Saturday, 21 September 2013


Bretforton is a rural village in Worcestershire, England. Bretforton is 4.4 miles (7.1 km) east of Evesham, in the Vale of Evesham. The village name has changed little over the centuries.

The earliest documented record of the town, a charter of 709, records it as Bretforton, the Saxon 'Ton' a modern spelling of the Saxon (Germanic) 'tun' which meant enclosure or village.

The settlement is distinguished historically by an unusual system of land ownership. In the 16th century, following the dissolution of the monasteries (and Evesham Abbey) in the 1540s, the Manor was sold to the tenants and a new class of land-owning yeomen was set up. Some of them built the houses still standing here, either of stone with mullioned windows or timber-framed.

Owned by the National Trust, The Fleece Inn was originally built in the early 15th century as a longhouse by a prosperous yeoman farmer called Byrd. A longhouse is an early type of farmhouse which incorporated accommodation for livestock on the ground floor, alongside the family's living quarters. 

This particular longhouse later became a pub and was rebuilt in the 17th century, but remained in the Byrd family until 1977 when Lola Taplin bequeathed it to the National Trust. 

Lola was a direct descendant of Mr Byrd and lived her entire life at the Fleece. She died at 83, having run the pub on her own for the last 30 years of her life. 

A curious mediaeval tradition also survives at the Fleece, preserved in accordance with Lola's wishes. This is the practice of chalking "witch circles" on the floor in front of each hearth to prevent witches from getting in through the chimneys. There are "witch marks" on the inside of the door as well to ward off evil spirits.

The BBC has also used The Fleece Inn and the surrounding village green for its 1993 £5 million production of Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit where the pub was renamed the "Green Dragon" for the duration of shooting.


Picture above from

'Stanway House is a Jacobean manor house, built between 1580 and 1640, located near Stanway, Gloucestershire, U.K. Set where the edge of the Vale of Evesham rises to meet the Cotswold Hills, this is very much a rural area. 

The manor was owned by Tewkesbury Abbey for 800 years then for 500 years by the Tracy family and their descendants, the Earls of Wemyss. 

Lord and Lady Neidpath are the present  occupants. The house has 10 acres of  gardens. The house has 36 rooms. The oldest part of the house is the East End Elcho wing, cellars and Audit Room.'

The Tracy family tree shows descent from Emperor Charlemagne, and Tracy's have owned land in Britain since before the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Stanway House is built of golden limestone.  The exquisitely carved gatehouse features cockle shells, a symbol of pilgrims, said to have been adopted by Sir William de Tracy, after his fourteen-year exile to Jerusalem.

The Tracy family crest, above the doors of the gatehouse also shows the cockle shell.

The doors above depict trailing vines, plants, rabbits and birds. Details of the doors and carvings on the gatehouse are below:

The house and grounds have a special atmosphere of peace and tranquility, with an other-worldly

'Sir William II de Tracy, Knt., (died c. 1189) was feudal baron of Bradninch, near Exeter and Lord of the Manors of Toddington, Gloucestershire and of Moretonhampstead, Devon. He is notorious as one of the four knights who assassinated Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in December 1170...

The Archbishop's murderers gained their audience with the Pope, who despite their penitence, declared they should be exiled and fight in Jerusalem "in knightly arms in The Temple for 14 years", and then return to Rome....

Roger Hovenden, a 12th century English chronicler,  related further that after their deaths the bodies of the knights were buried at Jerusalem before the door of The Temple, the Templar Round Church built on the site of the Temple of Solomon.

This conforms to the tradition that the murderers were buried under the portico in front of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was the refectory of the Knights Templar.'

'Films have been made at Stanway House such as The Two Ronnies, Afterwards, Silas Marner and The Children of the New Forest.  Edward VII, Queen Mary and J.M.Barrie are known to have stayed at the house in their time.'

