September 29th, 2009

Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester

Leicester's Jewry Wall is the largest slab of non-military, free-standing, Roman masonry to survive in Britain.  It was originally part of a Roman bath house, was re-used as the west wall of a church (which is what saved it from demolition) and now forms part of the boundary of the Jewry Wall Museum.

The name is a mystery. It has nothing to do with Jews or ghettos. The best guess is that it derives from "jurat"- the title given to senior members of the medieval city council- which may- or may not- have held meetings in the adjoining churchyard.

It's a good little museum- especially rich in Roman material.

Jewry Wall from St. Nicholas churchyard.

Looking through the wall towards the museum, with the foundations of the bath house in the foreground.

Looking back up, through the wall, at the west front of the church.

A small mosaic


The Jewry Wall Museum has a lot of deaders on display- including a Saxon lady with all her gee-gaws and finery. Were the long bronze objects at her belt that look like Roman keys real keys to real locks or merely symbolic keys to symbolic locks?  Did the Saxons even have locks? And was the crystal knob with a hole bored through it a spindle weight- as the guy who reconstructed it thinks- or something completely different?

Another display draws attention to the truly awful condition of our ancestors' teeth.

Ailz and I had a debate about the ethics of displaying human remains. My view is this: if my children's children's children are interested in the old dry bones I've discarded and left behind and want to put them in a glass case I'm entirely happy for them to do so.

Tree Surgery, Guilt-Mongering, Hammett

A guy came round yesterday morning and put us a satellite dish high up on the back wall. It was a free service, funded by government as part of the nationwide switchover to digital. I had to fetch out my saw and do a little tree surgery before he could get his ladder in place.

On our way back from the shops we called in at the library. Auriel the nice church lady who is named after an angel was working behind one of the desks. She told us how much we were missed- which I couldn't help but feel as an accusation. Ailz said something about  her health- which is how we finesse our way through a lot of awkward situations.

In the afternoon I read Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. Hammett does that hard-boiled stuff so well it's a wonder anyone ever had the nerve to imitate him- though, of course, he must be the most imitated writer of the last century.   He's a wonderful stylist.  He'll describe a fight- even a chaotic pitched battle- so elegantly and simply you can follow every move every character makes- and that 's a hard thing to do.