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My Trip to England

Author: King Ables
Date of Trip: September 2001

In Stanway we visited Stanway Parish where we saw a wedding in progress, and the Stanway Water Garden.

Stanton is not very modern, and is inhabited mostly by retired people and workers from Broadway. The Stanton Parish Church was where John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church, preached. We even got to see a Cricket game going on down the street.

Broadway, in Glouscester, is called "Gateway to the Cotswolds." Most people in our group went shopping, I went to the Horse and Hound pub to sample the local brew.

Chipping Campden is a market town. The name comes from chipping (as in chipping at the price, or bartering), camp (people), and den (organized). The Eddington Park Hotel supposedly has a housekeeper ghost.

After returning to Stratford, I toured a few of the local pubs near the hotel. The Black Swan (aka the Dirty Duck) is often frequented by RSC players after performances. I also stopped in at the Pen and Parchment and Cox's Yard, both along the banks of the River Avon.

Sunday, September 24, 2000
Today we had some time to ourselves, so I got up early and went for a run along the River Avon past the Royal Shakespeare Memorial Theater and Holy Trinity Church. I stopped to watch a boat go through one of the locks along the river. The Avon Environmental District has a great sign that says "Good planets are hard to find" encouraging you to pick up your trash after enjoying the area. In the afternoon, we took a trip to Coventry. Among other things, it's the home of Lady Godiva. It was an agricultural settlement in 1086 and was the third largest city outside of London by 1377. Its prosperity came from woolen trade.

The wife of Earl Leofric was Lady Godiva. She sympathized with citizens and protested her husband's high taxation. She made a deal with her husband that if he would lower the taxes, she would ride naked on horseback through the city. Out of respect, the townspeople planned to stay inside their houses with the windows shut while she made this ride. Allegedly a young man named Thomas couldn't stand it and had to look (hence the phrase "peeping Tom").

Now it's a car center -- Rover Group (formerly BMW) and Austin founded by Herbert Austin. In WWII, they made arms and engines so they were a target. On November 14, 1940, Coventry was bombed by the Luftwaffe. A 7:10pm air raid siren signaled the start of an 11-hour bombing where the Coventry Cathedral was virtually destroyed. The Cathedral roof was lead, which when wet, as it was because the fire brigade was trying to put out fires all over town, it looked like a metal factory roof. Eventually the water ran out, so when it was hit, the fire could not be put out. The bell tower was left standing and working.

The old Coventry Cathedral was the only British cathedral to be destroyed by the Luftwaffe. The new cathedral, St. Michael's, was completed in 1962. It's a modern design by Sir Basil Spence and is a stark contrast to the ruins of the 14th century cathedral next to it. The "official" location has never been moved to the new one, so the bombed out shell is still the recognized cathedral.

We also saw the St. Mary's Guildhall, built between 1340 and 1460 and damaged during the bombing but restored. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the tower for two months (of her 19 years), near the council chambers and treasury rooms.

Back in Stratford that evening, we had dinner with some local folks, including a couple of people who travel around and teach school children about Shakespeare. They have an interesting Web site. One of the women in the group is from New Jersey but moved to Stratford to do graduate work and just stayed. Hearing her take on life in the UK was pretty interesting (and talking with her wasn't difficult!). It's from her I learned the word "kerfuffled" (flabbergasted, confused).

Monday, September 25, 2000
Today we visited the town of Woodstock and Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Palace was a gift of a grateful nation to John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, for victory in battle. He had been poor so he entered the army and was superb at the strategies of war. He married Sarah Duchess of Marlborough and his wealth grew with battle wins. During the Spanish Wars of Succession he won the Battle of Blyn Tyme in France. The Queen gave him cash to build a palace which he named after the site of the battle victory (in English, Blenheim).

Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Winston Churchill (John Churchill's grandson). We saw the room where he was born as well as many of his paintings and letters. In one letter to his dad he says "I'll take your advice and not smoke but one or two cigars a day." At least Dad will be glad to know I'm not the only son who hasn't always taken his father's advice! Blenheim Palace is the site of Winston Churchill's famous speech after his appointment to the Admiralty in 1911. We had lunch at Bear Hotel, a 13th century coaching inn in Woodstock.

Then it was off to Oxford. The word "Oxford" comes from its proximity to the ford in the River Thames where the ox could graze. The River Thames goes by its Roman name in Oxford and is know as the River Isis.

Oxford was an early Saxon trading settlement. Henry VIII founded the school in 1547 but died before it opened in 1562. Queen Elizabeth I presided over its opening.

The individual college we visited was Christ Church. Einstein attended Christ Church and Lewis Carroll taught there. We visited the Bodeian Library, the Meadows building (student rooms), and the Master's garden. Originally, Christ Church was known as Cardinal College but it was renamed by Henry VIII. We took High Tea in a dining room in Christ Church.

Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) came to study Maths in 1852 and stayed to teach until his death in 1898. Many Alice in Wonderland inspirations came to Carroll from Christ Church:

  • A tree in garden is probably the Jabberwocky.
  • The dean's daughter was named Alice (his other kids were Harry, Lorena, and Edith-- I think) - Dodgson got to know the kids telling them stories.
  • Alice looked through door in garden wall into a part of the garden she wasn't allowed in (Wonderland).
  • The dean was always late, especially to dinner where he came up a spiral staircase at the front of the dining room (rabbit hole).
  • Alice's cat used to climb up a chestnut tree in the garden and not come down.
  • The Queen of Hearts ("off with his head") was Henry VIII - his portrait hangs at the head of the dining room.
  • Heads with long necks on the fireplace rack in the dining hall is probably where Alice's long neck came from when she enters Wonderland.
  • The Dodo came from Dodgson's stutter when he would introduce himself (Do-Do-Dodgson).

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