Thursday, 25 May 2017

Hawkshead - The Prettiest Lake District Village, England

Earlier on this month I returned to Hawkshead for a third time. This time it made so much difference as we stayed there for the duration of our short break in the Lake District which meant I was able to experience and photograph the village at different times of the day. The weather was marvellous with uninterrupted sunshine the whole time we were there. Hawkshead is said to be the prettiest village in the Lake District. It is relatively unspoilt, pedestrianized and boasts all the building and architectural features I love the most - whitewashed cottages dating from the 17th and 18th century, narrow cobbled streets, alleyways, archways, courtyards and picturesque squares.
Hawkshead is steeped in history with its origins going back to medieval times when it was a prosperous market town based on wool and raw cloth trade. The village  belonged to Furness Abbey and was run by its Cistercian monks until mid 16th century.

This is a typical Hawkshead scene from the heart of the village. To the right there is Kings Arms pub, one of the four very pleasant old pubs. We loved sitting outside absorbing the magic of the village.

On the other side of this fascinating archway there is a cottage called "Grandy Nook".

Grandy Nook used to be our favourite cafe. We were sad to find there was no cafe here any more.

A photo I took two years ago when Grandy Nook was still a cafe. I learned that the lady who owns the place had fallen ill and had had to give up the cafe and revert the cottage back to a home only. It was good to hear that she is doing well healthwise now.

An example of a "pentice", the overhanging upper storey, a distinctive feature of some of Hawkshead's old houses.

Another reason I am drawn to Hawkshead is that it has important connections with two literary artists I admire greatly - Beatrix Potter, the children stories author and the poet William Wordsworth. This street is called Wordsworth Street as it is the street where the poet lodged while attending the Grammar School in Hawkshead. The house he lived in is called Ann Tyson's Cottage; it is the one in the distance on the left hand side with an orange sign. Ann Tyson and her husband were Wordsworth's landlords.

Wordsworth Street, formerly called "The Leather, Rag & Putty Street", from the opposite end of the street, photographed on a sunny morning (the previous photo being taken early evening).The Ann Tyson's Cottage with its orange sign is on the left.

The rear view of Ann Tyson's Cottage. We passed here on our way to and fro our accommodation. The charming cottage is now a bed & breakfast and self catering cottage, and I cannot wait to check it out on one of our future stays at Hawkshead.

Hawkshead Old Grammar School is situated at the entrance to the village. The poet William Wordsworth was a pupil here 1779 - 1789, between the ages 9 and 17. Today it is an interesting museum with original features well worth a visit. I plan a separate post on the school at a later date.

Hawkshead Methodist church which was converted from a private house and opened in the 19th century.

Hawkshead Parish Church, St Michael's & All Angels. it dates mainly from the 15th century.

One of the Kissing Gate entrances to the Church cemetery.

From the cemetery there are wonderful views over Hawkshead and nearby fells (photo taken in 2015).

Beatrix Potter's Gallery where her solicitor husband William Heelis had his offices in the 19th century. The gallery houses exhibitions of Beatrix's original drawings and illustrations. It is owned by The National Trust, who also own some other buildings in the village thus creating its almost museum like air.

The cottage next door to the Beatrix Potter's gallery, named "Bend-or-Bump Cottage". It has a fascinating projecting slate-hung wing. Beatrix used this spot as location for one her children's stories - "The Tale of The Pie and The Patty-Pan".

We passed this most charming cottage twice every day on our way to and fro the village, and I could not help stopping each time to admire it.

I loved taking photos in the early evening, before and after our evening meal. The light was soft and suffused with a beautiful pink glow the setting sun was casting around while a serene peace and quiet descended upon the village.

I think it is fair to say that Hawkshead has now become our favourite place to be based at during our visits to the Lakes. Not only is it very beautiful, has a central position in the Lake District, and is right up my street from the photography point of view, but also there are so many things to do and go to in the vicinity, and so many great and varied walks to choose from. We are already planning our next visit, and all being well, we will be back here this October for G's birthday.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Thornton - The Brontë Sisters' Birthplace

My long awaited first visit to Thornton eventually happened on an ideal day - Charlotte Brontë's birthday last month. It was truly a special day for me.
In 1815, Patrick Brontë, the literary sisters' father, was appointed curate at Thornton, near Bradford in West Yorkshire, so he moved with his family into the Parsonage on Market Street, an unprepossessing terraced house. They lived here for five years, before they moved to Haworth in 1820. During their time at Thornton the three famous sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne were born, as well as their brother Branwell.
Today the house is privately owned, with the beautiful, rustic cafe called "Emily's" on the ground floor.

This is the fireplace in the dining room in front of which all four siblings were born. It is so good and gratifying to see that the present owners made an effort to preserve the legacy left by this extraordinary Victorian family.

The rest of the dining room laid out as the cafe's eating area.

My coffee had arrived. Delicious it was, as well as the sumptuous and very reasonably priced Italian style lunch I indulged in.

Detail from the drawing room, which is also part of the cafe......

.......and the fireplace with the famous Emily Brontë's portrait above it.

After spending a most fascinating and memorable time at the Brontë birthplace I went to the nearby South Square, a picturesque arts and crafts centre based in converted weavers' cottages.

Soon I was on my way to the Old Bell Chapel where Patrick Brontë worked as perpetual curate. This is one of the sweeping views from the long main road running through Thornton. Patchy light rain threatened to spoil my photography, but eventually it remained dry with clouds gliding rapidly across the sky changing the lighting from overcast to sunny, which indeed is my favourite type of lighting conditions for outdoor photography.

I got to the Bell Chapel cemetery gate and stepped in. It was so peaceful and the cemetery very beautiful, adorned with all the spring flowers.

The Old Bell Chapel, built at the beginning of 17th century is now a sparse ruin. It was renovated at the time the Brontës lived at Thornton, and Patrick was responsible for the addition of the octagonal cupola/bell tower.

East wall of the Old Bell Chapel ruin, apart from the cupola, is the only remaining part of the structure. All the Brontë children, with the exception of Maria, were baptised here.

This is St James' Church, the present Thornton Church, built in 1872 across the road from the Bell Chapel. The old chapel was neglected consequently and soon fell into disrepair.

The new St James' Church contains many Brontë artefacts from the Old Bell Chapel including the font which would have been used for the christening of the Brontë children, and the old bell from the cupola.

Patrick Brontë wrote of his time in Thornton: "My happiest days were spent there......this is where the family was complete: father, mother and the children, and where they had kind friends".
I, personally, am looking forward to exploring further this beautiful and important Brontë landmark. There are two attractive walks around Thornton in the little "Walking With the Brontës" book I love. I plan to go on both of these walks by the end of this year.