Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Shropshire’s religious past ...

Our landlocked county of Shropshire prides itself on being semi rural with interesting open spaces. 

I love visiting our interesting spaces & am fortunate that we live close to several old Abbeys. What I particularly like about them is the atmosphere they exude & the feeling of the layers of history that the spaces have. 

To understand why we have so many Religious ruins,  it helps to know about the Reformation in England & how King Henry V111 played a pivotal role in their destruction. 

Dissolution of the Monasteries

The Reformation in Tudor England was a time of unprecedented change. One of the major outcomes of the Reformation was the destruction of the monasteries which began in 1536.
The Reformation came about when Henry VIII wished to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to give him a male heir. When the Pope refused to grant the divorce, Henry set up the Church of England. The Act of Supremacy in 1534 confirmed the break from Rome, declaring Henry to be the Supreme Head of the Church of England.
The monasteries were a reminder of the power of the Catholic Church. It was also true that the monasteries were the wealthiest institutions in the country, and Henry’s lifestyle, along with his wars, had led to a lack of money. Monasteries owned over a quarter of all the cultivated land in England. By destroying the monastic system Henry could acquire all its wealth and property whilst removing its Papist influence.
This led to the Act of Suppression in 1536 whereby small monasteries with an income of less than £200 a year were closed and their buildings, land and money taken by the Crown. The Second Suppression Act of 1539 allowed the dissolution of the larger monasteries and religious houses.
Monastic land and buildings were confiscated and sold off to families who sympathised with Henry’s break from Rome. By 1540 monasteries were being dismantled at a rate of fifty a month.
After the disposal of their monastic lands and buildings, the majority of monks, friars and nuns were given money or pensions. However, there were some abbots and religious house leaders who refused to comply. They were executed and their monasteries destroyed. Thousands of monastic servants suddenly found themselves without employment.
So what were the immediate effects of the Dissolution of the Monasteries? Firstly, vast amounts of monastic land, gold and silver plate were transferred to the Crown. It is said that the King’s own treasury profited by about one and a half million pounds. However a great deal of the wealth Henry acquired through the Dissolution was spent on his wars with France and Scotland. The gentry and rich merchants who bought the land also prospered.
One of the saddest legacies of the Dissolution was the loss and destruction of monastic libraries and their precious illuminated manuscripts. Read more about this period of history here ... 
Shropshire did not escape this period of history  & several are favourites that I love to visit & I love to share them with visitors to our county. 
I recently took visitors to explore the White Ladies Priory; I have visited it several times & it is an interesting building set down a long tree lined path & quite remote. 

The buildings have what can best be described as ‘layers of history’ 

Another favourite that I visit often is the Abbey at Lilleshall - it has a lovely setting which I really love. There are parts of it that I find eerie as they are dark areas with ornate details on the roof. I love standing at the bottom of the old Abbey entrance & looking all the way down the vast space. I am always in awe of the craftsmanship of those who built these so long ago. 

One I had not visited was this local one, near our county town of Shrewsbury.  I was so pleased that we were the only visitors to Haughmond Abbey which means that you can really absorb the atmosphere & get a feeling for the space. 
 Just look at the two towers on the sides of the window - one square, one round. They just look like the shape one might find in fairy tales, so lovely.

The Abbey faces the Shropshire hills in the distance, the impressive line of hills that we love so much & which are impressive & steeped in geological history.

This is the map of our monastic houses in Shropshire 

I have visited about half of them & will be making an effort to try to find the others. I consider myself to be ‘spiritual’ & find that these spaces are very calming, peaceful & they feed the soul & the past draws you in because I can feel the layers & weight of history.

This is a recent visit to Buildwas Abbey, another on that list and a previous visit to Wenlock Priory  in the pretty town of Much Wenlock. This Abbey is quite stunning with gorgeous topiary hedges & shapes & beautifully tended gardens ... 

I hope you have enjoyed this little visit to some of my favourite places with me. 

Thank you for your company, stop by again soon,
Dee ~💕~

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Beautiful , tender rhubarb ...

Hi everyone,

We are so used to having a steady supply of whatever fruits we want all year round that we forget the joy of seasonal food.

I have always been a huge rhubarb fan; my grandparents always grew it & I think that is where that comforting familiarity comes from. I have not grown it at home because of having had house rabbits for so long - the leaves are poisonous. However, I might now grow some in a pot.

While out in our county town of Shrewsbury, I spied some early pink rhubarb & I was so pleased. My late father in law used to ‘force’ some early rhubarb for us because he knew how much I enjoyed it.

Is this pink colour not the best? The pink with the early green tops is just so vibrant & inviting. Hubby loves crumbles so this was going to be just that.

Washed, trimmed & cut in to thumb sized lengths ready for the pot.

I had bought a selection of mixed apples at our local farm shop & they would be just right too ..

I kept the apple bits quite large so that they wouldn’t collapse too much; a generous bit of golden caster sugar as the rhubarb is quite tart ...

I love this Rigar Black Balsam liquour that I bought in Riga - a bit of that provides a richness ...

The fruits are just softened on the hob while I rustled up a crumble mix.

This is my healthy crumble mixture when I measure everything.

However, today I just winged it & used about 150g self raising flour, some shredded coconut, a bit of sugar, some mixed spice & rubbed in about 70g of butter (nothing was measured, I just estimated as crumble mixtures are really how you like it.)

