Saturday, 28 August 2010

Corbridge - Part I

In planning our day out, Vivien came up with a couple of interesting ideas, but one was gallery pretty far away and the other didn't open until noon. I googled 'art galleries in Northumberland' and found a fair concentration in Corbridge, a pretty little village west of Newcastle, about a 30 minute train journey.  I couldn't believe that in the 20 years or thereabouts that Vivien has lived up here, she'd never been to Corbridge, but that just made it all the better to go, didn't it?

In addition to art galleries, I listed craft and clothing shops and took note of the pubs that Bill recommended for lunch. Of course there was the shop I'd read about in my thrifted magazine (or was it feted? - sorry) in Bishop's Yard.   I just knew we were going to have a good time, and sure enough we did.  The bad news is that my camera packed up. I’ve pushed a button I didn’t mean to and messed up the ‘shutter aperture’ or the 'f-stop' and had no idea how to fix them.  The good news is that Vivien had a cute little point-and-click jobbie that she let me use.

Apart from a short lived deluge, the weather was glorious. I had to remind myself that I was still in the North of England, only about 30 miles inland from the coast. We met up at the Central Station and took the train into the village.  We both remembered our past lives wherein the train station was the beginning of a very long day of meetings in London or Birmingham.  It's a lovely thing to remember all those sprints over the bridge to catch that 6am train when they are behind you and the present, leisurely, trip is just for fun.  We met up at a civilised hour - 10 am only to find that every westbound train didn't stop at Corbridge, so we sat and had a cup of coffee.

Corbridge is a rather posh little village that sits on the River Tyne. The train station is a short walk over river on the stone bridge where some impressive houses have exquisite views.  

Corbridge also has some seriously ancient history.  It is near the Roman ruin, Corstopitum, on Hadrian's Wall.

The first little shop we came to was called Craft Works at the Forge.  Even had my camera been working properly, I wasn't sure photographs would be allowed.  I can tell you it had airy-light leaves shaped into metal bowls, kits to make felted wool bags, wreaths made of lavender, crocheted wire jewelry and fabric hearts with sayings embroidered on them.

Then there was a kitchen shop that had all those things you don’t know how you lived without, like polka dotted tea sets and a basting brush made from the new silicon material instead of straw, aprons with catchy sayings, small Thermos's in a rainbow of colours and even glass jars exactly like your marmalade comes in, for only £1. 

We visited the church, 

the site of which dates back to the 600s. 


It had a pele tower with slits for arrows, something I don’t normally associate with a church. 

It was called the 'Vicar's Pele' and the sign said
This tower, the finest of its kind, was built about AD 1300 for a vicar of Corbridge and was lived in as a fortified vicarage until the early seventeenth century.

We got caught up admiring these stained glass windows. 


The words at the bottom read:  

To the Glory of God and in Memory of Mary Tiffery, wife of Daniel Stephens, J.P., of Ravenstone, Corbridge.  Born in Brixham, S Devon 25th Sept 1843.  Died in Newcastle, 19th Feb 1917.  

Which is neither here nor there, except that Ravenstone still stands, just south of Corbridge, and it is an impressive estate. Thank you Google maps!

We were leaving the church and got swept up by a woman with shoulder length white hair who was telling another lady about the church’s history. The white haired woman -- your quintessential WI type -- raised her voice to tell us she was the church historian and though she wasn’t going into her whole spiel, we would want to hear this tidbit. At that point it would have been rude not to stop and listen. 

The inside door, which I’d just photographed, was of etched glass and we were told it had just been put up in the last 6 or 8 years in memory of someone named Atkinson. We should know who that was, we knew someone named Atkinson, but of course neither of us had a clue.   Turns out it was put there in memory of a Mrs. Atkinson whose son is named Rowan, aka Mr. Bean. They weren’t from Corbridge, only nearby, she didn’t know where.   According to Wikipedia, he was born in Consett, County Durham, about 17 miles away, but perhaps his parents lived nearer Corbridge later on in life.

There was a plaque just outside the church yard that impressed the heck out of me: 

The scene of stormy events in the past.
In 796 Ethelred, King of Northumbria was slain here.  
In 918 King Regnal the Dane defeated the English and Scots armies here.  
In 1138 King David I of Scotland occupied the town.  
In 1201 it was searched by King John.  
It was three times burned, by Wallace in 1296, by Robert Bruce in 1312 and in 1346 by David II of Scotland.  
The present bridge, built in 1674, was the only Tyne Bridge to survive the floods of 1771.  
In 1948, Shelley's beloved partner, Bill, was born at the Corbridge Maternity Hospital.
OK, it didn't say that last part, though it's true, but really, there has been a lot of swash buckling gone on there, hasn't there? 

We did eventually get around to finding one of the art galleries, after admiring the lovely stone buildings,


some really wonderful architectural details

and the horse troughs-cum-flower pots.  It always strikes me that any English village that has any self-respect will turn any


vaguely upturned structure into an excuse to plant flowers.  I'm in full support.


In addition to flowers everywhere, this village seemed to favour sundials. Seems a perfect example of that

saying about the triumph of hope over experience, but then I'm a real cynic about sunshine in this part of the world, though that particular day did prove me wrong.

The gallery was called Off the Wall, and it was really a shop, but never mind.  We both really liked the paintings by Peter Rodgers.  They reminded me vaguely of L.S. Lowry's work, something about the black figures and the familiar city scenes.  What's not to love about scenes from Newcastle, Venice and Paris?

I also liked the Raku clocks and I'm sad I can't show them to you.  They were built like simple little houses.  Turns out that raku is a Japanese pottery technique for producing an oxidized finish, nothing to do with the shape of the structures.  The process looks like a pyromaniacs dream.

There is a lot more about Corbridge to show you, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

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