Yesterday I went for an afternoon out in Durham, mostly to see the Lindisfarne Gospels. They usually live in London and won’t be up here for long, so get yourself over there for a visit whilst the opportunity is available.
The exhibition they are a part of is really interesting in its own right, with a large collection of religious texts and artefacts of a similar age and style to the Lindisfarne Gospels. You do have to book tickets in advance, and it can get quite busy, but the galleries are well managed with lots of attendants. I was really amazed by the size of the gospels, they were a lot smaller than I imagined. The worked section on each page was around A4 size. That means all those wonderful, intricate, interlacing patterns on the carpet pages are tiny, with lines finer than I could draw with a modern ink pen. And they were drawn with quill and ink, and no posh electric lighting.
I was also quite struck by how modern some of the patterns used look. Not just in the amazing vibrancy and gloss of the colours, but in their design. I always think of interlacing when I think of Lindisfarne and Bede and all that, but there are geometric patterns in there, and solid line designs, ones that we still use in modern design. Those solid black clip art borders that look so very 90s now, you can see the origins of half of them in the gospels.
It really is worth a trip to Durham, but there are other reasons to visit too. There’s this big,
important Cathedral, and castle, and a pretty river, and a massive B&Q. There’s the Indoor Market too, which is crammed full of interesting little stalls. You’ll find Get Dressed for Battle in there, which is almost a LRP shop. They stock metal armour, wood turned bowls, leather bound blank book, forged eating utensils, and various bits of costume. Opposite is a nice little haberdashery with some printed cottons and dress fabrics. Plenty of cheap ribbon too, and all the sparkles, spangles and sequins you could hope for. At the other side of the market there is another haberdashery, more aimed toward knit and crochet but still with some interesting bits and pieces. At the far end there’s a pick and mix bead stall, which also carries basic jewellery making fixings and fittings. You can pick up some venison and other fresh game at the butchers here too, and tucked downstairs are all the supplies you’ll need to hunt your own.
Up and round the corner from the market at 27 Silver Street you’ll find Cloth, a fabric and fancy dress shop. It’s tucked down a little ally with a pervasive aroma of the night before, easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. The shop itself doesn’t smell too grand either, it’s a bit grubby and musty with dust everywhere. It does have a fair range of dance and dress fabrics though, at a decent price. It is targeted at fancy dress, so has lots of camo prints, gingham, shiny plastic, Lycra etc. There are some nice faux furs tucked away and corduroy, thick cotton-ish stuff, faux suede and other bits and pieces. Being a fancy dress shop as well as a fabric shop, you can pick up face paints, masks and novelties here too.
Cloth is open 10-5pm, closed Wednesday and Saturday. When the students are about, it’s open 7 days a week 9-6pm. They don’t have a website, but you can email email@example.com@btopenworld.com or call 07748025579
Turns out, you can also get a free fish foot spa treatment in Durham. Not sure it’s done my calluses much good, but it kept me amused!