Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Masonry - Let's go to Lancaster

12:31:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , , , No comments

There’s something special about Lancaster. When I think back to my early childhood, that’s where I am, in Williamson Park running down the hill by Ashton Memorial for my dad to catch me and swing me round. Sunday afternoons meant picnics in the surrounding areas, Glasson Dock, Crook o’ Lune, Littledale, Hornby and Ingleton, or a run out to Morecambe sands. Pubs had Sunday opening times in those days and were closed from lunchtime until evening, so it was family time with those who lived nearby. My auntie and uncle had a pub a short walk from ours, Nanna and Grandad had to drive as their pub was further away. We would all meet somewhere, usually with friends as well. It was the late 1950s and cars frequently broke down, though it might have just been us. Sometimes my afternoon would be spent playing in the sun with the ladies, enjoying the food and getting spoilt by my nan while the men twiddled under car bonnets or changed wheels. It always ended in a rush to get back for opening time. I started infant school there. My sister was born there. Then we moved again.

As an adult I became more familiar with the city. I had work connections and looked forward to my visits. It was sad that by this time, our pub had been demolished. That once fabulous building, half pub and half water board offices (It was either the water board or Ministry for Health) had been bulldozed out of the skyline and landscape, leaving just empty space. I liked to visit Lancaster’s historical places of interest, the castle, the priory, the Judge’s Lodgings and I was fascinated by tiny stone-built cottages hidden down old narrow lanes. I was interested in all the buildings, the architecture and the masonry.  I like the terraces of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses. Down at the dockside of the River Lune, the empty, neglected warehouses of a bygone era still stand proud at the edge of the city. I hope they can be saved and used for something else. The Portland stone structure of The Ashton Memorial was and is my particular favourite, probably because it was such a focal point of my childhood. I look out for it every time I travel north on the M6 and feel comforted to see its light grey form and the verdigris of the copper dome standing majestically above the city.

We once took our children to visit Lancaster Castle. I pointed out the basic stone structure, the thickness of the walls, the steep spiral staircases and the slit-like windows for shooting arrows through. My enthusiasm for decorated masonry was greater than theirs, which was to be expected, but a good day was had by all.

Our son was about seven years old, and as we talked about buildings and construction, I asked him if he’d like to grow up to be the man who could build a wall or the man who passed the bricks to the man who could build a wall. Straight away he replied he would be the man who designed the wall. Stunned, I shut up.

Lancaster is a gem of a city. I’m overdue another visit.
My family photo from 20 years ago, at the Ashton Memorial.
I've chosen 'Lancaster Castle', a poem by Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

Dark with age these towers look down
Over their once vassal town;
Warlike—yet long years have past
Since they look'd on slaughter last.

Never more will that dark wall
Echo with the trumpet's call,
When the Red Rose and the White
Call'd their warriors to the fight.

Never more the sounding yew,
Which the English archer drew,
Will decide a battle-day
Fast like its own shafts away.

Never more those halls will ring
With the ancient harper's string,
When the red wine pass'd along
With a shout and with a song.

Trumpet, harp, and good yew bow
Are so many memories now,
While the loom, the press, the gun,
Have another age begun.

Yet that old chivalric hour
Hath upon the present power
Changed—and soften'd and refined
It has left its best behind.

What may its bequeathings be?
Honour, song, and courtesy.
Like the spirit of its clay,
Yesterday redeems to-day.
Thanks for reading, Pam x