"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Blakesley Hall, Old Yardley Village and a Trip to the Theatre

One afternoon last week I paid a visit to Blakesley Hall in the Yardley area of Birmingham. The Hall was built in 1590 by a Richard Smallbroke and it remained in the family until 1685 when it was sold to the Reverend Dr Henry Greswolde, the Rector of Solihull. For the next 200 years the Greswolde family continued to live at Malvern Hall in Solihull and Blakesley Hall was let to a succession of tenant farmers. In the 1880's, after a series of very short tenancies, the hall and farm buildings became quite derelict and in need of repair. The Hall was sold in 1899 to a Henry Donne who renovated the house and gardens. In 1900 Donne sold the Hall to Thomas Merry, a paint and varnish manufacturer. Merry and his family lived in the Hall until Thomas died in 1932 when the Hall was sold to the Birmingham Common Ground Trust who were acting on behalf of Birmingham Corporation.

The Hall opened as a museum in 1935 although it was closed from 1941 to 1957 following extensive damage from a falling bomb during the Second World War.

A replica cider press in the kitchen area.

The Boulting Room where flour was stored and bread made. You will notice the large amount of cobwebs - every room in the house was covered in them - created by staff to make the house look spooky for Halloween. Must admit I wouldn't fancy having to remove them all!

The Kitchen

The Hall

One of the rooms contained an interesting exhibition about the Merry family and events during World War 1 - it was a bit too dark for photos but I did get a photo of this poster in the Hall.

Great Parlour

Little Parlour

The Far Chamber

and a view of the geometric herb gardens from the bedroom window.

The bedroom known as the "Painted Chamber" contains wall paintings dating back to when the house was built. Wall paintings were frequently used as wall decorations from Roman times until the 17th century when it became more fashionable to hang textiles. Colours used in the 16th century paints were derived from natural and mineral pigments, for example, indigo, red and white lead, red and yellow ochre, umber and carbon black. The paintings included flowers, foliage, fruits, mythical beasts ad moral texts. The paintings at Blakesley were plastered over probably in the late 17th century and were only re-discovered in the 1950's when the house was being repaired after bomb damage. It was too dark to get photos of the Painted Chamber but there was a remnant of one of the wall paintings in another room.

The Long Gallery - this is quite unusual as smaller houses of this age normally had first floor rooms which opened directly into each other.

The Herb Garden

If you enlarge the photo you might be able to see a ghostly looking figure in the top window on the left. I assume (well hope!) that this had been put there by museum staff in recognition of fast approaching Halloween.

There are a few ghosts associated with Blakesley Hall - visitors have occasionally seen a woman in a bluish gown walking the grounds and looking as though she is searching for something or someone. During a party a few years ago a guest noticed that a member of the group was talking to a strange-looking man. A short while later the woman became ill and almost fainted. Apparently the man she had just been talking to had suddenly vanished right before her eyes. The party host had recognised the strange looking man - he appeared in an old family painting in the Hall and had died 150 years previously!

This rock is known as the Gilbertstone - it is a glacial erratic boulder that was moved from its original location and was carried by glaciers during the Ice Age. As it the ice melted it was left lying in its new location.

Legends tell of a giant called Gilbert who lived during the reign of King John. It was said he had moved the stone and deposited it so that it changed the boundary in a way that would be to his advantage.

Sadly, the auriculas looked in need of some tlc!

Before leaving I visited an exhibition showing photos etc. of more recent history at the Hall.

A water-colour of Blakesley Hall by Allen Edward Everitt - probably painted in the 1840's.

Blakesley Hall around 1865 - one of the first photographs taken of the Hall. At this time the Hall was rented out to tenant farmers.

1875 - A more prosperous time for the house when many modernisations took place when it was the residence of Alderman William Clements.

A photo taken around 1890 by George Wilkes from nearby Stechford - showing the rural setting which once surrounded the hall.

The next two photos were taken around 1890 and show the hall in serious need of repair and renovation even though it was still being used as a farm.

A photo from 1900 when the Hall had been renovated by Henry Donne

The Merry Family haymaking around 1910.

A Mural in the Visitor Centre

After leaving the Hall I paid a very brief visit to Old Yardley Village.

The Trust School at Yardley Parish Church. By AD 1260 there is evidence of a school existing in Yardley. The masters were monks from Maxstoke Priory. The building in the photos dates from the 15th century and would originally have been a Guild Hall. The school closed in 1908 and the building is now used as Parish Rooms with a Youth Club held on the first floor.

15th century St Edburgha's Church which wasn't open.

