St David’s Cathedral, Celtic Crosses, and Carew Castle!

Today we travelled to the western edge of Wales, to visit the ancient Cathedral of St David’s.

Kinani Halvorsen: “Just a phenomenal picture of Saint David’s Cathedral today [near] Tenby. It looks like it’s just the angle of the photo but interestingly enough, it’s actually the building itself that is slanted. The structure leads it to slip with the ground underneath and lead to the ceilings inside, that date from the Tudor period, t be made from wood. One could easily expect them to be made from stone during this time but because the building had so many problems with its structure and the movement of it, it was made from Irish oak to prevent extra weight added to the cathedral.”

Meagan Mansfield: “St David’s Cathedral. The burial place of Edmund Tudor, father of King Henry VII. The king that stopped the War of the Roses.”

Meagan Mansfield: “Carew Castle went through many owners, the reason for the first tower being built was for Princess Nest as a dowry. Later, in the Tudor period it fell into the hands of Rhys ap Thomas who backed Henry VII during the last bit of the War of the Roses. Then it was passed on to Sir John Perrot who served as Lord Deputy [of Ireland] to Queen Elizabeth I.”

And so we bid a reluctant farewell to picturesque Tenby… and prepare to shake hands with the Shake-speare himself in Stratford-Upon-Avon!

Pembroke Castle: Birthplace of Henry VII

It was here within the strong walls of Pembroke Castle that the first of our Tudor monarchs, Henry VII, was born in 1457. We ventured up and down the narrow staircases, surveyed the surrounding lands from the top of the keep, and crept down into the neolithic Wogan Cavern where human habitation has been traced back up to 12,000 years!

Becky VonWahlde: “The drafty halls of Pembroke did not mask the beauty and ingenuity of the fortress! There were so many stairwells to explore as we saw the birthplace of Henry VII, the man who would one day end the War of the Roses by becoming king and marrying Elizabeth of York. The first king of the Tudor dynasty’s birthplace was complete with a cave that’s use dates back 12,000 years! The views from the top of the towers at Pembroke were also a sight to behold. I cannot believe we are getting to explore such beautiful sights while learning about the Tudor period!”

Meagan Mansfield: “Tudor Rose Sign: The Tudor Rose is used as a sign in the town of Pembroke. Representing Henry VII’s birth at Pembroke Castle and how when he married Elizabeth of York the two families joined together and the Tudor rose became a symbol of the joining families and the end of the War of the Roses.”

Back in Tenby, our guide Marion took us on a rare tour (unknown to most locals!) of the tunnels where Henry VII hid before fleeing to France aged 14. We found the entrance… at the back of the local Boots pharmacy!

Kody Munson: “This is a picture of the hallway we entered when we were leaving the area where Henry VII was being hidden. I thought it would be a fascinating area. I can’t imagine someone who would later go on to be King living and hiding in a place like this. It seems like it might be damp and completely unbearable. I’m sure the place was furnished at one point like the tour guide said. It still must have been terrifying.”

Kinani Halvorsen: “Picture from the tunnels beneath the streets of Tenby, crazy to think that this dark and musty tunnel used to be a functioning part of the city during the Tudor period… Owned by the White family back in the day. It was amazing to get a sense of where/how Henry VII was hidden when he was fleeing to France. It really helps to paint a picture for what was happening in this culture before life as we know it.”

Tudor Tenby

The medieval fishing village of Tenby on the Pembrokeshire coast was now our home. We awoke to another spectacular light show, spent the day exploring its narrow, winding streets, diving beneath its icy waves (!), and sampling its Tudor-related tipple (Madison Willis: “Getting used to pub life, when we found our dear old Henry!”) We ended the day getting acquainted with Tenby’s paranormal past with help from our intrepid tour guide Marion Davies. The full moon lit our path…

Stonehenge to Tenby

Although constructed well outside our Tudor time period, we couldn’t pass through this part of the country without paying our respects to the ancient world heritage site of Stonehenge. The weather was wild and windy, but the atmosphere was mystical. On a day like this, one wouldn’t be surprised to see a druid strolling out from the valley….

We continued our journey on to Tenby, reaching our seaside hotel just in time for a spectacular light show… the Welsh coast welcoming us home!

Farewell to Oxford

Our merry travelers continue their pilgrimage along the Tudor trail!

