We met up at the Redbridge Park and Ride at 10:15 in good time to get the bus into the city of Oxford for our guided visit which was to start at 11:30. Arriving in central Oxford we had enough time to go to the Weston Library (which is in close proximity to the Bodleian) to have a quick coffee and comfort break. It can be recommended as it is smart and modern with an excellent café and facilities just right to get our trip off to a good start. We walked onto the Bodleian past The Sheldonian Theatre (Sir Christopher Wren’s first commission as an architect given to him by the University of Oxford when he was Savilian Professor of Astronomy at the University).
We carried on passing the Clarendon building which Nicholas Hawksmoor was commissioned to build to house the Oxford University Press (OUP) in 1715, and on past the New College Lane over which the Bridge of Sighs extends. This bridge connects 2 buildings of Hertford College and is a very popular tourist place for photographs. [Click any image to enlarge them all]
The Bodleian Library is regarded as a masterpiece of English Gothic architecture and has a continuous history dating back to 1602, with its roots going back even further. It is the main research library of the University of Oxford and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It derives its name from its founder Sir Thomas Bodley who was an English diplomat and scholar from 1545 to 1613. Holding over 13 million printed items it is the second largest library in Britain after the British Library. Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 it is one of the six libraries that receives a copy of every work published in the UK and under Irish Law is entitled to request a copy of all books published in Eire.
We met up with our tour guide Robin and were escorted into The Divinity School where Robin explained the history of the Room. The Divinity School is a medieval building in the Perpendicular style built between 1427 and 1483. It is the oldest surviving purpose-built building for university use, specifically for lectures, in the world. Oral exams and discussions on theology, the dominant degree at this time, were held in the room as there were no written exams then. Students were tested in verbal battles with discussions between the two candidates standing on platforms at each side of the room who were judged by a master who sat on a large wooden throne at the end of the room.
We then moved onto the Chancellors court. This was a smaller room set out as a court where any member of the University could be tried for all actions including crimes and actions that were not related to educational activities (e.g theft and fraud in the town etc). The court is not in use anymore as all jurisdiction over non university matters was removed in 1977 by an Act of Parliament. It is now used as a bar or kitchen when weddings are held in the Divinity School, a use not favoured by our guide!
From the Chancellors court we progressed to the Convocation Room which was used for discussion to resolve matters between all the Colleges and the University. It is set out with tiered rows of benches with a throne and seats at one end. The layout is similar to the House of Commons and often doubles for it in films, the most recent being “The Favourite” for which Olivia Coleman won an Oscar.
Finally, we moved upstairs to the Duke Humfrey’s Library named after Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester son of Henry IV. He was a connoisseur of literature and when he died in 1447, he donated his collection of 281 books to the University. This was considered a very generous donation at the time as the university only had 20 books and all classes were taught via oral lectures :this was prior to Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable type press in 1450, before then books were hand copied and only available to the very wealthy.
The library was constructed as a second storey to the Divinity School between 1450 and 1480 in order to house the collection. In 1550, during the Reformation, the King's Commissioners despoiled the library in order to destroy the vestiges of Roman Catholicism in the country. The books were probably burnt, and in 1556 the furniture was removed by the university. Today, only three of Humfrey's original books remain in the library.
The library was refitted and restored from 1598 by Sir Thomas Bodley and between 1610 and 1612, the east wing (now the Arts End) was added. The west wing (now the Selden End) was built 20 years later. The books in the oldest part are housed in oak bookcases at right angles to the walls, with integral desks. The ceiling consists of panels painted with the arms of the university. Up until the opening of the new Weston Library in 2015, Duke Humfrey's Library functioned as a reading room for maps, music and pre-1641 rare books; it now serves as an additional reading room for users of the library.
Our guide Robin then pointed out to us his favourite book, Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language which was first published in 1755.
All the buildings we had been in have been used in the Harry Potter films a number of times and we all found the visit of great interest.
We then went for lunch with many of us heading to the Ashmolean Museum and their Rooftop restaurant where we all had excellent meals. Some of us then spent some time looking around the museum while others headed for home. A most enjoyable and cultural day was had by all.
This proved to be a most interesting and enjoyable visit, although the generous inclusive tastings of some of the many ciders produced on site certainly helped provide a feel-good element to the day!
Moving on to Totton in time for lunch at either the Mill café or the adjacent Anchor Inn, we were in good time to meet our most informative guide who showed us around the mill which was working.
The present Mill structure dates back more than 200 years; however a Mill on this site was noted in the Doomsday Book. At Eling the river Test is tidal, and one of the creeks has a dam which features sluice gates which automatically allow incoming water to pass, but shut when the tide turns. At low tide this results in a ‘head’ of water about 50 cm high, which when released provides sufficient energy to power the Mill for about 6 hours. There are, of course 2 tides per day.
Apparently tide mills were once a common feature along the British coast line (there were 7 in Southampton Water alone), but now only two working mills remain; the other being in Sussex which has been recently restored. This makes the Totton mill rather special and very much worth a visit. In all yet another very good day for the Questers who attended.
Thank you to Chris Coffin who did the initial preparation for this trip; and to the ever cheerful Robert Kemp, our driver, without whom the trip would not have been possible.
St Nicholas Church
The church is set in the Moreton Estate which has been in the Frampton family since the 14th Century and even today apart from six of the residences all the houses are still owned by the estate.
