Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Syon House and The National Archives

Summer is moving on apace and I can begin to feel the pull of St Marys and a return to real work. I'm still hoping that if my move goes through I might get to run off to Spain for a few days to play with my friends in Spiral ... but time is of the essence now.

In the meantime, I'm quite enjoying having a break at home. A ten minute bike ride from Twickenham is Syon Park, filled with mature trees and highland cows. We've looked at it as a potential venue for site-specific work over the past couple of years, but the two devised shows seemed to fit more easily into Ham House and Chiswick Park. It is gorgeous though and has a fascinating history. It was here that Henry VIII engorged body exploded in its coffin en route for burial at Windsor. Servants found dogs licking up the seepage the next morning an act that was taken as divine retribution for the de bloated King's dissolution of the monasteries.

And then there is the Lion, who when originally sculptured and positioned for the Duke of Northumberland's house on the Strand, deliberately had its arse pointing at the Prince of Wales' quarters at Clarence House as a public insult, following a dispute between Duke and Prince. Now it stands proud on the topmost tower, tail up, blowing the flowing waters of the Thames eastwards towards the sea.

I've also been to explore the National Archives on the opposite bank. It's a brilliant resource, calm, open plan and with the exciting frisson of hundreds of people milling around carrying out their own detective work. There's a mini army of workers bringing files, documents, retrieving birth, death and wedding certificates that might not have seen the light of day for many hundreds of years. It feels like a airport, filled with emotion as families are re united (or occasionally pulled apart) by the search.

Downstairs is the Domesday book, the first time full records for the UK were collated. Opposite, equally fascinating, a bank of telephones where the local detectives queue up to call older relatives to check middle initials, dates of birth or house numbers. I could spend hours here and never start to do my own looking.


No comments: