Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Hereford's Chained Library, and a Possible Job for Merrily Watkins!

So on Monday I was being a tourist in Hereford - it's always nice to see a familiar place through new eyes, as I went round with my Young Man.
First we went to De Koffie Pot for croissants and coffee. I took him down the alleyway round the side of the Bishop's Palace, and he was very interested in the architecture of the building which was created to house the Chained Library - he said it reminds him of modern additions to Southwark Cathedral.
So after our snack, we went in to have a look. The entrance fee is £6 each, and the cloister leading to the library is currently housing an exhibition of chests which were used to carry books. There are also electronic displays about the books in the library, information about the Magna Carta and the Forest Charter, and a tactile version of the Mappa Mundi.
The Mappa Mundi itself is in the antechamber to the library, together with the wooden frame that it used to be displayed in.
The Chained Library itself also includes the chained library from All Saints Church.
We had a very interesting conversation with the chap on duty in the library, who came from Manchester originally (his name is George Pendlebury, and Pendlebury is a district of Greater Manchester), so we were comparing our impressions of the John Rylands Library and Chethams Library there, both magnificent examples of historic libraries, from the days when libraries were considered to be so important that beautiful buildings were created to house the books. Chethams is also a music school, by Manchester Cathedral, and was originally a monastery.

And then something strange happened (shades of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels here). We were at the far end of the library, where the tombstone of Gilbert Swinfield, once Chancellor of the Cathedral, was displayed - and we both picked up a very strange feeling just in one spot, under the window. Move away, perfectly normal - back to the spot, weird sensation. It wasn't scary or anything, just odd, and so pronounced that we went outside when we had finished going round the exhibition to see if there was also a strange feeling outside the wall - which there was, a bit, but nothing like as strong as inside.
Something that the exhibition didn't mention, by the way, was that the new building was constructed after an archaeological dig that uncovered a large plague pit filled with hundreds of skeletons. I remember going to see it - back then I still had my archaeologist's card from Norwich, and knew the chap in charge of the dig (who never wanted to see a skelly ever again after he finished it!) But that was over the whole area, and this feeling was concentrated in just one spot.

Funnily enough, over the next couple of days two light bulbs in my house stopped working....

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