13 December, 2011
Leaving the Museum I decided to take the historical walk. This did not start too well - the Old Bull's Head where some election shenanigans took place took precedence to the Minster church of St John and St George. I began to suspect Preston was a rather recusant borough, especially as their badge is a lamb and flag. Missing out the church the next port of call was a fence - previously the site of the Temperance Hall. Formerley a cockpit where people bet on cocks fighting for money it became a place where people signed the pledge. A redemptive change of use. Demolished.
The next place on the walk was where Arkwright invented a spinning frame, and kick-started the industrial revolution. This was the house he lived in.
The next two places on the itinerary were car parks - Look one is the site of a big factory. Demolished. The other the site of the town gas works. Demolished. Oh dear - best to show people something other than car parks (and not even a good one - see later). The Gas Company was started by an RC priest... After looking at a gold thread works (converted to flats) and a statue of Sir Robert Peel in a square, it was time to go past the RC church (even invited to go inside - not me thanks) and the RC School - the first to be gas lighted which I suppose it would be given the founder of the gas company. Strange that the RC church should be mentioned and not the Established church...
The Corn Exchange, the hall of radicalism, was next on the list with its monument to cotton workers killed by the militia in 1842 during a period when mill owners reduced pay by 10%. The walk ended at a massive covered market.
It's rather a pity that nobady thought to include the best car park and bus station in the North West on the tour. Preston Bus station goes on for miles and is an iconic 20th century marvel, well deserving of listing. I used it once and it was easy to use.
There is also a rather nifty taxi rank. All in all Preston was pleasant if chilly.
03 December, 2011
The castle is in two parts, the Medieval keep and the Bishop's palace bit. The keep is over 900 years old in its oldest pit - a really deep hole in the motte part and was broken down by Cromwell's army. The Bishop's Palace looked pretty much Tudor although built on a Medieval foundation, especially the brick built tower with polychrome brickwork. This looks a bit like Lambeth Palace.
The custodian for English Heritage at the castle keep (the only part open to the public and free) was friendly and helpful and showed me the exhibition about the castle and its bishops.
Castle street is a pleasant street of houses with georgian facades, and the tiny Windsor almshouses, built 'for the habitation and relief of eight poor honest impotent old persons'. The tiny gables and large chimneys give a quaint air to these tiny houses.
The museum explains that Farnhaam has been kept very much in an original state by the work of some estate agents on the Farnham UDC who were keen on conservation of the historic buildings and that everything should be in keeping. And a good job they made of it too. This does not mean that modern art was neglected - the Post Office Mural is a good example although not well maintained.
The Police station also has murals, but a lot less abstract.
Faarnham is the birthplace of William Cobbett who polemicised about the plight of agricultural workers. A tablet to his memory is in the church and his tomb is near the north door.
The church is dedicated to St Andrew and has been re-ordered with chairs in the nave and what the congregation call pavillions, which provide a children's corner, kitchen facilities and flexible meeting space. It's a very big church and these pavillions seem to fit in well with the architecture, although I wasn't sure about the table, lectern and font which looked like posh kitchen units.
Aldershot, or as a friend calls it 'Aldershit' is in Hampshire. Not much of interest architecturally really but it is an army town as was made very clear by a man shouting to his wife with a real parade ground bark. Dearie me.
16 October, 2011
The day started rather badly when Chiltern Trains had a train that was late! Hardly Deutsche Gerundlicheit. This caused me to miss out on a McD's breakfast. So I had to have one in Leamington when I was rather hungry. I went to Wetherspoons (big mistake) and had the large vegetarian breakfast. Supposed to come with three sausages I only got two so had to ask the waitress for another. It arrived as I was finishing. However it was vital minutes of the day wasted with waitress service and time taken to order food. Luckily the bus to Kenilworth was just pulling in to the stop as I came out of the pub. The bus journey was delightfully provincial with the driver stopping the bus to take a mobile phone call, and when one of his friends got on to have a conversation about the friends tattoos - apparently a special ink that doesn't crack with muscular movement. Anyway these things make life worth living so the journey seemed to be over in a flash.
Kenilworth is a town of two halves with the modern shopping and residential area to the south and the more Georgian part and the castle to the North. But before we get to the castle, there is the medieval abbey to look at. Only the gatehouse and a few forlorn walls survive and this building that has been called a barn (but nobody is aware of what it really is)
I am wondering if it was a hermitage of the kind the carthusians had? The abbey was augustinian but did they have hermits?
