Sunday, 31 July 2011

Angels in Tailors' Court

After maundering along Gropecunt Lane, I concluded my Artist's Date with a visit to another favourite spot very nearby, this one far less affected by the passage of time. It's so tucked away that until earlier this summer, I didn't even know it existed.  


 

Like the neighbouring Church of St John the Baptist (St John's on the Wall), Tailors' Court is a rare mediaeval survivor of Nazi bombs and city planners.  It is accessed by a short passageway under part of an old house in Broad Street. The other end leads to the Church burial ground. It's just inside the boundary of the ancient city walls.

It's surprisingly verdant and peaceful here, given that it's so close to the teeming city centre.



The Guild of Merchant Tailors was one of the ancient guilds of Bristol, set up by charter of Richard II in 1399. The Guild's Hall was built in 1740, replacing an earlier one on the site. It has a very ornate porch hood, showing the arms of the Guild.  The moulding includes St John Baptist's head on a platter. St John was patron saint of the Guild. The Guild's motto was 'Concord makes small things flourish'.

Rules of the Guild were very strict. For example:
  • A master was allowed 3 apprentices at one time and no more.
  • None to be admitted to the Guild unless they had served 7 years as apprentice and had a testimonial.
  • No-one not a freeman of the company was to make garments, make or sell stockings.
  • None to backbite or undervalue another's workmanship.
  • No-one to open shop or work on the Sabbath or festivals.
  • In 1489 it was ordained that no merchant taylor was to sell hose (men or women's) on a stall in a market except at fair time but only in shops or houses.
  • Some were allowed only to be hosiers - one person, David ap Howell was allowed to make no new garments but only to mend old.


The Tailors' Company was moribund by the early 19th century. John Latimer, in his Annals of Bristol in the Nineteenth Century, says the last surviving Merchant Tailor in Bristol was a Mr Isaac Amos, who died in 1824, having been for many years the sole surviving member: 
'Mr Amos, so long as he lived, carried out the ancient customs of the guild with great gravity. He yearly elected himself master, and allowed himself £10 10s for serving 'an extra time'; summoned himself to committee meetings, and paid himself £12 12s for his attendances; audited his own accounts, and rewarded himself with £2 2s therefor; and finally put into his pocket various trifling gratuities authorised by established precedents.'

These were substantial sums of money! It's fair to say that Mr Amos did very well out of being the last of the Fraternity of Tailors.

This is the porch hood over the earlier Court House. The date is 1692.

 In ye oldene daies, there would have been wooden shutters in place of these windows.
 

These two figures of angels are probably mediaeval. How long they have been in situ or why they find themselves in Tailors' Court, no one knows.



Saturday, 30 July 2011

A City A-Bristle With Ships ...


It's the Harbour Festival in Bristol this weekend, and I spent a while at the Scout Hut on Redcliff Backs this lunchtime, with Dru who was selling some of her books and cards, alongside other Bristol publishers.  I had a thoroughly good time, drinking lots of tea and chatting to one of them, namely, Keith Taylor, who, with his wife Geraldine and son Peter, was lucky enough to meet and become the close friends of one of my heroes, the Wiltshire etcher, Robin Tanner, in the last few years of his life.   So good to hear that the great man, and his wife, Heather, were as kindly and humane in real life as I'd suspected.



Dru very kindly gave three copies of my book table space, though none of them sold.  In fact, far from making money, I ended up out of pocket, having succumbed to the lure of various local, heavily discounted publications.  Ah well, good to know I have kept several of the city's finest booksellers solvent for another year.

I had to get back to the car park at Asda promptly for fear of being clamped, so didn't really have time to linger in the harbour.  The day before, however, I'd had a post- workshop lunch at a very crowded Brunel's Buttery on Wapping Wharf with several of Bristol and Bath's finest poets, and had snapped these photos before the place really filled up with people.


I love it when the city is full of tall-masted ships. I like to think it must be a little like how it was when my great-great grandparents lived on Christmas Steps in the 1880s, selling faggots and peas in buckets to the men laying tramlines in the city centre.





