Near the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., stands the Folger Library, repository of 82 Shakespeare First Folios — the largest collection in the world by far of these precious volumes.
I recently visited the Antietam National Battleground in Maryland where the bloodiest day in U.S. military history took place on September 17, 1862. And it has a direct connection to our usual British topics.
The calm beauty of the area belies it bloody past. After viewing a film presentation on the battle and its aftermath, we purchased a CD for our car which took us on a driving tour of the principal sites. At each one, we could park and listen to the description, then walk around the locale and talk with the very knowledgeable volunteer guides — who spend their weekends telling visitors about the people who fought here and what happened to many of them. Special thanks to Jim, Marty and Dave who told us so many facts and personal stories.
A future U.S President was among the Union troops. William McKinley (1843-1901), 25th President, was later promoted to the officer corps. His mentor in the 23rd Ohio Infantry, Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893), to become the 19th U.S. President, had been recently wounded and did not fight at Antietam.
But wait, it was not only men that fought. As the above ladies who volunteer at the site told us, there were some women among the troops. They managed to pass as men throughout the war, an amazing feat in itself. No one can come up with the exact number but we have the personal accounts of some who recorded their experiences for posterity.
war would change in favor of the North.
When you are making up your Christmas list for yourself or for lucky giftees, you might want to take a look at the National Trust’s gift shop.
The historic Blewcoat School on Caxton Street in London is a to-die-for shop you won’t want to miss next time you are in London. But if you can’t quite make it to London this holiday season, shop on line here. There is something for everyone.
If you live in the US and travel to Britain, you should join the Royal Oak, the US support group for the National Trust. It will give you free admission to Trust properties, newsletters and magazines from both organizations, discounts on purchases, and a great deal of satisfaction. I have often shown my Royal Oak membership card at a Trust stately home and received a big cheer from the volunteers. “We love our Royal Oak members,” they always say. Additional perks are invitations to special programs in major US cities by traveling lecturers and authors sponsored by the Trust and the Royal Oak — and some travel tours that sound brilliant. Or if you are in Britain or elsewhere, join the Trust. And memberships make great gifts too.
As you will see on their website, the Trust’s shops have a wide variety of books. The Christmas recipe collection above is on my list, for sure.
A few more selections… of 100’s.
As seen in the examples above, the Trust sells magnificent prints, many by renowned photographers, suitable for framing.
The National Trust runs many shops both in cities and on their properties. They are always good for a browse.
Many popular items such as ceramic mugs and pieces of china compete with wonderful lotions and soaps, silk scarves and shawls, umbrellas and even hiking shoes. Here are two more books I covet:
Could someone please contact Santa and give him my list?
Photos from the National Trust.
In the mid-nineteenth century, this area was part of a housing development which included large open spaces, and was known as Upton Park. It borders the M-4 and most of it was badly in need of renewal when a group, with money partially from the Heritage Lottery Fund, redesigned the park with nature trails and a Victorian band shell, a real asset for the neighborhood.Below, an old view of the Victorian park.
Our next stop was the Windsor Farm Shop where one can buy the Queen’s own beef, poultry and vegetables, straight from the Royal Estates. The goods were very enticing, I must say.
View of the Guildhall from the south, showing the original Wren building completed in 1689 and the extension at the rear, constructed about 1829.
In March of 2011, the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum opened on the ground floor of the Guildhall. The doll above is one of thousands of artifacts to be exhibited, covering prehistoric to recent days.
Hester Davenport blogged here about some of the most fascinating items in the collection, the miniature d
ioramas created in the 1950’s by Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards. Below, a detail of Windsor during George II’s Golden Jubilee in 1809, showing the princesses dancing at the local celebration.
Since the town council was not in session, I had the opportunity to go upstairs and view the council chamber, the mayor’s office and the Ascot Room up close.
You will be pleased to know that I did not dissolve the town while I sat in the mayor’s chair under the portraits of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
This recent picture of Queen Elizabeth II hangs in the Council Chamber, but I have to admit I preferred the earlier one below, which is not currently hanging but can be seen in the Ascot Room underneath a portrait of Queen Victoria, her great-great grandmother.
The Ascot Room, next to the Council Chamber, is often used for wedding ceremonies, most notably the 2005 marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, and later that year, the civil partnership of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.
