Archive | May 2016

Smeaton’s Tower

Last weekend we were in Devon, and visited Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe. Now landlocked, this lighthouse once stood on the distant Eddystone Rocks, the third incarnation of the Eddystone Lighthouse there. Designed by John Smeaton, it is an important and historic lighthouse, the first in the world to have the now-iconic curved profile that we all know, with the first modern use of hydraulic lime (a form of concrete that sets under water), and the first lighthouse to use dovetailed granite blocks that locked together and gave the structure added stability. It was built between 1756 and 1759.

Smeaton's Tower in June 2009.

Smeaton’s Tower in June 2009.

Smeaton's Tower on Plymouth Hoe on a rainy May day.

Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe on a rainy May day 2016.

The Eddystone Rocks lie 14 km (9 miles) off the Plymouth coast. Plymouth has been a historically important port for centuries, and many ships had been lost on the rocks of the reef. The first lighthouse, made of wood and designed and built by Henry Winstanley, was built there between 1696 and 1698, the first ever off-shore lighthouse in the world. The 60-candle light was first lit in 1698, and the lighthouse operated until the Great Storm of November 1703 completely destroyed the lighthouse and killed the six men in it, Winstanley included. The second lighthouse, John Rudyard’s Light, operated from 1709-1755. This lighthouse was built of wood and stone, stood 21 metres high and was lit by 24 candles. It burnt down in 1755.

Smeaton's Lighthouse.

Smeaton’s Lighthouse.

Smeaton's Lighthouse.

Smeaton’s Lighthouse.

Smeaton’s Lighthouse was the third iteration on the site. Smeaton built the lighthouse with a treetrunk-like shape to give it a low centre of gravity, and used fireproof materials: Cornish granite blocks on the outside and lighter Portland stone masonry on the inside, held with the hydraulic lime concrete he developed and cleverly interlocked for additional structural integrity. The curved shape had the added benefit of dissipating some of the energy of the waves which struck it.

It stood 22 metres high, and was first lit with 24 candles, and later replaced by oil lamps and reflectors, and later still a lens replaced the reflectors, intensifying the light emitted. Going on the number of beds inside, it had a crew of two, and the living areas were small and spartan.

Smeaton's Tower: the kitchen. Lead sink, eek!

Smeaton’s Tower: the kitchen. Lead sink, eek!

Curved furniture.

Curved furniture. Hope they had some cushions.

Access in the lower parts is by central spiral staircases like this, and in the upper parts by ladders.

Access in the lower parts is by central spiral staircases like this, and in the upper parts by ladders.

Original table from 1789.

Original table from 1759.

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The beds were tiny - my 5'8" sister just fitted inside this one, but at least you could close the doors for some privacy!

The beds were tiny – my 1.68 m (5′ 6″) tall sister just fitted inside this one, but at least you could close the doors for some privacy!

Heavy-duty shutters to keep the weather out.

Heavy-duty shutters to keep the weather out.

Looking up into the lantern.

Looking up into the lantern. You can walk around the outside by the lantern, but my not very good head for heights kept me firmly inside.

Gradually heavy weather eroded the rock base on which the lighthouse stood, causing it to shudder in storms. The lighthouse was dismantled in 1882, apart from the bottom few metres which were too solid to be removed and remain to this day as a stub on the rocks, and the lighthouse was transported to Plymouth and rebuilt on the Hoe. Work on the replacement lighthouse out at sea, Douglass’s Lighthouse, started in 1879, was operational in 1882 and continues to work to this day.

The stump of Smeaton's Lighthouse on the left, with the present-day Eddystopne Lighthouse on the right. Photo by Steve Johnson.

The stump of Smeaton’s Lighthouse on the left, with Douglass’s Lighthouse, the present-day Eddystone Lighthouse on the right. Photo by Steve Johnson.

Another view of the stump.

Another view of the stump. Photo by Pline.

The Eddystone Lighthouse is just visible in theois photo, taken from above the Lido in Plymouth. The lighthouse is on the horizon, to the right of the light on the end of the breakwater. Click on photo to enlarge.

