Sophie and I love a good food fair, most of the stalls have free tasters which we take advantage of whenever possible, we buy stuff you can’t really get in Tesco’s and have a cool lunch from one of the stalls. I love to unleash the camera on some unsuspecting people for a change too. Back in May, we went to the one at Bent’s Park on the seafront and were not disappointed with the wares available.
That’ll do for part 1 I think, don’t want you falling asleep.
Stay tooned for Part 2 coming soon to a screen near you. 🖥
The Church of St.Mary The Virgin, is on the list of the top 20 oldest churches in Britain. It’s also the only surviving building of the original Saxon Village of Seaham Harbour. (now just Seaham). It was founded by King Æthelstan in 930AD and has 7th C late Anglo Saxon masonry and early Norman masonry in its nave, and a 13th-century chancel and west tower. Over the 16th-century porch door is a late 18th-century sundial with an unusual verse, now illegible, which begins: “The natural clockwork by the mighty one wound up at first and ever since has gone…” which doesn’t make much sense as it stands, but that’s all that can be read.
King Æthelstan was our first proper king according to modern historians at least, grandson of Alfred the Great and son of Edward the Elder. At first King of Mercia, he then went on to be King of Wessex too when his brother who was King there died. In 927 he conquered the Vikings who were ensconced in York and became the first Anglo-Saxon ruler of the whole of England. He also had a pop at Scotland forcing Constantine II to submit to him. Of course neither the Scots or the Vikings were likely to take all this lying down so they all invaded back in 935.
Æthelstan defeated them at the Battle of Brunanburh, a victory which gave him great prestige both in the British Isles and on the Continent. After his death in 939 the Vikings seized back control of York, and it was not finally reconquered until 954. As well as being a good politician, centralising government, bringing important leading figures to council and arranging his siblings marriages to foreign rulers, he was also very pious, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches. More legal texts survive from his reign than from any other 10th-century English king and they show his concern about widespread robberies, and the threat they posed to social order. His legal reforms were built on those of his grandfather, and his household was the centre of English learning during his reign, laying the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century.
The church was closed when we got there, so we wandered around the gravestones as you do, and took some pictures of course. The church is now a way North from Seaham as it is today, and overlooks the headland.
It has some old and interesting graves, if you click through the picture you can read most of them,
I can’t find out what he died of or how, his elder brother was in the army, and survived to become the 7th Marquess, but there’s no mention of military service for Reg. Very mysterious considering his pedigree.
Death in mining explosions was all too common back in the 1800’s. The Seaham Colliery suffered an underground explosion in 1880 which saw the deaths of upwards of 160 people including surface workers and rescuers.
The enthusiasm for the Volunteer movement following an invasion scare in 1859 saw the creation of many Rifle, Artillery and Engineer Volunteer units composed of part-time soldiers eager to supplement the Regular British Army in time of need. One such unit was the Seaham Artillery Volunteers formed at Seaham in County Durham on 14 March 1860, which became the 2nd (Seaham) Durham Artillery Volunteer Corps’ (AVC).
In 1870 there was a head-on collision at Brockley Whins between a coal train and an express passenger train, caused by a pointsman’s error and a lack of interlocking. Mr. Reed died of his injuries sustained there, 2 months later.
Next to the church is what used to be the Vicarage, c1830, restored c1990 and was built by Lady Londonderry for the Rev O J Creswell. No info on him either
I think it must have been converted into (expensive) appartments now judging by the (expensive) cars parked on it’s drive,
So that’s the end of our Seaham trip, numpty me forgot to get a shot of the church itself 🙄 so Sophie has lent me hers at the top of the post.
All pictures are embiggenable, and more photo’s of our day out can be found HERE
Let’s have a wander around the harbour and beach first.
There was a boat removal going on while we were there
Everyone found it entertaining
The beach was clean and not too packed,
Seaham’s Lighthouse was built in 1905 to mark the town’s north breakwater. The cylindrical metal tower is painted in an alternating black and white pattern and is 10 meters in height. A green light is shown from the glazed lantern at the top of the tower, which gives a single flash every 10 seconds or in bad weather shows a fixed green light. The tower also holds a Fog Horn which gives a blast every 30 seconds in periods of low viability. So glad I don’t live next to that!
Actually that’s a big fat lie, when the weather kicks off here Seaham lighthouse is the place to be with a camera, check this out a couple of minutes of this film by Ian Britton,
On the way back up the hill from the beach, we saw some more madding crowd coming down,
Last time out we went to Cheeseburn Sculpture Park in June, I must have been excited to get it done as I completely missed out a couple of other outings that Sophie and I went on in May, so I’m going to be chronologically challenged. No matter, it’s all time travel anyway. 🙂
SO, Seaham. It’s a coastal town, once named Seaham Harbour. It’s been around a fair long while and has one of the 20 oldest surviving churches in England. Back in the day (1815) it was a rural agricultural community, but somehow a local landlords daughter, Anne Isabella Milbanke, managed to catch herself a beau by the name of Lord Byron and got married to him in Seaham Hall on Jan 2nd, 1815. Now Anne was a bit of a puritan and Lord Byron was a bit of a hmmm, what word to choose for him?… rascal? anyways, he was amoral and agnostic and she a god fearing girl. No surprise the marriage disintegrated and they legally separated in 1816, on the grounds of his having sex with various men, women, his half-sister and for sodomising his Missis. Before that ignominius ending they had a daughter, Ada Lovelace, who became a famous mathematician and invented the first computer algorithm. Byron was bored in Seaham and wrote to one of his pals “Upon this dreary coast we have nothing but county meetings and shipwrecks; and I have this day dined upon fish, which probably dined upon the crews of several colliers lost in the late gales. But I saw the sea once more in all the glories of surf and foam.` He skedaddled out of the country a month after Ada was born. It’s worth noting, for Seahams sake more than mine, that Lord Byron, apart from being a cad, (fab word that!) was a British nobleman, poet, peer, politician, and leading figure in the Romantic movement. He was good pals with Percy Shelley, another great British poet and his Missis, Mary, who outdid both of them when she wrote Frankenstein IMHO.
