About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Friday 9 August 2019

The Shock of the Familiar - Charleston and St Margaret's, Rottingdean

Off to Sussex again, and this time I managed to slide in a visit to Charleston, the home of Vanessa Bell and various other members of the Bloomsbury Group, which I'd wanted to visit for aaaages.

We had a couple of hours to while away until our guided tour, so after a very nice lunch, we had a wander around the galleries ... 

Howard Hodgkin, Interior at Oakwood Court

... and the garden, which was a seemingly  unruly but almost certainly very well-mannered mix of vegetables, flowers and fruit.  

I've read a lot about the Bloomsbury Group over the years, and room after room revealed the shock of the familiar, only this time for real. That said, there was still plenty to learn from our guide, Stacey, who clearly loves the house and everything in it.  

The only disppointment was not being able to take pictures of the interiors, on the grounds that photographing borrowed items would be an infringement of copyright. In some ways, this is no great loss since photos abound on line and in books, but the images I'd have liked to have taken are the ones you don't see in guides ... the glimpses down shadowy corridors, the wobbly views of gardens through antique glass, the windows looking out over steeply-pitched tiled roofs. 

On the way back to Bristol, I decided to detour to Rottingdean so I could pop into St Margaret's of Antioch to see its Morris and Co windows. 

That St Margaret's should be so blessed is likely due in no small part to the fact that Edward Burne Jones, the designer of the windows, and his wife, Georgie, bought a holiday home overlooking the Green and the church in 1880, and liked it so much, they spent much of the remaining years of their lives there. 

St Margaret's dates from around 1100AD and has a chequered past, involving a calamitous collapse and a raid by marauding French pirates, who set fire to it in 1377, burning to death many of the villagers who'd sought refuge there. 

It's believed that the stonework of the arches and windows got its pink and grey colouring from the intense heat of the fire. 

But while we're inside, let's be 'aving these windows ... with apologies for the quality of the photos. 

The East Window
with Archangel Gabriel ...

... Michael ... 

... and Raphael

Saints Veronica and St George

Saint Margaret of Antioch

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Jacob's Ladder

Jesse Tree

There are two other excellent windows in the church. This one is of the empty tomb and it's by Caroline Townshend, another stained glass artist of the Arts and Crafts Movement. 

The other is a much more modern Millennium window, designed by Andrew Taylor and installed in 2004. 

Of course, having so many stunning windows reflects badly on the rest if they are at all mediocre. Which they are. Here's one. 

The glass in the south aisle was no better, so I didn't hang around as it was close to rush hour and I had an important thing to do outside, namely to locate the grave of Ned and Georgie. I decided it would be in a prominent place and started to look at the grandest, but with no luck. Then I thought maybe they had a beautiful, humble grave, like William Morris's in Kelmscott, but again there was nothing. 

And every time I looked through an opening in a hedge or wall, there were yet more graves.

It was only when I got home that I learnt that their memorial stones are set into the external wall of their church, with their ashes buried somewhere in the churchyard. 

I also read that their granddaughter, the writer Angela Thirkell, is buried at St Margaret's too and has a wooden memorial that has been left to rot into the ground, as she requested when she died in 1961. 

I'd wondered at this while I was hurtling around the churchyard; it's carved with a quotation from Shakespeare - The bird is dead/that we have made so much on. Now I wonder if her name is on the other side. I can feel a return visit coming on.


  1. Lovely photos and fascinating tales

    1. Thank you. My interests can be a bit esoteric, so I'm always glad when someone else has enjoyed reading about them.

  2. Always enjoy your rambles. I now live in North Yorks, but lived in Bath for many years, so your blogs on Bristol are always interesting.