Thursday, 21 March 2019

Saint Giles Church, Cheadle

For many years I have longed to visit 'Pugin's gem' St Giles Church at Cheadle. Having read a great deal about the splendor of this stunning place, and seen it mentioned on Gothic Revival documentaries, I knew this incredible feat of architecture and design was not something to be missed. Finally last year the opportunity arose to hop across the border to Staffordshire and at last see Pugin's gem in all its glory.

Upon arrival in Cheadle the churches location and exterior didn't really prepare you for what lay within. Some nice carvings, an opulent door, but nothing out of the ordinary really. Its not until you venture in that you see this masterpiece in all its glory. A service had just finished so the relatively newly installed lights were gleaming away illuminating every nook and cranny of this amazing, unique place. But usually you have to pop some money in the meter (in quite a novel fashion), as we did several times later when the lights timed out leaving us with only the natural light to illuminate the church.

St Giles is utterly off the scale in terms of grandeur and decadence. Pattern and artwork covers every square inch of the walls, with intricate motifs changing every so often and a different colour taking centre stage for a moment, but Pugin consistently sticks to his signature palette. Deep red, indigo blue, dark green, mustard and gold. Lots and lots of gold.
As far as churches go St Giles is honestly nothing short of perfection. As a former print designer, pattern and art are everything to me. So those things utterly covering a Gothic revival masterpiece is a dream come true.
Hand painting walls in this manner is an art and part of our heritage which is largely lost these days. But it is something which has long fascinated me and I always desired to treat the walls of my own home with such dedicated perfection (probably one of the reasons I've always wanted to convert a church.). Pugin's obsessive nature with the detailing, craftsmanship and perfection of St Giles is something I can honestly relate to in myself. And I can think of no better thing than living within that temple to your own creativity and vision.

St Giles is a truly overwhelming place. Everywhere you look there is something to see and every tiny detail has clearly been meticulously planned by Pugin to create the harmonious union of patterns across many different surfaces and media. The stained glass, the furniture, the candle holders, even down to the floor tiles. The man that Pugin was and what he aimed to create is evident in all of these elements, as well as the church as a whole.

I do feel a sense of sadness for Pugin that he never fully realised his dream and saw the church complete as he intended it with a spire in place. Ultimately it was just too costly and ambitious for the project. But I do hope that if Pugin could see his great gem today and the legacy his vision has created he would be truly proud. St Giles stands as a testament to the glory of gothic revival and its incredible impact of the history of British architecture and aestetics.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Holy Trinity Church - Washington

Hidden beside Washington Old Hall lies an overgrown and forgotten, lonely looking graveyard. When exploring the grounds of the house I found myself repeatedly catching glimpses of this moody looking graveyard. Over walls, through gaps and just about anywhere. There it was silently waiting. Its probably largely down to my incredible ability to sniff out cemeteries everywhere I go, a morbid gift I seem to have acquired over the years.

After an enjoyable visit to the ancient family residence of George Washington (though he never actually set foot there) I eagerly rushed off to see the shady churchyard which it turned out belongs to the Holy Trinity Church next door.

The graves in closest proximity to the church were well tended, tidy, trimmed and mowed. As you moved into the darker recesses of the graveyard nature had taken over, with nettles and ivy lining the floor and trees taking over wherever they can rest their limbs. Often this is the type of graveyard I love to see the most. Nature taking back what is rightfully hers. Interacting with the stones which are all that's left to represent the people nourishing from below. The relationship between the stones and the trees certainly made for an interesting and unusual photo opportunity, which of course I grasped with both hands.

Monday, 4 March 2019

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is one of those strange, mythical places that until relatively recently I knew very little about. Of course I'd heard of the Lindisfarne Gospel (as a long time illuminated manuscript fanatic) but honestly I knew little else about this distant place.
A good friend of mine recommended visiting Holy Island and sang its praises as an amazing place to visit. Also, after watching the fantastic TV series 'Vikings' I gained a little more basic knowledge about Lindisfarne and its role in history. A few documentaries later and a bit more basic reading later and my appetite was suitably wetted.

Nothing had in actuality quite prepared me for Lindisfarne. I wasn't expecting what this incredible place had to offer or how it would make me feel. It was honestly nothing short of magical. And in reality, I cant wholly explain why.
The approach across the miles of causeway was in itself an unusual experience and felt like the beginning of an adventure. Knowing that the times of the tide are crucial and how quickly the causeway is lost to the sea there was a mixture of fear and excitement about it all.

The landscape itself was increasingly breathtaking the further from the mainland you go. This incredible swathe of low land which looks as though it could be washed away in an instant. Sand that goes on for miles, but you know it wont be that way for long. And there it was, on a mound of land erupting from the sea, Lindisfarne Castle. Everywhere around heather and wildflowers dance in the breeze and the grass which is pale as straw seems to sway with the sea. The sandy shores seem reflected in the buttery stone of the old ruins of the Priory which the Vikings plundered centuries ago.

I can't deny that Holy Island had a special feeling. Ancient, deep rooted, celtic. At the edge of England and the farthest North I've ever travelled in the UK I felt strangely at home. This rugged coast line is not something a landlocked Nottinghamshire lass gets to see very often, and it was just perfection. 

