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Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Past is a foreign country; they do things differently there

The title is a quote from L P Hartley’s ‘The Go-Between’ and places like Ledbury (Monmouth for that matter) are rich in glimpses and hints. Last week's post showed some of its wonderful buildings and streets. This post focuses on its equally wonderful interiors. Below is the interior of St Michaels and All Saints. It's worth focusing on the altar picture and stained glass. The church is huge and illustrates the wealth of the medieval town.

Next a school room:
The pictures sent a shiver of recognition running through me. As a six year old boy I sat at such a desk,  inkwell and a dribbly nibbed pen to hand. A watchful nun prowled to ensure we didn't make too many blotches and blobs. Copperplate stood little chance in our crabbed hands, and fortunately the practice was discontinued a few years later. God does listen to our prayers.

The instructions (for schools without nuns and small sticks)

The results

Below are blackboard 'sums' I dimly remember. Just to illustrate the continuity of past and present, school exercise books in the 1950's and 1960's still had arithmetic tables and imperial measures on their back page. In theory we'd have had no problem with these Victorian 'sums'. I confess though, I never did figure out what a rood was, though it sounded good on the tongue.

A smoking chimney

The smoking chimney extended the entire width of the house. Meat was hung in layers stretching from top to bottom, depending on the cuts of meat and their stages of curing. The fire was fuelled by Hawthorne and applewood for flavouring

A section of wall timber. Bear in mind its solidity and weight

And its construction!

House frames were constructed of local oak. The frames were cut in the carpenter’s shop, then each individual part were numbered (Roman numerals just to make things difficult) so they could be matched up on site. When this was done, the frame was dismantled, transported and reassembled using the marks to match up the parts correctly. The parts were then secured by wooden pegs and the walls raised. In the exhibit they have what looks like a 'toy,' but one that's highly instructive. Each of these beams are linked to stress points that support each other in sequence. Try and assemble them in the wrong order and the whole thing collapses. 

Imagine playing the same game with beams the size of small trees. As the title of this post reminds us. 'They do things differently there, and whether it's copperplate, measuring in bushels and ells or smoking meat in huge chimneys it behoves us to have some humility. 

*The timber pictured is dated 1476
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Maria Zannini said...

One thing I've always appreciated about the past is that everything was done with some practical purpose in mind. If things could do double-duty, all the better.

re: inkwells and handwriting
I remember our desks having inkwells, but we had just modernized to ink filled cartridges--but only when you were older. Youngsters used those thick graphite pencils or chalk.

I had a terrible time learning my handwriting. I am naturally left handed, but the nuns refused to let me use my left hand. Through sheer will and a lot of pain, I learned how to write with my right. In time my handwriting became beautiful, but to this day I grip my pen like someone with palsy.

You do what you have to do to avoid the nuns with the stick.

I love these pictures! Thanks for sharing them.

Mike Keyton said...

What you did with your 'right handed' writing was an awesome response to a cruel and ignorant directive, Maria. And I agree with ref the past/practicality