Stanway House is also home to the Stanway Fountain, which was opened on 5 June 2004. The single-jet fountain, which rises to over 300 feet (91 m), is the tallest fountain in Britain, the tallest gravity fountain in the world, and the second tallest fountain in Europe, after the 400 feet (120 m) high turbine-driven fountain in Lake Geneva.

The fountain has a 2 inches (5.1 cm) bronze nozzle and is driven from an 100,000-gallon reservoir, 580 feet (180 m) above the canal in which it is situated. The 12 inches (30 cm) diameter pipe which feeds the fountain is 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) long. The fountain is operated by remote control.

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Avebury  is a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles, around the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England. 

Picture opposite:

'Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites' is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Wiltshire, England. The WHS covers two large areas of land separated by nearly 30 miles (48 km), rather than a specific monument or building. The sites were inscribed as co-listings in 1986. 

Unique amongst megalithic monuments, Avebury contains the largest stone circle in Europe, and is one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain. 

Constructed around 2600 BCE during the Neolithic, or 'New Stone Age', the monument comprises a large henge (that is a bank and a ditch) with a large outer stone circle and two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. 

Its original purpose is unknown, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremony. 

The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

Based on anthropological studies of recent and contemporary societies, Gillings and Pollard suggest that forests, clearings, and stones were important in Neolithic culture, not only as resources but as symbols; the site of Avebury occupied a convergence of these three elements. 

Neolithic activity at Avebury is evidenced by flint, animal bones, and pottery such as Peterborough ware dating from the early 4th and 3rd millennia BCE.

Picture opposite: The Avesbury circles are surrounded by downs.


The Avebury monument is a henge, a type of monument consisting of a large circular bank with an internal ditch. Although the henge is not perfectly circular, it has a diameter of about 420 metres (460 yd) across. 

The only known comparable sites of similar date are only a quarter of the size of Avebury. The ditch alone was 21 metres (69 ft) wide and 11 metres (36 ft) deep, with a sample from its primary fill carbon dated to 3300–2630 BCE. 

Within the henge is a great outer circle. This is one of Europe's largest stone circles, with a diameter of 331.6 metres (1,088 ft), Britain's largest stone circle. 

It was either contemporary with, or built around four or five centuries after the earthworks. 

There were originally 98 sarsen standing stones, some weighing in excess of 40 tons. The stones varied in height from 3.6 to 4.2 m, as exemplified at the north and south entrances. 

The fill from two of the stoneholes has been carbon dated to between 2900 and 2600 BCE.,_Avebury_and_Associated_Sites


'Avebury Manor & Garden is a National Trust property consisting of an early 16th-century manor house and its surrounding garden. Avebury Manor & Garden is located in Avebury, near Marlborough, Wiltshire, England.

The manor house is privately occupied, and part is open to the general public. The house was leased and restored by Alexander Keiller who took an intense interest in Avebury henge in the late 1930s.

The garden was completely redesigned in the early 20th century. The topiary and other formal gardens are contained within walls and clipped box, creating numerous "rooms".

In 2011, Avebury Manor became subject of the BBC One programme The Manor Reborn. During the course of the programme, Avebury was refurbished by a group of experts, in collaboration with the National Trust.'

Picture above: Matt made of grasses and lavender plants.                                                            


The earliest parts of the present house were probably built after Sir William Dunch of Little Wittenham in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) purchased the estate in 1551. It was some way from most of his lands which centred on Wittenham, but he appears to have purchased it because of an interest in ancient monuments such as the Avebury Stone Circles. 

In the 1580s, he passed it on to his younger son, Walter Dunch. The latter's daughter, Deborah, Lady Moody, grew up at the manor before emigrating to America and founding Gravesend in Brooklyn in 1645. 

The house has had many extensions and changes over the centuries, the final addition to the manor is the West Library. The library was added by the Jenner family who occupied the house in the early 20th Century.

Picture opposite:  Chinese hand-painted wallpaper