These blogs usually spring from the places and galleries where Peter Arscott ceramics can be seen, places like Worcester, Brighton, London and Cambridge, and despite all this geographical weaving around, until now the actual heart and home of production has never been properly introduced to you: Ledbury, where you can also now see some of the recently made ceramics displayed at John Nash’s in the town centre.
It’s a market town with the ingredients to make its High Street attractive to the eye: a curving length, a slight dip in the middle and buildings on either side that are as tall as the street is wide. Founded in 1123, it has inevitably changed a great deal since then, though the ground plan in Bishop Capella’s rent book shows that it still is the same essential High Street made up of burgages, strips of land 200 ft long and 20ft wide with house frontages onto the street and access via alleyways to the rear where animals were kept. Hard to believe when you look at the shop fronts today; the cafes, pubs, grocers and bookshops hide what is still there – a medieval layout.
A saunter down Church Lane and its carefully laid (small) cobbles is a pleasant experience but over a century ago you would have had to deal with petrified kidneys, large sea-worn flint lumps used for paving which caused terrible problems for clog-wearing Ledburians. Today anybody seen having problems walking down Church Lane might well be a local coming out of a pub late at night.
Water used to run down the centre of Church Lane from the hill above town, Dog Hill Wood, and the lake in the grounds of Upper Hall, and gather in the dip in front of the old library, the Barrett Browning Institute, where detritus from nearby tanneries and blood from the Butchers’ Row, a row of 15 shops which originally stood in the middle of the High Street, mingled. The effluvia was blamed for the outbreak of typhoid in 1826 and eventually led to their dismantling after prolonged resistance from the occupants.
One shop was saved and rebuilt behind what is now Boots, and later transferred to its present location outside the Burgage Hall – it’s a museum of curiosities: a hurdy-gurdy, pots, breastplates and a Tibetan flute fashioned from a human thigh bone; the femur of a criminal or a person who died a violent death is preferred. Alternatively, the femur of a respected teacher may be used, though I do hope none of the kids from John Masefield High School gets the wrong idea.
Next door to the alley entrance is John Nash Interiors, contemporary and period interior design, who are showing various Peter Arscott ceramic pieces with the launch of a new collection of furniture by Andrew Martin.
The Andrew Martin Interior Designer of the Year Award celebrates the best of design from around the world. Designers from all six continents take part. Every year, a panel of celebrity judges, are charged with the fiendish task of selecting one overall winner. One of this year’s judges was Elizabeth Hurley of this parish (the winner was Ohara Davies-Gaetano Interiors).
Do drop in anytime, perhaps combining it with a visit to the Ledbury Gallery next door, and a coffee at one of the town’s seven fine cafes. If you have any time left, nip into St Michaels Church and greet the medieval being halfway up one of the pillars near the choir: the stone Manticore. It has the head of a human, body of a lion and a tail. It eats its victims whole, using its triple rows of teeth, and leaves no bones behind. The Ledbury Manticore, however, looks rather baleful, so just say “hello” and move on.
…………… (to be continued)