On our final day in Oxford, we explored the ruined abbey of Godstow, dissolved during Henry VIII’s Reformation. Afterwards, we chose our own adventures… Maria Cools tracked down the grave of J. R. R. Tolkien; Aiyana Stephens and Madison Willis made friends with the horses of Port Meadow; and Kinani Halvorsen found the big bad king himself: “A fun little painting inside of Blackwell’s books in Oxford featuring King Henry VIII. He is holding the red and white rose known as the Tudor rose (colors representing the houses of York and Lancaster). Behind him you can see the outlines of six women being the six wives he famously had. In order from first to last they were divorced, beheaded, then one died, divorced, beheaded, and the last one survived!”

Oxford’s Dreaming Spires!

After testing our wings outside of London, we finally take flight into the English countryside, and find a snug, warm nest among the dreaming spires of Oxford. Students Kamryn Littleton, Jordan Brown and Grace Meno describe what they saw!

Kamryn Littleton: “Our first evening in Oxford was a treat! We had the opportunity to visit Dr Allinson’s alma mater, Magdalen College. While we were there, we watched a beautiful sunset! What a great start to our Oxford adventures!”

Jordan Brown: “Today we visited the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. We climbed 127 steps to the top of the tower and could see exceptional views of the city of Oxford. Some highlights of this excursion include climbing a narrow spiral staircase to the top of the tower (wide enough for only one traveler!), aerial views of the Bodleian library, and beautiful blue skies. The church itself has been around for nearly one thousand years and is still a place of worship for students and the Oxford community. It was a pleasure to explore this site.”

Views of King James VI and I sitting atop the great medieval Bodleian Library, the perpendicular valued ceilings of the Divinity School, and the majestic Radcliffe Camera, courtesy of Grace Meno and Dr Allinson!

Penshurst Place

Student Grace Meno describes our scenic day trip out of London to Kent, the Garden of England, and the hunting lodge of Henry VIII!

“These were taken in the gardens of Penshurst Place in Kent where we enjoyed a behind the scenes tour of the grounds before eating a scrumptious two course meal. Henry VIII used Penshurst Place as a hunting lodge during his time as King. The Place was filled with rich historians many original artifacts including furniture, paintings, and sculptures.”

Henry VIII’s Hampton Court

After a well-earned rest-day, we venture out of central London to roam the halls of Henry VIII!

Seated regally on the scenic Thames river, Hampton Court looms as large as its most famous occupant, Henry VIII. Stepping across the threshold is like stepping back in time. We brushed past the ghosts of executed queens and Tudor kitchen staff, and got a real sense of what life was like at a 16th century royal court.

British Museum and Library

The days have been flying by as our Lutes continue their intrepid adventures!

Our first weekend in London began with a wander through the hallowed halls of British Museum, where we attentively examined objects once held, used, and cherished by real Tudor men and women. After a treasure-hunt of literary and cultural sites in Bloomsbury, our incredibly cultured crew donned their best Anglo-Saxon attire to explore the British Library’s manuscripts room!

Tudor Chronicles, Acts One, Two, and Three

Our first few days in London have been a whirlwind of castles, parades, tombs, cathedrals, galleries and (to crown it all) the great Globe itself!

It all began with an exploration of London’s Big Three historical attractions: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the doom-filled Tower of London, where so many of the great and good met untimely, grisly ends… along with a menagerie of creatures (including the legendary ravens whose croaks resounded through the chilly January air…). To crown our day’s treasury of splendid sights, we made our pilgrimage to St Paul’s Cathedral, where we were given VIP treatment seated right next to the choir, who obligingly sang us a hymn by the Elizabethan composer William Byrd!

Tudor Times in Trafalgar Square!

Still digesting the rich delights of the previous day, we took things easy on Day 2 with a wide-eyed wander around the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert museum, perusing Tudor portraits, tapestries, and the Great Bed of Ware (which proved almost irresistible to our group of globe-trotting travelers!)

Speaking of Globes, our third act found us transported back in time to Shakespeare’s London, where we were treated to a masterclass in Macbeth by a professional actor, who introduced us to the bodily resonances of iambic pentameter; shown how to get dressed like the lovely Lady Ophelia; and escorted through the bear-baiting pits and bawdy “stews” of Southwark, culminating in a refreshing English-style cream tea. Our band of merry Lutes then made our way to the Barbican to enjoy the Royal Shakespeare Company’s modern take on the grisly Scottish Play… brought expertly to life by the brooding, blood-stained Time Lord, Christopher Eccleston. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…. we know not what awaits!