Recently I had the pleasure of a two-day visit to York in northern England. Steeped in history, the area was inhabited by Celtic tribes and subsequently Romans, Vikings and Normans. The name York comes from the Viking Jorvik and a very interesting tourist attraction in the centre is an archaeological excavation of the original Viking village.
The area played a pivotal roll in the civil wars of succession known as the wars of the Roses. The symbol of York being a white rose and the symbol of Lancaster being the red rose, the subsequent Tudor Rose is an amalgam of the two and a floral heraldic emblem of England.
The day began with a visit to the National Rail museum and York Minster the mother church of the Diocese of York in the Church of England. The Queen visited York Minster on April 5 to celebrate Maunday Thursday services. In a tradition going back to the 15th century the Queen distributes Maundy money to local pensioners in recognition of their service to their community and church. Maundy Thursday commemorates the day of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. 'Maundy' comes from the command or 'mandatum' by Christ to love one another and the unique coins are minted yearly to commemorate the event.
York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in England, surpassed only by Cologne in Northern Europe with much original 12th century stained glass. We climbed the tower to look out on the gloomy fog. York's other major attractions are Clifford's Tower, York Castle's Keep and the Roman wall. Daffodils were everywhere and as the fog burned off it was time for a stroll along the river.
The York countryside is idyllic with the city located at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Fosse. A charming walk along the riverside was made more enchanting by a pint at The King's Arms. I thought how plain and without decoration the bar area was until I noticed a marker showing how regularly the pub has been flooded since the 19th century with flood waters reaching nearly 6 feet inside in November 2000.
Day two revolved around a visit to Castle Howard, England's grandest Baroque mansion designed for Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, by John Vanbrugh and begun in 1700. Made famous in modern times by having been the location of both the 1981 television miniseries and the 2008 feature film adaptations of Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited', the Howard family was able to use funds from the filming to repair and rebuild much of what was lost by fire in 1940.
Most impressive were the collections of antiquities and fine English furniture. The Crimson Dining room showcases a Crown Derby dessert service of 1796-1801 finely decorated with flowers, the original botanical illustrations on exhibit as well. In The Turquoise Drawing Room Chelsea and Meissen figures and Minton candelabra decorate the ornate appointments.
The piece de resistance is of course the China Landing. Designed in 1870 to showcase many of the pieces of 18th century Chelsea, Meissen and Sevres porcelain. Over 300 pieces are currently on display with what I divined to be three Chelsea dinner services, a very nice standard Sevres service and a charming Red Dragon Meissen service. My favorites were two groups of Meissen tea wares in Kakiemon style decoration. The first with two quail flanked by flowering prunus and the second a wonderful flying fox or red squirrel/yellow squirrel service. I only wish I could have had a ladder to climb up and examine the Chelsea birds with fruit plates which crowned the top shelf, a good 15 feet up.