Bishop Godfrid

The humble monastery of Rumwoldstow was honoured to be visited by the esteemed bishop, Godfrid, and his utterly splendid cat Isidore. As Rumwoldstow exists before the Benedictine reforms of the mid-tenth century, the monastery and the behaviour of the nuns would not have been subject to very strict inspection.

Bishop Godfrid and Isidore

However, Godfrid’s visit caused much consternation, as is told in a linked set of short videos made in association with the Dark Ages Society:
Bishop Godfrid visits Rumwoldstow, a tale in video

Not interested in videos? Well, the only other news is that the wild strawberries which have taken over part of the garden are ripe. And while the nuns live on a simple diet, it would be sinful to waste the lord’s bounty!

Local rafters

Some six years ago now, we moved to the house adjoining what is now Rumwoldstow. At that time, there were two self-seeded sycamore trees which overshadowed the walled garden almost entirely, being to the south. We somewhat sadly had them felled (we’ve planted other trees in more suitable locations) and one of them had a fine section of trunk that I couldn’t bear to waste, so we had some guys with a mobile sawmill cut it into beams. At the time, Rumwoldstow was a very faint beginnings of an idea and we had little in the way of plan for using the beams. However, thanks to Al’s hard work, they have now come into their own! He has used them to build the rafters for the central gatehouse tunnel; they are perfect, and were just sufficient for the job!

It’s great to make a showpiece of timber that has travelled no more than 50m from where it grew.

Pallets, a most versatile resource
Looking westwards from the working platform

The rafters over the guardrooms to the sides of the gatehouse tunnel are ordinary timber bought from a builders’ merchant. But it won’t be as visible.

Looking down into the west guardroom which now has a floor!
And the view to the south
I’m still hoping we will get one or two pears from the Uvedale St Germain, now in its fourth year
And at last, the Hambledon Deux Ans has recovered enough from the Great Cow Incursion of 2018 to flower and set a few fruits!
Bullocks and heifers on Lake Meadow. These are not the same beasts as 2018 but you still can’t trust them…

One final shot of the garden, which has been strimmed so you can actually walk around it. Slightly inauthentic borage – the Romans had it, and the later mediaevals, but I don’t know of evidence of it in the tenth century. But it’s covered in bees. The Iris Germanica didn’t flower last year, apart from one randomly white blossom, but the plants have filled out excellently and we have some nice purple flowers.

Rule one of tablet weaving: remove the cat

…so I read on the internet, and it is true, but yesterday I was roleplaying with friends and it was the perfect opportunity to warp up and start weaving my mantle trim. And my host has kittens. “Photos or it didn’t happen”, I hear you cry. Fair enough.

This is Gordon. He is a little bundle of fluff and mischief.
Gordone sat on my loom, on my lap…
Chewed the spools of yarn…
…attacked the loom…
…and finally went to play with his more sedate brother, Hennesey
…then Remy tested my new mantle for comfiness. Seems to have been acceptable.
But yay! I did get set up at last, and I wove a couple of inches of Laceby-style pickup.

Pin the mantle on the nun

My circular mantle is all sewn together, a complete circle with a round neckhole and an open front so you can easily put it on even when wearing a wimple. I described the garment’s cutting out stage here. And to close it, I’ve bought a lovely little ansate brooch based on a find from York, made by the skilled hands of Adam Parsons. These are now considered a common type of brooch for mid to late Anglo-Saxon clothing, and it works very well to pin my light, elegant cloak.

I am still unsure as to the accuracy of this reconstruction. In favour of the front opening is ease of putting on / taking off, and so far I’m finding that the front stays closed and by raising my hands at the sides, I keep my tummy warm! And a circular, or semi-circular, cloak seems somehow more of a European mediaeval garment than a poncho (but that is a really speculative argument).

On the other hand, maybe early mediaeval women just put the mantle on in the morning and wore it all day, living as they did in un-insulated houses in a chilly climate. And while I don’t think the opening shows much when worn, you could reasonably argue that at least some of the manuscript illuminations would show it, if it is a common part of garment construction.

Either way, I love it! It is lightweight, warm and comfortable, the fabric is super, and I have decided to tablet-weave a band instead of embroidery, because I’ve long wanted an excuse to design a high status band with crap lions on it. And this is a high status garment, using a vast amount of finely woven dyed cloth and wasting the cut-off corners (though I will likely use them for something). More on the lions in a future post!

