A strange title for a blog here on Bill’s Space. It is a long story with a few twists and turns, so, to set the scene, first have a look at the official video from about three years ago.
At about the same time this project was in its early stages, my friend Cadfan and I took a trip to Milton Keynes to have a look at what up ’til then had just been something I had spotted on the MK street map, Bradwell Abbey . Our first glimpse across the fields was of what we later found out to be St. Mary’s Chapel. Most incongruously, we found, in a car park adjacent to the site, a mobile cafe which was doing a roaring trade serving the workforce of a large industrial park. Excellent bacon sarnies!
As usual, two clicks on all images to magnify.
Following the signs to enquiries / reception we found ourselves at the offices, cum display area of the Milton Keynes City Development Centre. Lots of information gathered here about the abbey and surrounding area. Anyway, we were given the go ahead to look around the site. Anyone who knows Cadfan and I, will know that we have spent an awful lot of time wandering around old ruins! We were surprised to find this site was really well looked after and visitors well informed .
We bumped into this gentleman soon after we started our exploration.
He didn’t seem at all bothered about our presence but kept his beady eye on us until we were out of sight.
Rounding the pond, we caught our first sight of the Chapel, specially built circa 1140s to cater for the many pilgrims visiting during their journeys up and down Watling Street, now the A5 . Seeming to sit amidst a maze of gravelled pathways that mark the archaeology of the abbey church and some of the surrounding buildings that have been demolished over the years, the east end of the chapel to the right as seen here was, in fact, joined as an afterthought to the main abbey church.
Since that visit there have been more excavations and at present the roof is covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin while repair and conservation work is being addressed to the interior plasterwork and extensive wall-paintings.
We did not get to see the interior on that visit but just a couple of months ago during another of Cadfan’s forays into Beds, Bucks and Herts we, along with Gill this time, paid another visit and were able to have a good look inside. My camera suddenly decided it was not going to play, so I was unable to take any pics. My thanks to Kim, the Educational Officer and Henk the director of MKCDC for sending these two. For many more plus a wealth of information, the guidebook is indispensible.
So, you are asking yourself, what has all this to do with Lady Godiva? Well, on the journey from Coventry to London, ‘Godiva Awakes’ will be visiting Bradwell Abbey on Wednesday 1st August and whilst there will be presented with a gift, commissioned from local artist Nicholas Packham. I am very pleased to have been asked to inscribe an explanation of the thinking behind this gift to accompany it on its travels.
More on this after the presentation, but here is a little something I was playing with while I awaited the final draft.
Taken from from the account of Richard Grafton (d.1572) MP for Coventry, but written in a more 11th century style using ordinary black and gold inks and acrylic vermilion on Artistico + Fabriano paper A3 size. After writing it out I felt it looked a little too pristine, but as you can see, I went a bit too far, distressing with Tea, Coffee, and Turmeric. The black ink didn’t take too kindly to the soaking, the red acrylic however, stood up well to the treatment. The gold was added when the whole thing dried out.