This month’s brand is yet another based Down Under. Kaiju Candy is the brainchild of Donna Mizzi and her husband Christian. Donna used to run Heidi and Gretel (I have a couple of H&G designs). Her new venture is bright, colourful and fun. Kaiju Candy say:
“We are inspired by Japanese Kaiju monsters, kitschy horror movies, carnival freaks and the strange.
We also love all things Aussie and like to create kooky versions of some of our fave local furry and feathered friends.”
The store itself doesn’t offer international shipping, but various stockists are available, including Lottie & Lu who are based in the UK.
I own the Audrey II brooch from Heidi and Gretel; this Mean Green Mother brooch is completely different but equally awesome.
On the Sunday of the Open House London weekend, I headed south again to visit Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, created by David Garrick for his hero William Shakespeare. Born in Hereford and raised in Lichfield, Garrick moved to London and became the most well-known and acclaimed actor of the age. In 1754 he purchased Hampton House, now Garrick’s Villa, overlooking the Thames at Hampton.
His riverside garden was laid out by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and this octagonal Palladian temple was built in 1756. The temple has a dome and eight Ionic columns, making it similar in style to the temple at Chiswick House.
From the temple, Garrick gave money and cakes to poor children every year on May Day. He also used it for entertaining friends such as Dr Johnson, as well as for writing and storing relics to Shakespeare. Eventually he had a tunnel constructed to enable him to reach the temple from his house.
In 1758 Garrick commissioned a life-size marble statue of Shakespeare from the eminent Huguenot sculptor, Louis François Roubiliac *Garrick may have posed for this himself). The original version had ‘veins’ across the face, a characteristic of the marble; Garrick insisted the head was replaced. The original statue is now in the British Library; this version was given to the Trust by the British Museum.
The temple eventually fell into disrepair until the late 20th century when the local council and several charities raised funds to restore the building and lay out the gardens again. It is now managed by the Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare Trust, and contains copies of paintings from major galleries plus original 18th century prints and engravings about Garrick. It’s open on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer months and occasionally you can attend concerts here, too.
Every year as September approaches I look forward to Open House London, when normally closed buildings open their doors to the public for free. This year I spent my Saturday down at The National Archives at Kew, somewhere I’d never yet visited.
The National Archives are the official archive and publisher for the UK government and they also care for over 1,000 years of national documents. They are experts and leaders in the information and records management and archive fields, and focus on ensuring the future of physical and digital records.
The National Archives was created in 2003 by combining the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission. The building itself was built in 1977 as an additional home for the public records then held at Chancery Lane. The site used to be a World War I hospital, and it was later used by several government departments.
There were a number of activities and talks taking place all day. I went on a Repository Tour, which was a fascinating journey through the document shelves behind the scenes. We saw the carts zooming past the shelves, on their way to pick up books ordered by readers, and saw the lift system that sends requested books down to the reading room. Extra-valuable items can only be viewed in a specially-constructed strongroom, where you’re only allowed out by a member of staff. I also joined a Collection Care Studio tour, which was a fascinating chance to explore the ways in which the NA look after the objects in their collection. These included the protection of fragile or unusual objects with 3D printing technology, iron gall ink and the Naval Knights of Windsor, conservation as part of the digitisation process, care of highly used documents, caring for Terence Cuneo’s war paintings, packing items for loans and collections, wax seals, x-rays and the hunt for arsenic wallpaper samples, and the emergency plan.
Afterwards I attended a couple of talks: The Public Record Office, Kew: Its place in British Architecture of the 1970s and The Changing Face of Kew. I also wandered around the public areas of the building and saw a couple of screenings of films from the archives including excerpts from Blue Peter. There were a few displays of documents about the building of the PRO at Kew and the 40th anniversary of the National Archives at Kew.
Finally I popped into the Keeper’s Gallery, which has a permanent exhibition about the history of the Archives and its most popular holdings, including the Domesday Book. It proved an interesting way to round off my day.
With the onset of September it was time once again for the national Heritage Open Days, which take place each year up and down the country. This year I happened to be at home, but being too lazy to get myself to Newcastle or Durham to check out what was on offer, I ended up only attending one event. This was a historic walk around Hetton-le-Hole, where several members of my family live, grew up and are otherwise associated with.
