Today we visited the National Quince Collection.
Now, quince is not the most fashionable of fruits. People have been discussion getting rid of it for hundreds of years. I have collection of old jokes from 18th century chapbooks, and one of the more comprehensible ones is,
“Oh, Paddy, I wonder what this apple and quince pie would taste like without the quince.”
But biodiversity is important. When all the bananas die off from Panama disease, Brexit cuts off supplies of grapes and oranges, and apples are found to cause athlete’s foot, the National Quince Collection is ready. Quince will rise again.
The National Quince Collection is preserved by Norton Priory, at which point you’re probably saying, Oh no, Andrew, not another church or stately home. Well, no, because the whole thing has been torn down at least three times, and had a major fire, which makes it a really interesting archeological site, but not much by way of historic architecture. Here is the modern museum built on top of the 12th century undercroft.
You may be wondering how they got permission to put a 21st century building on top of a 12th century one, but that is actually the fourth building the used that as a foundation. It was incorporated in the original priory, the Tudor mansion, and the Georgian mansion before being used by the new museum. The Georgian mansion was abandoned in 1920 due to air pollution from the nearby chemical factories, and demolished in 1928. Pity the poor buggers who worked in the factories making that pollution and who couldn’t afford to move to the other end of the country so they could actually breathe without getting sick.
Remember Henry VIII’s armour from the Field of Cloth of Gold tournament? Well, that tournament was so expensive that it pretty much bankrupted the Kingdom of England. Henry was skint for sixteen years afterwards, until in a fit of religious fervor he decided to close down all the monasteries and take their lands and money to punish them for not being holy enough. It’s amazing how often people’s religion prompts them into acting in their own self interest in ways that would be unconscionable unless god told them to do it. The Crawleys were only living in Downton F*cking Abbey because Henry VIII stole it from the church.
Not that the church didn’t deserve it, but we lost some really pretty buildings. Here’s a surviving 11th century arch from the priory.
OK, I lied. That one is a 19th century copy. This is the 12th century one.
Over the years a twelve foot tall statue of St Christopher from the 14th century became a garden ornament and the 12th century undercroft became a Victorian wine cellar. The priory’s connection with wine goes way back though. The archeological excavations found a 12th century wine barrel.
The weird oval shape was so that it could hang on the side of a pack horse.
Look who we found lurking in the wine cellar, er, undercroft.
We had a lovely chat about medieval surgery and local accents and the fact that Paula wasn’t wearing enough clothing for the 12th century.
The National Quince Collection is nurtured in a walled garden on the other side of a motorway which dissects the estate like a broadsword cutting celery. Disappointingly, the garden does not consist entirely of quince trees, but has some flowers as well.
We had to go almost all the way to Runcorn to turn the boat around, and I was clock watching to time the entry to the Preston Brook tunnel, which only lets you in for ten minutes in the hour. The other direction gets a ten minute slot half an hour later, as it is not wide enough for boats going in opposite directions to pass. We got there with a few minutes to spare. There was a plastic boat ahead of us who had never been through a tunnel before. With dawning horror we realized that that bright light in the tunnel ahead was a boat coming in the other direction. I managed to stop before we crushed the plastic boat between us.
There followed a certain amount of confusion. The oncoming boat had not seen the sign about times as it is partially covered by tree branches. They had seen the plastic boat but since it did not have a good headlight they thought it was a boat going in the other direction, so they followed it through the tunnel. They were most apologetic, which did a lot to relieve the tension. They had managed to stop in a slightly wider section of the tunnel where first the plastic boat and then we were able to squeeze by them.
We have now left the Bridgewater canal and have entered the Trent and Mersey.