Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Campanula’

The mediaeval church of St Just-in-Penwith held a special surprise for us;  two very interesting examples of mediaeval secco art.  And that was by no means all that was of interest in this church.  No matter what your religious persuasion, or otherwise,  the story of this church is fascinating.   The old market town of St Just may not have much else to offer the visitor to this isolated southern part of Cornwall, but it does have this treasure.  How we found it, is part of this story.

P1150420 - Version 2

P1150420 © JT of jtdytravels

St Just was the only market town for this busy mining area along the coast.  It is old, grey, stone, drab, and quite uninviting, especially on a cold, rainy, windy day.  We would have driven straight through except for three things.  This town has the only public toilet for miles around.  I needed to find a chemist.  And the Ellis branch of David’s family had lived here in times past.  After satisfying the first two needs, we went to find the graveyard and pay our respects to some of David’s ancestors.

.

P1150302 - Version 2

P1150302 © JT of jtdytravels

Wandering along one very narrow street, we happened upon the only vestige of a garden that we were to find in the whole town.  Purple Clematis adorned the wall and Campanula spilled over the wall.  The sight of this tiny garden cheered me up.

Then,  just around the next corner, we met a very friendly man who just happened to be keen on family history.  Another nice surprise.  He told us that, even though we believed that the Ellis family were Quakers, by law they would have had to be buried in consecrated ground.  And that meant burial either in the grave yard of the established church, until about the late 1880s, or in the Methodist Chapel graveyard after that.  Since many miners in Cornwall had joined the Wesleyan Movement in the late 1700s, we went to the Methodist graveyard first.

.

P1150303

P1150303 © JT of jtdytravels

The Methodist Chapel is a large, grey, unadorned building and quite forbidding in appearance.   After a search across wet, grassy, uneven  ground, we did find one Ellis headstone dated 1935.   So some members of the Ellis family had lived on here long after William left to go to Australia in 1850.   We knew that the probability of finding any older Ellis headstones was quite remote.  To begin with, they were poor miners and could not have afforded headstones.  Even if they had, time would have eroded the inscriptions away and lichen and moss would have taken up residence instead.  But here, at least, was the resting places of some of the family.

With rain coming down and the cold seeping into my bones despite my wet weather gear, I decided to sit in the warmth and dry of the car while David went in search of the established Church.  He soon came back to get me.  I had to go with him to see this church.  It was, he said, special.  I had almost missed out on one of the real treasures of Cornwall.  Let me share it with you now.

.

P1060311

P1060311 © DY of jtdytravels

From outside, this very old church showed that it had been built in three different phases.  There are three separate aisles with three different window shapes.  And indeed, the story of this church encompasses much of the history of the area.

There’s been a place of prayer and worship on this site for over 1500 years.  The first ‘cell’ or oratory belonged to St Justin, thought to have been a Celtic missionary, a native of Cornwall, who became a ‘holy man’ in the 5th Century.  Four, possibly five, other celtic cells or oratories followed on this site long before there was ever a settlement here.  The area became enclosed as a ‘lan’ with a small prayer and oratory chapel and several stone beehive huts.  When the Normans came to Cornwall after 1066, they swept away these small buildings, using the stone to build their own form of church.

By the 14th century, that Norman church had suffered badly at the hands of the wild Cornish weather.  A new church was needed.  And so, in 1334, the central part of this church was built in the form of a cross.   A small settlement grew up around the church.  It was known as “Lefrowda”:  laf or lan, a Cornish word meaning a religious enclosure;  rood, rode or rod, a Saxon word meaning cross or crucifix; and dha, a Cornish word meaning good.

