The cathedral at York, York Minster, was constructed first of wood in 627, and then in 637 in stone .
A period of instability followed with York vulnerable to attack from Penda of Mercia and the Britons of North Wales.
We know that the city was overrun at least twice and probably three times between the death of Oswald in 641-2 and the Battle of the Winwaed in 654-5.
In about 670 St. Wilfred took over the see of York and found the structure of Edwin’s church fairly lamentable .
‘The ridge of the roof owing to its age let the water through, the windows were unglazed and the birds flew in and out, building their nests, while the neglected walls were disgusting to behold, owing to all the filth caused by the rain and the birds.’
“Saint Wilfred set to work renewing the roof and covering it with lead, whitewashing the interior walls and installing glass windows.
Based on descriptions given of other churches built at a similar time it is possible to understand something of how Wilfred’s restored church at York would have looked to the 7th century worshippers who entered it.
The altar, within which relics were deposited, would have been decorated with purple silk hangings of intricate woven design.
Upon the altar, raised by a book rest and in a jewelled binding, would stand the illuminated gospel book. The walls and probably also the testudo (a wooden partition screening the altar) would be adorned with icons painted on wooden panels depicting the types and anti-types of the Old and New Testaments.
These church paintings were essential to the evangelization of England, being the only effective way of explaining the ‘the new worship’ to an illiterate population. Gregory the Great called them ‘the books of the unlearned’.”
It is the evening of 23 October 1783, and in a secluded spot on the King’s highway John Austin and an accomplice are mercilessly beating and robbing a stranger.
This act of brutality marked the beginning of the end, not only for Austin, but for an ancient ritual that had been enacted since the 16th century. Having been sentenced to death, he became the last man to be taken in procession from Newgate Prison to the gallows at Tyburn.
For 300 years, doomed convicts had made the journey from where the Old Bailey now stands to the place of their demise, near the site of Marble Arch.
These processions, which occurred only eight times a year, were held to be among the capital’s most exciting events.
Raucous crowds gathered on the roads and in the windows of houses with a view; a clergyman accompanied the condemned; cheering and shouting vied with preaching and jeering, and during the three hours it took to cover the two miles, the spectacle of impending death would unite the metropolis in an outpouring of heightened emotion.
The spectators themselves are dead and buried, and the buildings that lined the way long since leveled. But beneath the stratum of 18th century bricks and bones, millions still trace the same path today, albeit for different reasons.
For between St Paul’s station and Marble Arch, the Central Line follows the last journey of John Austin and his innumerable doomed predecessors almost exactly.
For those hoping to evoke the procession, the modern topography of London is wonderfully supportive. Despite the devastating zeal of the Victorians, who laid waste to many of the capital’s ancient streets, the conduit that flowed from Newgate to Tyburn remains largely intact.
Newgate itself is gone, replaced by the Old Bailey, but the Church of St Sepulchre remains.
From here a clergyman would make his way through a tunnel connecting the two buildings, and ring the bell that signalled the beginning of the great event. A visit to the church reveals that the artefact itself survives, silently encased in glass.
It is perhaps the most evocative remaining fragment of a ritual characterised by its cacophony of sounds as much as its spectacle
The centrepiece is the greatest golfing painting in the world, Charles Lees’ famous 1847 masterpiece The Golfers.
This commemorates a match played on the Old Course at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, St Andrews, by Sir David Baird and Sir Ralph Anstruther, against Major Hugh Lyon Playfair and John Campbell of Saddell.
It represents a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Scottish golf at that time and was famously reproduced in a fine engraving which sold in great quantities.
Lees (1800-80) made use of photography, at a time when it was in its infancy, to help him design the painting’s overall composition.
The image in question, taken by photography pioneers D O Hill & Robert Adamson, is included in the show and Lees’s preparatory drawings and oil sketches also are displayed alongside the finished painting to offer visitors further insight into the creation of this great work.
Impressions of The Golfers are now in many of the greatest golf clubhouses around the world.
The painting is jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.