060217.Monkton Combe, Ye “Olde Locke Up”

February 17, 2007 at 12:59 AM | Posted in Architecture, Chisel Marks, Jane Austen, Monkton Combe, Overcast, somerset, towns, Trees | 7 Comments

Hostess: “…and these are our holding cells. I’m sure Ünterland has much larger ones, y’know, you being a whole country and all.”
Guest Henchman: “Ünterland…has…no…prisons.”
Hostess: “Really? Oh, how progressive…”
Guest Henchman: “The master has instated the death penalty for all infractions of Ünterlaw.”
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This is not a lame title, it’s the structure’s name: the “Olde Lock-Up,” constructed around 1776 in a town three miles south of Bath. You might think how desireably quaint, the small scenic little windowless prison is and that small town life used to have small town prisons, which represented a generally more peaceful society back then, but you’d be wrong. Petty theft of an item valued (by the retailer) at five shillings or more was a capital crime! The Georgians loved to hang everybody, no age limit: babies included. (See below Jane Austen’s aunt’s trial.)
In many ways, this small prison’s date of 1776 contrast sharply to the declaration of independence (this is not really that lame a segway, I have a point:) with Thomas Jefferson’s repeated attempts to limit the use of capital punishment to only murder and treason. In this same time period, peacefully Quaker Pennsylvania went one step further by introducing “degrees of murder” with first being the only one eligible for the death sentence. And finally, one of the American rights was anyone could only bring to court any argument involving a value of 20 dollars or more.
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And also…I got nothing. Here, check this out: it’s also small.
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“Jane Austen’s maternal uncle, James Leigh Perrot, possessed two of the status symbols of the respectable Englishman, as listed by Jane in her unfinished last novel Sanditon: “symptoms of gout and a winter at Bath.” Uncle James had a touching (but unrewarded) faith in the therapeutic powers of the waters of Bath, and he and Aunt Jane Leigh Perrot spent almost as much time at that famous resort town and spa as at their home in Berkshire called Scarlets. In the winter of 1799-1800 Bath was particularly unkind to Uncle James’s ailment, because, instead of conversing with his well-born friends at the Pump Room or the Assembly Rooms or promenading on the Royal Crescent, he spent the season with his wife at the rude home of the warden of Ilchester Gaol. For Aunt Jane had been arrested in Bath in August 1799 on the inelegant charge of filching a card of white lace from the William Smith millinery shop….”
“A prima facie case of shoplifting was found to have been made out, and Aunt Jane was committed to Ilchester Gaol to await trial at the next county assizes to be held in the spring at Taunton. The offense on which Aunt Jane was to be tried was far from trivial. Shoplifting of an item valued at five shillings or more was a capital crime, and the white lace was put down in the indictment at twenty shillings. For capital punishment the price was right. Although the penalty would likely have been commuted to transportation to Botany Bay in Australia, subjection to the rigors of the penal colony could be equivalent to a death sentence for convicts whose constitutions were not hardy.
“Aunt Jane’s social position had not exempted her from commitment pending trial, but it did win her the privilege of lodging in the house of the warden, Mr. Scadding, rather than in the prison itself. She was joined by Uncle James, who bore bravely a new onslaught of gout as well as a quality of accommodations far below the most modest Michelin rating. Aunt Jane wrote of the indignities suffered by her fastidious husband: “Cleanliness has ever been his greatest delight, and yet he sees the greasy toast laid by the dirty children on his knees, and feels the small Beer trickle down his Sleeves on its way across the table unmoved.” Aunt Jane declined the kind offer of her “sister Austen” to send her daughters Jane and Cassandra to stay with them. Aunt Jane had stated that she could not procure the girls accommodations in the warden’s house with her, and that she could not let those “Elegant young Women” be inmates in a prison or be subject to the inconveniences she and her husband were obliged to put up with.” —Albert Borowitz, “Trial of Jane’s Aunt,” Legal Studies Forum, Volume 29, Number 2 (2005):724-725.
Jane’s aunt ends up being cleared, only because a jury of peers couldn’t conceive that a rich woman would shoplift. The same jury that day, however, sentenced several (poorer) others to hanging, including a few children.

070211.Cardiff, Underground

February 11, 2007 at 4:04 PM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, people, towns, Vaults | 11 Comments

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Cardiff has some wide, Soviet-styled streets that require these “subway tunnels.” Yesterday, on the day I came, it also had rain, a lot of it. Oh, and apparently this Welsh capital also has a thriving underground scene…and they all congregate in this one tunnel, which happens to be between the Welsh National History Museum, City Hall, the Law Courts and the main Cardiff Castle attraction. I don’t know if there was any event going on that would have attracted all of these people (over 200–these photos were taken after the rain stopped and the crowds died down) but they were indeed blocking the only tunnel between the main tourist attractions in the city centre. Most of these subculture adherent-wannabes appeared to be 15 years of age, and wearing the exact same clothes (which were all sold in a nearby store, which had a Welsh name that probably translated to “Hot Topic.”) I mean exact, exact (though the photos don’t evidence this.) I counted over 50 black dot earing pairs that stretch the earlobe for girls and boys, half that number for pink and black striped leg stockings worn from the wrist to the elbow, etc. And a plenitude of black clothes, eyeliner, etc., of course. The only reason I bring this up was that I thought it funny since this underground culture occupied that only connection between the city’s main attractions in the centre. When I was heading through one, a very formally dressed Englishman and his wife, both in their 70s, were going through in the opposite direction. The look on their faces showed they were beyond preturbed, and I heard the woman tell her husband that she had smelled they were “smoking the dope.” Some other “respectable” passerby commented that “the sewers must have been flooded.” (I will state again that most of these kids looked 15, or so, and appeared to have purchased their outfits nearby…perhaps for this occasion.) As with all my other trips to English (and now Welsh cities,) I didn’t see one police officer.
On a seperate occasion when I was on a tour of the Jutland peninsula in Denmark, one of the utopian housing co-ops we were visiting had been booked for a Marilyn Manson/goth-like society and our tourguide who had been pointing out areas of design we should be focusing on in the building decided to start hurling insults at this group. Overall, a very awkward sitation, though I’m not sure how this relates apart from the black clothes. But in the States, this sort of the thing would be relegated to the suburbs in some dying mall.