Hester and I finished with a delicious dinner. I thank her ever so much for showing my around. Hester is a very busy lady, with many boards and committees having to do with local history and the 18th /19th C. history. She is currently, for example, the chariman of The Burney Society and is a frequent speaker and writer on literary figures. Thank you, Hester!!!
The next day I was off to Heathrow for the return trip, already planning for my next visit.
Travels with Victoria for 2011 concludes with this post. I hope you have enjoyed vicariously accompanying me on my jaunts. And I hope you did not catch my pesky cold — which followed me back home but is now, thankfully, only a memory.
The King’s Library in the British Museum has a new function. The oldest room in the museum, it was built in 1827 to house the collection of books amassed by King George III. This collection of 60,000 volumes was moved to the new British Library, St. Pancras, in 1997.
George IV donated his father’s book collection to the British people in 1823, necessitating a new building on the site of the original British Museum in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, one of many expansions and re-modelings over the years. Since George III’s book collection was moved a few years ago, the King’s Library Gallery has been restored, conserved and adapted for a new purpose: a permanent exhibition devoted to The Enlightenment.
From the introduction to the exhibition: “The Enlightenment is the name given to the age of reason, discovery and learning that flourished from about 1680 to 1820 and changed the way that people viewed the world. Enlightened men and women believed that the key to unlocking the past and the mysteries of the universe lay in directly observing and studying the natural and the man-made world. Their passion for collecting objects, from fossils and flints to Greek vases and ancient scripts, was matched by their desire to impose order on them, to catalogue and to classify.”
Continuing with the introduction: “The objects displayed in this room were collected during the early years of the British Museum, which was founded in 1753. They help us explore the passions and ideas of collectors and scholars at this time. When the British Museum was founded, it was a place not only of learning but also of wonder. This gallery focuses on the Museum’s early collectors, recreating that first sense of amazement and exploring some of the ways that people in Britain viewed their world and its past.”
Sir Joseph Banks, 1743-1820, Botanist, Trustee and benefactor of the British Museum; bust by the Hon. Anne Seymour Damer, 1813.
After spending quite a bit of time wandering in this fascinating room — much larger than it appears in these pictures — I decided to take another quick look at some of the other British Museums earliest treasures.
The Elgin Marbles were collected by the 7th Earl of Elgin from the ruins of the Parthenon in Athens between 1799 and 1812. He had them shipped to London and after considerable Parliamentary controversy, the nation purchased them and placed them in the British Museum in 1816. It’s a long, convoluted story, interesting on many levels from the personal travails of Lord and Lady Elgin to the continuing arguments over their ownership. I don’t have the time or space to condense any of these stories at the moment. I just enjoyed joining the hundreds of people studying the brilliant examples of ancient sculpture.
The Rosetta Stone was taken from its original location in Egypt by French troops in 1799; British troops defeated the French and took the stone in 1801. It was brought to London and has been in the British Museum since 1802. On the surface of the stone, a government decree is inscribed in three languages: ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, demotic script and ancient Greek. Thus it was possible to translate and read hieroglyphs for the first time. Though almost all the above photographs are mine, I literally could not get close enough to the Rosetta Stone to take a photo on Sunday, June 12, 2011. There were constant crowds around it, exclaiming in a multitude of languages about this great treasure of civilization — I thought that was a good thing!!
And now, another of those absurd wrenches from the sublime to the ridiculous. Having had enough exploring in the British Museum, I started walking back to my hotel. When what should appear but another version of the world naked
bike ride. In June of 2010, Kristine and I were surprised to stand in the doorway of Apsley House in front of a street full of hundreds of nude riders. All we could do was wonder what the 1st Duke of Wellington would have thought?
And here I was, almost a year to the day later, again confronted by the same spectacle. This time, however, I had my camera handy. The most amusing part of it was to watch the reactions of drivers, bus riders and passers-by as the huge number of bikes (accompanied by a police escort) rode down Kingsway. Believe me, dear readers, it was not easy to take a non-X-rated snapshot. I assume that these riders — who can be found in similar events around the world — have a mission of some kind. But for me, it was again such a peculiar juxtaposition of the enlightenment and “not a pretty sight” that the point of it all (so to speak) was lost on me.
But it is certainly another confirmation of the idea that in London, you can find a little of almost everything! And maybe even too much of some things?
The last stop on Travels with Victoria will be Windsor, where I had a lovely day’s visit with Hester Davenport, coming soon.