Curses, Destruction and Skulls of Kings – Welcome to Winchester Cathedral

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Voted the best place to live in Britain back in 2016, Winchester appears on the outside a sleepy yet historic market town. After all, Colin Firth comes from here, but though the town might be better known these days as the place of rest for Jane Austen, the cathedral which has housed her grave for the last 200 or so years has a very dark side.

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The great King and Queen burial mystery to be revealed

Some of you may be aware of the four wooden chests that are supposed to house the bones of the first kings and queens of England. In this, it is thought that the true identity of these bones will be at last uncovered.

Why are there so many early monarchs buried at Winchester? Because during Anglo-Saxon England, Winchester was the capital and hugely important. People travelled across the country to the Cathedral on pilgrimages to see the tomb of St Swithun, the Cathedral’s patron saint. When he was originally buried in the Old Minster, when the Cathedral which stands today was built, his tomb was moved inside the new building on the 15 July 971.

It then rained solidly for 40 days and nights (hence the curse, it is said now, that if it rains on the 15th July, it will rain for 40 days and nights thereafter.) A curse that may well have some proof after the smashing up of his shrine by King Henry VIII’s men in the middle of the night in 1538.

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Winchester Cathedral was, and still is, one of the largest Cathedral in Europe and the longest in its Gothic style. It is thought that it is also the burial-place for two of the four Danish Kings who once ruled England. Also, King Canute is thought to be there and his son Harthacanute. The last king to be buried at Winchester is thought to be William II in 1100.

I say’ thought’ because we are not entirely sure. During the destruction of the Cathedral during the Civil War in 1642, the Roundheads charged violently through the Cathedral smashing up everything in sight. They found the caskets housing the kings, queens and possibly, the bones of three bishops too, using the bones they found to smash the stained glass windows.

When the local people finally came back in to literally tidy up the mess, the bones had been scattered everywhere. Attempting to carefully place what bones they could find back in the caskets, it was later discovered that there were six skulls in one casket and a lot of leg and arm bones in another. The monarchs and their bishops had been completely mixed up!

It is hoped that this year, concluding the birth of the nation project, the University overseeing the carbon dating of the bones and identification may well announce to the world exactly who we have in the caskets. A very important announcement indeed when it does finally take place.

The deep-sea diver who spent almost six years in the dark to save the Cathedral from flooding

When cathedrals were built hundreds and hundreds of years ago, British builders, most of the time, weren’t the best in the business. Many buildings still around today from Norman times (and there aren’t that many) have been built on top of and extended far more than they were every supposed to take often resulting in either complete or partial collapse. Cathedrals, in the particular have played victim to such dilapidation and Winchester was no exception.

At the turn of the 20th century, cracks had started to appear where the river Itchen close by had started to make its way through the foundations of the building. Where some underpinning had been attempted in the past to stop the whole thing falling down, more damage appeared to have been the result.

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A naval trained deep-sea diver by the name of William Walker and a colleague were sent to do the job. Why a dead sea diver? Because the foundations were flooded full of silt and peat-dyed cold water. To hold the building up, concrete needed to be set under it and tonnes of it. What’s more, it had to be done by hand. There were no machines at the time which could do the job.

Every wall on both the south and east of the Cathedral needed to be underpinned or the whole place would collapse. No could get under the Cathedral to do the work without drowning. Walker’s colleague gave up after two weeks complaining that the job could not be done.

The conditions were so dark, cold and bleak that he had said that the job wasn’t going to ever be successful. Yet, Walker soldiered on, with bare hands, 20 foot down under the Cathedral, completing the job. It took him from Monday to Friday, every week, for six hours a day, for five and a half years. There is more to find at the Cathedral about its extraordinary history and the people who now lay within its walls. I recommend you go as soon as you can as it’s well worth the visit.

Goth points: 8 out of 10 – for its dark past and it’s beautiful leaning yet imposing and frightening architecture. Small children give this place a wide berth from the outside.

Goth day out? Yes, I recommend rocking up for one of the free tours – link below. The guides are a wealth of information about the place you won’t find anywhere else.

Ticket prices: £7 per adult and student concessions are available. Any ticket will get you free entry for the next 12 months from issue. We like these kind of tickets.

How to get there: Winchester is off the A34 in Hampshire. It can be found from the M3 too. Once you have parked (parking is fairly cheap in town and there are plenty of multi-storey car parks) all notable places of interest are sign posted on every street corner so you can’t get lost. Tourist information is in the Guild Hall which is also sign posted so you won’t miss that either.

