. The archaeologists discovered house foundation dating back to 4th century in the church’s crypt, but we are not sure if the building was a place of worship or maybe just a small Roman fort. Whatever has been built before the church, the perfect location made it difficult to be conquered and allowed the inhabitants to scan the surrounding area for any possible threats.

All Hallows By The Tower gates

All Hallows By The Tower gates

The crypt is worth visiting as it serves now as a museum and bears the name of The Undercroft Gallery. You can find there a nice (but rather small) collection of Roman pottery, artifacts and religious objects, complete collection of church registrars, remains of beautiful Saxon cross from the 7th Century and model of Roman Londinium. The registrars are worth taking a closer look at as they go back to 1558 and include the baptism documents of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania (from 1644), marriage certificate of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of United States and Louisa Johnson (from 1797) and the burial of poor William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury (who has been beheaded in the Tower in 1645 and laid to rest in the church for more than 20 years. His body has been then moved to St. John’s College in Oxford). Accountants will be delighted to find a rich collection of annual accounting books, ledgers, journals and churchwardens’ notes dating back to 1628 – those document along with church administration books (from 1629) are giving us a good insight into parochial and secular affairs during the turbulent times of Tudor Dynasty.

 Angel relief on the exterior of All-Hallows-By-The-Tower church

Angel relief on the exterior of All-Hallows-By-The-Tower church

Two smaller chambers: St Francis Chapel and Oratory of St Clare are also available for viewing. Please be mindful of others during your exploration as both chapels are open for private prayers and many Londoners are using them. If you are alone, don’t forget to look for three Saxon coffins and an impressive stone altar that according to legends has been bought from Richard I’s Castle Athlit in Palestine by Crusaders sometime in 12th or 13th century.

We could spend hours describing all the wonderful things that the church has to offer. Apart form the crypts and the museum, visitors are encouraged to see the 7th century Saxon arch doorway with unique Roman tiles that once formed a pavement, 16th century effigy and tomb of an Italian merchant named Hieronimus Benalius (he died in 1583), brilliant Tate Altar Panel from 1500, collection of 17 medieval memorial brasses, Mariner chapel (with ships of different sizes and shapes donated by church goers) and the priceless baptismal front cover carved in 1682 by Grinling Gibbons for ÂŁ12 (a fortune by 17th century standards!)

Back view of All-Hallows-At-The-Tower

Back view of All-Hallows-At-The-Tower

All Hallows-By-The-Tower is not only a true pearl among the London’s churches, but it also has a fascinating history to match its extraordinary interiors. Located near the infamous Tower of London, the church has long been associated with the Crown. Kings and Queens of United Kingdom came to the church for services; one of the chapels even became a royal chantry during the reign of Edward IV. The bloodiest link between the church and the Royals has been established during the 16th and 17th centuries. The bodies of people tortured and murdered in the Tower were usually stored and prepared for temporary rest in the main crypt. Among almost 40 brutally murdered individuals, we  can find famous writer and philosopher Thomas More (beheaded for refusing to sign Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy and buried in 1535), John Fisher (Catholic Bishop and Chancellor of Oxford University) and the mentioned earlier William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury.

And another beautiful shots of the church

And another beautiful shots of the church

The church has miraculously survived two accidents that nearly destroyed the whole neighborhood.  In 1650, several barrels of gunpowder stored in the churchyard were set of fire and exploded destroying the church west tower and more than 50 houses around. Sixteen years later, The Great Fire of London threatened the church and admiral William Penn had to  sacrifice several row of houses to create a firebreaks. During the WWII, All Hallows sustained heavy damage from German bombardment of London, but even the Blitz was not enough to destroy the building. Renovated to the highest standards in 1950’s, All Hallows-By-The-Tower is enthralling each visitor. To see the church in all its splendid, you have to came and see for yourself.

Official website: http://www.allhallowsbythetower.org.uk/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ahbtt

2.Malta Siege Memorial

Continuing our journey around the Tower Hill, we discovered a small memorial dedicated to Maltese nation. Again, just like the church, this simple stone monument is sadly overlooked by tourists despite its huge historical significance. Luckily for us, Malicia has been living on Malta since 2006 and everything related to this lovely Mediterranean island is quickly picked up on her natural radar.  The monument is officially known as the Malta Siege Memorial and has been built to commemorate the sacrifice and bravery of Maltese women and men.

Malta Siege Memorial

Malta Siege Memorial

A short reminder to those who have slept through WWII history lessons in high school: Malta, one of the smallest countries in Europe and a member of the Commonwealth, survived the longest and most brutal bombardment of WWII. The naval and aerial battle between The Allies (UK, America and their partners) and The Axis (Nazi Germany/Fascist Italy and satellite states) is now known as the Siege of Malta. The constant bombardment started on January 1st and ended on 24th of July 1942. There was only one period of just 24 hours when the bombs were not falling down. In total, Malta had to endure astonishing 154 continuous day and night time bombings. The results of the prolonged siege were catastrophic: nearly 7000 civilians were killed and 30.000 buildings were destroyed including many architectonic gems like medieval palazzos, theaters and museums. Hundreds of churches and works of art were damaged or lost.  If you weren’t aware, Malta in its entirety is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is protected for future generations. The bombardment may have shattered buildings and flattened the landscape but could not break the nation. In April 1942, the people of Malta have been honored with the award of the George Cross by King George VI.