And to top it all off, as with most great places people have lived, there was a lovely graveyard. Perched behind the Priory ruins surrounding the quaint little church sit many graves of varying age. Looking out to the sea almost surrounding it I never fail to see some beautifully poetic, hopelessly romantic aspect about being beside the sea for all eternity.
Seaside graves are always interesting. 'Lost at sea' 'Died in a great storm' 'Shipwrecked' are often some of the untimely deaths recorded, and generally stones decorated with anchors and ships pepper the cemeteries, showing the importance of the sea to these people, in life, and death.

My only regrets regarding Lindisfarne are that I did not visit this otherworldly place sooner, and that I did not get to spend more time in it on this occasion (down to the timing of the tide unfortunately). Lindisfarne was one of those rare places that before you have even left, you're planning your return. I desperately hope to make it back to Holy Island in 2019 and explore more of this breathtaking place.

For me The Holy Island of Lindisfarne felt like my own little Summerisle, only, I'm no Sergent Howie ...

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Musée Cinéma et Miniature - Lyon

When looking for things to do in Lyon on our whistlestop tour of France I didn't have to look far for the number one, unmissable attraction; The Musée Cinéma et Miniature.

The Museum houses an incredibly impressive collection of props, prosthetics, models and minatures from a huge array of films including; Star Wars, Batman, Terminator, Flash Gordon, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Beetlejuice, Planet of the Apes, Pirates of the Caribbean, V for Vendetta, Robocop, Nightmare on Elm Street, Chucky, Gremlins, Fifth Element, Mars Attacks, various Marvel and DC films and of course, the main reason we were there; the Alien franchise.

Last thing I had heard the Alien Queen from Aliens was somewhere in America, and I know a lot of props Alien vanished after filming. Bulldozed (like the sets), taken home by crew, but not where they rightfully belong, in a museum for fans to enjoy. So as you might imagine finding out several pieces of Alien history were right here in Lyon waiting for me was a dream come true and a must see stop off. The greatest surprise was the Alien Queen who was in a darkened room with working animatronics and sound effects. The Queen needs restoring back to her former glory, but when she is she will have hundreds of movements to terrorize visitors, something I'm more than happy for my ticket money to help towards!

Having never been to a museum like this before I was very impressed with the content, atmosphere and lay out. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in the pieces of cinema history around them and the sense of nostalgia for many there seemed great (perhaps less so for children visiting as many of the films featured would be well before their time). There was excitement around every corner as you spotted another well loved character, reminisced on some of your favourite films or marveled at the technical work and time invested in the smallest of things.

One of the most impressive features within the museum were the fully reconstructed sets for the movie 'Perfume: the story of a murderer'. The complexity and intricate details were just incredible, and seeing these complete scenes laid out before you was just wonderful. I have seen the film a number of times and while quite harrowing and often hard to stomach, the film is none the less brilliant.

Everything about the museum screamed perfection, precision and detail. I imagine the founder or team who put together this incredible collection to be so dedicated and utter film fanatics! The museum is a must visit for any film fan in Lyon or nearby. I only hope that with continuing support this amazing museum continues to grow and amass an even larger collection of silver screen memorabilia for future generations to treasure. 

For more information and to plan a visit to the Museum visit:

Monday, 18 February 2019

Pere Lachaise

Almost 7 years ago today I was in Paris with my university comrades, with the purpose of visiting Premiere Vision Design show. But, admittedly, after a short time looking at the endless booths of fabric and frowning faces warding off students I wasn't feeling the inspiration the trip was supposed to be filling me with. I became hungry for the richer, darker things that Paris had to offer. So at some point during the trip my good friend Stacey Bell and I decided to explore one of the most ground breaking cemeteries in the world; Pere Lachaise.
I still look back on that experience with very fond memories, and for that reason I've always wanted to return to Pere Lachaise to explore more of the utterly vast cemetery.

Luckily, the Roadtrip provided another perfect opportunity to return to this incredible place and I (utterly deliberately of course) picked us a hotel which was just a couple of minutes walk from Pere Lachaise.

By the time we arrived in Paris from Rouen and sorted out a little parking issue and checked into the hotel there was just enough time for an afternoon stroll around Pere LaChaise in the barmy June sunshine shaded by the many trees, with my sandals rubbing on my heel in the cruelest way possible.

Learning from a previous mistake I insisted we purchase a map, there was no guarentee of bumping into an American Nuclear Physicist with a map to guide me a second time! The cemetery is so incredibly vast without a map it is easy to become lost in this labyrinth of the dead. At 110 acres and over a million graves Pere Lachaise is the largest cemetery I've ever visited and has some of the most spectacular monuments. Never for a second are you short of somewhere to look.

Eventually the afternoon wore on, and the toll of the attendants bell marked the end of our visit and urged my poor foot towards rest with a Belgian Beer on the bustling street where the frivolities of life continued. I felt contented at finally making it back to Pere Lachaise over 6 years after my first visit. Exploring another tiny strip of this beautiful cemetery was something I had wanted to do for so long. I must make sure its not another 6 years before I return to glimpse another corner of this amazing place.