Tag Archives: sudeley

Sudeley Snapshots: Farewell

29 Oct

A last visit to much-loved Sudeley.  You know now, along with me, that my time in Camelot is ending, so perhaps you can also see these images with the mix of pending nostalgia that has colored all of my last days.

IMG_20140911_152718edI like to imagine these windows with Henry VIII looking through them … or Elizabeth walking past … or unfortunate Katherine Parr with Jane Grey … Or as an example of how we strange humans create windows where there is just air, and backdrops for our passions and dreams where there is really just sunlight.

IMG_4214edFor now, the peacocks own the view.  Well, and the art-loving Dent-Brocklehurst family, of course.

IMG_4217edI love this little cupid, and look for him in the secret garden every visit.

IMG_20140911_145111edThe displays inside the Castle have been updated and extended since our first visit.  I like this windowed corner with remembrance poppies.

IMG_20140911_145434edAnd this new bust of Richard III, commissioned after his burial site was rediscovered.  I was lucky enough to take a tour of the private apartments at Sudeley a couple years ago — now, many of the rooms formerly only accessible during that tour are part of the general public tour route.  (No photos allowed in this part of the house, however, so you really must go for yourself to see!)  If you’ve never been, or haven’t been recently, I recommend a visit.

IMG_20140911_151813edThis velvet royal ‘private’ on display is too amazing not to share.  A throne, indeed.

IMG_20140911_151820edKatherine’s privy lady — her sister — looks over the Queen’s Walk to the Chapel.  I feel I’m standing next to her, in spirit, caught in contemplation forever.

IMG_4230edAnd I take one look back over the box mazes and flowers, before we go.


Sudeley Snapshots: Tithe Barn

9 Oct

Another installment in the occasional series of photos from lovely Sudeley Castle.  Built in the fifteenth century by Ralph Boteler, to the side of Sudeley Castle, is the Tithe Barn.

IMG_4207edThe building was largely destroyed by Cromwell’s forces during the English Civil war, but the romantic walls remain.

IMG_4193edThe interior has been re-imagined as a sweet and almost secret garden, with wild roses, hollyhocks, hydrangeas, wild clematis, wisteria, foxgloves, and more.  It’s like a Shakespearean sonnet, really.

IMG_4195edEvery doorway and window has its own character, its own sense of being a magic portal.

IMG_4185edEven in autumn, with most of the blooms past their prime or gone entirely, the Tithe Barn retains a sweet beauty.

IMG_4190edTake a walk through and around the barn, and check out views perfectly framed by both architecture and vegetation.

IMG_4201edTurn around and see the upright silhouette of Sudeley Castle itself through the flowers.

IMG_4196edOr stand clear and enjoy that graceful view — almost cozy, when it comes to castles — reflected in the carp pond.



8 Jun

A quick Sudeley Snapshot as I slowly work on more blog posts (it’ll happen!).  Lovely purple alium blossoms in the Queens Garden this weekend:

purple alliumThe white roses for which the garden is famed are not yet blooming — our terrible winter strikes again — but do you see the busy bee who photobombed the blossoms?


Day out: Hailes Abbey

3 Oct

An English Heritage site near Sudeley Castle and steps away from Hailes Church, Hailes Abbey is worth a visit in its own right or as part of a longer day of touring near Winchcombe.  Formerly a Cistercian Abbey, home of the would-be miraculous ‘Holy Blood of Hailes‘ and internationally famed pilgrimage spot, Hailes Abbey was devastated by the dissolution of the monasteries and now remains as an evocative fairy-tale scaffolding on which to hang your imaginings of English medieval daily life in a large monastic complex.

Oh, I wrote my undergrad thesis on pilgrimage routes through Europe, did I not mention that?  No worries.

Let’s just stick with the fairy-tale imaginings.  Here we’re standing on top of the mound representing the shrine pilgrims would have once circled as they glimpsed the holy blood of Hailes relic.  The entire abbey church is now simply a huge lawn, with walls and pillars remaining only as lines on the ground.

Really big lines on the ground.  Margery Kempe walked here.

She would not have walked here, inside the cloister.

Here in the remains of the chapter house, you can sit on a ledge where monks would have rested hundreds of years ago.  This day I enjoyed bright sunshine and nearly 90 degree weather — in the winter, monks would have sat silently, without heat.  Across the cloister you can see remains of the west range — spaces for lay brothers and the cellarer’s stores.

Ahead the ‘day stairs’ to the dormitories — now going no-where — and the door to the warming house.  This is the only room in the monastery (aside from the infirmary) which was allowed to keep a fire burning.

Straight ahead, the length of the refectory (where the brothers ate), and to the right the smaller warming room.  To the left, the low walls lay out the kitchen.  To the rear, beyond the cloister, the abbey church would have risen meters in to the sky, overshadowing the entire complex.