Seaham, strangely, has been in the movies, it was featured in “Billy Elliot”, and (I kid you not) “Alien 3”.
Of course, it was also a mining town and had it’s share of mining disasters as we found when reading the gravestones in the church.
Well let’s crack on with some pictures,
First, we went down to the harbour
Seaham has had a lifefboat station since 1870, and though closed down in 1979, the station was renovated in 2012 and now houses one of Seaham’s historic lifeboats, the George Elmy. In November 1962 the Elmy and her crew went out in appaling weather conditions to rescue a missing fishing boat. They found her and after three attempts they miraculously rescued four men and a nine year old boy. On the return journey they battled against mountainous seas in an heroic effort to return to port, but at 5.20 pm, just yards from the harbour entrance they were overwhelmed by gigantic waves and capsized with the loss of the entire crew and all but one of the people that they had so bravely rescued from the fishing boat. The George Elmy was a right old mess of a wreck, and although the people of Seaham didn’t know what happened to her after that, she was carted off, extensively repaired, and returned to service with the RNLI, ending up in Dorset where she did a great job and was finally decommissioned in 1972 where she shuffled off into obscurity. Then, in 2009, one of the Seaham Heritage group members spotted her for sale on Ebay She had been converted into a fishing vessel and was laid up in Holyhead neglected and forlorn. Of course this story has a happy ending, the heritage group bought her and restored her to her former glory’. I just LOVE happy endings!
Ray Lonsdale is a local sculptor and is becoming quite famous. Originally a steel fabricator, he now works in steel to pursue his passion for sculpture. He has 2 statues in Seaham, we found the latest down by the marina, called The Coxwain.
It was commissioned by the town’s East Durham Heritage Group and Lifeboat Centre who spent months raising the £24,000 needed to fund the piece, made to honour the sacrifices made by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution crew and staff who worked at the Seaham Harbour station between its opening in 1870 and its closure in 1979.
Ray’s first statue for Seaham is known as ‘Tommy’ a 1st WW soldier representing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which many of the returning soldiers endured.
People leave memorial tokens to their WW1 relatives on the statue.
Seaham did seem to be a bit statue potty bearing in mind it’s only a small town, but all good for photographing.
Of course someone had to do a statue of Lord Byron and Anne Milbanke, and it’s situated just outside Byron Place Shopping Centre.
Created by local artist David Gross they are supposed to be dancing at their wedding. Mr Gross said ‘the figures are facing different directions in reference to their brief relationship‘. At least they are together forever in Seaham. In wood.
Lastly there is a statue to the mining community, entitled The Brothers. Created by Brian Brown, who previously worked at Silksworth pit, and unveiled in 2011. Celebrating Seaham’s mining heritage, the sculpture of 3 miners represents the 3 mines of Seaham: Seaham Colliery, Dawdon Colliery and Vane Tempest.
that’s enough for part 1 I think, stay tooned for part 2, bet ya can’t wait.
all pictures can be clicked on to embiggen them where they look even more glorious if that were possib;e (it is, try it 😀 )
further interesting reading if you are a geek like me
On to the main event following on from part 2 HERE
the reason Sophie & I went to the park in the first place was to see big shiny things, by a gentleman called Qi Yafeng. I can’t find a website for him, maybe not allowed one in China. Anyway he’s done quite a lot of stuff, and these were his latest pieces.
The big, shiny pieces did not disappoint, they were mesmerising, you couldn’t help seeing yourself stretched thin or shortened fat, curved, wobbly, and sometimes not even there! Just like being in the house of mirrors at a funfair but with just one piece of kit. 2 large pieces in the grounds, and several in the indoor spaces. There was also a video showing the process of making them, with some lady playing really cool twangly music in the Hong Kong studio where it was all happening. It was hard to think of them as stainless steel; the mirror finish was so perfect. What was also cool was Mr. Yafeng was in attendance, he stayed back near the trees on the edge of the lawn and took photos of people interacting with the sculpture and took photos of us taking photos! I wish I’d said hello, but wasn’t sure if a) he spoke English, as I don’t speak Chinese, and b) what would I say? “Hi, I really like your big shiny things?”
All the works were entitled Big Shi… oops 🙂 they were entitled In Each Phase, with a number after them as in In Each Phase 1, In Each Phase 2 etc.
Big Shiney Thing 2 was my favourite as it looked different from different perspectives, and the reflections were weird.
So very impressive and gorgeous especially in the sunshine. But my very favourite of all is one that wasn’t on the map of where to find the sculptures, nor on the list of what all the sculptures were. Whilst walking around the grounds on the trail of all the sculptures, we veered off down towards the river to see if there was any stuff to photograph, just at the same time the chap in charge came along to lock the gate that you would go through to get to it, “Ah” said he, “I see you’ve found the secret one”. And off he went again, and when we looked over the fence we saw
also by Qi Yafeng. I have no idea why it wasn’t listed or on the trail, but it was cool to find it and I think it’s quite beautiful sitting there in the river.
There were also some smaller versions of his pieces in different parts of the stables areas, so I’ll finish with a couple pictures of those.
all pictures are embiggenable when you click on them.
More gorgeous artworks from the day can be seen HERE