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Tony Grist

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Playing Hookey [Jan. 25th, 2012|09:36 am]
Tony Grist
We played hookey for a couple of nights. We went to York. We came back to a frantic phone message from Odi and all the rest of the dreary, deadly stuff that was swirling round us before we left, but it was glorious while it lasted.

York Minster is one of the loveliest buildings in Christendom. As much as anything it's the gleaming white stone that does it. If the walls of Heaven are any shinier than the walls of York I shall be most agreeably surprised.

On the evening of the first day I took a walk across the battlefield at Towton- where more people were killed in a shorter time than at on any other occasion in British history. I believe the rate of attrition was even greater than it was on the Somme. When I was playing about with my photographs afterwards I found one of them had an orb in it. Yes, I know orbs are artefacts of digital photography, but I prefer to think that a medieval man-at-arms was crouching in the hedgerow watching to see what I was doing.

Who fought at Towton? I believe Shakespeare's Henry VI part III contains the answer. Afterwards, the Duke of York and other worthies had their heads displayed on Micklegate Bar in York, and someone made a crack about York looking out over York*. Very droll. If Towton is less famous than other battles it's because it achieved very little in political terms. One gang routed some other gang and held onto power for a while until the other gang came storming back. A few years back the archaeologists excavated a war grave on the battlefield. The poor fellows in it had been most unchivalrously hacked about.

Yesterday, on our way home, we stopped at Selby. Selby Abbey is partly Romanesque. There is nothing that gives me greater aesthetic pleasure than a Romanesque arch unless it's a Romanesque capital.

*My friend Laura points out that this incident happened before the Battle of Towton. I remember a TV production of the play (adapted from the RSC's famous Wars of the Roses cycle) in which the Duke of York was played by fruity old Donald Sinden. 

[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-01-25 10:50 am (UTC)
Sounds like lovely getaway and glad you enjoyed.

Wiki never gets around to stating just how many died at Towton, but notes that the figure of 28,000, circulated soon after the battle, was probably an exaggeration.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-01-25 01:06 pm (UTC)
I don't suppose anyone was counting.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2012-01-25 01:26 pm (UTC)
Richard duke of York was already dead by the time of the Battle of Towton. He was killed at Wakefield on New Years Eve 1460 -- Towton was Palm Sunday 1471.

Did you also walk over to Lead Chapel, the redundant church? It's a very small place with a modest piece of modern stained glass from the Richard III Society, Yorkshire branch.

Edited at 2012-01-25 01:26 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-01-25 02:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks for putting me straight on that.

We missed the Lead Chapel. York has a medieval church on every corner. We checked out a few, but time was short.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2012-01-25 02:51 pm (UTC)
When we were in York (for four days, to see the York Plays etc), we visited two: the Minster, and the redundant church of St. Margaret in an iffy part of town. I put a link to some of my old Towton photos on your Dacre's cross comment and you can see Lead Chapel. It's more or less across from the Crooked Billet pub.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-01-25 03:07 pm (UTC)
Most of the York churches have been made over to other uses. One of the few that is still used for worship (by the local Chinese community) is St Helen's- which has some lovely medieval stained glass.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2012-02-05 03:05 pm (UTC)
Selby Abbey's great. It's got a very wonky arch in it, if I remember right...
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