Saturday, September 27, 2014

From a Great Journey to a Small Church

After a day at work, a flight across the ocean, clearing customs, the tube to London's King's Cross, a train to Royston, a bus from Royston to Cambridge (because of course this weekend of all the weekends possible there's track work which results in shuttle service), and a hackney, I finally arrive at my destination in a quaint flat at the end of a quaint Walk (literally the name of the road) in Cambridge.  And because I'm in England, the weather must be mentioned - it was gorgeously sunny and warm with a slight breeze all day, perfect for walking. 

The first stop (there's no time to plan, follow the itinerary) was St. Peter's Church, the smallest church in Cambridge. It rests on Castle Hill with an overgrown and wild church yard. Though originally built in the 11th century, traces of the Roman history of the area are visible in the church's exterior. Terracotta Roman roofing tiles became building materials. In fact, the exterior walls of the church display such a variety of stone, you can't help but wonder how it was all scavenged. Because Cambridge has no natural supply of stone for building, most buildings had to import the stone or use local flint rock, which is not ideal since it only comes in small nodules and can't be faced like building stone. 

Cambridge Castle was built shortly after the Norman conquest on the highest point in Cambridge overlooking the River Cam, and overshadowed the Church. At first a keep and mote infrastructure, stone was eventually brought in to build the castle. Once the castle fell out of general use, the stone was scavenged and used to build the rest of Cambridge. Examples of the castle's stone can be found in the Colleges' buildings. 

Traces of St. Peter's Saxony history are present in the carved doorways and stone font, decorated with four mermen grasping their split tails. It is posited that the font was perhaps a Saxon mortar for grinding grains. It's likely that the Christians repurposed the mortar as a baptismal font, incorporating the pagan iconography of the mermen into Christianity. 

The church was eventually rebuilt during the Georgian period, and then cut in half to its present size in the 18th century. 

Next to St. Peter's is Kettle's Yard, the former home of Jim and Helen Ede, which is now a museum. Harold Stanley "Jim" Ede was curator at the Tate Gallery in the 1920s and 30s. His home showcases his friendship with many artists and their worldly travels. The Ede's transformed four dilapidated cottages into a single home, resulting in a variety of differently shaped rooms, art work and collectables throughout the home. Not only is this a truly unique museum because of the Edes, but also because you can actually sit in all the chairs in the house, even a rattan-backed chair ergonomically designed to hug the sitter. 

The first of many English afternoons too come ended as all English afternoon's should...with tea, scones, jam, and cream. 

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