Tuesday, September 22, 2009

London, part 2, aka research and walking it all off

Current work: (is Tuesday, so is guitar and Dad and possibly a bit of nonfic sneaked in)
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: next on TBR

Nice easy start to the day, then headed for Barking and the abbey ruins. This is the curfew tower (can’t tell you huge amounts about it as am still doing the research).

The church itself – St Margaret's – was quite interesting. I loved this 17th-century monument, where the elderly knight has fallen asleep in his tent, guarded by his retainers. It’s to Sir Charles Montagu, who died aged 61 in 1625 and left £40 to the poor of Barking. (Just to put that in perspective: in modern terms that’s about £74,000 - that#s based on the earnings index rather than retail price index.)

And I was extremely impressed especially by the 14th-century inscribed stone slab to Martinus, first vicar of Barking (1315-28) – the stone was found in excavations in the nuns’ cemetery in 1912.

Next was All Saints at West Ham, where I saw a Saxon font plus the single remaining stone from the abbey of Stratford Langthorne. The vicar was getting ready for the heritage weekend and stopped to have a chat with me – a very nice man. The stone in the tower is ragstone, but every so often you can see these patches of orangey-brown – looks very like Roman brick to me. (Many churches reused materials. Roman brick is quite common and looks like tile.)

Next, to London Bridge. Was footsore by the time I *finally* found the loo! (It’s all very well telling someone ‘It’s upstairs’ or ‘it’s on platform six’, but a few more directions would be appreciated…)

Visited The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret at St Thomas'. There were some very narrow spiral steps up to the garret. (This is the view from the top. Definitely easier going up...)
And it really is a garrett. This is the outside of the building - you can see the roof of the garret to the right of the tower, just above the white triangle.
This is the oldest operating theatre in the world, dating from the early 19th century; there's a steep amphitheatre so people could view the op. (I walked down the steps. Very steep.) This was in the days before the NHS so people had to pay for the ops - if you were rich, you'd have the op at home on your dining room table. (It was also in the years before anaesthetic and antiseptic...)

Oh, and gore alert. One particular recipe was for ‘snail water’. Imagine. Six gallons of ‘cleaned and bruised’ garden snails, three gallons of ‘washed and bruised’ garden earthworms, various herbs, all steeped together (the recipe actually said ‘digested together’) for 24 hours, and then the liquid drawn off into an alembic. (See why I love the history of medicine? It’s fascinating. Rather disgusting, in this case, but still fascinating.)

And then back to Liverpool Street station to cool off and flop - by the time I boarded the train, I'd clocked up 19k steps (yes, as in nearly 8 miles), so I was flagging a bit. Had a fab time away, but I missed DH and the kids terribly. They met me at the station and we had dinner out. Gorgeous sunset on the way home. And it was lovely to be back.


Jan Jones said...

Flagging a bit??? I should think you were exhausted!

Loved the pic of the sleeping knight, but nooooo to the narrow spiral stairs. Definitely vertigo-inducing.

Carol Townend said...

Hi Kate,
You seem to have boundless energy!! I agree with Jan, spiral stairs are hard, I have to hang on to a rail, if there is one, or crawl up, if there isn't!! And double yuk, to the snails!! Thanks for that - I was about to enjoy a cuppa ;)

Heidi said...

Hi Kate

I took my boys to the Old Operating Theatre last summer and it totally freaked them out (the live leeches in particular) but in a good way. History come to life, literally.

Caroline Storer said...

Great photo's Kate. I particularly like the bit about Barking. I used to work for Barking and Dagenham Council and used to go to the Abbey grounds at lunchtime to eat my sarnies! (If I may be so bold as to say that's it's only one of a very few nice places in Barking!) There are some other "gems" though and one of them is Eastbury Manor House. A magnificent Elizabethan house that's so totally out of character today as it's surrounded by 100's of council houses! Take care. Caroline x

Bluestocking Mum said...

Sounds like a great trip.

My boys would have loved the old operating theatre.

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - I admit, I staggered off the train :o)

The stairs had a big thick rope you could hang on to, so they weren't that bad. Honest. Definitely worth a visit.

Kate Hardy said...

Carol - I used to, but this year I haven't been able to do as much as I'm used to doing. (Am working on a fix for that *g*)

The snail bit was gross, wasn't it? Hope you managed to drink your cuppa after that...

Kate Hardy said...

Heidi - ah, yes, the leeches!!

Our local museum has one of the pill machines and they got the kids to make up the pills with plasticine, just as one of the old pharmacists would. They loved it.

Kate Hardy said...

Caroline - what a coincidence re Barking! Not surprised you chose that spot for sarnies.

Thanks for the tip re Eastbury Manor House.

Kate Hardy said...

Bluestocking mum - nice to see you here. And yes, it was a great trip. I think my two would've enjoyed it, but they would also have made me stop for refuelling rather more often... (I have to pay my "research team" in cake.)