On the 25th May I am speaking for the first time at the Ilminster Literary Festival. This is the first time I will have spoken as a writer. Whilst I have produced no books, I do have this blog. And aren’t bloggers writers? Well, it seems so. I am pleased to say that the event has sold out before the date. The talk is titled ‘Quests in Architectural History: Adventures of a Blogger in Somerset’.

It has given me a chance to reflect upon some of the adventures I have had in South Somerset and beyond. I have also reflected on blogging, which is a liberating process for me. I find that the discipline and focus needed for a book could limit my time and horizons, although a book may emerge from the blog at some point. I like the butterfly freedom of homing in on a particular subject and seeing what nectar I can extract, and then moving on to something different.

The preparation for the talk made me think about how I approach the subject matter I engage with. Sometimes it is observation. With my trusty camera I can zoom in on subjects and see what lies there in the detail. I can follow a story or take a particular architectural study and make comparisons.

For the talk I decided that Hunky Punks were a particular Somerset subject that I would bring in. A camera is a must for capturing these, due to their position high up on churches. Bench ends also get a mention. A reference to one of the distinctive South Somerset church towers has been woven in. One of the problems with the eye and the brain is that it cannot take in every detail. Whilst one might look at a church tower and just see it as that, it is not until the elements are broken down that it can be seen there are a great number of elements that need analysis to understand something of the history and context.

I thought perhaps a virtual visit to the pub would be a crowd pleaser! For me it had to be one that has fascinated me for many years – The George at Norton St. Philip. I recently discovered that in the late 17th C the inn had been truncated by 8 m from the east end. I wondered about the Monmouth Rebellion as the Duke allegedly stayed there in June 1685 prior to the fateful Battle of Sedgemoor. In the aftermath, the hanging judge, Judge Jeffreys used the inn as a courtroom and 12 executions were carried out on the village common. It made me think is there a connection? Was it truncated prior to the duke’s stay? Possibly not as he would have needed somewhere to house his followers, horses, weapons, and supplies. The George was a large inn with the flat field behind for his men to camp – if that is what happened. Was the truncation in some way a link to the inn suffering because of its association with the Monmouth Rebellion? However, it could have been something not linked to the event – was there problems with the inn’s structure? Were there any issues with land being sold off?

This is the other benefit of blogging. Where there is no definitive answer (or I haven’t been able to find out at the time), questions can be raised, and context can be thought of. Potential links can be made and explored. Maybe at some point in the future I will come across something that will link back to the questions and give some insight.

What has occurred to me, even more than I thought, is the amount of history that is on our doorstep. Every day we walk past architectural history that has been created by previous generations. The process of preparing the talk has made me think that if I just concentrated on one building such as Wells Cathedral, I would have a lifetime of blogging. However, I do like to flit about and weave my blog out of a variety of architecture, history, subjects, and ideas.

For me blogging has not only given me the freedom to write on what I find interesting, but it develops the art of noticing. There is so much to notice and contemplate!

The link for the festival: Ilminster Literary Festival May 2022

The photos in the main picture relate to the following posts (except the one of me!):

The George Inn, Norton St Philip

The Jennings Tomb Monument at Curry Rivel Church

Moustachioed Gargoyles at Castle Cary

The Teasel in the English Woollen Cloth Industry