A herbal infusion

The nuns of Rumwoldstow were delighted this afternoon to receive a missive from the noble lady Wulfruna, who I believe to be an honoured geneat among the people of Cilternsaete. She sent us a gift to help us make our herbal infusions.

Yes, we’ve been given a teabag squeezer! It will live in the scullery drawer, and we thank the lady Wulfruna for her kindness.

Al has cut and fitted the rafters for the guardroom roofs, freeing up the pallets from inside the guardrooms, to now build working platforms for the next state which is fitting rafters in the tunnel area.

Panorama roundup

After spending a frustrating hour or so yesterday trying to find a plugin to display a panorama photo that I took from the temporary working platform in the west guardroom, I’m posting this entry as a roundup and reminder of the different available options.

In all cases there may be settings I’ve missed…

Algori 360 Image

0 / 5. Algori 360 image distorts the image, I guess because it supports up / down movement where this image is simple 360 wraparound. Worse, it doesn’t seem to work at all in the post preview as viewed from the home page – I see a blank space.

Panorama is created with a block called “360 Image”

Panorama Viewer

3 / 5. A Panorama Viewer panorama is created in plugin settings and then embedded in the page as a shortcode block. It doesn’t show up in the post preview, and is by default a little zoomed out so you see black arcs top or bottom of the image. If you zoom in a touch it looks ok, but how many viewers will do that?

Best of a surprisingly rubbish bunch.

Easy Panorama

2 / 5. Easy Panorama is inserted as a block called “Panorama”. Scales OK but again, doesn’t work in the post preview (do any of them???) and the end result is spoiled by a nasty interface. You move on mouseover and it’s very twitchy, giving a nasty visual impression, and it stops at the end of the image instead of wrapping round so the 360 illusion is lost for me.

WP VR / 360 View

0 / 5. 360 View seems to have two names which is confusing. Again, distorts the image and doesn’t work in post preview.

WP-PhotoNav

2 / 5. This is the only one that works in post preview! Unfortunately straight lines come out curved, and the view doesn’t wrap. WP-PhotoNav must be inserted as a shortcode and it took me a while to find the instructions. There is no visual cue even on mouseover that this is anything other than a static image, so lacks discoverability.

A quick snap…

We had the pleasure of welcoming guests to Rumwoldstow this afternoon, to play some harmless board games including tabula and merels, which you may know as mills or nine mens’ morris. After a little discussion we established a common set of rules and played with great civility, despite the guests being ahem, not entirely Christian, in fact probably Danes. I lost two games of tablut but won a game of merels, so feel that the honour of the house was not disgraced.

Abbess Cyneswithe, happy to greet guests to Rumwoldstow

A temporary mezzanine

Now the blockwork of the Roman gatehouse is complete, Al is working on the roof – and also finishing the upper sections of the blockwork, which will be hard to work on when the roof is on. Jobs include rendering the blocks to make them prettier and adding concrete to stop pigeons (which will inevitable get in) from roosting at the top of walls. To make life easy, and for safety when working at height, Al has built an extremely natty mezzanine floor out of pallets and some timbers rescued from an old pergola. This gives us a fabulous temporary view from the “battlements”!

Experimental! Here is a panorama picture, which was very easy to take with my shiny Google Pixel 4a camera but it has proven surprisingly difficult to find a satisfactory panorama plugin for WordPress. The panorama below uses Panorama Viewer which seems to be the best available. It doesn’t work in the post preview as seen on the main Rumwoldstow page; you have to visit the post URL. And it starts a little zoomed out, giving ugly black arcs above or below the image; seems to be caused by the addition of up / down scrolling which can’t be turned off. If you zoom in a touch with mouse scroll or the nice visible buttons, it’s not too bad. But really, it’s 2022, how is there not a working plugin to view a panorama taken on a Google camera?

To finish up, here are some photos of the orchard where pear trees are in flower, and a bonus of Tinky the very cheeky local cat who knows he owns this end of the village.