The Eddystone Lighthouse and Smeaton’s stump are just visible in this photo, taken from above the Lido in Plymouth. The lighthouse is on the horizon, to the right of the light on the end of the breakwater. Click on photo to enlarge, and then click again to enlarge further. And then squint.

Smeaton’s Tower is a Grade I listed building, the highest grade.

And lurking in the background of a photos of the Beatles at the Hoe in 1967 is the tower, before its red and white striped paint job was reinstated.

The Beatles on the Hoe in 1967, with Smeaton's Tower in the background.

The Beatles on the Hoe in 1967, with Smeaton’s Tower in the background.

Smeaton’s Tower is well worth a visit. The opening times are on Plymouth City Council’s website. There is a small charge for entry.

Plymouth City Council website information on the four Eddystone lighthouses.

Arts and Crafts cicely (or is it cecily?) leaf motifs

I have quite a few pieces of silver jewellery in my Etsy shop that are inspired by British Arts and Crafts designs, most notably those of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. One of the motifs he and his contemporaries used quite a lot is known as the cicely leaf design – though I often see it written as cecily leaf.

Chalres Rennie Mackintosh design for a stencil to go on the back of a chair, 1902. It features two Glasgow Roses and several cicely leaves. From the collection of the Hunterian Museum.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh design, 1902. It features two Glasgow Roses and several cicely leaves. From the collection of the Hunterian Museum.

Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is a member of the umbellifer family, similar to cow parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, fennel and wild carrot.

Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata). Photo by H. Zell.

Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata). Photo by H. Zell.

Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata)

Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata).

The problem is, the fern-like, divided pinnate leaf of sweet cicely looks nothing like the leaf described as the cicely (or cecily) leaf, with its broad heart-shaped or teardrop-shaped leaf and prominent central rib! I have no idea where the name of the motif came from, but it is in very common use. Maybe it is correctly spelled cecily, and was called after a lady of that name … I’ve had a good old truffle online and I’m none the wiser.

Cicely leaf overlap ring.

Cicely leaf overlap ring. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage cecily leaf design peridot glass stud earrings. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage cicely leaf sterling silver and peridot glass stud earrings. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh style sterling silver ring with cecily leaf design. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photos for details.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh style sterling silver ring with cicely leaf design. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photos for details. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage Ortak brooch with three cicely leaves. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage Ortak brooch with three cicely leaves. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage jadeite and sterling silver ring with cicely leaf design.

Vintage jadeite and sterling silver ring with cicely leaf design. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Charles Rennie Mackintosh style vintage brooch with Glasgow Rose and cicely leaves.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh style vintage brooch with Glasgow Rose and cicely leaves. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage

Vintage Charles Rennie Mackintosh style brooch with Glasgow Rose and cicely leaves. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage Charles Rennie Mackintosh design pendant with figures and cicely leaf.

Vintage Charles Rennie Mackintosh design pendant with figures and cicely leaf. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Charles Rennie Mackintosh style necklace with cecily leaves. Made in sterling silver by Carrick Jewellery and hallmarked Edinburgh 1988. For sale: click on photos for details.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh style necklace with cecily leaves. Made in sterling silver by Carrick Jewellery and hallmarked Edinburgh 1988. For sale: click on photos for details. (NOW SOLD).

But whatever the origins of the motif and its various names, it’s a lovely one that was commonly used.

Animal jewellery

I love nature and wildlife so I’m always happy when I get my hands on some animal jewellery. I have some new pieces in my Etsy shop as of yesterday:

Vintage sterling silver frog stick pin. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage sterling silver frog stick pin. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage handpainted lapwing pendant in sterling silver handmade surround with chain. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage handpainted lapwing pendant in sterling silver handmade surround with chain. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage sterling silver and blue glass dolphin brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage sterling silver and blue glass dolphin brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

They join the animal jewellery I already have: click on all photos for more details.

Vintage horse and bear pendant and chain, based on a Viking-period design. Finnish.

Vintage horse and bear pendant and chain, based on a Viking-period design. Finnish. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage Art Deco enamel and silver sailfish brooch.

Vintage Art Deco enamel and silver sailfish brooch.

Vintage puffy fish charm bracelet.