We met at Hetton Centre, a fairly recent building that happens to be on the site of the old Hetton Hall. The exact date of the Hall’s construction is uncertain but it was built in the classical style. It had become dilapidated by the end of the nineteenth century and was demolished in 1923. We headed to the centre of Hetton, passing the old school house (opened in 1872), before stopping off at the point where the first moving locomotives ran, taking coal from Lyons Colliery to the River Wear.
The street is still named Railway Street, and just beyond there are still sleepers from the Hetton Railway. The line was surveyed by George Stephenson in 1822 and was supervised by his brother Robert. Our guide took us to nearby Fairy Street, and explained that it was so-called because of the large hillock here nicknamed the Fairy Cradle, which supposedly dated from the Iron Age.
We stopped off at the Primitive Methodist Chapel. Primitive Methodism reached Hetton in 1823 and this chapel was opened in 1858. I’ve been here plenty of times over the years for weddings and funerals, but this was the first time I had the chance to look around and take things in from a historical point of view. The church was built entirely by the miners. Interestingly, there used to be a public house attached to the church – not owned by it, just next door – somewhat ironic as Methodists are teetotal!
Heading beyond down the road we ended up in a part of town I’d never seen before, and a beautiful though rather run-down building, the former Pavilion Theatre and Cinema, built by Ralph Barton in 1909. The first manager was Linden Travers, father of the actor Bill Travers.
We then stopped at the site of the former Anglican church, now sadly reduced to rubble. A nearby house (Laburnum House) has a blue plaque with details about Nicholas Wood, friend and colleague of George Stephenson, co-founder of the Institute of Mining, and partner in the Hetton Coal Company from 1844, whose grave is in the nearby churchyard.
Crossing the road, we passed the Wesleyan Chapel in Front Street (built in 1824) then ventured towards the oldest part of town, taking in Hetton House, one of the oldest houses in the town, dating from approximately the 1720s and bought by the Lyon family (the Earls of Strathmore) in 1746. The house has two extensions, one dating from the 19th century and one from the 20th. It was most recently used as council offices and closed in 2010. Nearby is the former Standard Theatre, built in 1874. It was converted to a bus garage in 1916.
The tour ended in style as we stopped at the 18th-century Old Smithy which has recently opened up for occasional open days once again. I really enjoyed the tour and I learned a lot.
My week mainly consisted of naps, to be honest. However, during my week at home I also did the following:
I read War and Peace and the whole of the Enid Blyton ‘Adventure’ series. A bit of a contrast there. W&P was the Maude’s translation in a cute little three-volume edition by Collector’s Library. The Blyton series is the one starring Kiki the parrot, who was always one of my favourite characters, and inspired me with the desire to own a pet parrot (as well as somewhat unrealistic expectations of what parrots are actually capable of).
I also reread a book I discovered a few years ago, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which is wonderful.
Thanks to my mam, who was on a health kick. In fairness it wasn’t too bad, and we discovered one recipe for macaroni cheese made from Primula Light cheese and mustard, which was amazing. I also ate much more fruit than I usually do, and enough miniature chocolate bars to form several whole ones.
Attended pub quizzes
Two, to be precise. One was my dad’s quiz, which we won, no thanks to me. My dad’s quizzes are HARD. The other was at a pub near to where my parents live. My mam and I went with one of her friends from the estate and said friend’s mother, who was eighty-nine, had never been to a pub quiz before, and was very excited about it. We did fairly well on this one, and I don’t think the three bottles of wine we consumed had too much of a negative effect.
Popped down to Seaham
My mam and I drove down to Seaham to go for a walk and check out the shops. The highlight was undoubtedly a trip to Lickety Split. They do GINGER NUT ICE CREAM.
Visited some new bars in Newcastle
Newcastle has really changed since I was last there. I went for a friend’s birthday and we started off in The Alchemist which does amazing cocktails.
Between us we had one that looked like a miniature bubble bath, one that resembled a science experiment and one that looked like water but which tasted of different things as you drank it. We then moved on to The Botanist which is simply gorgeous.
Celebrated Heritage Open Days
With a tour around Hetton-le-Hole, on which more in my next blog post…