A Salty Business in Cheshire - Lion Salt Works, Marston

In the small village of Marston, in Cheshire, there is a reminder of the areas (salty) industrial past, the Lion Salt Works. I really enjoyed my visit to this little gem. I had never heard of it before but while visiting my mum and dad, over towards Manchester, they suggested a visit. Why not! I love history, so a visit to an old industrial site and museum was right up my street.

The first thing that struck me on arrival was the large red brick chimney, rising into the sky above the lower buildings - I do love a chimney. It reminded me a lot of the chimney at a site nearer to my home (and where I worked for a time), Stott Park Bobbin Mill.

Passing by the chimney we entered the lovely little shop and cafe to pay then enter the site.

The salt works is a mix of a recently renovated museum and more run down parts of the original works. The museum really helped to bring the site to life with excellent displays and videos telling the story of salt production in the area from as early as th…

Red walls of a medieval monastery - Sweetheart Abbey

Just off the main street in the lovely village of New Abbey in Dumfries, Scotland, is the beautiful remains of a Cistercian Monastery with the sweetest of names - Sweetheart Abbey. Sweetheart was established in 1273 by Lady Dervorgilla. Dervorgilla was the widow of Lord John Balliol who in life was Lord at Barnard Castle in County Durham. Following his death Dervorgilla had his heart embalmed and placed in a casket made of ivory, which she kept on her dining table. She then invited the poor and needy to come to her table as an act of charity. Just one of many she would undertake in her life, including the foundation of Sweetheart Abbey in memory of her late husband.

Sweetheart was established as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey, which I wrote about in this previous blog post, and was conceived as a shrine to human and divine love.

The church, as with all churches in the Cistercian order, was dedicated to St. Mary and is in the typical cruciform shape, symbolising the cross on whi…

A deserted Medieval village on the Yorkshire Wolds - Wharram Percy

Hidden in a field a good half a mile walk from the nearest road is a fascinating glimpse into our medieval past - Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village Located on the Yorkshire Wolds, not far from the town of Malton, Wharram Percy presents an intriguing historic site and opens up questions like: why was a whole village abandoned?

I visited this English Heritage site with my fiancée back in Summer 2018. We arrived at the car park mid afternoon, having been for a trip to the lovely Kirkham priory earlier that day. We weren't sure what to expect really. I was desperate to see the site, having a passion for the medieval period - especially for the lower classes of the time - but was unsure if it would be fully worth the trip.

On the walk down the hill to the site we past an older couple heading back up (safe to say we were glad we were going down the steep hill rather than climbing up, especially as it was a hot and muggy day). We exchanged greetings with the passing couple and as …

A castle, a priory and WW2 military defences in the North East - Tynemouth Priory

On a rocky outcrop at the mouth of the River Tyne in the North East stands a site that has a wealth of heritage from the medieval period to the Second World War, Tynemouth Priory. On entering the English Heritage property you are first met with a chunky medieval defensive keep. There has been a castle on this site since at least 1095, but this would have been of earth and timber construction. The castle that stands today, all be it in a ruinous state, was constructed between 1296 - 1390.

The Priory is the next impressive structure you will come across. The priory was founded in the early 7th Century and what is left today is limited but still rather impressive. Much of the east wall and it's large arched window openings still stand tall - make sure to look down as well, you can see the footprint of an early presbytery.

Beyond the priory is a large graveyard, littered with grave stones of varying periods, and off to the left (right in the photo above) is a more recent addition to …

A lasting reminder of a dark time in recent history - York Cold War Bunker

In a suburban area on the outskirts of York is a lasting reminder of our Cold War past, York Cold War Bunker.This is a fascinating, if somewhat scary, place to visit!

The bunker was built in 1961 during a time when the threat of nuclear war was at an all time high. This partly subterranean building was constructed to be the headquarters of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) Number 20 Group and was one of 31 bunkers of it's type across Britain.

The ROC was set up in 1925 but during the Cold War, in 1954, adopted the role of nuclear reporting across the country. In the event of a nuclear explosion on British main land the ROC would be able to gather data and issue warnings.

York's bunker had only three full time staff employed by the Home Office, an observer, a secretary and the deputy commandant. Anyone else who worked in the bunker, around 50-60 people, were ROC volunteers. These volunteers were split into three crews - each expected to operate for at least two weeks in a nuclear…

A Cistercian abbey in the lowlands of Scotland - Dundrennan Abbey

Near Kirkcudbright in the lowlands of Scotland stands a tranquil and beautiful monastery once home to Cistercian monks, Dundrennan Abbey. Dundrennan was founded in 1142 by monks from Rievaulx in Yorkshire and was one of the largest monastic sites in Scotland. It is built in the typical Cistercian layout with the church to the north and the domestic buildings to the south. King David I granted the foundation of Dundrennan and likely saw it as a way of expressing his support of the reform of the Scottish Church.

The abbey went on to become the mother house of two more Cistercian houses in Scotland - Glenluce Abbey, founded in 1191, and Sweetheart Abbey, founded in 1273.

Dundrennan was the place that Mary Queen of Scots spent her last hours in Scotland. She had been imprisoned in Lochleven Castle, having been forced to abdicate the Scottish throne. She managed to escape and raised an army of 6,000 to go into battle to reclaim the throne. She was defeat at the Battle of Langside and retr…

An Anglo-Saxon ruin on the Lancashire coast - St. Patrick's Chapel, Heysham

Standing on a headland just outside the seaside village of Heysham in Lancashire is the ruins of a small Anglo-Saxon chapel,  St. Patrick's Chapel. Dating back to around the 8th Century this chapel would have been a rectangular construction and is made from local sandstone.

Folklore dictates that St. Patrick once came ashore here following a shipwreck in the fifth century and set up a chapel. True or not the chapel, still visible today, was built some two centuries later in his name to encourage pilgrimage.

Interesting features:

The curved Anglo-Saxon doorway built into the south wall. A beautiful piece of ancient architecture.The stone cut tombs. Cut from the rocks that create the headland these tombs would have held human bones. At the head of each tombs are square sockets, it is believed that this is where wooden crosses would have been placed.