Friday, 26 April 2013

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield

This is a pivotal post in the lifetime of this blog as I met three people with different agendas during the course of this weekend that influenced my direction and journey in the short and medium term. About 75 % of the material I have in my photo library still to show at this moment in time can be traced back to this point. Having said all that, you can guess that the text in my opinion is more important than the images here !


I passed the sign for The Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the M1 motorway a few times and often wondered what it was all about. The organisers of The James Bond Ball, that I briefly mentioned in the previous post, arranged an outing to this location the following day. It was an opportunity to talk to people that we had met the night before and provided the opportunity to discuss what we thought about art and its relevance here. Personally I saw it as a historic park with additional features to attract other visitors from outside the area. There were elements to the art that I didn't understand and it was difficult looking at a landscape scene in a vast park with something that maybe shouldn't have been there. However there were a few images that I thought were worthy of being displayed.

The estate is steeped in history stretching back to the time when it was mentioned by William The Conqueror in The Domesday Book of 1086 when the De Bretton family owned it. Despite the Bretton name being kept as a title, the ownership saw a few changes down the centuries generally through intermarriage of the nobility, Knights to the king with created titles of Baronet (Henry VIII, Charles I and Charles II ). The Dronsfield family name taking it during the 13th century, the Wentworth family name in 1407 until 1792.

The present house, Bretton Hall, was built by William Wentworth (4th Baronet of Bretton) 1675 - 1720 and replaced the wooden structure of 1508. Diana the daughter of the last Wentworth who had earlier married a Northumberland MP, Colonel Thomas Beaumont inherited the house in 1792.


She made substantial additions and modifications to the house that included a portico, Stable block, one of the largest conservatories at the time and follies around the estate ... the birth of the Sculpture Park ... :-) haha.


The Park and garden work was looked after by head gardener Robert Marnock who went on to greater things with the Botanical gardens in Sheffield and eventually London.


Three generations later and Bretton Hall became under used as a residence in favour of a race meeting and shooting venue with the owner spending more time in more important places working with Royalty. It gained some use during World War II when the War Office wanted it before the house and large parts of the estate were was sold to the local council in 1948.

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Bretton Hall College was born the following year as a teacher training college for art, music and drama. The inception of the Yorkshire Sculpture park in 1977 came about largely due to the progressive syllabus that the college taught. The Principal Lecturer in Art, Peter Murray, became the Founding Director of YSP due to a sculpture exhibition that he organised in the college grounds during 1976. The idea to make it permanent came about with a financial grant from Yorkshire Arts.

The YSP went from strength to strength purchasing large areas of the original estate and opening a variety of galleries across the site.

Lastly, The 21st re-alignment of colleges and polytechnics saw Bretton Hall merge with Leeds University and its subsequent disuse once again as the building was sold back to the council. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park organisation are keen to have the building occupied and they are probably keen for obvious reasons to see the property turned into a ... Luxury hotel

Whatever your thoughts about Sculpture parks are, I felt much more comfortable dealing with old & new friends on this trip than I did the previous night at the Ball even though it gave me less time to take decent images. Hope this post doesn't leave you speechless ...


Sunday, 14 April 2013

A walk from Middleham to Jervaulx Abbey


After a talk with one of my friends ("The Scarborough sandcastle manager !") who I sometimes go walking with, we decided to attend a James Bond Ball function in Wakefield,Yorkshire with some other friends we knew and others we did not. Not being one to miss an opportunity for a walk, he hatched a plan to squeeze one in on the way there even though it was a little longer than I would have liked given the circumstances. Due to my ignorance, I had to look all of these locations up on the map to see where they were !

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On the wall of Sundial House (former Post Office) by John Briggs.
It was a early start, a sunny day and an ideal opportunity to explore something new despite my mind being mostly on the unease of the event later in the day.

After parking the car and a refreshment purchase, we explored very quickly the town giving me just enough time to take a photograph of each subject !

On a side note, these are the images that I struggled with for months whilst trying to watermark them. The sundial and sheep images were cropped and somehow the watermark was too large and even though I created the watermark in photoshop with thanks to Adrian, I rectified the publication with a different arrangement. Needless to say that I was sick and tired of looking at these and had to wait awhile before returning to them now.


George Formby once attended The Old School Room which later became an Art Gallery after it closed in 1977 and subsequently a conversion into a private house.

On a side note, this school building was the first ever image I straightened out the converging verticals in Photoshop. It's a complicated beast that caused me a series of many problems that unbelievably led me to get a larger hard drive. One day I might do a course on it but I only use it for this rectification for the moment.

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Middleham is famous for two things ... A Castle and a breeding ground for training Race horses.

It seems expected of me that someone more interested in Art and Geography should give some history to The Castle at this point ! ... I'll try to keep it short and interesting !!

Alan Rufus, a nephew of William the Conquerer decided to fortify the land he was given by his uncle at Middleham soon after the Norman Conquest. The wooden castle monitored the traffic from Skipton to Richmond where he also built a castle.
About 100 years and two generations later in the family, Robert Fitzrandolph built a nearby updated stone version which at the time the Keep was the largest in England with 3 floors and very thick walls. The castle was extended in the 13th century with an additional external wall later creating accommodation for soldiers, horses (now theres a thing !) and supplies.
The best days of the castle were during the 15th century when its status was such that it became home to more important royalty and was the childhood home and preferred residence of Richard III. However after his defeat at The Battle of Bosworth, The Tudor dynasty, began by Henry VII, placed less importance on the castle and its good times were over.  The Stuart dynasty didn't want it, so James I gave it to a knight, Sir Henry Linley, who had to renovate it in order for him and his immediate family to live there.
It was partially destroyed during the English Civil War following its use as a prison and subsequently sold to the Wood family who kept it for 200 years. The "Masham Dynasty" bought it for a short period before falling into official hands in 1906 for care and subsequent preservation.

Ooo time for a walk I think !!! .... in an anti clockwise direction from the north west corner. I expanded it to extra large so you could see the detail better and secondly so you could see why I keep the images the size that they are !! (without changing the whole blog page). Thirdly, there's something wrong with my laptop command key, so unfortunately no more maps apart from the ones I saved into drafts.

Typical scenery on leaving Middleham

A drink stop on the journey watching fellow walkers struggling to cross the river before we followed in their footsteps.


East Witton is a delightful and peaceful place that once had a market for 400 years but died out. There didn't seem to be any sign of commercialism at all as we passed through, maybe the local shop was around the corner away from our route.

Most of the village has been updated and rebuilt ...  about 200 years ago !

The church of St John the Evangelist was built at the time and out of the same pot of money. The estate containing the church was later bought by the "Masham dynasty" that I mentioned earlier.

The next section of the walk had a little more gradient to it as we continued through a mix of farmland and country lanes to Jervaulx Abbey ...

I didn't intend putting the above image in the post but felt I had to as I would be hiding things from the reader by overcropping your view !

Jervaulx Abbey was a 12th century Monastery that suffered a worse fate in the Dissolution of the Monasteries than Middleham Castle suffered in the English Civil War.

The current owners take the view that it is a place of peace and enchantment with 180 different kinds of flowers being allowed to grow naturally in any space they choose.


The remaining surrounding walls and walkways proved both a photogenic delight and challenge as it was a thoroughfare from the entrance gate.


It was an ideal place to stop and have a late lunch and a much needed drink !!

Time was marching on as we still had about half the walk to complete and a 75 minute drive to our destination in Wakefield.

Race horse out for a canter !!
The walk back although pleasant was generally a flat riverside walk ...

... meeting animals along the path of ever decreasing speed  ... !!

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