Wednesday, 26 November 2014

UK Trip Summary - Part 2 (with pictures)

Warning: This is another long post. :)

When last we left our intrepid adventurers they were leaving Oxford and heading to the Midlands to visit with Robert the Blue and Lerthan.


We had a great visit as we stayed with them for about four days. We spent lots of time talking about the differences between the SCA at home and in the UK, and some of the things we could do to improve how we run events and do feasts.

The highlight of the visit from a history perspective though had to be our stop at The Original Reenactor's Market (TORM). We had specifically timed out trip so that we could check out the market, as we'd heard about the really awesome recreation quality merchants that go there.

In a word, it was epic. We basically spent six hours there wandering through the merchants. We bought lots of gifts for other people back home, and some stuff for ourselves as well. I focussed on hardware like belt buckles, pouch frames etc. that are hard to find here at home. But we also got to meet some of the people I've been following on Facebook like NP Historical Shoes (yes, we got our measurements taken for future orders). I also got to chat with Peter Crossman, who helped me with my research into the stick-purse at the Mary Rose last year. We're just waiting for the packages to arrive since had too much stuff to bring back with us on the plane.

Avelyn had a lot of fun as well. One of her highlights was meeting the author of Medieval Tailor's Assistant, and having a lovely chat with her.

After our visit, we packed up on Remembrance Sunday and headed back towards London for our flight to Dublin the next day. On the way we made a stop in Northampton at the Museum of Leathercraft. This is a small museum that covers the entire history of leathercraft, but there were a couple of neat items for our period.

Late 16th C buff-leather
Early 16th C gunpowder flask
Since it was Remembrance Sunday, we also walked through the rest of the Museum complex, which included the local history museum. We saw lots of local history about everything from the American civil war up to WW II.

We arrived at our hotel in Windsor after everything was closed so we just went out for dinner and then settled in for the night. On the way to the airport in the morning we made a quick trip to Windsor Castle so Avelyn could check out St George's chapel. We also arrived right during the changing of the guard, which was a neat bit of pomp. :)

We then dropped off the car at Heathrow and hopped on our plane for Dublin.

Dublin - Day One

We arrived in Dublin late afternoon so by the time we bought our transit passes at the airport, caught the shuttle to our hotel and got into our room, all the touristy stuff was pretty much closed. So, we went for an amble through the Temple Bar district (which is basically the bar area), got some dinner and generally just wandered around before heading back to bed. Interesting tidbit though is that our hotel was literally right across the street from Christchurch Cathedral. Quite the view, and the bells on the hour were lovely.

The next day we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city, and then hit Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library.

The library was very cool and very disappointing at the same time. The collection is amazing. It has one of the largest collections of Asian and Middle Eastern scrolls, books and artwork in the world. It's a treasure trove for SCA scribes, and they had a couple of dozen examples of really neat leather bound books with really intricate covers (including neat cut-work covers with brightly coloured sub-layers of paper underneath - might be my next project).

Unfortunately no pictures are allowed and the leather stuff I was interested in isn't captured in their online collection of pictures. I did buy a book that has a couple of the items but I'm going to have to contact the library to see what else they have. I was rather irked to say the least.

We then ran through the rain to get to the Dublin Castle so we could take the tour of the viking remains under the castle. Dublin dates back to the viking period and while there's very little left from that period, they discovered the remains of a viking river embankment under the foundation of the medieval castle. It was pretty cool to see.

Our tour guide with a illustration of what
the viking town would have looked like.
The pile of rocks on the middle is the
viking-age embankment. The round wall
is the base of one of the towers build
several hundred years later.

Dublin - Day Two

We had a lot to fit in for our last full day in Dublin, so we hit the road early and got out as soon as sites started to open. We first hit Christchurch Cathedral since it was right near the hotel. It was amazing. They've turned the crypts underneath the cathedral into a museum, so they have all kinds of really neat stuff down there (plus the crypts are just neat with their stonework dating back to the 11th and 12th century.

Original 12th C tiles at
Christchurch Cathedral
The crypts under the cathedral.

We then moved on to Trinity College to check out their collection, including the Book of Kells. Again, I wasn't able to take pictures in the main exhibit but WOW! (I also brought a notebook so was able to jot down lots of interesting stuff) The tiny scale of the illuminations in the books on display was just crazy. I can't imagine how they managed to do such tiny detail. There was also an interesting display on the inks and pigments used in the period.

The other interesting point was that the exhibit explained that both the Book of Kells and another book on display (the Book of Armaugh) had coloured leather covers (both were red). We're talking about 8th C books, which pre-dates my earliest leather dye recipes.

After drooling on all of the displays, we moved on to the National Museum of Ireland, where they have a major section on viking materials, along with a fair bit of medieval artefacts as well. It wasn't the most captivating display I've seen but they certainly had a lot of artefacts. I took hundreds of pictures, including leather, bone and metal items. They also had an interesting selection of farics from the viking age, so I did what I could to get pictures of the weaves.

A set of leatherworking tools.
Undated but on display in the viking section.
A weight (used with a set of scales)
with a rabbit on it - 13th to 15th C

We didn't leave until the museum was closing. The next morning we caught our plane back to London and connected to our return flight to Canada with lots of pictures and way more in our suitcases than we started with. :)

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