This mixture was crumbled over the fruit then backed till golden brown at about 200C

Perfect - lovely, luscious early rhubarb & apple crumble - heaven on a plate.

Do you have a favourite seasonal fruit that your cannot wait to eat? Thank you for stopping by & taking time to read & comment, each visit is much appreciated.
Dee ~💕~

Monday, 25 February 2019

Mixing up the blues for Spring

Hi everyone

I am loving having the blues in the dining room, it is a nice change & feels much fresher as we approach Spring.  I planted some little grape hyacinths in the two blue containers & they are just coming in to flower.

 The table cloth is from IKEA, bought a few years ago & used often at home.

Don’t you just love the boldness of it? The winter tartan curtains still have to be swapped again ...

I used pink flowers to contrast with the blue & whites & it feels fresh. 

I decided to change the conservatory sideboard / dresser too as I have a large collection of blue & white china / pottery.

The china is stored in the large cupboard in the kitchen so it was a perfect opportunity to get out some favourites.

The Blue Danish pattern & its variations are so lovely. Much of it was gifted to me from the in laws attic where it had been for decades, unused.  I have added to it over time as it is a set I enjoy using.

I decided on some dark blue & white in the end. I fortunately have some bright daffodils that are just coming in to flower to the perfect contrast.

Can you see the contrasting patterns? The oval dish in the centre is the oldest, some of the others are an old Spode pattern, along with some vintage blue willow.

The flower pots / vases are a mixture of Delft & modern chinese ones which contrast well. I do rather like houses so my little collection of delft houses (KLM) sit on the top, with a Flemish one bought on a trip last year & another Dutch one on the same shelf.

They all go together because they are things chosen with the same eye (mine) and because they are linked by the colours.

I know that I have blue & white Easter decorations so I rather think this will be up for a while so a bit of forward planning is always useful because we genuinely love this space & it is the most used room at home.

It feels fresh, the cheerful daffodils makes it feel Spring like & is an uplifting space.

Have you welcomed Spring in to your home yet? Thank you for stopping by & taking time to read, visit & leave a comment so I know you have been.

Thank you for your company, stop by again soon,
Dee ~💕~

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Some favourite African ceramics ...

'Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,' is the advice I love from William Morris.  With friends stopping by, I decided to reflect our shared South African heritage through the art I love & which often makes it to my sideboard.

You will all be familiar with these 3 lovely statues of animals; they often appear on the sideboard, alongside the beautiful platter that was a gift from my sister. They share the same sort of geometric patterns so just look like they belong together.

These plates are made by the South African ceramic artist Mfuneko Dingiswayo and they appeared together on this sideboard. He was born in Langa in Cape Town in 1979 & he has a very distinct style with raised details & vibrant colours & patterns which reflect the global nature of African art.

I am quite partial to guinea fowl which are found all over Southern Africa so the iconic images are so special to me & to others familiar with Africa.

All these items have been collected over a long time & they remind me of Africa

 Amarula, the South African version of Baileys is made with fruit from the Marula tree that ferment and animals, particularly elephant, are known to get drunk on the fruit. The company pride themselves on supporting conservation.

This lantern is made from an Amarula tin with cut outs that cast shadows from the candle - it looks lovely at night when lit, a reminder of time spent on safari, sipping Amarula at sunset.

The sideboard was ready for friends with things that we could use straight from it which makes it easier to relax & enjoy company. 

Thank you for your company, stop by again soon,
Dee ~💕~

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

A touch of the blues ....

Hi everyone,

Does anyone else feel they need a change from the festive colours of red & gold?  I always feel the need for fresher colours in the lead up to our Spring & my love of blues seems to arise.

I have a lot of blue & white china at home & this is some of the ways I used it in the past at home

A blue & white table setting for friends the-blues-in-action

Some vintage blue & whites I inherited vintage-blue-white-transfer-ware

Easter can be blue too getting-ready-for-easter

Some of my large collection of the Blue Danish pattern traditional-blue-crockery

Cheese & wine blues cheese-wine-blues

Our dining room still has its winter colour of the purple heather,  tartan curtains . My regular readers know that I like to change things around.  I remembered that my eclectic collection of blue & white bits had not come out in a while so I brought them in from their container in the garage.

Does anyone else love unpacking something they have not had out for a while? The joy of remembering why you collect things you love ...

My two busts - one black, one white, are a permanent fixture just because it is the only place they seem to fit - she seems to approve ...

I love the pairings of pink with the blue & whites so I rummaged around my large selection of faux or silk flowers. Pink & white go well with blue & white me thinks ...

It takes time to curate a collection of things that you like & these blue & white things have been collected over time & from many places but they all go together ...

I am always planting up some plants, bulbs or such likes because I really like greenery in the house, it brings a certain freshness to the decor. Sometimes, the bulbs might have been shop bought when mine have failed to bloom on time. I am really terrible about getting hyacinths to flower near Christmas & even worse at getting my 5 year old poinsettia to develop red bracts for Christmas, but these are challenges all gardeners own up to. For some reason, I am good at orchids & mine like this corner of the dining room & so they stay there where it is light & bright.

Do you change around your house decor as the seasons change?  I like moving things about because after a while you stop seeing the details when you are too used to them, and it is nice to have things you have collected brought out again.

Thank you for your company, stop by again soon,
Dee ~💕~