Cleanliness and sanitation were important in Cistercian monasteries.  The drain still flows through the complex, bringing fresh water from the Cotswold hills through the kitchen and to the lavatory.

On the day of this visit, school children were walking through the monastery in Cistercian white robes, trying to imagine the life of a thirteenth century monk by walking in his footsteps.

A view no monk would have seen.  As I sit under gray skies on this cold fall day, I am warmed by the sight and memory of these yellow-gold flowers.

View from the bottom of the day stairs past the undercroft, vestry, chapter house, and parlor, then the door into the Abbey near the quire.  No idea what I’m talking about?  Here.

Up at Sudeley Castle, you can see more about the life and destruction of Hailes Abbey, including a description of a visit by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Anne’s supposed outrage over the relic of the blood and the subsequent investigation of the relic in London.  It’s a story full of cynicism.

The museum offers free audio guides for self-guided walking tours of the site, keyed to numbered information plaques and completely worthwhile.  Although a site like Tintern Abbey gives one a better sense of the layout of a Cistercian monastery, the beautiful isolation of Hailes Abbey is hard to surpass.  The nearly inevitable gift shop has the usual sorts of items, but the typical small cafe is missing.  However, a few hundred meters up the road you’ll find a small farm shop and a slightly doubtful restaurant.  After eating there, I’d suggest collecting picnic food at the farm shop and having a dreamy picnic overlooking the fairy-tale ruins of Hailes Abbey.

Sudeley snapshots: figures in the garden

21 Sep

Sudeley Castle is known for its art installations and patronage of the arts.  (Did you know that much of the Tate Gallery collection was kept at Sudeley during WWII?  Apparently having all those masterpieces stacked around in the living room enhanced a bone-deep appreciation for art in the family bloodline.)  On a recent walk through the gardens, I was struck by the many fantastical man-made figures who walk the Sudeley gardens along with the many tourists and guests.

A sunbather in the pond between the tithe barn and the Castle.

A flowering chair awaits beneath a tithe barn arch.

I have no idea if these are meant to be art or not, but they caught my attention and made me think romantical thoughts — good enough for me.

Oh, dear, heads in the garden again.

A winged messenger, near the dungeon tower.  I wonder if he is coming to set someone free — or put them away.

A young woman with a gown of metal lace emerges from the trees.

A mosaic sword in the knot garden.

An I’m-not-sure who in a courtyard overlooked by the ruins of the old state apartments — where Henry VIII and Elizabeth I would have walked — which were destroyed by Cromwell.

Katherine Parr would have walked this path from her private apartments to her private pew in St. Mary’s church (where she is now buried).  She was attended then in life by Lady Jane Grey — and now in immortality she walks and reads from her prayer book as a hedge figure, followed by a smaller Lady Jane Hedge.

Here is Lady Jane in one of the many stained-glass portraits in the fifteenth century St. Mary’s Church.  (More photos from a previous visit to the Church here: Sudeley snapshots: Kathering Parr)

Here also in the Church, a temporary modern exhibit of photographs of wax figures created based on original paintings — here Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn.  These are from Hiroshi Sugimoto‘s “Portraits” series commissioned by the Guggenheim in Berlin, and they are intriguingly, fascinatingly lifelike — except for the hands, which look all wrong.

The name of this work was lost in the flowers.  No, I don’t mean that was the name, the name was written down on a placard which was buried under flowers.  Kind of beautiful to have the man-made art mixed in so closely with the natural blooms.

He may be hard to spot, but I promise there is a charming putto hiding inbetween the flowers of the Secret Garden.

Lady bathers, taking their metal lives into their own hands if they are going out on that bright boat (it’s full of water).

Another bibliophile hedge lady in a quiet garden near the tithe barn.

At the visitors’ entrance, a life-sized figure of Katherine Parr, holding the Rosa Mundi — a striped rose showing the colors of York white and Lancaster red — the Tudor Rose.

All these figures at Sudeley enhance my appreciation for the hundreds of years of human action that still feel alive at the castle, and the many characters who strolled these same paths in flesh and blood, leaving behind their footprints in history — and nature.

Day out: Hailes Church

15 Sep


Another small and almost tender small spot to visit, close to Sudeley Castle and only a few steps away from Hailes Abbey.  These small churches — like Odda’s Chapel or Elkstone Church — have an emotive appeal that transcends their size and relative lack of fame.

Hailes Church sits quietly between cemetery, parking lay-by, and agricultural fields.  The exterior looks small and tidy:


The church was built in the 12th century by a local lord, attached to a local castle which was eventually taken over by Henry III, then ceded to his brother Richard of Gloucester, who founded the nearby Cistercian Hailes Abbey  in the mid 13th century.  The Church then acted as the gate-chapel for the Abbey, used by visitors and pilgrims.  It is still a functioning church.  Which kind of blows my mind.  Read more about the history of the Church here: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/hailes-church.htm

What I found most amazing — almost shockingly amazing — are the medieval wall paintings:

A hunting scene, with greyhounds and a rabbit.  A local lord and benefactor, immortalized?  An obscure christian metaphor?  All I know for sure is the delicate tracery of these paintings will not last forever, and need to be preserved and renovated.  Where was that million dollars I had stashed away in my kitchen cupboards?