The person responsible for the current church was William Charles Frampton who rebuilt the church in 1776 and was Rector for 57 years. It is a good example of early Gothic revival and was built on the earlier mediaeval foundations.
The church has 2 claims to fame as the burial place of Lawrence of Arabia and is almost certainly the only church in the world where all of its thirteen (13) windows are clear engraved and etched glass.
On 21st May 1935 T.E. Lawrence’s (“Lawrence of Arabia”) funeral service was conducted there and he was buried in the nearby churchyard. He was a cousin to the Frampton family and a frequent visitor to their home. He lived for several years nearby in a small property once owned by the family called Clouds Hill. It is now owned by the National Trust and can be visited. The funeral was attended by many elder statesmen and politicians.
On the 8th October 1940 a German bomb damaged a significant part of the church. For the next 10 years the church services were held at Moreton House or in the Estate Hall until the church was rebuilt. The church was rededicated in 1950 after restoration and the replacement new windows were of semi- opaque green glass which many of the parishioners did not like. With a War Damage Grant, suggested by a visitor, Laurence Whistler, a talented glass engraver, was commissioned to provide five (5) Apse windows with a striking design that included biblical symbols, Christmas lanterns, vines, medallions, candles, landscapes, stars, lightning, local scenes and much more. The windows were installed in 1955 and etched by Whistler. Later, in 1974 and 1975, two more windows were commissioned privately. Further additions were the Trinity Chapel Window in 1982, the Galaxy Window 1984 and the Lightning Window in the Vestry.
After our lunches the party split into two with a number staying at the gardens to enjoy them and further explore the village whilst the rest of our group proceeded to visit nearby Dorchester to either visit one of its many museums or have a general look around the town. After returning to Moreton to pick up the members who had stayed, we returned to Andover in good time after a very pleasant day in Dorset.
After a warm welcome by two of the reception staff and being very ably helped with check in, members viewed a short introductory video show about the history and content of the museum. Next on the agenda was a short period for refreshments after the 1 ¼ hour journey which was most welcome.
We then met up with our volunteer guide, Michael Sands who would lead us on a 1-hour tour of the primary exhibits of the museum. Michael proved to be an outstanding guide who presented us with so much more information than we would otherwise have gleaned on our own. He was also wonderfully entertaining and amusing in his presentation style. Michael and the Questers so enjoyed the tour and had so many questions and answers during the tour that it lasted for just over 1 ½ hours. A wonderfully enjoyable and informative experience.
Most of the Questers then had an enjoyable light lunch at the Sunbeam Café on site. The food was good and plentiful and all staff were friendly and helpful.
After lunch Questers were free to re-visit any of the exhibits, halls or hangers that had caught their attention during the tour or to explore the few other parts of the museum that had not been visited.
It was an amazing experience to see actual motor cars, motor-cycles and aircraft directly associated with Brooklands and which had played a major role in the evolution of motoring and aviation in Britain over the last century and a quarter. Examples being the 24 litre, 12 cylinder, W engine Napier-Railton Special which holds the Brooklands track record of over 143 mph set in 1935, the Vickers Vimy which won the Daily Mail non-stop trans-Atlantic flight competition in 15 hours 57 minutes in 1919, the Harrier jump-jet which was used by the winner of the Daily Mail London Post Office Tower to Empire State building in New York record in 5 hours 57 minutes just 50 years later in 1969. And there were so many more fantastic exhibits to explore.
All those Questers who were on the outing, including the many ladies, were thrilled with the experience and felt it had been a most enjoyable outing which had been well worth while to participate in. Another successful Questers outing.
After a warm welcome by the head of Reception, members had a short period to enjoy a cup of tea/coffee at their on-site Café. We then went of a 45-minute guided tour of the gardens adjacent to the manor house. The tour guide, volunteer Rosemary, gave us a most informative narrative of the background to the development of the gardens and an introduction to the many American plants and trees displayed in it. The tour was briefly interrupted by a short rain shower but fortunately we could resume the tour soon afterwards. One small part of the garden incorporates a reduced size replica of the gardens at George Washington’s home Mount Vernon. There are also a number of head-and-shoulder sculptures of famous American persons as well as Sir Winston Churchill located along one of the pathways.
Members were then free to have lunch and start their own tours of the museum in the manor house as well as the special exhibit entitled ‘Dress to Redress’ – Exploring Native American Material Culture. The on-site Garden Café offered a wide variety of snacks, light meals and hot and cold drinks at very reasonable prices. This was well supported and appreciated by our group.
The museum turned out to offer a very wide selection of artefacts and displays covering the development of the United States from its very beginning. There was a very well-illustrated history of the evolution of the country from its very early colonial days. Displays also covered the two primary conflicts during those early years of the War of Independence and the Civil War. The conflicts and sometimes poor treatment of the Native American peoples was also covered with reasonable sensitivity.
There were several rooms in the manor house that have been laid out with authentic period displays using internal panelling brought from genuine American period homes as well as appropriate furniture so that one moves into the actual room environments that reflected various types of housing common to various parts of the States. There was also on display a selection of the museum’s huge collection of American quilts.
The general reaction of most members was that the museum offered a much more varied display of the history of the USA through artifacts and information than had been expected. It was infinitely more than a display of American quilts and stitch craft items as was thought to be its main focus. The visit therefore proved to be highly informative and very enjoyable.
Anton u3a Group News
Reports and records of Groups' activities.