This name alone shows the infiltration of words that came into the Cornish language due to the influence of ‘outsiders’.  Nowadays, the Cornish language is all but lost.  Although the Normans began that change, the final impetus for that loss came as a direct result of the reformation with the introduction of  the English language Book of Common Prayer and the forced change of the church litany from Latin to English.  With that change there was much disquiet in Cornwall.  Riots occurred, lead by Cornish churchmen, resulting in quite a few deaths.  The English law came down heavily against Cornish people struggling to maintain there language and their litany.  A new order was forced upon them and the Cornish language was fairly quickly lost.  Is it any wonder that, to this day, Cornish people refuse to think of themselves as being English.

In the 14th and 15th Centuries, the cruciform shape of the main church was lost when the two side aisles of the church were added .  The town that grew up around the church took on a new name, St Just;  and another piece of history was told through the story of this church.

.

P1060316

P1060316 © DY of jtdytravels

When you first enter the church, it is dim.  As your eyes adjust to the gentle light, you can see how the light coming through the main window reflects off the amazing collection of grey granite stones that make up the very thick walls.  Behind the altar is a very unusual and beautifully carved Reredos set into two dimly lit alcoves.  Made of Derbyshire Alabaster, the carvings represent fourteen Cornish Saints.  This Reredos was presented to the church in 1896.  It’s the first of the interesting works of art to be enjoyed in this church.

.

P1150307

P1150307 © JT of jtdytravels

The walls inside the church show clearly the random, rubble type of granite construction often used in Cornwall.  In most other churches, this is not visible since it was the custom to cover the rubble with plaster and whitewash.  But here, the plaster was stripped away in about 1865 when the church underwent restoration.  The light grey granite is now accentuated by black pitch pointing.

Stripping off the plaster during the restoration of the church, also revealed very different qualities of workmanship between the north and the south aisles.  And that tells another part of the story of this town.

Work on both of the new side aisles of the church started in the 14th century.  However, the North Aisle was finished fifty years earlier than the South Aisle and is much more carefully constructed.  Why should that be?  The answer; before the South Aisle could be finished, Cornwall was hit by the plague; the Black Death.  The population was decimated and all work on the church ceased.  Much later, in the early part of the 15th Century, the South Aisle was finally completed, but somewhat more roughly than the North Aisle.

.

P1150315 - Version 2

P1150315 © JT of jtdytravels

But the pillars (the capitals) were completed by some very skilled craftsmen.

Each pillar was richly carved with its own distinctive 15th century design.

These designs include an assortment of shields, vine leaves, roses and quatrefoils.

.

P1150318

P1150318 © JT of jtdytravels

The font, also, was beautifully carved.

.

P1060313 - Version 2

P1060313 © DY of jtdytravels

During the building of the church, after a wall was completed, it was covered in plaster and white washed.  And into that plaster the secco art murals were painted.  A note in the church describes this art:  “The paintings are executed in a standard palette of red and yellow ochres and carbon black in a lime medium.  They were painted onto a layer of wet lime wash over a single layer of thick lime and sand render. This technique is known as ‘secco’ (dry) as opposed to ‘fresco’ in which the paint is applied directly onto wet plaster.”

One of the paintings (above) depicts Saint George, patron saint of England, representing all that is good.  He fights the dragon which represents all that is evil, wrong and impure in the world.  It is one of  six secco murals that were originally painted in this church, each a visual depiction of some lesson to be taught to the mostly illiterate congregation.

After the Reformation, all such works were to be destroyed.  Here at St Just, the paintings were simply covered in whitewash. Over the centuries, many more coats of whitewash covered the paintings.  They were forgotten.  It was not until restoration of the church commenced in 1865 that their existence was rediscovered.  However, much of the art work was destroyed by the workmen who were employed to strip the whitewash off the walls with axes.  Only two have survived somewhat intact.  St George is one of them, but this painting was mostly overpainted during the restoration of the church.  Not much of the original mediaeval paint survives.

.

