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Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Trip to St.Mark's Church with Michael Gray

 After our March talk on the History, Art and Architecture of St.Mark's Church, heritage architect Michael Gray kindly agreed to give us a guided tour of the church  on the 11th of May. It was our first trip of the year and we were looking forward to meeting up in person again. There was a great turn out, but the weather was challenging, the 11th marked the first day of rain after something like 7 weeks without rain. The garden was desperate for rain, but we weren't, especially when outside in the graveyard. I took some photos which appear here, for more detail on St.Mark's, please click on the link to the blog above.

We started by looking at the outside of the church, as you can see it was wet! The church is very impressive from the outside, designed by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, it showed its best side to the railway line that went beside it so people on the train knew they took things seriously in Swindon and could be very grand
This photo shows Michael with Maria Drysz beside him recording the talk for radio 105.5. The interview can be heard as follows: Michael Gray talking about local architecture in general and St Marks in particular, Thurs 26th May 3pm.    Repeats on Sun 29th May 5pm Spotlight 105.5 FM Copied and pasted so strange white background!!
Some of the monuments in the graveyard are listed, I could only find a listing for the Armstrong monument, but they were very impressive.
I looked up Christian Rea, you can find a copy of his will here, he died on 15th of September 1857, and is described as a 'Gentleman of Swindon'.
Another view of the tower
And once safely inside, we were shown a print of the original Gilbert Scott drawing of the church, vicarage and school.
Here's a general view of the inside of the church looking towards the altar
I listened to Michael talking about these windows, and realise I have written something about each one in the post about the original talk, so will refer you to that now.
The lectern is rather impressive
This is the window designed by Martin Travers, on a sunny day, the sun shines through this wonderfully
The parable of the prodigal son is a wonderful window
This one is beautiful, an 'off the shelf' design rather than individually designed for the church
This is the latest addition to the stained glass, the top panel reads 'Forward in Faith' and references the 4 churches in the area: St.Mark's represented by the lion, St.Saviour's by a crown of thorns surrounding a ball, St.Aldhelm's by a lyre and St.Luke's represented by a flying bull or ox
We finished the tour off with a choice of home made cakes and biscuits and a drink. With grateful thanks to Michael Gray and Fr Toby Boutle, the Parish Priest and the whole team who were there on that day to welcome us. You did a brilliant job.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Swindon's Mammoth Graveyard

 Towards the end of 2021, news began to emerge of mammoth bones being discovered by Sally and Neville Hollingworth in a quarry north of Swindon. The finds were so significant that they passed the management of the discoveries onto Dig Ventures, an archaeological organisation based at Barnard Castle who have the capability to manage finds. We were very pleased when Maiya, Lisa and Ginny from Dig Ventures agreed to give our April Zoom talk on the Swindon mammoths.

We're looking back 200,000 years ago, this discovery is the most important in a generation apparently. I loved the reconstructions of what the mammoths might have looked like, although it is not known if neanderthals coexisted with the mammoths.
The quarry was no longer in use when Sally and Neville came across many Jurassic fossils such as crinoids and ammonites. It was when they found a large mammoth tusk on the ground that they realised there might be some very interesting finds. It's such a large site, the question was where to start? Two years were spent making bore holes and examining their contents. 3D photography of the site was used, and a small excavation made by Historic England. The finds are from a time a hundred to two hundred times older than the Bronze Age and the finds such as hand axes and bones are so well preserved because apparently having been buried, they weren't moved. 
Above is an aerial view of the site, and below filming on site with Sir David Attenborough for a BBC film outlining the finds and their importance.
I think this photograph shows Sir David Attenborough with Sally and Neville when he first saw some of the mammoth bones.
Here's another aerial view
And a very important part of the process, draining the site which is 5 metres below ground level
You can see how well this mammoth tooth has been preserved, it looks a bit like a cheese grater
This slide gives an idea of the 5 different sizes of mammoths 
Here's Sally with a hand axe
This is a great slide showing some of the discoveries. Apparently the curvature of the tusk gives an indication of whether the mammoth was a male or female, and the number of rings, the age.
There are three more years of excavation still to be done at the site, and lots of questions to try and answer, why did the mammoths go to the area? Why did they die there? What other species were there at the same time? 
We are very grateful to Dig Ventures for coming along to tell us more about this fascinating find so close to home, if this has whetted your appetite, please go to Dig Ventures website where you can find out more about how to join in with an archaeological dig, or help fund one. The nearest might be at Sudeley Castle.
You will be pleased to know we gave Dig Ventures a donation towards their work, and look forward to finding out where we can see the mammoth bones being displayed.