Of Victorian Art and an Ancient Abbey

We have been so lucky this year. England is notorious for rain, but so far we have just experienced warm clear sunny days.

Right across the street from our hotel in Harrogate’s oldest surviving spa dating back to 1806 is the Mercer Art Gallery. It’s a small gallery celebrating the art of William Powell Frith known as the people’s painter. Frith painted people in every day situations in panoramic style. For example, Life at the Seaside (1851-1854j depicts a seaside scene at Ramsgate Sands. There was a station set up in front of the painting inviting visitors to experience the painting as the Victorians did when they came to single painting exhibitions. Using a timer, the visitor today is asked to study the painting for 10 minutes and journal their thoughts after doing so. This was a good activity for me because my friends and family know I tend to look too quickly and not take time to ponder the paintings. It was a great mindfulness activity even though the power went out while I was studying the painting.

Other paintings on exhibit showed a study of aristocrats from fame to poverty and a scene from a railway station. Photographs were exhibited showing the same scene in modern times. I felt completely relaxed at this Gallery.

After picking up our rental car we drove to a National Trust Site: Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. It’s located in a rural natural park like setting. We toured the Studley House where we learned that during the depression era, Mr. Studley hired young boys in the area to train so that they could eventually build a village with small homes in a rural area. It reminded me of the Levittown concept in New York after WWII. Sadly many were unable to adapt to rural life.

Walking along the well maintained gravel paths lined with Queen Anne’s Lace and purple wildflowers, lazy fat bumblebees buzz about everywhere as the coo of wood pigeons echo down from ancient trees. The ruins of the Abbey tell of 400 years of monastic life dating back to 1132. Long ago crumbling ruins were in favor, but there is evidence of stonework to preserve what remains. Although there is no roof, statues, or elaborate stone work, it is a very peaceful place with a bubbling stream alongside it. We followed the stream down the hill to some man made pools and stopped at the small cafe. We both agreed we could have spent an entire day there.

Tonight we walked around the town to window shop and tour some of the old world establishments. Dinner was at Wagamama which is also in Boston but we like their pan Asian food. After dinner we stopped at an old fashioned hotel called The Swan Hotel to have coffee outside in their garden. It is the type of place where Ode to Joy plays in the lounge and handbags your great granny might have carried and poodle gemstone pins she might have worn are displayed for sale in glass cases. It has been a relaxing day but one we will long remember.

One thought on “Of Victorian Art and an Ancient Abbey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s