P1150320  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1150320 © JT of jtdytravels

In the second secco painting, much more of the original art work survives.  Also painted on the wall of the North Aisle,  this work is known as “Christ of the Trades”.  It represents Christ blessing the work tools of the various occupations of the people of the town at that time.  It gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people who were part of this congregation.  Some of the tools depicted include a fisherman’s reel, an axe, a shoemaker’s knife, a carpenter’s chisel, a wall candlestick, a turf cutter,  a mason’s trowel, a cooper’s adze, a wool carder’s comb, a bit for a horse’s mouth, a sickle, shears for cutting cloth, a thatcher’s comb, an anvil and bellows.

In a note regarding the future preservation and conservation of the paintings, mention is made the problems associated with the prevailing westerly winds and abundance of rain in West Cornwall.   We had personal experience of both of those.

.

P1060321 - Version 2

P1060321 © DY of jtdytravels

Other items of interest in the church also told something of the story of this area.  In these churches in the mining areas of Cornwall, there are often memorials to the wealthy owners of the local mines.  This church is no exception.  The Lady Chapel East Window is just one of three windows in this church dedicated to the Harvey James family who were formerly the owners of the local Botallock Mine.  It’s has delightful floral and palm tree styled traceries.

I wondered what miners and their families thought of these windows knowing that it was their hard work that really paid for them.

.

P1060317 - Version 2

P1060317 © DY of jtdytravels

In most churches, each person, or group of people, had their designated places to sit, or stand, within the church.  Personalizing the end of their special pew with a carving was just another way that the mine and land owners displayed their wealth within the church.  One example is this beautifully carved wooden pew end which bears the date 1625 and the initials JB.  The carving is of a coat of arms; merging the coats of arms of two local land owning families – Arundell and Bosavern.  Three shells down the centre are flanked by six swallows, three on each side.  After almost four hundred years, it was in remarkably good condition.

.

P1150295

P1150295 © JT of jtdytravels

The organist was practising a few pieces while we wandered around the church and that gave it a warm, ‘used’ feeling.  Some of the churches we visited on this trip felt very cold and unloved, signs of waining church attendance.

As we left the church, I noticed some tiny flowers growing in the outer stone work.  I also noticed that the weather had cleared somewhat and that meant we could go out onto the moors again to enjoy the wildflowers.  More of that anon.

Jennie and David

Photography  Copyright  ©  JT  and   DY  Travels

.

.

Read Full Post »

Today’s gardeners, if they have the right conditions, can grow plants that came originally from all corners of the world.  That’s thanks in large part to visionary, pioneer plantsmen like Hugh Armytage Moore of Rowallane. This garden is his legacy and to wander here, is to take a world tour of plants!

A quiet space in Rowallane’s walled garden

The walled gardens are large enough to have trees that form a gracious backdrop to the smaller plants. It’s a garden to take your time in, to wander and to sit and contemplate the amazing variety of plants. That seat did look inviting.. but, unfortunately, a to sit there was not possible in the rain!

The lawn area framed by plants.

The central lawn area gives this garden an openness, a space. It allows you to not only enjoy each flowering plant up close, but also to see them further away in their setting against the trees.  And looking through these spaces is an invitation wander along more paths, to explore further.

Rogersia sp.

There are so many plants that captured the eye like these Rogersias with their panicles of flowers rising above strongly veined leaves.

Rogersia sp.

Rogersia leaves are as photogenic as the flowers themselves!

Rogersia sp.

The flowers of Rogersia come in various shades from red to pink, and cream to white except for Rogersia nepalensis which are a greeny yellow. This is yet another plant that comes originally from eastern Asia, most species being found in China, Tibet and Nepal. In their native habitats they thrive in soil that never dries out, growing by streams and in shady moist woodland. No wonder they grow well in Ireland!

Rogersia sp.

Grouping different colours of Rogersias together makes quite a show. They are indeed a very handsome plant.