                                The Mary Block

                                Pleasure, for my great-great-grandmother,
                                was always deferred.
                                You’ll get your reward in Heaven
                                the creed of her fellow Brethren
                                as they trod their narrow path towards
                                a stern, starch-collared God.
                                Abstinence deemed a virtue,
                                while hardship fell like blessings
                                on their heads.

                               Not that Mary never softened.
                               At times she pitied the wanting faces
                               of her offspring.
                               Scarlet ribbons … marbles … a waxen doll …
                               You’ll get it when my ship comes in!
                               Almost a promise when you live by the harbour
                               of a city a-bristle with ships,
                               and surely not idle
                               (for Mary Block was never idle).

                              Unlike her daughters, sent out for pig’s fry,
                              but sidling along the quays in search of adventure
                              amongst the stacked timber, the bales of tobacco,
                              the casks of amber Bristol Milk,
                              and finding a ship gilded to legend
                              by a shadow-shuttered dawn,
                              the name Mary Block engraved on her bows
                              and escaping like orisons from their mouths
                              as they hallelujah up Christmas Steps
                              towards disappointment.


                              Deborah Harvey ©  2011


My first poetry collection, Communion, published by Indigo Dreams, is now available, and this poem is in it.




Friday, 29 July 2011

Not quite Memory Lane ...

I recently started following Julia Cameron's course for unblocking creativity, 'The Artist's Way'.  In addition to writing three pages of stream of consciousness first thing every morning and a letter refuting my English teacher's assertion, 33 years ago, that I wasn't good enough to study English at A-level, you have to undertake to go on an Artist's Date once a week - ie to set aside two hours when you do something special on your own, just for yourself.  Well, I only managed one hour, but I did have fun photographing a corner of Bristol which has particular resonance for me.




These are all views of Nelson Street, wrecked first by the Luftwaffe in the Bristol Blitz of 1940-41 and later by the city council.  You can still see, however, that it runs in the shape of a curve, and that's because it used to hug the outer perimeter of the city's mediaeval walls.








Very little of the walls remains - just the Church of St John the Baptist (or St John's on the Wall), which you can glimpse on the right of this photo. It's no longer in use, but you can still visit it from time and time and it's really worth making the effort because there are mediaeval wall paintings inside and fascinating vaults.








Here's a better view.  Hooray for sensitive 1970s shopping and office developments!
Every now and then you get a glimpse of the way things used to be centuries ago.


















One  thing you won't see, however, is a sign declaring its former name.  This is because in mediaeval times it was known as Gropecunt Lane.  The mediaeval topographer, William Wyrcestre, tells us how many paces long it was, but not what went on there. It's probably as well.






Sunday, 17 July 2011

Beryl Cook Exhibition at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery

My friend Julie and I had intended to go for a walk this afternoon, but the weather was grim so we had a last minute change of plan and went to the City Museum to see the exhibition of paintings  by Beryl Cook.


Cook was a self-taught artist who was given a child’s paint box for her 40th birthday and embarked upon a career painting 'ordinary people enjoying themselves'. Her early efforts failed to satisfy her. 'I expected to paint like Stanley Spencer. It was a great disappointment to me when I realised that I didn’t.' 

The Art Establishment never thought much of her output either. 'I know there are some artists who look down on my work,' Cook said, 'and when you compare mine with some of the others, I can see what they’re getting at.'

Wandering around the gallery, I found myself wondering whether Robert Lenkiewicz, a fellow Plymouth artist whose work was exhibited in the RWA a couple of months ago, and Cook knew each other.  They were contemporaries, both figurative painters, both deeply unfashionable in artistic circles, but popular with the public.  Their work also shares a distinct sense of humour, although Lenkiewicz's is far more profound.   

And yet I liked Beryl Cook's best paintings.  For all that they lack subtlety and nuance, they achieve the artist's aim of making people feel more cheery for looking at them.   I even found myself coveting 'Dancing Couple' with its stylised symmetry (which definitely reminded me of Stanley Spencer) and 'In the Snug' which was painted in the historic Bristol harbourside pub, the Nova Scotia. And following a post-exhibition mug of tea and shared slice of coffee and walnut cake, even this wash-out of a summer Sunday didn't seem quite as dreary.   


