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Pictures with info

Together with Reading Museum, a collection of artists created a Reliquary for Reading [UK]. This was built over a set of pews in Reading Minster to accompany a new play, Henry II, performed in the Minster by the Reading Between the Lines theatre company in Autumn 2018.

The challenge was to think of an interesting way to present the Reliquary online, using low cost and widely available equipment. We took photos of each side of the Reliquary, as best we could given the restricted space around the pews. These we then combined it with text and images from the New Relics from Reading catalogue so an online visitor could click on a relic to get the information.

Most of the relics were 3D so to make it more interesting we decided to show them rotating. We purchased a simple ‘lazy susan’ turntable (meant to help cake icing) from a kitchen shop and the cheapest tripod for an iPad we could find over the Internet. We were able to take shots of the Absolute Unit relic in situ, but the other relics were attached to the Reliquary. There was a second chance to experiment with rotating during Marina Hildebrandt’s exhibition in the HolyBrook Gallery when we had lots of time to play around taking photos of Martina’s two relics.

Using Adobe Photoshop (not normally classed as lowcost, but we had been able to obtain a copy under a special scheme for charities) the background could be removed from each of the photos. Using the iMuse WordPress as ‘content management system’ a post type ‘infopic’ was created which allowed a gallery of photos to be loaded. These are shown at intervals using JavaScript to create the rotation effect.

A third chance to experiment came when the Reliquary was exhibited in Reading Museum. We were able to snatch two hours while the Reliquary was being dismantled and before the artists came to pick up their relics. This was tight and we had to just pick up a relic, bung it on the lazy susan, click, rotate, click rotate, around 16 times per object. Just managed to do all 35! Phew!

Then the problems set in! As luck would have it, Adobe removed the charity offer on Photoshop so that was no longer available to us. We found two substitutes, GIMP (a near Photoshop look alike) and a free iPad app Magic Eraser. Less than ideal but it seemed doable. There were problems. Some relics had quite complex reflections on their covers, while some others merged in too much with the green wall behind.

If we were to do the exercise again a longer set-up time, and the ability to choose lighting, whether to remove a relic’s cover, and with a variety of background colours would all help get a better result. To a lesser extent, a more ‘solid’ lazy susan and tripod that cut out all wobble might also help, but wobble was only a slight problem in the event.

The results can be seen at

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Bayeux After

What happened after the events of the Bayeux Tapestry

Britain's Bayeux Tapestry

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– What Happened After Hastings –

After the Battle of Hastings, William still had to conquer England. He marched from Hastings, crossing the Thames at Wallingford, and then on towards London. At Berkhamsted he received the surrender of the city. William took hostages to ensure that the surrender was kept.

William wanted to be crowned King as soon as possible. His coronation took place on Christmas Day, 1066. It was held at Westminster Abbey, which had been built by Edward the Confessor. During the Coronation, as the people inside the Abbey shouted out their acceptance of William, the troops outside thought a fight had broken out. Fearing that William had been attacked, they began to set fire to Saxon houses. As the Norman soldiers could not understand the language of the Saxons, and the Saxons could not understand the language of the Normans, it was difficult for them to communicate.

Illustration of a Norman Soldier in chainmail

William kept the promises he had made to the barons who fought with him to give them English land. He gave them lands taken from the Saxons. In exchange, the barons had to be loyal to William and provide knights to fight for him when he needed them. They might also have to pay sums of money to the king. William made sure that the barons could not easily rise against him by giving them pieces of land in different parts of the country, which made it difficult to raise a private army in secret.

In their turn the barons granted land to their followers. The knights promised in return to be loyal to the barons, to fight for them when needed and to raise money when the barons demanded it.

The peasants had to work the land for the knights at certain times of the year, and pay the knights in produce which kept the knights’ families supplied with food. Peasants were not usually allowed to leave their own villages. Every person owed his or her living to the people who had allowed them their land and was paid in service, money or goods. It was called the FEUDAL SYSTEM, and was the basis of society in the early middle ages.

Illustration depicting the structure of the Feudal System, the King is at the top with the Crown and the Church in charge. The Barons are below them, then their knights and at the bottom are the freemen and serfs.

William also gave lands to the Church because the Pope had supported William in his claim to the English throne. One of the first promises William kept was to build an abbey to celebrate his victory. He chose the site of the Battle of Hastings and the abbey became known as Battle Abbey. It is said that the high altar was built at the place where King Harold lost his life.

William wanted to raise money in his new kingdom, so he made the Saxons pay taxes. In 1086 he ordered a survey and his men went all over the country writing down exactly what everyone owned in land, cattle, crops and tools so that he knew exactly how much people could pay. When all the information had been collected, it was written down and is known as the Domesday Book.

Illustration of a wooden building

Life gradually returned to normal. Ordinary people lived in wooden buildings and these gradually rotted away, so that we cannot see exactly what they looked like. However, the barons wanted more permanent buildings than the hastily built timber castles put up soon after the Battle of Hastings. Soon castles, churches, cathedrals, abbeys and monasteries were being built in stone. Some of the stone was brought across from Caen in France. The Normans brought their own style of building and decorating with them too. Some of their castles and cathedrals took a very long time to build, but we can still see many of them today. The style of the building at that time is called ROMANESQUE.

