Thursday, 13 September 2012

Tretower Court

Tretower Court, near Crickhowell, Wales, is a hidden gem! This fortified house has a beautiful peaceful rural setting, and the atmosphere of the house itself is wonderful.  Cadw has dressed some of the rooms to show how they might have looked in 1485, so here are some glimpses and explanations.

The kitchen has a bread oven (in the wall behind the ladder), and a large fireplace for cooking.  Here, meat would be spit roasted (in front of, not over, the fire) and some poor boy would sit near the fire turning the pit for hours on end, making sure the meat cooked evenly.  One side of his face and body would be hot and red, the other cold!  At least he could drink unlimited ale while he was turning the spit!

Food was prepared on the kitchen table; in summer the (male) cooks would be busy not only cooking the daily meals but also preserving food ready for the winter.  Hams would be salted and hung, ells caught and smoked, and fruit and vegetables brined and pickled, jams and jellies and cheeses made. Long hours and hard work through the season of fruitfulness, methinks. But, when you can't just pop to the supermarket, you need to plan how to ensure the household has enough to eat all year round.

Just off the kitchen is the buttery, presided over by the Butler, who was responsible for the making and purchasing all the drinks for the household.  The buttery was so called as it was full of Butts, which we usually call barrels these days. Fine wine was imported from Europe in large barrels bound with iron, cider was made from the apples in the orchard, and beer and ale were made daily.  The ale - a very weak beer, was made and drunk by almost everybody, as the brewing process killed all the micro-organisms in the water and made it safe to drink. Milk was too precious to drink, it was needed for butter and cheese making, but it was also considered only to be fit for infants and the elderly.  

Just off the other side of the kitchen is the pantry, presided over by the Panter or Pantler.  This was where dry necessities were made - bread, candles, cheese & butter.

Between the kitchen, pantry & buttery and the Hall is the servery.  Prepared food was brought here and laid onto the tables, ready for the serving staff to take through to the tables in the Hall. Once the food had been taken out, the tables would have been used for the kitchen and other servants to eat their meals. The steward sat at the red chair and writing slope, and watched all the foodstuffs coming into the Court through the window, and all the cooked food coming form the kitchen to be served.  The steward was responsible for the provision of all food and drink for everybody who lived here, and the cook, butler and pantler reported directly to him. The steward also kept all the accounts relating to the provisions.

You can see a selection of food on the table, waiting to be taken into the hall - a roast suckling pig, a boiled calf's head, a roast duck, and a poached pike. All destined for the top table, methinks!

This piece of furniture, in the servery,  is called the towel.  It is where towels, crockery and 'plate' were stored when not being used.

One of the lower tables in the Hall, fully set and waiting for diners.  The table is laid with plain linen tablecloth and serviettes, wood trenchers, bowls, cups and spoons, and earthenware bowls of pease pottage. There are jugs of wine and ale, and brown bread loaves. Ten people could eat at this table, seated on the benches. When not being used for serving food, these trestle tables would be dismantled and stored in a nearby passage, and the benches moved to the sides of the Hall.

I may post pictures of the Hall decoration, and the top table, on another day.  I hope you enjoyed your virtual visit - which is not a patch on the real thing.  You need to go there yourself,  to smell the garden herbs, and kitchen spices, and to soak up the atmosphere.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

100 things I love 61 - 80

61. moonlight
62. silence
63. the ocean at night
64. cherries
65. home grown vegetables
66. optimists
67. french knots
68. the company of friends
69. textured wallpaper
70. turkish delight
71. baby chuckles
72. my mother
73. textured wallpaper
74. summer breezes
75. handmade pottery
76 .lavender
77. knitting interesting stitches & patterns
78. walking through the woods
79. wandering around garden centres
80. wood carvings

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

100 things I love: 41 - 60

41. the colour turquoise
42. orchids
43. candlelight
44. my grandchildren
45. skype
46. silence
47. texture
48. Joni Mitchell's music and lyrics
49. stained glass
50. subtle lighting
51. slate
52. empty beaches
53. mountain streams
54. the electric blue Mazda MX5 Anniversary edition car I drove in 2003-2005
55. iridescence
56. drinking from fine china cups or mugs
57. rose wine
58. linen clothes
59. sharing food with friends
60. rockpools