Giant Knapweed,   Centaurea macrocephala 

Another plant that I hadn’t encountered before is the Giant Knapweed, Centaurea macrocephala.  These are rather tall plants, up to one and a half meters, with flowers on ram rod stiff stems. They are very hard to miss!   The shaggy-headed, yellow, thistle-like flowers emerge from their bracts in early summer through to late summer.  In the wild, the many species of this genus, Centaurea, are found only north of the equator and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere, particularly in the the Middle East.

Giant Knapweed, Centaurea macrocephala

Although the yellow flowers were fascinating, it was without doubt, the balls of  sculptured, glowing bronze balls of bracts that really attract attention. They add such an interesting textural component to the garden and, I’ve no doubt, look very good dried in flower arrangements. The species name of this particular Centaurea is macrocephala and that’s derived from two Greek words:  makros meaning ‘large’ and kephale, meaning ‘head’. Very apt.

When researching this plant in the horticulture literature, I learned that the botanical name for this plant, Centaurea, comes from the name of a noble mythical Centaur, Chiron. I searched further.  It appears that, in Greek mythology, this centaur, half- man and half-horse, taught music, horse skills, hunting, martial arts and medicine to several of the great Greek mythical heroes.  He is credited with inventing medicine. And in one story, Chiron cured a festering arrow wound, in one of said heroes, by covering the wound with the flowers of a plant from this genus.  And for that, the genus not only got its name, Centaurea, but also its reputation for having great healing properties.  I wonder if modern medicine has discovered this!

Centaurea montana

There are many species of Centaurea. Another one growing in this garden is the lovely blue cornflower-like Centaurea montana, with its solitary fringed blue flower with a reddish centre.  The natural habitat of Centaurea montana is, not surprisingly, in mountain areas, particularly in the more southerly mountain ranges of Europe where I have seen it in the wild. It has also become established in the wild in the UK, Scandinavia and North America, but in those places it is as a ‘garden escapee’. It has several common names, including perennial cornflower, mountain cornflower, bachelor’s button, montane knapweed or mountain bluet, so once again, the botanical name is the most useful descriptor.

It’s very similar to the more commonly known and grown blue cornflower, Centaurea cyanus.   The difference is that Centaurea montana  is an evergreen, perennial plant that has a reddish centre and just a single flower head (rarely three).  By contrast, Centaurea cyanus has many flower heads, is blue in the centre and is an annual. The blue cornflower, once a common sight in cornfields, hence its common name, is now, as a result of modern farm practices, rarely seen in the wild although it is widely grown as a garden plant.  In this garden of uncommon plants, Centaurea montana prevailed.

Another garden view of the old stables tower

The tower of the old stables is always a focal point in this garden. The yellow flowers bordering the path here are Golden Garlic,  Allium moly.

A border of Golden Garlic,  Allium moly

That bright yellow of Golden Garlic, Allium moly,  made quite a statement bordering the main path back to the bottom entrance arch, yet another focal point in the garden.   This perennial plant, also sometimes called Lily Leek, is primarily found in Southern France and Spain.

This was another plant in the garden that had a ‘name plate’ with information notes.  From that we learned that the bulb of Allium moly is edible and is used for some medicinal purposes. It is used in this garden as a long-lasting, wonderful sunny border. It is easy to grow and naturalizes quickly, increasing happily in the sun in most garden soils. So prolific are these plants that the gardeners here deadhead the flowers before the seeds set – a most necessary measure to help control its spread to parts of the garden where it is not wanted!  The golden flowers make excellent cut flowers.

Golden Garlic, Allium Moly

Another mythical story refers to this plant. One of the greatest Greek storytellers was Homer and in his epic, ‘The Odyssey’, moly was the name of the drug used by Hermes to help Odysseus to become resistant to Circe’s magic spells.  She had planned to turn Odysseus into a pig, as she had already done to some of his men. As with many good stories, once Circe realised that Odysseus was resistant to her magic, she fell in love with him and released his men from her spell.

Crane’s Bill, Geranium sp.

