Saturday 2nd June 2018

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The Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon, England, is a museum containing collections exploring the life of Oliver Cromwell and to a lesser extent his son Richard Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in 1599 and lived there for more than half his life. The museum is located in the former grammar school building in which Cromwell received his early education. Founded in 1962, the museum contains significant artifacts, paintings and printed material relating to The Protectorate.

The Cromwell Museum is located in the old grammar school building attended by Cromwell and the diarist Samuel Pepys. The building retains fragments of the medieval infirmary hall of the Hospital of St John the Baptist (circa 1170-90).The hospital was an almshouse for the poor and was founded by David Earl of Huntingdon. Keeping to an Augustinian rule, the masters of the hospital were appointed by the mayor and burgesses of the town until the suppression of chantries and hospitals in 1547. Vested in the corporation of the town, the hospital building became Huntingdon Grammar School which remained in the building until moving to a new location in 1896, eventually moving to Hinchingbrooke House on the outskirts of the town.

The building was extensively modified and shortened during its time as a school. It was remodelled and partially rebuilt in 1863, and then heavily restored in 1878 under the direction of architect Robert Hutchinson at a cost of £900. The work was paid for by the dramatist Dion Boucicault in memory of his son, killed in the Abbots Ripton rail accident of 1876. The building had been encased in brick and when this was removed a blocked Romanesque doorway was discovered. Other features of the exterior include a bellcote, five decorative arches on its west front and two bays of the hall’s nave and aisles.

The building was a scheduled Ancient Monument, but was de-scheduled in 2003 following a review by English Heritage. It is a grade II* listed building.

Following a temporary exhibition held in Huntingdon in 1958 to mark the anniversary of Cromwell’s death, Huntingdonshire County Council developed a collection to celebrate the town’s most famous resident and it was decided that the vacant grammar school would be a suitable location for a museum dedicated to Cromwell. The Museum opened in 1962 after major internal re-decoration. Initially managed by Huntingdonshire County Council, from 1974 the Museum became the responsibility of the Cambridgeshire County Council library service. The Museum was completely re-displayed in 1988 and refurbished between November 2003 and late May 2004 when major building work was undertaken and temperature control systems installed.

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The Museum collection is the best collection of “Cromwelliana” in the UK, comprising approximately 610 individual items as of 2009. The museum owns approximately 70% of the items in its collection, with loan collections from the Bush family (descendants of Henry Cromwell, the fourth son of Oliver Cromwell), the Royal Armouries (who have loaned items of 17th century military equipment) and objects from the Museum of London including the Tangye Collection.

The museum has a number of portraits of Cromwell and his family, including two by Robert Walker (d.1658), a copy of the famous “warts, and everything” portrait by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), a significant late portrait of Cromwell by Edward Mascall, and several miniatures in the style of Samuel Cooper. The museum has a number of coins from the era plus several portrait medals, including a copy of the Lord Protector medal also by Thomas Simon.

The Museum displays a unique group of objects and portraits passed down by the descendants of Henry Cromwell including the hat Cromwell is thought to have worn at the dissolution of the Long Parliament in 1653 and his personal powder flask for carrying gunpowder. The Museum also has on display an apothecaries cabinet owned by Cromwell, and a Florentine Cabinet presented to him by the Duke of Tuscany

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Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon at The Friars on 25 April 1599 to Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward. The family’s estate derived from Oliver’s great-grandfather, a Welshman named Morgan ap William. He was a brewer from Glamorgan who settled at Putney in London, and married Katherine Cromwell (born 1482), the sister of Thomas Cromwell, the famous chief minister to Henry VIII. The Cromwell family acquired considerable wealth by taking over monastery property during the Reformation. Morgan ap William was a son of William ap Yevan of Wales. The family line continued through Richard Williams (alias Cromwell), (c. 1500–1544), Henry Williams (alias Cromwell), (c. 1524 – 6 January 1604),[b] then to Oliver’s father Robert Cromwell (c. 1560–1617), who married Elizabeth Steward (c. 1564 – 1654), probably in 1591. They had ten children, but Oliver, the fifth child, was the only boy to survive infancy.   Cromwell House is now a modernised luxury Care Home.

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The Great Bear

I saw the Great Bear once upon a time
I saw it as clear as I see you
I mapped it out
Bright point by point of magical light
I think it even had eyes and fur
It filled the blackness of the sky
Hanging there like a tapestry for my pleasure
It was a November night for sure
I was walking up the gully
Two high fences close and parallel focused my view
I pointed to it in gloves of knitted love
Balaclava helmet encasing my ears and imagination
Thoughts and memories linger through the ages
Creating folk law and fairy tales
But to me it will always be real

John Bish June 2nd 2018

On seeing The Great Bear on a lorry on the A14

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Ursa Major known as the Great Bear is a constellation in the northern sky, whose associated mythology likely dates back into prehistory. Its Latin name means “greater (or larger) she-bear”, standing as a reference to and in direct contrast with nearby Ursa Minor, the lesser bear. In antiquity, it was one of the original 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy (2nd century AD), and is now the third largest constellation of the 88 modern constellations.

Ursa Major is visible throughout the year from most of the northern hemisphere, and appears circumpolar above the mid-northern latitudes. From southern temperate latitudes, the main asterism is invisible, but the southern parts of the constellation can still be viewed.

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