bunn (bunn) wrote,

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To Launceston while the sun shines

Apparently it's going to pour with rain in a Noah's Ark, apocalyptic type manner shortly (rather than just in an English Summer type manner, as it is doing at the moment).  So as my chances of getting out in the sun seem slim, I thought I'd rummage through photos of last weekend's trip to Launceston. 

First we wandered by the church of Mary Magdalene - early sixteen century.  It's a very *carved* church. Every inch a carving. 


This might not seem very remarkable, until you realise that all those carvings are not in some soft friendly stone like sandstone, but in solid granite.   There is a tiny door, far too small for a normal height person to pass through.  It's not the main door, obviously.  But I like it.  I've had this idea for a while that the watery mineshafts all around might be entertainingly filled by fictional dwarves piloting gondolas through the tunnels, and this door only encourages that thought. 


A gleeful gentleman wandering past, saw us admiring the carvings, and informed us "They say it's impossible to carve granite!  But nobody told the Cornish!"  We were left a little unclear as to whether he was an Englishman telling us that the Cornish are a bit dim, or whether he was a proud Cornishman boasting of his ancestors' achievement. 

I particularly liked this bit.  I guess the rider with the spear is St George and that is the dragon, but I'm not sure who the rather magnificently-sleeved gentleman on the right is.  Or whether his steed is supposed to look like a donkey. 


Then we headed off to visit the castle.  On the way, we went past what I felt was a very silly-looking hotel, all steps and icing: 


It is eighteenth century (we learned, looking at the exhibition at the castle which is just up the hill), and yes, those are eagles on the gateposts.  My eye was caught by this lady on the top, with her rather flirty skirts, and impressive hat. 


So then we came up the hill to see the castle.  At first sight, it seemed a cheery place, all friendly with sweeping lawns. 


 Where I grew up in Swansea, there were quite a lot of Norman castles dotted about, so I think I tend not to register them as being as menacing as they were intended to be by the people that built them.  This castle is on what was once Dunheved hill.  (Wikipedia thinks that 'Dunheved' was the Saxon name, but I don't think that can be right, it sounds obviously Cornish/Welsh: Dun / dinas/Din... )  Before it was a Norman castle, it was once the capital of Cornwall (if, one assumes that Cornwall was ever unified enough to actually have a capital). 

We scaled it, and I took a panorama.  There doesn't seem to be a really good way of easily putting a panorama photo in a blog, so I converted it to a movie and put it in Youtube, though I'm not sure the quality is quite ideal.  Any better ideas gratefully received. 

Looking at the little exhibition about the castle, seeing the gatehouse, which doubled as a jail, and then the sheer thickness and weight of the keep walls made me realise just what an oppressive place this was built to be.  Its alternative name was 'Castle Terrible'.  

I took another photo of it, frowning terribly (if ruinously) down over the town.   I don't know why this struck me particularly this time, of all Norman castles, but this one struck me as particularly iron-fist-ish.   Perhaps it's appropriate that it flies the English Heritage flag, not the Cornish one. 

Tags: cornwall, history

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