Despite giving us some very tasty little apples last year, the Hambledon Deux Ans doesn’t look like flowerinig this year, although it appears healthy
The Louis Bonne of Jersey pear seems to be trying to make up for it
As does the Uvedale St Germain pear!
Tinky is a cheeky wee beggar
Al hard at work applying timber preservative to the wall plate

Mantlepieces

For several years, I’ve been planning a mantle to go over my Anglo-Saxon nun outfits (working day and posh) so that I don’t have to wear my Viking shawl with them. As with pretty much all early mediaeval English outfits, we have very little material evidence and manuscript illustrations are a main source. In these, women often appear to be wearing an overgarment which allows them to raise their hands, the folds draping elegantly in front and behind. It appears that the front is shorter than the back.

For an example see the portrait of Saint Æthelthryth of Ely from the Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, an illuminated manuscript in the British Library.

The mantle has been variously reconstructed as a poncho and a cope. The Regia Anglorum kit guide shows a nice comparison of different overgarments as seen in manuscripts, but states definitively that the garment was closed, and cone-shaped like an ecclesiatical cope. I don’t think we can be sure of that, and I recently met with a very lovely lady who showed me her interpretation as a circular cloak with an open edge, which has the superb advantage that you don’t have to put it on or take it off over your head when wearing a wimple. She draped it so that the open edge was not particularly noticeable and its elegance and practicality won me over. A small brooch of classic Anglo-Saxon design will fasten the loose edge.

I had already bought a nice piece of grey wool, but it was not large enough for a circular mantle. So I have repurposed that as a semicircular cloak for my “working nun” outfit, a nice plain wool but to wear a semicircular cloak instead of a plain rectangle is definitely showing off! And I bought some lovely light-weight blue wool fabric recently, this time buying four metres to be sure of having enough for the circle. Some friends helped me measure it and I decided on a 120 cm length, to fall just below the knee, to be constructed of sections in a manner not unlike a planked shield.

Today I settled down to cut it out, with Al helping me to manage the tape measure and scribe the circle. I added 1cm to the length for hemming; really I should have done my maths first! See below.

Fabric folded in half lengthways and marked for as much circle as possible either side

Excellent! Thought I…I can cut two segments from the remainder and match selvedge to selvedge to save hemming. I’ve got lots of cloth!

Well, dang!

And…when I pinned the spare cloth to the selvege, I found that I was 2cm short. That 1cm seam allowance was the mischief!

Fortunately the leftover piece from the start of the fabric is just barely big enough to piece in the necessary part, while still using selvedge. Phew, that was close! I have to comfort myself with the knowledge that Anglo-Saxons faced the same problems and used the same solutions. I did it on purpose to be more authentic, honest guv!

Finally, I cut a small neckhole (it’ll expand with hemming) and tore the fabric (to get a straight edge) down to the hemline to make an opening. Hurrah! My pieces are ready to sew, and A Project has been transformed into a simple job.Quite a long job, as the amount of hemming is significant, but straightforward. After that, I’ll design some embroidery for the neckline. Probably. Unless I’m fed up with sewing by then.

A metaphorical milestone

I think we’ve been working on the Roman gatehouse for 2 years now? Yes I could check, that’s why I have a blog, but I can’t be bothered just now. A point of some anxiety has been how to construct the blocks to hold the top of the gate pivot posts. Just as the arches had to be right, the gates also need to look right and move in the right way. Al finally worked out a plan, possibly prompted by the near arrival of Chris the stonemason, and cast the first of the two incredibly important blocks! I keep wanting to call them corbels, but corbels are meant to hold things up, whereas these blocks are for holding something in place below them. Anybody know what they are called? There must be a technical name for them apart from “big stone with a hole in to hold the gate pivot in place”.

The first metaphorical milestone, fresh out of its mould

Al made a rectangular mould with think plywood scavenged from a pallet to form the curve, and a bit of plastic drain pipe to leave the hole for the pivot post. This will remain in place and will be undetectable unless some irritating person goes up there on a ladder with a torch determined to find fault. And none of you would do that would you?

The hole needs to be vertical
Really, absolutely vertical!
And there it is!
Obviously I had to climb up Pallet Mountain for a closer look
The block from above
and Al from above
View from the battlements, to the south…
The north…
and the south-east
The back of the not-corbel, from inside a guard room
Proud builders, Al and Chris
Later in the day, with a course of blocks over it
The second block, just cast!
Honestly, I’d just done a load of pruning and tidying up. It was much worse before.

I took advantage of the spring sunshine to cut back the wormwood, southernwood, costmary and some other plants. And to observe how well traditional plants self-seed where you don’t want them…

Of course I now feel that we ought to have a real milestone. Out along Green Street perhaps?