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

 

Hampton Court, Surrey

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Home of Henry VIII (once Cardinal Wolsey was out-of-the-way) and venue for his marriage to Katherine Parr on the morning of the 12 July 1543. As the sixth wife of the aging King, she made a shrewd move to marry the monarch. encouraging the King to make peace with Mary and Elizabeth, his daughters, Katherine proved herself every bit of the doting Queen required by her Lord and country.

Goth points:

Hampton Court gets a sturdy 7 out of 10. Arrive here after dark (last entry is as late at 4.15pm) on a miserable stormy day and you get the full effect of impending darkness which cloaks the dimly lit palace in each of the royal rooms. Sadly Henry’s quarters are no more, but you can still enjoy a Gothy wander around the richly dressed private rooms of William and Mary.

Price:

Best bet is to buy yourself a Historic Royal Palaces membership card so you can get in for nothing as many times as you like throughout the year or as a one off visit, you are likely to buy an adult ticket for just less than £20. The members card will get you into events like the Food Festival (second weekend in December) where you can enjoy a 16th Century market of food and wares.

Best times to visit:

On a miserable wet November afternoon when it is likely to be empty. For the full 16th Century experience, go towards the end of November and beginning of December when the Palace is decked out in candles, orange peel, cinnamon sticks and pine cones. It’s beautiful.

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