The Church of St Nicholas (patron of fishermen as the abbey fishponds were extensive) was for the townspeople and lay brothers of the abbey. There is a wonderful porch incorporated into the tower and the church has some good stained glass including an Elizabethan window. A victorian clergyman took it upon himself to undo what the reformers had done to the church. He raised the chancel and removed the flat ceiling, no doubt making the congregation cold. There's not much more to say about the church except it was open when I called.
The next big thing is the castle. English heritage really should take some lessons in customer service. As I had approached the castle from the gatehouse by a public footpath an official tried to accuse me of going in without paying! The irony was that I was on my way to buy a ticket. I should just have walked in without paying!
Never the less the castle was an imposing love nest for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and his paramour Queen Elizabeth. Robert Dudley practically rebuilt the castle in Elizabethan style (Hardwick Hall more glass than wall)
so the Queen would only see Tudor rather than Medieval. The castle is one of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit as his men demolished the 14ft thick keep wall and opened a view of the Elizabethan knot garden.
Cromwell's men also drained the mere, a semi ornamental lake on the North side of the castle by breaching the dam. That leaves the ruins we see today.
The gatehouse is set up as a gentleman farmer's home with a tester bed (Queen Elizabeth didn't sleep in it) and a fireplace from the castle carved with Robert Dudley's motto 'Droit loyal'.
The castle is inextricably knotted into the history of the monarchy - John of Gaunt the first Duke of Lancaster modernised the castle, it was besieged by the King's troops during Simon De Montfort's rebellion, and Queen Elizabeth slept there. Truly remarkable.
02 October, 2011
Starting off at West Ham station I was surprised to be given a single ticket instead of the usual '2-part return'.
Neither of the two towns are actually 'on sea' as they are both on the Thames Estuary. Of my trips to Southend I have never really seen it in the sunshine, only having been there on dull days. However Southend seemed rather pleasant in the sunshine with some fine gardens, especially heading towards Chalkwell.
After a brief shopping expedition in the town to buy some water for the journey, it was down to the sea front and off to the west for our walk to Leigh. There were many people taking advantage of the unusually summery weather, including the amusement proprietors. I was wondering if they had hastily re-opened after the season. The first point of interest was a single track cliff railway, which I had not seen on previous visits to Southend.
Afterwards, towards Chalkwell was an obelisk, the crow stone, erected by the Port of London Authority to demarcate where the City of London's jurisdiction over the Thames ended. Until 1857 the mayor and aldermen of the City used to row out to the crow stone to secure their rights over the Thames, which they had bought off Richard I who was financing crusades. After that time the PLA took over.
The Port of London Authority's jurisdiction ends much further out, beyond Shoeburyness but this historical marker, half drowned at high tide marks a point of history.
After an ice cream (Mr Whippy 99) and a bit of a sit down we began strolling along the sea front. After Chalkwell, the river became more leisured with the path running between sailing clubs and the railway line. On coming to Leigh on Sea with its cobbled High Street we decided to have some lunch in the Mayflower public house, which had converted some of its rooms into a rock shop, an ice cream parlour and a takeaway. After a long queue, I don't think it was really half an hour, we had some excellent chips sitting on the tiny harbourside looking at the two fishing boats and watching people disporting themselves in the water and throwing mud at each other.
After lunch we had a look at the tiny museum in Leigh, including an old fisherman's cottage furnished as it would have been a hundred years ago, and perhaps even later than that. There were some interesting exhibits including model shops.
Making our way down the High Street one of the pubs had a very good mod band playing outside. We stayed for a couple of numbers.
After that we continued our walk to Hadleigh Castle. Hadleigh castle is surrounded by a Salvation Army farm, that started life as 'Hadleigh Farm Colony' at some stage used for training men (of course) for emigration to 'the colonies'. It was never a colony for inebriates, even though the nearby country park is home to some rare invertebrates. The Salvation Army had erected a notice prohibiting letting off fireworks on their land. Whether this is a general nuisance or just for 5th November was not stated.
The castle itself is more of an observation post and with the spectacular views over the Thames would have been a very good one.
Henry III resided there using the great hall (which wasn't very great) and the solar behind, almost as big as the great hall. Only an observation tower is left standing as the land was and is unstable and subject to landslips.
After a look round the castle it was time to return to Leigh on Sea station for a weary journey home.
10 September, 2011
Swarthmoor Hall is an Elizabethan manor house just between Ulverston and Swarthmoor built in 1586. It may have been built on the site of an earlier dwelling but records are hard to find from that era. It is now owned by the Religious Society of Friends who operate it as a hotel and conference centre, and have furnished six rooms as they would have been furnished at the time of George Fox's visits to the hall. The first room you go into is the Great Hall with a long refectory table an panelling from 1912 by Emma Clarke Abraham including wyverns. The rooms have been furnished with care and there are some fine artefacts, including a copy of the Great Bible of Myles Coverdale, the bible from which the Book of Common Prayer lectionary is taken. There is also George Fox's travelling bed - weighing a ton.