Cool links if you want to find out more:

William Walker 

Guided tours are Winchester Cathedral

 

Goth posts and pages:

Must Visit Places If You’re A Goth: Bran Castle, Romania

Do’s and Don’t’s when buying a Vintage Pocket Watch

Fright Nights: Why I Still Watch Most Haunted

Goth Days Out: Fit For A Whipping Boy – The House Of 17th Century Dark Decadence

 

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Must Visit Places If You’re A Goth: Bran Castle, Romania

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If you’re getting fed up with Whitby twice a year and the thought of rocking up at a Steampunk weekend instead surrounded with all that brown really sickens you, then why not venture afield (while we still can from the UK) and take in some true Gothic culture (after all, the Victorians got everywhere and even beyond Brighton.)

In this new series, I uncover the darkest, Gothic places, buildings and dwellings which are seeped in mystery, death, angst and well, a lot of distraught lives, lost, loves never forgotten and just about anything else suited for Goth lovers everywhere.

 

In this post, we take a trip to Bran Castle, the home of Dracula, Romania

 

Take a trip to Bran Castle.

Ok, the most well read of us Goths will know it’s nestled in Transylvania in Romania and is the setting for Irish author, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which, as we all know, was written in Whitby in 1897, while he visited the town.

It is thought that the novel was a deep expression of his own private life and of those closest to him, one of which, was Oscar Wilde. During a time when expression of one’s own alternative interests were repressed in society, it was no wonder that such cultural iconic works rose to the surface.

 

Why visit it?

Without stating the obvious link here (You are an intelligent Goth, so I won’t insult you,) this Medieval fortress is a landmark not only in Romanian history but in European history with a timeline that dates back to the 13th Century.

It has played audience to some of the most prolific events in social history – wars, battles, conflicts, downfalls, royal residence, Saxon invasions, WW2, the list is endless. It is one of the few remaining buildings that can safely say it is has seen both the darker and lighter sides of man over almost the last 1000 years.

It does come of course, with its own myths and legends which are not even remotely true. But then again, true stories of not, this castle draws thousands of visitors to it each year. Why? Because of the mystery of it and of course where it really did have a connection with Vlad the Impaler. Come to Bran and let your imagination run with it.

 

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Bran Castle – where the heck is it?

Just the directions to this iconic building is Gothic enough (and yes, you can imagine trekking up the mountains in a Hanson cab and pony.) The Bran Castle is sited at the entrance to the Rucăr o r the Bran passage, somewhere along the road which connects the town of Braşov (which is about 18 miles from the castle) and Câmpulung. Bran Castle sits proud surrounded by the great high peaks of the Bucegi and the Piatra Craiului Mountains in northern Romania.

 

Celebrating Dracula at Bran Castle.

Without it sounding too over commercial, Bran Castle has played host for many a rendition of the classic Gothic novel over the decades and if you are lucky to be there to witness a performance, then do see them! The love and adoration for Stoker’s works fill this place almost all year round (in between Jazz festivals and family events.)

 

Best times to visit

Go during the slightly warmer, summer months (April to Sept) as the castle during the week is open another 2 hours later a day than it is during the winter. Bear in mind that the castle doesn’t open to the public each day until around midday on a Monday. Great if you want a lie in, in true Dracula style of course.

 

When’s it open?

It boasts as being open 365 days a year and for most highly sought after visitor centres, it is reasonably priced (less than a tenner for each adult) and children under 7 go free (although, they may not be allowed out again.)

 

Where can I stay?

Sadly, you don’t get to stay in the castle, but there are a vast number of ‘mini Bran’ looking hotels around the area to choose from all with delightful names with either the words ‘Bran‘ or ‘Casa‘ in the titles. Click on either of the three links to find somewhere to stay.

Go to the Bran Castle site.

 

 

(All links to sites here are NOT afflilate links. I write for the love of sharing)

 

 

Further reading by The Black Bacarra

Do’s and Don’t’s when buying a Vintage Pocket Watch

Fright Nights: Why I Still Watch Most Haunted

Welcome To The Black Bacarra Blog

Goth Days Out: Fit For A Whipping Boy – The House Of 17th Century Dark Decadence

Goth History Part 2 – The Lost Goth Shop Years

 

Do’s and Don’t’s when buying a Vintage Pocket Watch

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silver pocket watcI have a passion for pocket watches and for the Victorian Goth (like myself) they are a ‘must have’ piece of decadence. This is a piece, here, I bought recently for only £20!

Nothing looks more elegant with a Victorian waistcoat than a silver mechanical pocket watch swinging on the end of an Albert chain.

With so many vintage and reproduction pocket watches on the market these days, it can be difficult to decide which one to buy, or invest in. Newer editions looking just like the real thing can be cheap and easy to get hold of, but are they really the best buy?

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Venturing into the world of antique fairs last weekend, I decided to go and find out.

