Rochester, UK

Wednesday, 7 May 2014
I'm so happy to have a little bit of time before the summer class I teach to visit the UK with James. We're in London and heading to Scotland later this week. Today we took a day trip to Rochester and visited the cathedral and castle. The weather has been glorious so of course that just heightens the loveliness of this country.

Our first stop in Rochester was The Six Poor Travelers' House. The name comes from the fact that poor travelers stayed here as they were coming through. They were provided one night's lodging, a pint of beer, 1/2 a portion of beef, and 1/2 a portion of poultry. Six bedrooms were built at the rear of the house in the 16th century. 

The house also has a garden in the back where travelers would spend time working to help with the free lodging and food. 

My favorite part of this place is that Charles Dickens visited here and wrote about The Poor Travelers' House. His Christmas story was called "The Seven Poor Travellers" (English spelling) and he based the story on his visit to the house in May 1854.

Another spectacular place in Rochester is the cathedral that has been a place of worship since 604 AD. In the 1100s, parts of the cathedral were constructed in the Romanesque style. The place of worship's mix of architecture is inspiring. You can see Victorian versions of medieval "Green Men" on the wooden roof. 

Later, doing some research I found out that this cathedral is the second oldest in all of England. The present building dates back to 1060 and is mentioned in the Domesday book. 

It is amazing just to walk along the exterior and see how it is "cobbled" together. The stones are either hand made or collected from near the river and crudely placed together with some type of mortar. It was very well constructed, however, because it still stands with no problem and worship services are still held here: a corner stone of life in Rochester. 

We were able to visit the portion of the chapel that became a major place of pilgrimage in the 13th century. A Scottish baker, William of Perth was murdered nearby and because his body was immediately brought to this cathedral, some say miracles happened here. Modern pilgrims still journey to this spot. 

The castle, while basically just a crude structure now,  is breathtaking. We climbed more than 200 steps to see the views from the top. It was destroyed and repaired many times but thought to have been built originally in 1127. 

May is certainly the right time of year to visit the castle as we only saw one other family touring when we were. I stood quietly and just imagined what the royal parties would have been like. 

In 1215 King John attacked the castle. He ordered his troops to dig under one of the outside towers. When they found it was held up internally by wooden beams, he used fat from 40 pigs to star a fire. Parts of the tower fell and eventually the group surrendered from starvation.. 

Henry III and Edward I rebuilt the castle and it was a fortress until the 16th century. 

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