During the Coronavirus epidemic, we plan to keep in touch with members by newsletter, possibly on a monthly basis.  The newsletter will contain articles of interest and if any member has an article, or an idea for one, could they please forward it to Vivian at jvfairbank1974@yahoo.com   We will include it in the next or a future edition of the newsletter.

What’s Open in November?

National Trust The National Trust has closed all its houses until 2nd December but the gardens and grounds remain open as do the toilet facilities.  Shops and restaurants are also closed but a limited range of takeaway refreshments will be available where possible.   All other outdoor spaces managed by National Trust are open.   Pre-booking for visits to house gardens and grounds is required.  Check availability on the website www.nationaltrust.org.uk

English Heritage English Heritage properties are open for visits along the same lines as the National Trust with houses, shops and restaurants being closed.  Toilet facilities, grounds and gardens are open.  Pre-booking is required for all staffed sites and check availability on the website www.english-heritage.org,uk/visit/visit-midlands

A selection of available sites in the Midlands

Kirby Hall Northants Ashby de la Zouch CastleLeics
Wenlock PrioryShrops Kenilworth Castle & GardenWarks
Wroxeter Roman CityShrops Witley Court & GardensWorcs
Arbor Low Stone CircleDerbyshire Bolsover Cundy HouseDerbyshire
Hob Hurst’s HouseDerbyshire Nine Ladies Stone CircleDerbyshire
Sutton Scarsdale HallDerbyshire Jewry WallLeics
Eleanor Cross, GeddingtonNorthants Mattersley PrioryNotts
Arthur’s StoneHereford Acton Burnell CastleShrops
Clun CastleShrops Iron BridgeShrops
Lilleshall AbbeyShrops White Ladies PrioryShrops
Halesowen AbbeyW Mids   

National Memorial Arboretum

The NMA is open but pre-booking is necessary.  The shop and restaurant are closed but a limited range of takeaway refreshments is available.  The visitor toilet facilities are also available.  Face masks must be worn in indoor areas.  Availability and information about Remembrance services on 11 November should be checked on the website www.thenationalmemorialaboretum.org.uk

These are just a few suggestions of places to get out and visit during this period of lockdown but remember the golden rule of take care and keep safe.

Binham Abbey

Having a family barn in Norfolk for a number of years presented us with a wonderful opportunity to visit a huge variety of historical houses and gardens in that area.  One day we came across Binham Priory in the village of that name.  What a surprise we had.  Here was a beautifully preserved Benedictine priory dating back to 1091.  It was the home to a community of monks for over 400 years.  Over time some of the buildings were dismantled and there was further demolition but seven bays were sealed off and it is now Binham’s parish church of St Mary and the Holy Cross.    It is still used by the local community as a place of worship and for special concerts.  

The interior is of great interest and contains both Norman and Early English work.  The altar table is Jacobean and the organ has been rebuilt and is in fine working order.  The pews have open work backs each of a different design and carved poppy heads.  The nave arcades are magnificent and show how architectural style developed.  English Heritage have given funds to improve the entrance facilities which now contains a full pictorial guide to the history of this most impressive place.  Guided tours take place during the summer months on Tuesdays at 3pm.  I will look forward to a return visit whenever I visit Norfolk again.

Margaret Jones

Wightwick Manor

When the NT started reopening its properties, I decided to pay a visit to Wightwick Manor, where I had already been a couple of times, mainly because it was the nearest.  There was a huge demand of half an hour slots, and they were booked the  moment they appeared on the webpage.  I managed to book a 1430 slot. 

Wightwick Manor,

 I was thus introduced to the one way system, which is good to avoid catching Covid 19, but not good if you do not want to visit all the gardens.  First of all sanitize at the entrance.   The Manor itself was closed, and anyway it is one of the smallest NT properties, the cafe was closed too.  So I ventured on the one way track around the gardens, the place was not crowded with visitors, so it was pleasant to admire the views.  I took some pictures which did not turn out well because of lack of light.  I was looking for the public conveniences, but since I could not see any I admit cutting the one way system short across a field, towards a pool and the exit.  And there I found the toilets.

Antonio Longhi

Cranach: Artist and Innovator

Compton Verney until 3rd January 2021

Compton Verney, near Stratford on Avon, currently has an exhibition of the works of Lucas Cranach and his son.   Cranach the elder was a German Renaissance painter and printmaker in woodcut and was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career.   He was also a close friend of Martin Luther.

We were keen to see the exhibition as, in 2016, a German friend took us on a tour of Saxony to visit many of the key towns associated with Luther, culminating in a visit to the Wartburg where Luther produced much of his work. There they had a replica of the Gutenberg printing press and were selling for 1 Euro a copy of Cranach’s print of Luther.

Martin Luther

The Compton Verney display has portraits of the Electors and other notables as well as nudes of mythological women in seductive and sensuous poses.   Because the gallery is small and numbers limited it is possible to view the items in a very intimate way.   Perhaps the most interesting for me, however, was the set of prints called Passional Christi und Antichristi.   Conceived by Luther and created in 1821 using text by Philip Melanchthon and images by Cranach this small booklet was a successful work of Reformation propaganda, with 13 pairs of woodcuts each depicting on the one hand the simple, virtuous life of Christ contrasting on the other side with the excesses of the “Antichrist”, the Pope.   The printing press meant that the leaflets could be produced cheaply and widely distributed.

Compton Verney is a beautiful building, set in a magnificent Capability Brown landscape so you can walk, admire the views and breathe fresh air before or after your cultural experience.

Vivian and John Fairbank