I went to Brimingham in early December to visit its Christmas market – sadly locating the stall with the Reindeer burgers proved elusive. We also went round the Museum, looking at the Eginton and Pre-Raphaelite glass, Indian votive sculptures, Eptein sculptures, Pre-Raphalite and Italian paintings, the Staffordshire hoard exhibits, Egyptian mummies, De Morgan and Wedgewood ceramics. I also see inside the Hall of Memory for the first time, with its darkened interior illuminated by lamps and light pouring through the sole stained glass window and the new library. The library interior revolves around a central atrium, with a circular staircase winding its way upwards. The upper floors have a number of roof gardens from which you can see over most of Birmingham, while the top floor also has a viewing room. This is also where the Shakespeare memorial room can be found; I’m reminded of the experience of visiting the Adam dining room on the top floor of the Lloyds building.
At Christmas, I’m back up in the Midlands. I spend some time visiting some of the local churches listed by Simon Jenkins; Holy Angels in Hoard Cross with its German rood screen, Kempe stained glass and Victorian gothic, St Nicholas Mavesyn Ridware with its strange monuments of family members throughout the ages from the Norman conquest onwards and St Peter’s at Elford with its alabaster tombs. I also go for a walk on a beautifully sunny day at the National Memorial Arboretum where there’s a new (but not especially great) monument to the Christmas truce alongside a more striking Pegasus memorial to the Parachute regiment.
There was another brilliantly sunny day when I visited Kenilworth. It was a cold day and the ground was frosty, although there wasn’t too much snow. It’s now possible to go up a series of viewing platforms on the ruins of the keep as well as walking through the darkened chambers of the surviving buildings and walk around the outside of the castle walls. Given the size of the mere that would have originally surrounded the castle, I’m reminded of how the idea of Camelot influenced the design of medieval buildings like Dunstanburgh. Although not too spectacular at this time of the year, there’s also the recreated Elizabethan garden, with its Altante dominated marble fountain and wooden aviary. It seems a rather hyperreal idea, given that there are no detailed records of what the original garden looked like and this design is based on details from other period gardens. We also have a brief look at Kenilworth church with its Norman beakhead door before visiting the church at Berkswell, whose crypt divided between two chambers reminds me of Repton and Lastingham.