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070120.Bath, The Tragic Treasury-10.

January 20, 2007 at 12:05 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, somerset, towns | 7 Comments


How do you Slow this thing down?
How do you make this thing slow down?


We tried to brake,
by saying, “Must be some mistake!”
Problem unsolved,
we said, “Don’t make me get involved!”


How do you Slow this thing down?
How do you make this thing slow down?


We tried to slow
it down by shrieking, “No, no, no!”
We tried to halt
by whimpering, “It’s not my fault.”


How do you Slow this thing down?
How do you make this thing slow down?


It’s not fair,
we’ve tried all kinds of prayer….
We tried science,
it sped up in defiance….


Huzzah for 10,000 on TTT10!

070103.Bradford-on-Avon, Norman Era Bridge

January 3, 2007 at 6:01 PM | Posted in Architecture, Bradford-on-Avon, Bridges, Cathedrals and churches, Chisel Marks, Christmas, Overcast, people, river, River Avon, towns, Vaults, Wiltshire | 13 Comments

Thanks for all the comments. There are a ton of great buildings around where I live now and am grateful for it. (However, I’d trade it all in for a Wendys.)


In keeping up the closer-look at the bridge theme, I took a train today to Bradford-upon-Avon, which is the next town over on the rail. It’s a beautiful little place with many old buildings. This is one of the oldest bridges in the UK. It has a Norman core but was widened and refaced.

The cupola-ed goiter at the back there, hanging off the side of the bridge was originally a chapel. Back in the day, chapels were oft built on bridges because in taking out your coin purse (hopefully hidden from pickpockets) to pay the toll to cross, you couldn’t hide it quickly enough when passing the chapel and a donation arose from guilt. That’s my interpretation anyway. Since bridges were rare, and good bridges (such as this one) were utilized by merchants on long journeys for moving their goods, the location of these chapels guaranteed easy-to-find places where travelers could quickly pray for their journey on the road ahead.

This one was converted into a prison (you can still see the bars on the window!)

070101.Bath, Happy New Years!

January 1, 2007 at 6:18 PM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bath Abbey, Cathedrals and churches, Overcast, people, somerset, towns | 7 Comments

 After several attempts during several holidays I finally got a decent shot of fireworks. This time from Abbey Yard (Bath’s medieval Time Square) through the Abbey’s window tracery set with clear glass. In celebration of this fact, I am forgoing the usual theme day and posting this while it’s relative and ‘daily.’


The fireworks show was on the east end of the Abbey. Everyone quickly stampeded from one end of the abbey to the other to best see the show.


Above is my first photo from 2007! Here in the Abbey Yar with the west end of the Abbey and Gen. Wade’s House. The crowd filled the whole yard and then some. It appeared to be a thousand strong and there were more police present than I thought existed in this city.


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Most people stayed under the colonnade when it started to rain but it cleared up with 10 min left in 2006 and everyone filled the yard.


And finally, the taxis made good business tonight, and at 0 hour started honking in the new year and thus advertising rides home to people who barely made it standing to 12.

061224.Bath, Last Minute Christmas Posts!

December 24, 2006 at 1:25 PM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Bath, Christmas, doorways, people, somerset, towns | 4 Comments


The Royal Post has been collecting on Sundays, and has been emptying the post drops regularly. Here, it was so full that old women wait around to drop their letters into the mailmen’s own collection bags. Ho, ho, ho!

061204.Bath, Workin’ Late (BDP:75 Days Young!)

December 4, 2006 at 4:34 PM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Chisel Marks, Light and Shadow, somerset, towns | 11 Comments


This is my 75th Post. I have lived in the UK for 75 nights now. I’m tired. Class lectures are like Studio 54 everyday, partying hard with building surveyors, Classical architecture theorists, structural engineers, interior design historians, fabric conservationistas, soil experts, timber specialists, earth structure preservationists, dry rot-Serpula lacrymans-fungal growth pruners, death rot beetle catchers, bellringers, Roman concrete mixers, lime mortar propagandists, anti-restoration zealots, world heritage do-gooders, and the clergy in general. A warning to all of ya’s out there: do not party with this kind of crowd. They’ll dance you, drink you, snort you, lecture you under the table. Actually, it’s mostly talking – or really sermonizing, and there’s not much of partying but the warning still stands. In a worst case scenario should you happen to run into one of these distinguishedly dangerous folk, be still, look for a silent way out, know that they like large quantities of food, alcohol, and gilded objects, and for Chr-st’s sake, don’t ask questions.

I’m going to be very busy for the next few weeks so the posts are going to drop in quality. This window was directly opposite the Hot Baths (photo shown earlier and also the cover of the myDoorways page.) The people in this office kept staring at me for hours on end while I was measuring, and so it was a relief when they finally drew down their Venetian blinds.

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