Saturday, 11 April 2015

Queen Charlton, North-East Somerset

Norman arch at Queen Charlton, North-East Somerset

I'm not sure when I drew this, it would be a couple of years ago perhaps? I had to stand in the road and balance my pot of ink on the wall opposite. The archway isn't part of the church, it's a little way down the road and the wonky gate opens onto a little field. It's rather peculiar to find such a thing. There's a photo by Rick Crowley here but I think someone has cemented back the bit that had fallen off, I don't remember such a wound.

In "Famous Houses of Bath and District" by J F Meehan (1901), it says:
This handsome archway, with its decorated indented mouldings, formed the entrance to the court-house, and was built for the Abbot of Keynsham, with his retinue, to pass under when he visited Queen Charlton on religious business, and is still in fairly good preservation."

I'm not sure if that's really very believable as it's quite small. I imagined the Abbot having to get off his horse to go through it, in an undignified manner. According to its Listed Building record the arch may have come from the church and been set as a 'garden feature' in the 19th century (but see below). The church certainly has other Norman features - I would like to visit soon.

It's in no way as big as the book's accompanying drawing suggests, unless this figure is a pixie:

Queen Charlton Norman arch

Perhaps the engraver had a simple sketch to work from and added a person for interest. I don't know what's going on with that dog either (although it does look a more convincing size) - what's the white thing next to it?

Incidentally, the Queen of Queen Chalton is "apparently" Catherine Parr: Henry the Eighth's last wife. Presumably this was to do with Keynsham Abbey's wealth being snatched at the Dissolution. But nobody calls Keynsham, 'Queen Keynsham', do they? This factoid is repeated many times on the web. But I think I've found its source: the diligent John Collinson and his 1791 'History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset' (volume 2).

After the suppression of the monastery, the manor of Charleton, among other possessions, was settled in jointure on Catherine Parr, the last Queen of King Henry VIII. from which circumstance the parish obtained its name [...]

 The great road to Bath lay formerly through the village; and on account of the salubrity of its air, it has been a place of much resort; particularly in the year 1574, when the plague raged so violently in Bristol, as to carry off two thousand persons, houses were fitted up here for the reception of families from that city. Queen Elizabeth had gone through this place the year before, and granted it a charter for a fair to be held yearly on the twentieth day of July, which fair is still continued.

So you can even imagine the village being named after Queen Elizabeth - at least she turned up.

 He mentions the arch - apparently disproving the idea in the listed buildings statement that the arch is a 19th century displacement:
The abbot's court-house stood on the north side of the street: nothing of it now remains except an old gateway, the arch of which is circular, and decorated with zigzag mouldings.

Now all we have to do is get Time Team in to check whether the abbot's court house existed.

Drawing copyright Rhiannon 2015.

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