The memories of those terrible times inspired a group of retired Navy officers to share their experiences with young people of Malta and Great Britain. In July 1987, Capt. E.A.S Bailey and Navy officer Fred Plenty founded the George Cross Island Association. The organization quickly became internationally known and other former soldiers joined in. Soon GCIA included members of The Navy, British and Maltese Army, Air Force, Merchant Navy, nursing and Civil Defense personnel. Nowadays, the organization has several branches around the world and holds an annual meeting on Malta and In London. The current President of the GCIA is Judge Dr.Joseph Galea Debono B.A., L.L.D.

Second  plague on the Memorial with description of the bombardment in 1942

Second plague on the Memorial with description of the bombardment in 1942

Malta Siege Memorial on Tower Hill has been inaugurated on August 15th 2005 in the presence of then President of Malta, Edward Fenech Adami, Prince Philip and nearly 500 invited guests. The monument is 3 meters tall and has been carved from a stone from Gozo, as Maltese lime stone was too soft to withstand the rainy English weather.  Each of the four sides has a carved slate slab: two first give information about the Siege of Malta, the third side contains details about the George Cross award and the tribute by President Roosevelt and the fourth side contains a map showing the theater of operations in the Mediterranean.

Malta Siege Memorial  - the frontal description and the Cross

Malta Siege Memorial – the frontal description and the Cross

The Front of the memorial reads:

“Malta G.C. The Siege of 1940-43. In 1940 the sinister shadow of Fascism spilled across Europe and into North Africa. Malta, under the protection of Great Britain, found herself alone in a hostile Mediterranean 800 miles from her nearest allies in Gibraltar and Alexandria. Besieged by enemies Malta became a fulcrum on which the fate of the war balanced for the next three years. If Malta fell the rest of North Africa would follow. Opening the door to the oil fields of the Middle East and for the Axis Powers to join in Asia and threaten India. The allies knew this. So did the Axis Powers. Malta, besieged, became and remains the most bombed place in the history of War. Supplied only by Sea, at great cost, Malta was defended not only by her own people but by forces drawn from the whole free world. Fighter aircraft delivered by the American and Royal Navies were piloted by Britons, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. Convoys crewed by British, American and Commonwealth seamen were supported by the free forces of Greece, the Netherlands, and Poland. Free Norwegians added their merchant fleet to the Allied cause. In April 1942 King George VI awarded to the People of Malta the George Cross, the highest decoration for civilian courage and heroism. By summer 1942 only weeks of food remained and the Allies mounted operation Pedestal as a last attempt to save Malta. After a five-day running battle the Convoy’s four remaining merchant vessels and the immortal Tanker Ohio, all that was left of the fourteen that set out, entered the Grand Harbour. The date was 15th August, 1942, the feast of Santa Maria. The siege was broken; within months North Africa was retaken and the first steps of European liberation begun. This stone taken from Malta was presented by the Maltese Government on the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War to commemorate all who participated in the siege and defence of Malta, 1940-43. Placed by the George Cross Island Association, 15th, August 2005.”

Map of Mediterranean during WWII

Map of Mediterranean during WWII

A sister monument, known as The Siege Bell, guards the entrance to the Great Harbour in Valletta.  It was erected on 29th of May 1992 thanks to generous donation from Maltese and British governments, private donors and all GCIA branches. The memorial has been designed and sculpted from Gozo stone by artist Michael Sandle and has a form of a classical open temple. The heavy bell that hangs inside was cast in United Kingdom and its chimes were donated by the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.  We have visited the Siege Bell in April 2011 to pay our own tribute to those affected by war.

Siege Bell Memorial in Valletta, Malta

Siege Bell Memorial in Valletta, Malta

Official site: http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/

3. Baron Soper Memorial Plague

Socialists of the world, unite! We have something a tiny bit more entertaining now for you dear readers. Tower Hill is not only about the atrocities of war or terrors at the Tower of London. Boys and girls, if you haven’t heard about Baron Soapbox, you have yet much to learn!

Donald Oliver Soper, Baron Soper was a legendary street preacher, Methodist minister, socialist and pacifist. And when we say legendary, we truly mean it. This extraordinary man took preaching from the dusted parochial meeting rooms into the big wide open and turned it into spectacle of wit, humor with a huge dose of controversy. Equally loved and hated for his sharp tongue, Baron Soper left no soul feeling passive or neutral. You either agreed with the man wholeheartedly or rejected everything he said. There was no middle ground and Lord Soper knew it well.

Born on 31st of January 1903 and educated at Cambridge and London School of Economics, Lord Baron was genuinely trying to make the world a better place. As a minister, he was actively helping those marginalized by the big city: single mothers, runaways, homeless or alcoholics. A vivid supporter and member of the Labour Party, he harshly criticized the conservative politics in 1980, calling Margaret Thatcher as “inherently incompatible with Christianity”. During the WWII, he joined the Peace Pledge Union and preached pacifism so effectively that the BBC Council has banned him form broadcasting!

The Memorial dedicated to Lord Donald Soper

The Memorial dedicated to Lord Donald Soper

He is probably the best known for his 70 year tenure as an outdoor preacher on Tower Hill and Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. Standing on an old soapbox, he would lecture the crowds about Christian values, importance of being true to yourself, taking care of others, social justice and many other issues he considered to be of great importance to the society. Even after becoming seriously ill and bound to wheelchair, he would still arrive to preach, meet with London youths and have a laugh (or an argument!)
Lord Soper passed away on 22nd of December 1998 at the advanced age of 95. He will be missed for many, many generations to come. A commemorative plague has been placed on Tower Hill to inform the passer-byes of his contribution to democracy.

You can find more information about Lord Soper here:
http://www.ppu.org.uk/learn/infodocs/people/pst_soper.html

Well, we have reach the end of the first part of our review. Please return quickly as we have more to tell you about the dreadful Tower of London itself!
Take care  and see you around.
xxx
Rita and Malicia