Because St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers and anyone who feared an unconfessed death and the visitor’s first view when entering the church, needs our help.  He’s mostly ghost, already.


For reasons unknown to me, there is a pail full of smooth stones near the entry.  Perhaps travelers along the Cotswold Way leave a stone to commemorate this stage in their journey?  An offering to ask for pebble-free shoes along the way?  Or maybe something as simple as new stones for the flowerbeds?

Turn to the right and see the Church in its entirety.  (To the right, a parishioner is tidying up the benches and altar.)  Almost elegant in its extreme simplicity, but age has worn down all the clean and clear lines and left meandering wrinkles and bumps.

Which makes me think of vampires.  I’m weird that way.  But, what a scene.

Walk through to the chancel and check out the 15th century window.

Painted frieze in the chancel (near the altar), showing the twelve apostles.



Here’s the smart and high-class (and very very dead) St. Catherine of Alexandria.  She turned down a handsy Emperor, outwitted all the guys in a philosophical debate, rode a spiked wheel (but not for fun) and was beheaded.  Yup, that’s my patron saint!  Rock it, chica.The altar itself, with its humble cloth.  I almost fainted when I saw all the colorful, medieval, hand made stone tiles.  These are not original to the Church, but were removed from Hailes Abbey during the dissolution of the monasteries and laid out here in somewhat random fashion.

Just take my word for it: this is completely amazing.

What would have stood in these recesses by the chancel door, I wonder?  Statuary, flowers, people, candles?

This grumpy owl would have looked over it all.  (He might as well be grumpy, he represents sin and darkness.  Poor thing.)

To one side of the altar, surrounded by more of those tiles, a medieval tomb.  Who wants to go all Indiana Jones and open it?

With the door behind you, owl to the left, tomb to the right, this is your view over the altar toward St. Catherine.  There’s a lovely hush in the Church, but it is small enough to feel intimate.

Walk out over stone memorials, between rough wooden benches …

And return to the modern world, and sunshine.  (And, on this particular day, a stunning stroll through Hailes Abbey .. but that’s a story for another day.)















Sudeley snapshots: Katherine Parr

10 Jun

Sudeley Castle is close enough that we’ve visited about once a month since we moved here.  There’s a great kids’ play area, a cafe in a huge hall, beautiful gardens and views, tons of history, peacocks, pheasants, and the inevitable gift shop.  I’ve been trying to put together a single post about Sudeley, but I’ve given up — it’s a moving target.  Instead here’s the first in what will be a desultory and unhurried set of Sudeley Castle snapshots.  And what better place to start — especially now that we’ve ended our Jubilee week — than with a Queen?

Katherine Parr, last wife of Henry VIII, is buried at Sudeley in the Chapel of St. Mary.


The Chapel is surrounded by white roses and other white flowers, for the ‘white queen’.

The nearby Queen’s garden continues the theme of white flowers.

The location is beautiful and serene — if you ignore the bloody history that runs through this whole area — War of the Roses, Civil War — smell the flowers and don’t think about it for now.

Inside the Chapel, colorful stained glass.

This window shows Elizabeth I in the center and Edward VI to the right — Katherine Parr’s stepchildren, of whom she was reportedly very fond and took good care.  Elizabeth lived at Sudeley with Katherine for a time after Henry VIII’s death.  Err, I forget who the other guy is.  My bad.

Katherine died shortly after the birth of a daughter (she had married Thomas Seymore after the death of Henry VIII.  Quel Scandal!)    Her coffin was discovered by a farmer a few hundred years later, and apparently it became some kind of idiot’s game to open up her coffin and check out her corpse.  Morons.

Wall plaque describing the Queen.  The Chapel dates to the 15th century, but it was rebuilt in the early 19th century in order to give Queen Katherine a decent resting place without any more coffin-tipping morons to disturb her.

The marble tomb is peaceful, soft.

But … wait for it …

What’s this, tucked in a side chapel behind the tomb?

Oh my SUGAR, what the double sticks is this?  My kids were freaked the freak out by this recreation of the death bed of Katherine Parr.  Those figures in the background are movie projections — they fidget and mumble — the whole thing is truly strange, and therefore cool, and I salute Sudeley Castle for making learning terrifying and memorable.

If that hasn’t scarred you enough, inside the castle is another in-your-face moment with the Queen.

The 500th anniversary of Katherine’s birth is this year, and Sudeley Castle is hosting a variety of events in honor of that event.  Check it out — and put Sudeley on your list when you visit the Cotswolds.