The hall was renovated from 1912 by Emma Clarke Abraham who carved the panelling in the Great Hall herself. She had windows unblocked and the structure made sound.
The real story of Swarthmoor is that of Margaret Fell. Born in 1614 in the reign of James I and VIshe lived throughout thr reign of the Stuarts dying diring the reign of Queen Anne.
During her longlife she married Judge Fell, who opened Swarthmoor to travellers for hospitality and who also allowed dissenter preachers to stay and preach, most unusual for the times. After a long and happy marriage to Thomas Fell, eleven years later she married George Fox, founde of the Friend's Religion. Imprisoned for preaching within her own home she was thrown into a dungeon in Lancaster Castle for four years, a most unpleasant experience that I have had, even though I was in for four minutes and voluntarily. Undaunted by this she went to see the King when George Fox was imprisoned asking for his release. He was released but other Friends were imprisoned. Margaret Fell is one of England's bravest women.
09 September, 2011
The church has capitals carved with biblical scenes in the spirit of the 14th century.
After a short walk across 'the lots' with its views of Morcambe Bay we went to a cafe for tea. As the sun had come out we decided to walk to Arnside, past the Leeds Children's Holiday Camp, founded in 1904 to enable poor children from Leeds to have a week's holiday in the fresh air with good food. A role still fulfilled today.
It was a very long way to get to Arnside, which was shown as being three miles, but was more than that. We didn't see the ancient monument at Far Arnside but has a lovely walk through the woods and along the coast to pleasant Arnside, a village alongside Morcambe bay.
04 September, 2011
22 July, 2011
The late Georgian church was locked when I called but was quite pleasant outside.
The high street contained sculptures and plaques about King John and the Magna Carter, which was signed - where? Can anybody tell me? Yes Joe it was at the bottom. The Magna Carta was signed at Runnymede, near Egham. Time was limited so I didn't try to find this guarantee of the rule of law (and therefore lawyers). The museum has a reproduction of the copy in Salisbury Cathedral as well as memorabilia from the two Royal Holloway institutions.
There is also an old grammar school (now a sixth form college) curiously with an almshouse attached, although I don't think the almshouse is operational any more.
A prosperous and charming little town.
21 July, 2011
There are a few old inns although I didn't take any refreshment there, including one with a milestone outside showing 28 miles to London and 11 miles to Reading (pronounced to rhyme with beading by the railway information person on Waterloo Station). The town had a quiet dignity about the main town centre and a fine historic former co-op store. There was a fountain which told the time every five minutes, although I watched it and I wasn't sure when it was in its time telling phase, also some of the jets were not working.
There were some fine sculptures and murals, good charity shops and a good library which gave me the location of the former co-op store: CRS so maybe formerly LCS. I didn't see any of the residential areas of the town but the town looked fine.
17 July, 2011
Llanthony priory is located in a very peaceful spot in the black mountains, so peaceful I nodded off to sleep for a few minutes. The priory church was completed around 1280 and ruined in the 18th century, to leave a charming spot for us to enjoy.
Newport is a little town with a good art gallery and museum - the collections looked pretty good for the size of the place with a good selection of periods and styles. I didn't have time in Newport to see the Cathedral, or the Castle but did take a picture of one of its oldest buildings - the murrenger's house. A murrenger is an official charged with keeping a city wall in repair.
Newport also, like Middlesbrough, has a transporter bridge.
Newport is probably worth coming back to...
31 May, 2011
The next bit led through Springfield Park, next to Lea View House a model example of tenant participation. the Park cafe comes out well in this shot. A walk by the Lea or Lee River past where Avro aircraft were first flown on Hackney marshes led me to the abandoned Middlesex filter beds. These were filtre beds for water extracted from the river and were closed in the 1980s and left to nature.
Nature has taken over but it is managed, and there are one or two artworks in the filter beds. The whole place is rather sculptural though. After that a walk further along the River Lea or Lee to where the Lesney factory had been. This was where Matchbox toy cars were built and the developer has called the flats Matchmaker House. Matchbox House would be more apt given the size of the flats.
And speaking of matches I caught a bus to Bow and the former Bryant and May factory, with it's appropriate designs in the brickwork.