Illustration of a Noman Church

We should remember that William the Conqueror was not only King of England, he also ruled Normandy and he spent a lot of time there. Barons and knights in England spoke French for many years, and most writing was in Latin or French. The ordinary people spoke in their own Saxon language, and the Chroniclers continued to write in it until the reign of William’s grandson Henry II.

– The Norman Succession –

William of Normandy became King of England in 1066. He died in Rouen in 1087, and was buried at Caen. He left four children: Robert, William, Henry and Adela.

The eldest, Duke Robert, ruled in Normandy and his second son William became King William II of England, known as Rufus because of his red complexion. Rufus was not a popular king. He was killed by an arrow in 1100 when hunting in the New Forest and he may have been murdered. Rufus did not marry and had no children to succeed him. His brother Henry took the throne, but Robert of Normandy also claimed it. Eventually Henry imprisoned Robert who died in Cardiff Castle.

Henry I had two legitimate children, a son and a daughter. His son was drowned on the White Ship while crossing the English Channel. Possibly the loss of this son moved Henry to found the Abbey at Reading. When Henry died in 1135 he was buried in Reading, before the high altar of his abbey.

Henry had named his daughter Matilda, who was married to Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou, as his successor and the barons had sworn that they would accept her as sovereign. On Henry’s death, Stephen, son of William the Conqueror’s daughter Adela, seized the throne and from 1139 until 1153 civil war raged in England. In 1153 the Treaty of Wallingford established that Stephen would become king but Matilda’s son Henry would succeed him on his death. Stephen died a year later and Henry took the throne as Henry II, the first of fourteen Plantagenet Kings.

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Great Fire Engine Mystery

The Great Fire Engine Mystery – the story It’s Good Friday – the one day in the year that the workers in the village have as holiday. But, Chief Engineer Rab Bit and his team have to test the fire engine. Disaster strikes as Rab is walking to the village through the woods. He steps on a rabbit trap. He drops his notebook. He manages to escape but his leg is broken. He can’t organise the fire engine test. His team do their best. They wheel the fire engine down to the village pond. They put one end of a hose in the water. They hold the end of the other hose up towards the trees. They start pumping. Everyone comes to watch. A great cheer goes up as the water gets to the top of the trees. The fire engine is working. But suddenly they hear a scream. Mummy Duck comes running up. Duckling is missing. One minute he was taking his first swim in the pond. The next he was nowhere to be seen. Whatever happened? And where is Duckling? Crack Reading detectives are called in to look at the evidence. Some children by the pond thought they saw something fly past. Luckily one of them has taken a video on her phone. The detectives have a good look at it. Is that Duckling zooming past? It can’t be. Duckling can’t fly yet. He was only just learning to swim. The detectives find out how the fire engine works. Was Duckling sucked up by the fire engine? But that should be impossible. A fire strainer on the end of the hose would have stopped anything being sucked up. They find Rab Bit’s notebook where he’d dropped it by the rabbit trap. He had made a note to take the fire strainer with him. The detectives hunt for the fire strainer. It looks very new and completely unused. The detectives have discovered that the team forgot all about the fire strainer. Duckling must have been sucked up by the fire engine and shot out of the other end towards the trees. They hunted high and low. Eventually they found Duckling, looking very angry, high up in a tree. Mummy Duck was very happy. The fire team were rather embarrassed but they never forgot the fire strainer again. Chief Engineer Rab Bit was so grateful that he gave the detectives a medal and tickets to watch his favourite film, Tilley and the Fire Engines (1911). ………… The not-so-Alternate Reality Built in 1839, the fire engine at the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading, UK was in service for over a century. It was tested on Good Fridays as that was the only day, apart from Sundays, that the people in the Norfolk village did not have to work. Testing it was a spectacle that everyone came out to view. Privy photo courtesy the Ramsey Rural Museum Cambs A Chief Engineer and two other men were paid a small amount to tend the engine which was last used on a call to a privy fire in 1930. The village decided it was too expensive to keep the fire engine in the 1930s but during the Second World War it was positioned by a farm pond in case incendiary bombs hit the hay ricks. Further information about the fire engine is in the Museum of English Rural Life catalogue’51/410′ Just as we were setting-up the trail in the Museum, Fred the Conservator showed us a wonderful Huntley & Palmer biscuit tin. Dating from the 1890s, the tin depicts a steam-driven fire-engine drawn by two horses, with lively scenes of fire fighting. Fred kindly put it in the horse-vet display case near the fire-engine. Fantastic real-time museum display design! Huntley & Palmers was a central part of Reading life in the 19th and 20th centuries, and Alfred Palmer built ‘East Thorpe’ (Later St Andrews Hall) which now houses the Museum’s extensive archives. Fred also found a video showing a fire engine like the one in the MERL being pulled by a horse in the Netherlands. and there’s another Tilley engine being demonstrated in New Zealand at

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