Friday, 20 June 2014

Salisbury and Cotswolds Holiday Day 8–Cirencester and Home–First Post

On our final day, after leaving our lovely farm bed and breakfast, we visited Cirencester before beginning the journey home. We ended up spending most of the day there as it was just great.

My hubby took me to the amazing museum which celebrates the rich Roman history of the town. The museum is of a very high standard indeed, with the exhibits beautifully displayed. Just as we arrived, a school party from Oxford also arrived, and we spent some time going around with them, and I was very impressed with the standard of teaching, and the responses of the children. It was clearly a very good school and the children behaved very well throughout.

Adjoining the shop on the way out was a small gallery where they hold temporary exhibitions of local art, and the current one was based on William Shakespeare. I have done a separate post about this – more delicious art! We’ve been so blessed with it on this holiday!

The entrance lobby of the museum was screened off with a glass wall through which we could see the first of many displays of mosaics and wall paintings. Cirencester was an important Roman settlement and many very fine mosaics and other artefacts have been unearthed.

01 Museum Entrance

Looking through the lobby to the Roman Garden beyond.

02 The Roman Garden

Throughout the museum we found this beautiful logo, sand-blasted onto various glass panels, reflecting the museum’s emphasis on mosaics.

04 Museum Logo

In the first photo you may have noticed a large hare in front of the mosaics on the wall. Cirencester is currently holding a “hare festival” and various shops and other venues have these large figures, each decorated in a different way. The museum one was embellished, appropriately, with mosaics. A lovely piece of work.

05 Mosaic Hare

You can read more about the Hare Festival here. Lots more images here.

There were quite a few life-sized displays of figures illustrating life in Roman Britain (and other periods too – our time was limited so we just concentrated on the Romans). The school children were particularly fascinated by the mounted Roman cavalryman – or more particularly by his horse!

08 Roman Cavalryman

I am always fascinated that the Romans did not use stirrups, which were invented much later, and the horses are understood to have been unshod. Despite this, they were still a force to be reckoned with.

Walking in on this display, I almost apologised for disturbing a man sitting on his bed!

11 Roman Bed Display

The Roman soldiers certainly had pretty basic accommodation – this looks more like a scene from a concentration camp!

A closer view of the Roman Garden. You can see the beautiful wall paintings beyond, and the mosaic logo on the glass partition.

12 The Roman Garden

The reconstruction of a Roman hypocaust found in Cirencester. I am fascinated by this form of underfloor heating – not just the simple but effective technology, but perhaps it has something to do with the word itself? It has a wonderful sound that rolls off the tongue (I love words…).

13 Hypocaust Reconstruction

This display of Romans relaxing at home was very interesting. We listened to the teacher explaining that the installation of a mosaic in one’s home was a huge labour which would have taken many months, or longer, depending on the quality. This was a major investment, and proved that the owner was a person of wealth and status. They would have taken great delight in showing off their mosaics to their friends and neighbours. When they moved house, they would have to leave it behind as there was no way of lifting it and transplanting it to the new house, so I am sure that having quality mosaics would increase the sale value of the house. (I wonder if the wall paintings I left behind in our old house will have the same effect? Lol!)

15 Roman Living Room Scene

Viewed from the balcony above, the famous Hunting Dogs mosaic could be seen in all its splendour. This is a very fine mosaic indeed, with small tesserae, and a great deal of detail. The muted colours come from the local stone, carefully selected and cut.

20 Hunting Dogs Mosaic

A reproduction pillar with an original Roman capitol in the Corinthian style. Each of the four faces depicts a Roman god – in this case the god of wine, Bacchus, surrounded as usual by grapes and vines. What particularly intrigued me was his wand, or thyrsus – in this case, the shape of it was exactly the same as the labrys or double-headed axe of the Minoan civilisation – my father brought me back a beautiful heavy silver pendant in this shape. It was a sacrificial axe, and it gave its name to the famous Labyrinth of Knossos, where Theseus slew the Minatoar in Greek mythology. With further research I may be able to establish the connection with Bacchus but no time at present!

21 Corinthian Column Depicting Bacchus

From the Christian period of Roman occupation, this Sator square was found in Cirencester. It is an acrostic which spells “Pater Noster” – “Our Father.” It was probably a coded message passed between Christians, much as the simple image of the fish was used. There is plenty of information about this online.

23 Sator Square

Finally from the museum, a fine example of a wall painting in the form of panels – a popular design in Roman villas.

25 Wall Painting

I took plenty more photos but could not possibly include them all here – this is a good representative sample.

Some pictures of Cirencester streets:

26 Cirencester Street

28 Cirencester Street

It’s a beautiful town, with very classy and intriguing shops. We came across this book shop with lots of flying hippos and bunting in the window!

27 Flying Hippos in Bookshop Window

Then… more chocolate heaven! I managed to restrain myself from going into this particular shop, and contented myself with photographing it from the windows! The first photo reflects the Hare Festival and features a large hare made of chocolate.

30 Chocolate Hare in Shop Window

What about these chocolate cakes?

31 Chocolate Cakes in Shop Window

Yummy, or what? More pictures of the inside of the shop. First, a stunning chandelier consisting of carefully arranged hanging crystals, illuminated by small spotlights from above.

33 Chandelier in Chocolate Shop

34 Counter Display in Chocolate Shop

After this we found a very nice place to eat – a bit expensive but certainly worth it! This is the window seat with a set of lovely brown cushions in different fabrics. My hubby’s hat tones very well, don’t you think?

37 Cushions in Fleece Restaurant

After lunch we visited the outdoor market, and then an indoor antiques market – I had wanted to do this first thing, and was proved right because by the time we got there they were starting to pack up. In the antiques market I bought a length of cream coloured lace for art work but there wasn’t much else in the way of vintage linens or textiles. In the outdoor market I came across a stall selling beautiful bright coloured Indian clothes and the lady running it looked so beautiful that I asked for a photo, and she obliged!

38 Indian Market Stallholder

After this we really felt we should be making tracks for home, as we’d stayed a lot longer than we intended. I didn’t want to go straight home after leaving the bed and breakfast, but wanted to take advantage of our last day away, especially as several of the days were spoilt for me by feeling so poorly! We were home in time to feed two hungry kitties who were, of course, absolutely delighted to have us home again.

I have composed this post on Saturday 21st June but kept its date in sequence with the rest of the holiday posts – last night I was much too tired to attempt it, and today I am having a rest and attempting to catch up with myself a bit – we’ve got a family get-together tomorrow evening and I need to be on top form for that!

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