Since D changed jobs and no longer gets free tickets a trip to the theatre is now an occasional treat rather than a regular occurrence. Last night D and I went to Birmingham Rep to see "Dangerous Corner" - a play by JB Priestley. It was a really good night out and we both thoroughly enjoyed the play. It was well-performed with an excellent cast. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as "An Inspector Calls" but there again that was probably one of the best plays we have ever seen at the Rep - so a hard act to beat! :)

One final piece of news I've finally after a year of planning managed to acquire a Bridge Camera - well at least a half share of one! D is very keen on photography but up until now has made do with the occasional use of my dslr and the ancient 11 year old family Fuji Digital camera - which may have been a top of the range model when it came out but now appears exceedingly dated with very few features. I suggested to D that we go halves on a bridge camera so he can be far more creative with his photography and it will give him chance to decide if he wants to continue with this or make the more expensive purchase of a dslr. My share of the camera will be a Christmas/Birthday present from B albeit an early one!!! Hopefully, there won't be a problem with D and I both wanting to use it at the same time as when we go out for the day I will continue to use my own camera just using the Bridge Camera when I go to Nature Reserves when I am usually on my own any way. With any luck it will save me picking the wrong lens or lugging a bag of them round with me!


Margaret Adamson said...

A very interesting post. It was lovely seeing round this great building with you and your photographs. Now I am interested to know what bridge camera you bought?

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks very much Margaret. I considered quite a few but in the end stuck with my first choice which was the Canon SX50 HS. It also had the advantage of coming down in price as Canon have just bought out the SX 60!! Learning how to use it at the moment! :)

Ian said...

Another terrific post and interested to see your new camera purchase. I use a Canon sx30is which although lacking the fine photo capabilities of a DSLR is so versatile and easy to use as a field camera. Pre digital I used a Nikon with a range of lenses but many shots were missed when the wrong lens was on the camera.
I think you will love your new toy.

Countryside Tales said...

What a beautiful building the Hall is. I loved all the history and pictures. Very interesting about the school too- such an early one. I am thinking about upgrading to a DSLR next year. My new bridge is good at long distance but not good for macro with the moths. Looking forward to seeing the photos your new one produces and to hearing how you get on with it :o)

Ragged Robin said...

Ian - Thanks so much :) Yes, you are right about missing the shots because you have the wrong lens on the camera with dslr. I am really looking forward to playing with the new toy - just waiting for the camera card to arrive!!! Could have done with it today as we went to Sherwood Forest and I would have liked the versatility of 3 lens in one :)

Countryside Tales - Thank you - Blakesley Hall and area is interesting although very built up these days :(

Much as I love my dslr its a pain trying to decide which lens to use and take with you when you go out. DSLR's and different lens can be v. expensive if you want to go top of the range we are talking price of a new small car!!!! I don't use my macro lens for moth shots - I just tend to use the 14-54mm that came with the camera and crop the shots.

I shall continue to use dslr for most things - one day I might have the money to upgrade to a better dslr camera and lenses but in the meantime I am looking forward to using the bridge camera especially for bird shots as the zoom is so much better than the 70-300mm lens I have. I honestly think at times you could spend 1000's on camera equipment and still not be satisfied!!!

Countryside Tales said...

I agree. I think I've just been spoilt with the old Lumix, which did decent distance shots and superb close ups. I maybe need to give the new one more time. It certainly produces a much crisper picture.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Its very difficult with cameras and choice available because you can read all the reviews you like but until you actually get the camera and use it you can't tell if its exactly what you are looking for. Some are better at some things and some others so perhaps its just a matter of compromise. I recently read a review about my dslr and all the things I moan about are actually mentioned as cons of the camera! If I am honest I don't really think I have the patience to make a good photographer !!! :) Just fell out with son trying to take photos of the moon using a tripod (I got bored!!! :) )

SeagullSuzie said...

Great post on Blakesley Hall, didn't like the spider webs even though I knew they weren't real. Love the ghost stories and the war poster for women.
Great news about the bridge camera-they are just so easy to take around and can capture almost everything. It did take me ages to get used to though.
I still love my Nikon best and for this Christmas hubby has bought me a second hand Nikon body (as my lenses are good) so I can't wait to get that. We have a wonderful camera shop in Brixham called Mifsuds.com and their second hand gear is great.

Em Parkinson said...

CT and RR - I agree about the camera thing. My macro shots aren't nearly as good now I have the big zoom. I just can't carry a DSLR out walking with my back as it is, much as I would love to.

I bet the person who put up the cobwebs isn't the one who has to take them down!

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Thanks so much - glad you enjoyed :)

I suspect it'll take me ages to get used to the bridge camera as well :( The camera card has just arrived so may go out later and just try it on auto!! :) I'll have a good look at the manual and camera bit by bit when D is back at work next week and I can do it on my own!!

Great news re: the Nikon body. I am a bit stuck with my Olympus dslr set up as camera and 3 lenses are all entry/budget level so would have to completely start from scratch to get new better kit. Great news though that you have such a good camera shop locally. Must start looking here! :) Look forward to seeing your photos next year :)

Em Parkinson

Thanks Em - lol re: the cobwebs :)

My dslr was a surprise bday/cmas pressie from family and they bought it because it was the lightest on the market (at least at that time). But with the 70-300mm lens on it really is heavy especially as I am usually wearing bins too. I walk round sort of "carrying" the camera to stop it dragging on my neck!

Toffeeapple said...

Thank you for the look around the Hall, it is a splendid building, as is the school. I really dislike the fake cobwebs, they add nothing to the atmosphere do they?

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Many thanks :) I tend to agree with you over the cobwebs - far too many of them. Would have been better if there had just been a few in ceiling and wall corners rather than draped over everything in sight!