Saturday, 10 July 2010

100 things I love: 21-40

Here are 20 more of my favourite things:

21. margaritas
22. getting lost in creating art
23. cooking for those who appreciate it
24. picnics
25. laughter

26. lizards
27. my netbook
28. oak
29. clear glass Christmas ornaments
30. old buildings

31. the feel of fine bedlinen
32. Hendricks gin with Fevertree tonic, ice and a slice of lemon
33. old jewellery
34. the sound of acoustic guitars
35. old doors

36. home made juices
37. voices in harmony
38. taking photographs
39. honesty
40. the dragon my son carved for me

Thursday, 10 June 2010

100 things I love: 1-20

Inspired by Curious Lisa (whose blog I love!), I thought I'd list my favourite 100 things. I'll do 20 at a time, so as not to overwhelm you! In no particular order, and mostly focused on my garden on this occasion:

1. dewdrops
2. broad beans eaten in the garden, straight outof the pod
3. the smell of tomato plants
4. the sound of bubbling water
5. frogs

6. the scent of lilies
7. the scent of old fashioned roses
8. jasmine
9. relaxing in the sun with a glass of rose
10. hanging baskets

11. birdsong
12. hostas
13. breezes
14. the sound of wind chimes
15. summer rain

16. the sound of pebbles crunching as I walk the path
17. ferns
18. Acer palmatum
19. apples fresh from the tree
20. clematis flowers

Thursday, 13 May 2010

National Botanic Garden of Wales (5) - indoor art

The great glasshouse is full of beautiful plants, but scattered amongst the plants are pieces of art, which are typical of the continents the plants come from. This little arrangement reminded me of Arizona and Mexico.

A close up of the 'seed pod'.

In the Australia area, there are painted stones, reminiscent of Aboriginal art, but not so detailed - a beautiful lizard -

- a kangaroo -

- a turtle -

and others which you will have to visit the garden to see for yourself!

As well as the art in the great glasshouse, there is a gallery in the cafe and shop area, which has several interesting exhibitions each year, and glass corridor between the gallery and shop which houses some more permanent pieces, including several hanging stained glass panels with a botanical theme.

These large vessels, made from a mosaic of crockery pieces, is quite spectacular.

The current exhibition, running until 25th May, is absolutely unique and the pieces on display are stunning. Each piece is created by a jeweller, who incorporates botanical elements and metal in the pieces. I would have been happy to have taken any of the items on display home with me!

A 'ring' made from a skeleton seed pod.

Fabulous 'trees', made from lichen, mounted onto textured silver 'hills'. Beautiful.

This neckpiece is made from nylon line, and has seaweed 'pods' attached to it. Amazing!

I love the tree topped hill pictures, and the matching sculptures on display below.

A closer look at the 'trees' and rocks.

These rings were all made with cubes of lichen. Click on the photo for a better look.

Each of these brooches is made from glass mounted onto a disc of wood in a silver bezel, and a tree image. They are beautiful, but sadly (for me, not for the artist!) they had all been sold.

This final piece is about 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall, and is a beautiful pattern in a frame. Closer inspection reveals that the pattern is made from wild flower seeds...

The gallery at the garden has some pretty amazing exhibitions, I have seen art made from printed aluminium drinks cans, and also elaborately decorated and designed 'clothes' made from layers of paint and paper. I must go back in June to see what's on next!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

National Botanic Garden of Wales (4) outdoor art

In a pool alongside the main path, sits a water lily. No ordinary water lily, but one sculpted in metal, about a metre in diameter.

In the walled garden, a series of pieces, some more solid than others! This is a beautifully airy piece - an arrangement of white wood stems with white feathers tied to the top.

Nearby is a similar arrangement of natural coloured stems tied against a wall, with more feathers , ready to support a growing plant.

This ball of spheres within spheres creates interesting shadows, and invites the viewer to try rolling it!

Entwined bodies carved in stone - displayed on a pile of building blocks. It is beautiful enough to deserve a proper plinth!

Pram wheels held together with sculpted hands.

There is more art in the garden - both in the great glasshouse and in the gallery - and I will post about that tomorrow.