Our visits this summer centered on Staffordshire. We had a couple of interesting outings, one an unusual theatre visit and the other a look around Mucklestone church accompanied by a hearty lunch....of course!
JULY - THEATRE VISIT - OTHELLO
Othello at Stafford Castle, The Gatehouse Theatre Company.
The play was set at the time of the "Cyprus Emergency", in the 1950s, which was quite in keeping with the text, in which Othello is sent to Cyprus because, "The Turk with a most mighty preparation makes for Cyprus", (Act II Sc.ii). It also worked surprisingly well with the remains of the castle keep rising above and behind the set. With the exception of Desdemona's father, the cast were quite young but very able and the performance, though rather long, was very enjoyable.
The weather was mild and comfortable for sitting, though rather breezy for the cast. Fortunately Othello had not yet murdered Desdemona when her bedding took flight and she had to retreive it and return to her bed, this time tucking it firmly around her.
We then repaired to the Swan hotel in Stafford for a very enjoyable meal.
MUCKLESTON CHURCH AND NORTON IN HALES
Margaret of Anjou watched the battle of Blore Heath from Muckleston church tower. We were not able to access the tower which is kept locked to prevent any accidents with the bells but were able to see the commemorative window on the ground floor of the tower, which was designed in the 19th century by Charles Kempe. Legend has it that when Queen Margaret realised the Lancastrians had lost and that she must flee, she had the local blacksmith, William Skelhorn, reverse the shoes on her horse to confuse those pursuing her. In the churchyard is an old blacksmith's anvil, claimed to be William Skelton's - maybe.
A short drive through the back lanes took us to the pretty village of Norton-in-Hales for an enjoyable lunch. The pub, the Hind's Head and the church with its churchyard, form two side of a small triangular green. The church of St Chad originated in 13th century but was extensively remodelled in 1860-70 under the direction of the Rev. Silver. In the chancel are choir stalls made from the panels of a dismantled Jacobean bed. They were probably installed as part of the Victorian renovation. It must have been a substantial bed of quality workmanship and though the effect is something of a patchwork it is quite pleasing and certainly interesting, In the porch is the first known work by Inigo Jones: the effigy of Sir Rowland Cotton and his wife Frances who is holding their infant daughter. It is dated 1606.