Sunday 4 December 2022

A Doorway into the Past

 I noticed this curious survival when I was waiting for a bus in Burton-upon-Trent. Inset into the wall of a large Primark (a budget fashion emporium, m'Lud), it bears the date 1593 and was, I subsequently discovered, a doorway to Dame Paulet's almshouses, a charitable institution that housed and supported five elderly, deserving poor women of the town at the expense of Dame Elizabeth Paulet. This wealthy widow was born into the Blount family, her father being the MP for Burton, and her second husband was Sir Thomas Pope, a big landowner and prominent public servant who founded Trinity College, Oxford. Her third husband was Sir Hugh Paulet, who was, among other things, Governor of Jersey. Dame Elizabeth outlived them all, having borne no children, and on her death was buried with her second husband in the chapel of Trinity College. 
  The gateway bears the Blount arms, over the curious inscription 'No Domi Ni', the result of a mistake: when the much eroded doorway was being restored in the 1930s, the stonemason misread 'Anno Domini' as 'No Domini', then decided to make it more symmetrical for appearance sake. The tablet within the door frame carries a bland inscription commemorating the redevelopment of the town centre in 1974 (of which the less said the better). More conspicuous now is a heartfelt graffito – 'Squat the Lot'.
  History – it's all around us... 

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