  • Never spend more than £50 on a vintage pocket watch. As far as the antique dealer is concerned, old pocket watches are a dime a dozen and often only worth the silver/gold they are housed in. Most antique dealers consider pocket watches are worth a fiver to them.
  • Vintage or reproduction? Although the latter is often dirt cheap and easy to come by on the net, they aren’t always a good investment, especially if you want to get a lot of use out of it, like me and wear it almost every day. The reproduction ones are often battery and once that batter stops, you will be hard pushed to get the back open or even find a repairer who is confident to get the back open and replace the battery meaning you could be left with a heap of junk.
  • If you want to go reproduction that’s fine, it is! Just get one that is mechanical (wind up motion.) That way with careful handling, it will last a lot longer than a battery operated one.

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  • If you want to go vintage, track down a good vintage, antiques and collectors fair – the best ones can be found here at the IACF. This extensive list showcases all the most important fairs across the country. They are huge places and worth spending a day at. Antiques Atlas is another good site to check out smaller fairs across the UK.
  • Don’t be sold on the first pocket watch you see. Mooch around first, everywhere. Once you have seen one pocket watch at the event, there will be at least 50 more to consider.
  • Do your homework on an expensive piece first. It would have to be a rarity for it to fetch a three figure sum if this is what the seller is asking. Dealers know that pocket watches are hot items  which never go out of fashion. Don’t be ripped off by a piece you think it worth the money you’ve spent on it, when actually it wasn’t.
  • Consider buying a watch that doesn’t work – for reasons I will come to next…

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  • Most vintage pocket watches don’t work simply because they haven’t been used for a long time. If you find one you like, don’t be put off that it might not work. Most pocket watches only need a careful oil and a good clean for them to come alive again.
  • Once you have bought a piece, take it to a proper watch maker, not a jeweller. They will know how to clean a vintage piece carefully, inside and out and probably on site too. Hunt one down even if the nearest is miles away – you will be pleased you did.
  • Use your pocket watch as much as you can. The more you use it, the longer it will last.
  • Don’t over wind and always wind carefully. Your watch maker can advise you if you’re not sure.

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Let me know in the comment box below your experiences in pocket watches and what advice you can leave for fellow hunters. I would love to hear from you!

Good luck and happy pocket watch hunting!

 

Love and Absinthe

 

BB x

 

What to read next:

Goth Life: How To Deal With Being Bullied Anytime In Life

Welcome To The Black Bacarra Blog

Brilliantly Dark Gothic Places To Roam And Be Whistful – Salisbury Cathedral

Fright Nights: Why I Still Watch Most Haunted

Goth Days Out: Fit For A Whipping Boy – The House Of 17th Century Dark Decadence

Goth Days Out: Ally Pally Vintage And Antiques Fair 16/17 Feb 2019

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Not just a vintage fair full of flouncy dresses and zoot suits, the Ally Pally Vintage and Antiques Fair is a must for any one into any era, style, fashion and lifestyle.

Ally Pally vintage and antiques fair

Reasonably priced stalls (and jolly friendly stall holders) cover one part of the giant Palace (around 300 stalls) which includes cafe selling breakfasts and lunch. Plenty of space to mooch around the stalls allowing you to seek out dark Victoriana for your wardrobe and your home.

Open to the public in 1875, this beautiful Victorian building has been the home to international events, live performances and BBC broadcasting (including much-loved light entertainment in its heyday.) Even if you don’t find anything working taking home with you this weekend (which I doubt,) just hanging out at this extraordinary example of Victorian architecture is worth doing in itself.

Years ago, I would hang out regularly at this event whilst at The Vintage Eye Magazine, and despite entering the place with a firm grip on my purse, I never left the day without a few purchases. It’s hard not to find something worth dipping in your wallet for. One thing I do like about this event is that it’s friendly. There’s a nice, relaxed feel about it and even during the heat of the Summer, it never gets too busy in there. Nothing worse than trying to squeeze past crowds knee-deep at each stall.

Details are below: The best way to get there, if you can is by car. There is on site parking as all as an overflow car park within walking distance. By train is a pain (no poetry intended there) as the only way to get there is via Alexandra Palace overground then you have the long walk up the hill to get to the Pally. Buses, on the other hand are frequent and stop just outside the venue.

Hope to see you there!

 

Love and Absinthe

 

BB xx

 

Voted Best London Vintage Fair (an event not to be missed!)

Alexandra Palace Vintage Fair 

Goth days out - things to do this weekend

What to read next…

Goth Days Out

Welcome to the Black Bacarra Blog

Goth Days Out part 2

Goth Life: Goth’s DO Valentine’s Day (without so much pink perhaps)

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We do Valentine’s Day.

Oh yes we do.

Ok, so my idea of the dreaded day might be quoting from Percy Shelley over a blood stained handkerchief whilst pouring over a badly lit church candle, but I have to admit, that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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The problem with being a Goth is that most normalies don’t think you want to be into all that love, romance and skipping (well, the skipping bit I haven’t done since I was 12.) We do still feel things. We just might feel that Fields of Nephilim might put it better than Justin Bieber, that’s all.

