Ancient England

Great Britain, Observatory

The thought sometimes crosses my mind; If I still manage to find lost pockets of London, how many more must there be around England? A friend of mine who has regularly contributed to these pages, Jan Briggs, sends me details of Saxon objects that still cling on in the landscape of England. This Saxon baptismal font can be found in the tiny village of Toller Fratrum, Dorset. It’s well over a millennium old.

In medieval times, the manor of Toller Fratrum, or Toller of the Brothers, belonged to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (who founded the St John’s Ambulance in Clerkenwell that we still have today). Here they had their storehouse. It was used by them from the time of their founding in the 11th century. On the farmhouse there are twisted chimneys and a statue of a monkey holding a hammer.

Jan points out that everyone goes on about the Dan Brown churches, forgetting that all Roman Catholic churches had relics and crosses placed beneath their altars. As the churches get deconsecrated and their innards are torn out to make way for apartments, what happens to the relics? I think has come up with the idea for a story here.

I know from just walking around London that things disappear on an almost daily basis. Even the spots which we think have not changed have transformed piece by piece until they are no longer recognisable. It’s why I dislike most period TV series, as they don’t bother to get even the simplest and most obvious things right.

8 comments on “Ancient England”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Admin: The New York Times will have a special T-Magazine issue this coming Sunday! All about London. Three articles and scads of current and historical photos, as it’s a photos issue!. Can you get yourself a copy should be good reading/looking and research material loaded.

  2. admin says:

    Cool! Thanks Dan

  3. Vickie says:

    Yes, thanks, Dan. I have two sisters who read the New York Times (one in Manhattan, the other in Southern Connecticut), so have sent a request for the special London insert. Maybe one of them will actually send it to me!

  4. Helen Martin says:

    The comment is often made on this continent that British period films are so much better than North American ones because there is so much trouble taken to make sure things are correct. You don’t want to look at North American films because they take no care at all.

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    David Lean was a director who really worked hard at getting a period right. He sought out “existing” period locations, would frame his shots to exclude, or physically remove bits of the modern. He extensively used researchers in many areas. And he ran over budget and behind schedule.
    I have a sister who work on several of his films in England and Ireland. She greatly admired the man. In my study are several bottle props from the pub in Ryan’s Daughter that she brought me.
    I guess we’re talking the good ol’ days here. Too bad.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    I always enjoy hearing about someone who takes their work seriously and does it well. If you’re talking about 1745 (and don’t we all?) then you don’t want 1850’s things creeping around the edges. They didn’t have mauve until late on, nor any of the aniline dyes so the costumes have to watch colours. Buildings, carriages, and language all have to be negotiated. That’s what a director is for, isn’t it?

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Helen: Research, second location scouts and units, set design, costume design, wardrobe, props, all come under the producer(s) and the director. J. Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet written in 1989, set in Southern England, and directed by Fritz Lang was rather good about sticking to the book and the time. Even so, there were alterations that annoyed loves of the book, still it is really worth a view if it can be located. Think Robert Louis Stevenson.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    I thought the producer(s) just paid for the thing – well, authorized and then paid for the thing.

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