Vintage puffy fish charm bracelet. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage cloisonné enamel brooch, Ancient Egyptian Horus or Ra-Horakhty falcon, Egyptian Revival pin.

Vintage cloisonné enamel brooch, Ancient Egyptian Horus or Ra-Horakhty falcon, Egyptian Revival pin. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage silver butterfly brooch.

Vintage silver butterfly brooch.

Vintage Scandinavian silver leaping deer brooch by A Klokker, Denmark.

Vintage Scandinavian silver leaping deer brooch by A Klokker, Denmark. (NOW SOLD).

Art Deco scorpion brooch with glass jewels.

Art Deco scorpion brooch with glass jewels. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage silver and enamel peacock brooch from Thailand.

Vintage silver and enamel peacock brooch from Thailand. (NOW SOLD).

Elegant vintage Danish sterling silver clipon earrings.

Elegant vintage Danish sterling silver clipon earrings. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage enamel and silver butterfly bar brooch.

Vintage enamel and silver butterfly bar brooch.

Vintage 830 silver bird ring, Danish silver openwork ring, eagle, hawk, raptor or dove, Scandinavian silver.

Vintage 830 silver bird ring, Danish silver openwork ring, eagle, hawk, raptor or dove, Scandinavian silver. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage sterling silver fish brooch.

Vintage sterling silver fish brooch.

Vintage enamel and silver red cardinal bird brooch.

Vintage enamel and silver red cardinal bird brooch. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage lion and unicorn heraldic brooch.

Vintage lion and unicorn heraldic brooch. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage sterling silver brooch with birds and grapes, French by H Teguy.

Vintage 800 silver brooch with birds and grapes, French by H Teguy.

Vintage mesh metal purse with dragon design and blue cabochons.

Vintage mesh metal purse with dragon design and blue cabochons. Okay, it might be mythological but it’s still an animal ….

Sunday stroll May Day walk: Fonthill Abbey

Yesterday was May Day, and despite the cold, grey weather we headed out for a walk round a small part of the 9,000 acre Fonthill Estate in south-west Wiltshire. The grounds of the Fonthill Estate are notably lacking in public rights of way. As the ruins of the fabulous Fonthill Abbey are in the grounds and normally inaccessible, a rare open day for charity yesterday gave us the chance to have a good old snoop (plus a lovely walk).

I’ve written before about Fonthill and its Abbey, built by the notorious William Beckford between 1796 and 1813, and very shortlived: due to its hasty and poor-quality construction, it fell down (for the final time) in 1825 and was later all-but demolished, apart from a part of the north wing.

Fonthill Abbey: View of the west and north fronts from John Rutter's Delineations of Fonthill (1823)

Fonthill Abbey: View of the west and north fronts from John Rutter’s Delineations of Fonthill (1823). All that remains is the part on the left hand side of the engraving: the low tower with the oriel window and everything to the left of it.

Fonthill Abbey ruins: all that remains, part of the north wing. A modern house has been built in the last year behind it and attached to some of the cloistered arcading.

Fonthill Abbey ruins: all that remains, part of the north wing. A modern house has been built in the last year behind it and attached to some of the original cloisters / arcading.

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It looks like the building work has mainly been completed, with just the hard landscaping (laying of flags etc) to be finished.

Fonthill Abbey ground plan.

Fonthill Abbey ground plan. The small part that remains is at the very top (north) of the plan.

We walked around Bitham Lake, the smaller of the two lakes on the estate:

Bitham Lake.

Bitham Lake.

Bitham Lake.

Bitham Lake.

Ruined small building in the woods.

Ruined small building in the woods.

Beautiful old Spanish Chestnuts with their wonderfully twisted trunks.

Beautiful old Spanish Chestnuts with their wonderfully twisted trunks.

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The long drive leading up to the Abbey ruins.

There is another open day on Sunday 15 May 2016, from 10.30-5.00. Entry is via Stonegate Lodge (SP3 6SP) on the Hindon-Newtown Lane (Grid ref 390900 130650). Donations at the gate: all proceeds go to ParkinsonsUK and local charities.

2017 UPDATE: The walks take place this year on Sunday 30 April 2017 and Sunday 14 May 2017 (click photo below to embiggen/bigify for details):