The Norwegian Church
News of AOUG in Wales (10)
Powis Castle and Gardens
Unfortunately the day was very wet when a group of AOUG members and friends made a visit to the National Trust property of Powis Castle and Gardens, and so the visit consisted of chatting over coffee and lunch and visiting the inside of the castle. The castle is a medieval castle fortress and a grand country mansion that is in the area of Welshpool. The property has seven hundred years of history during which time it had been owned by different families. The 4th Earl George Herbert and his wife had lived in the castle from the early 1900s and they had three children Percy, Mervyn and Hermione.
Both sons lost their lives in World War I and, due to the recent remembrance of the wars, there was an exhibition of especially Percy’s involvement. There was an abundance of memorabilia and the Trust had set up a WWI trench so that visitors could experience how it may have felt. The castle has many artifacts that are worth viewing, some of the paintings are interesting and there are several paintings by Joshua Reynolds. There is attached a museum showing many of the collection of artifacts from India. Friends and members found the setting really beautiful and the café particularly good offering excellent cuisine. It was felt another visit should be made to the wonderful gardens later in the Summer.
Margaret Stobirski - Chairman
The event at Cardiff Bay did not start off well. We had found out that the Café Rouge, where we were due to meet, had closed down, and the Road Train we had planned to go on had broken down the day before.
Nevertheless we sat in Carluccio’s (which had taken over from Café Rouge) with a copy of OMEGA on the table. We were pleased to be joined by other AOUG members who had not been to an AOUG event in Cardiff before. We decided to visit the Norwegian Church Arts Centre, which had originally been at the entrance to Bute West Dock. The church had been a Seamen’s Mission for Norwegian Sailors, especially in World War II. It had been founded there in 1868 when Norwegian ships transported timber to South Wales to be used as props in the mines and returned to Norway with coal. The Seamen’s Mission withdrew in the mid 60s and was closed in 1974.
In 1987 the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust was established with Norwegian and local support. The author, Roald Dahl, had a special link with the church - he had been born in the area to Norwegian parents and had been christened there. He became President of the Trust. Unfortunately, he died in 1990, before the reconstruction of the church was completed. The building was dismantled and rebuilt in its current location in 1992 and refurbished and re-opened in 2011.
Then we had a short visit to the National Assembly for Wales before having a delicious lunch in one of the many cafés on Mermaid Quay. We really enjoyed hearing Welsh spoken and came away with a poem by the Bard, Dafydd Rowlands, which we were given.
Pam Pearce – Publicity Officer
Castell Coch – South Wales
We had travelled to share a day with Welsh members and met up at the Lewis Arms for a morning coffee before venturing up the hill to the realms of the fantasy castle known as Castell Coch. Here, built on the sandstone remains of a genuine 13th Century castle, is the 3rd Marquis of Bute’s romantic folly built in the 1870s to a design by William Burges, to represent a small medieval Welsh Chieftain’s stronghold.
The original castle is thought to have dated from 1240-1265 with a round tower keep to the South West of a small D-shaped courtyard with a hall to the South side. It was built of very coarsely cut stones and being of reddish sandstone gained the name of the ‘Red Castle’ or Castell Coch in Welsh. It stood on a platform overlooking the gorge of the River Taff and contained vaulted rooms, thought to be four floors high with a conical roof similar to that of the present day. The two Eastern towers, the square gatehouse and the upper hall on the South side were superior buildings thought to be added slightly later, perhaps by Gilbert de Clare, who is likely to have taken over the castle in the 1270s or 1280s. Evidence was found of the building’s foundations having been deliberately affected by mining and the later sections seemed to suffer more than the older parts.
However what presented itself to us was not a ruin but instead a product of a vivid Victorian imagination, assisted by a very wealthy land owner. The Victorians were fascinated by life in the Middle Ages and so the eccentric genius, William Burges, produced his imagined vision with dazzling ceilings and over the top furnishings and furniture, to please the wealthy Marquis of Bute and create for him an opulent retreat. Everywhere we looked there were detailed paintings of plants and animals up the walls and animal heads were carved into the arms of chairs and decorated other items of furniture. ‘Rapunzel windows’ graced the towers and ‘Juliet balconies’ projected above the courtyard. To some it might be a confusion of historical styles but to me it was magical, a true fairy tale medieval castle as reproduced in many a story book. It was enchanting, giving an overwhelming sense of the memories of pleasure I had gained from childhood stories.
Jean Hertzog – Region 07
Executive Representative Vacant