Saturday, 16 July 2011

St Kenelm's Church, Sapperton



I had to travel to Oakridge Lynch in the Cotswolds on Thursday to drop off a dozen copies of my book at my cousin's house, so I decided to make an afternoon of it and take the dog for a nice, long walk.  We parked in the same little lane in Sapperton where I got snowbound 18 months ago and had a very slow and slip-slidey journey down off the scarp and back to Bristol.  No such problems in July. In fact, for once this summer it was glorious. 


I started with the church, and as soon as I walked into the churchyard, I spotted the grave of Emery Walker, engraver, printer and an acolyte of my all-time hero, William Morris.  How propitious!  


Lots of loveliness inside the Church of St Kenelm also, including Tudor linen-fold panelling and elaborate carvings from Sapperton Manor. 




I also loved the tomb of the topographer, Sir Robert Atkyns, who died in 1711, especially the figures to one side. (I know that feeling well.) 
There was also a very covetable, traditionally made oak bookshelf with a cupboard underneath, which looked as if it might have been crafted by one of Sapperton's celebrated erstwhile inhabitants, the Arts and Crafts architects and furniture designers, Ernest Gimson and Ernest and Sidney Barnsley.












Around the door, one of my favourite things, graffiti with serifs dating back to at least 1729.  This beautifully lettered example is from 1749.  



Back out in the summer, there was a proliferation of cranesbill and mallow, moon daisies, ragwort, grasses and angels.  













































Wednesday, 13 July 2011

And 'tis done!



My novel, 'Dart', which is set on Dartmoor during the time of the Great Plague, is due to be published by Indigo Dreams in 2012..  Cover by Dru Marland





Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Dart cover - almost complete

 plus 

and the miracle of modern technology ... 


Dart - cover by Dru Marland
                                                                    Dart - cover, a photo by Dru Marland on Flickr.

Flipping marvellous!


My novel, 'Dart', which is set on Dartmoor during the time of the Great Plague, is due to be published by Indigo Dreams in 2012. My collection of poetry, 'Communion', is now available, price £6.99.



Monday, 11 July 2011

... apart from now and a few more times

'Dart' by Dru Marland
'Dart', a photo by Dru Marland on Flickr.


Still basking in Dru's reflected glory ...











My novel, 'Dart', which is set on Dartmoor during the time of the Great Plague, is due to be published by Indigo Dreams in 2012. My collection of poetry, 'Communion', is now available, price £6.99.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Nevermore ...

'Dart' - work in progress by Dru Marland
'Dart' - work in progress, a photo by Dru Marland on Flickr.
I wanted Crow depicted in a threatening and sinister pose to mirror its symbolism in my novel, 'Dart'. I've been left in no doubt that they're fed up to the backbeak with being stereotyped, but this particular one has grudgingly reprised the role one last time, as its crowsong.

The artist, Dru Marland, is likewise weary. 'Nevermore!' quoth she.


'Dart' is due to be published by Indigo Dreams in 2012.  My collection of poetry, 'Communion', is now available, price £6.99.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Poet in Residence

Courtesy of Bristol poet John Terry (who feeds squirrels)



A Foretaste ...

If you live in the same small factory town as I do, you can now pop into the local library and borrow a copy of my poetry collection, 'Communion'.  If you don't, well, it's also available to buy, price £6.99.  


There are a couple of ways of doing this. The first is to visit my author page in the Indigo Dreams Bookshop, where there's a selection of poems from the collection posted -  a sort of foretaste of the heavenly banquet, if you like. And indeed, if you do, then you can buy a copy by clicking on the Central Books logo.  


Signed copies are available from me. Please email me at deborah.harvey@ymail.com for details on how to get one.  




‘Deborah Harvey’s … poems are raw and true. She is the real thing.’                                          Hugo Williams

‘A vision of the past in the present. Communion is a gift of blood to the ghosts.’                       Reg Meuross