A plant much used in the Irish gardens that we visited is the Geranium, commonly called Crane’s Bill.  With a mounding growth habit, interesting cleft leaves and often beautifully veined flower petals, Geraniums are a wonderful addition to any garden. With something over 400 species to choose from, gardeners can add a touch of colour and beauty with these plants that originate mostly in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

The name of this plant causes some confusion with another plant commonly called Geranium, the Pelargonium… the type that is grown in such profusion in window boxes in places like Switzerland and Austria. It appears that Linnaeus, the man who gave us the binomial way of naming plants, originally included both of these types of plants in the one genus, Geranium. In 1789 they were separated into two genera but still in the family known as Geraniaceae.  But the common name geranium stayed in usage for both.   Confusing?  Yes. But there is a difference if we look at the flowers.

Geranium flowers, as in the photo above, are radially symmetrical with five very similar petals. The next photo of a species in the pelargonium family, shows flowers that have two upper petals very different from the three lower petals. The flowers do look quite different, it’s just the name that confuses.

Pelargonium sp.

In this garden the true Geranium species are grown in the garden beds… the Pelargonium species were grown in pots by the stables.

Peony sp.

A little further along the main path were a group of peonies, those wonderful flowers that look like they have put on diaphonous party dresses and are just waiting for a handsome prince to take them to a royal ball, there to waltz the night away!  It was not a surprise to me to learn that the genus Paeonia is rather unique in that it is the only genus in the flowering plant family of Paeoniaceae, a name first used by Friedrich K L Rudolphi in 1830. I think he must have been a romantic at heart and fell under the spell of these beautiful flowers, just as I always do. They are unique. Peonies are native across much of the northern hemisphere in Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America but have now been bred to grow in many parts of the world, including our own garden in Canberra.

Peony sp.

Another beautiful peony, staying out of the worst of the rain under an its ‘umbrella’ of foliage.

Peony sp.

And another. They are just so lovely.

And here’s another flower-related Greek legend, this one is associated with the name Peony or (Paeony). The story goes that Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing had a pupil named Paeon. But Paeon must have been a little too bright for his teacher’s comfort and Asclepius became very jealous. However, before Asclepius could take out his wrath on the young Paeon, the great god Zeus stepped in and turned Paeon into a peony flower. And, interestingly, Peonies have long been used in traditional medicines of Korea, China and Japan.

Comfrey, Symphytum sp.

And while mentioning the medicinal properties of plants, Comfrey, Symphytum sp,  has been cultivated and valued for it’s medicinal uses for over 2,000 years by various cultures in its native areas of Europe and Asia.  It is said to have been used as a blood coagulant, a treatment for maladies of the lung, and as a poultice to aid in the healing of wounds and broken bones. Consumed as a tea, comfrey is said to treat a variety of internal ailments. I just love its beautiful blue bell-like flowers that are even more lovely when touched by the rain… again, that bonus of walking in a garden in the rain.

Campanula sp.

Another favourite genus of mine, grown in many gardens these days, is Campanula. And there are many stories associated with these delightful blue bell like flowers… especially in places like Ireland where they are connected to ‘the good folk’ – the fairies. It is said that people did not dig them out of their gardens – just in case they should offend the fairies who may sleep in these bells or use them as goblets to collect the dew. And in North America, the Haida Indians cautioned their children not to pick these flowers, or it would rain. Perhaps the Irish should start to pick these bells to STOP the rain!

Raindrops on Delphinium sp. flower buds.

And rain it certainly did, while we visited this beautiful garden of Rowallane.  As the rain grew heavier, we had to finally give up, take one more photo of raindrops on petals, this time on Delphinium buds, and make a quick retreat to the car.

It had been a fascinating morning in a garden that is not only a wonderful legacy to Hugh Armytage Moore, but also a tribute to the gardeners of the National Trust who maintain this important garden with such care and diligence – and I daresay, with a great love for the plants they grow.

Photography © JT for jtdytravels

Read Full Post »