But what about dating a non-Goth if you’re a Goth? In the past, I think I have scared more people off than had them running towards me with arms out stretched. I guess they don’t get the haunting Emily Bronte make up and the wild Mr Rochester hair (and yes, I always think that, that look is more appealing than the crinoline.) Romance when you’re a Goth can be challenging. If it happens at all. Most of the time, it’s a bit scary and not just for the other party….

It is often I spend my Valentine’s Days with some Absinthe and songs on the turn table that start with ‘25 whores in the room next door...’ It’s not wonder much of my Goth years have been spent … well, in the company of a book of Dickens Ghost Stories.

The one thing I have learned is that no one is ever worth lusting after if they don’t love you for everything you are. If they are scared off by the black, then so what? What you mustn’t ever do is go through the pretence of being someone you’re not just to get their attention. In fact, I have found that the more I have been upfront about dressing like Jane Eyre, the better the results have been.

Find someone this Valentine’s Day who adores you for your wistful looks and flowing darkness. Who thinks of nothing better than to sit with you in dimly lit room and listen to your Bauhaus records.

More importantly friends, don’t despair if you’re alone this evening. Find a comfy chair and if you haven’t got a back catalogue of Most Haunted to catch up on, pour a cup of your favourite black tea and while away the evening with some Chopin and Keats – much better than being with the wrong person!

 

Best music for drinking Jasmine tea to:

Overture in D major, Op.20
Juan Crisistomo de Arriaga & BBC Philharmonic Juanjo Mena

Love and Absinthe

BB x

For further enlightenment….

Welcome To The Black Bacarra Blog

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mee4When I first stepped into Goth way back in 1985, I hadn’t considered the impact it would have on my life. (This picture was taken about 4 years ago and I have to admit, not my best!) Looking back, for me, it has been on a way of dressing but a state of mind – a lifestyle that means you can still be Goth even when you’re in pink fluffy PJ’s and watching EastEnders… sometimes…

Since being a 15 year old Goth thing decades ago, I have ditched the black (several times) added in some screamingly awful pastel shades a la Haircut 100 (eeeek!) Moved into vintage, rockabilly, vintage again, back into Goth, went steampunk for a couple of (very lost) years but decided that brown could stay where the heck it was and black soon made a triumphant return.

Thank the darkness for that!

Now as an elder Goth (I only found this term this year and like it) I’ve started to delve deeper into the roots of my beloved sub culture to figure out what it’s all about. What it means to me at least, and hopefully, to a lot of other Goths too.

Back in the day, I stuck steadfast to The Cure and Sisters of Mercy without actually knowing why (my guilty pleasure was Rick Astley at the time) and only layers of black fish nets, ribbed tube skirts and patent brogues rather than running over the moors shouting Heathcliff which is probably where I’m at now. Then, I thought I needed to do was hang around Carnaby Street and pout a lot on street corners. I certainly didn’t know what I was aiming for/rebelling against/delete as appropriate. To me, I looked cool in black, but that soon changed…

I had always hated novels and thanks to my educational years, I was put off Dickens for much of my adult life, yet now I can been seen, with booted leg hanging over the side of a winged back chair in an average coaching Inn indulging in Great Expectations and the like. For me, nothing is as Goth as social decline, poverty and Victorian workhouses. Now I have become obsessive about literature. From Mary Shelley to Wilkie Collins and HG Wells, I feast my eyes and mind on billowing shirts, riding boots, anguish and oversized castles. Now, this is the Goth I spent years painstakingly trying to define!

There aren’t a great many of us around, I have come to notice. I look longingly across the aisles of my local Asda in the hope I might catch a glimpse of a ruffled shirt or frock coat, but I never do. I agonisingly scan the Facebook pages for Victorian groups for like-minded souls, but so far, I have found few.

When I’ve not parading the supermarket aisles, I can often be found drifting around old houses (sometimes with the roof still attached) and drafty castles (thank you National Trust) on my days off from being a PR professional. (You will find some of my recent adventures below.) I travel the length of the country in search of barren estates, wild, rambling hillsides and a decent tea room. All of which, you will find in this blog as it fills up…

In short, I hope you like this blog and I would be delighted if you could join me as I don camera, tails and hat and wander the rambles of England in search of our Victorian Gothic heritage. Throughout, my mind will drift back to the roots of our glorious subculture and I might ask a few weird questions (not the ‘how did I get here’ ones) and I will expect you to answer them as I will need to hear some Goth voices (and not just the ones inside my head…)

Until the next post….

With love and Absinthe,

 

BB x

 

 

Read on for….

Brilliantly dark days drifting around Salisbury Cathedral

Goth history – the lost shop years

Goth Days Out: Wells Cathedral in Somerset

How it was to be Goth in the 80’s

Goth Days Out: Hampton Court Palace in Surrey

 

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