After Bow a walk down the Highway and past the Royal Foundation of St Katherine to Wapping. There in an old hydraulic power station is a work of art called 'making waves. It is a pool of water reflecting a structure which is like an illuminated ball gown. Very pretty.
After a drink in the Captain Kidd near execution dock it was time to go home.
30 May, 2011
The loop follows the Thames at this point and includes the RSPB bird reserve which served as a convenient stopping point for coffee and scone or soup.
This building is just on the edge of Purfleet, where there is a military heritage centre and lots and lots of new flats. Come to think of it there were lots of new flats in Rainham too since I was last down that way - Messrs Chuckemup, Builders and decorators have been at it again.
The picture shows a surviving gunpowder store that hasn't been converted to flats.
29 May, 2011
A steep climb out of Caterham took me along a ridge and out of the town to some rural farms, although passing the church in the valley. Walking through open countryside a slight deviation took me away from the Devil's Hole, a steeply wooded valley but I managed to regain it and end up back on the right track. After some farms and a clearing on Gravelly hill with a dog drinking fountain dedicated to Toby, I walked down through some woodlands to come to War Coppice Road with some houses that looked like they had been designed by Frank Baines for the Ministry of Works with street names like Woodland Way. After this I came to Whitehill Tower, an observation tower little more than a ruin. This was enclosed behind high walls due to be even higher but perhaps the country habit of leaving stuff unfinished will prevail.
After a few more miles of walking, past an interesting looking farm, I came to Caterham on the Hill, walking past some excellent homes for heroes and into Queens Park, with its tree planted to commemorate the relief of Mafeking, and a garden with a clock tower in it. The Old Church of St Lawrence was open and serving teas so I had a couple of pieces of cake in this 11th Century church. The church was found to be too small in the 1860s and a new church was built opposite the old one.
I went back down the hill into Caterham not on the hill and caught a train home. Not much to see on this walk but a few points of interest.
28 May, 2011
A trip to the wilds of Essex to visit Kelvedon Hatch. Kelvedon Hatch has a pleasant Arts and Crafts Church of the 1890s with some memorial brasses from the previous church added to the walls. However, just outside the village lurks a secret Regional Government HQ, built into the side of a hill. The start of the bunker is an innocuous looking bungalow, a little bit reminiscent of Empire, but once inside the similarity stops. Not many bungalows have a wire cage guarding a long passage lined with bunk beds and ending in blast doors. Inside the bunker was like a government office from the 1980s with a broadcasting studio and several dummies representing Margaret Thatcher and assorted civil servants. The commentary was artfully done and kept visitors almost out of site of others, everyone coming together in the canteen. The depressing commentary was all about being killed, and I wish I’d taken a children’s wand instead. All in all for the money it was not bad value, but the extras - £5 to take a photograph – were too much to bear, so I didn’t take any.
21 May, 2011
A visit to the Dorset Estate in Bethnal Green. The Dorset Estate is two Y shaped towers with some low rise blocks with a library (closed and maybe never to re-open) and social club. The estate was designed by Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin and was the first in Bethnal Green to feature high-level blocks, with two 11 storeyed Y-shaped buildings (George Loveless and James Hammett houses) on the north, four 4-storeyed blocks (James Brine House) to the south and two more (Robert Owen and Arthur Wade houses) on the south side of Baroness Road. The estate was officially opened with 266 flats in 1958, marked a change in municipal housing, with the emphasis on height and reinforced concrete. The estate has worn well and has a plaque with the blind beggar of Bethnal Green on the roof. The houses on the Dorset Gardens Estate were named after the Tolpuddle martyrs with Robert Owen House named after the father of coöperation and Arthur Wade House named after a chartist.
16 May, 2011
|From Travels around London|
I didn't know what a tide mill was but the mill works with the ebbing tide, that turns the mill wheel and thus powers the mill. The mill has been on an artificial island for more than a thousand years, but was rebuilt in the Georgian times and again after a fire in the early 19th century. Originally a flour mill it started producing spirits and was complete with a custom's house. My mate's dad used to work there when it was a bonded warehouse for alcoholic drinks and he saw them bottling wine from tanker barges.
The trust that owns the mills runs guided tours every Sunday with costumed guides telling the story of the mills, and very interesting they are too, all the millstones were stolen after an incendiary bomb dropped on the mill in 1941 and that was the end of milling. They plan to restore the mill and use the tides to generate electricity.
15 May, 2011
The walk meandered round the London and Surrey borders keeping close to the Hogsmill River where Millais painted the Death of Ophelia. There are two packhorse bridges over the Hogsmill in Ewell including this one
although neither are medieval both convey history underfoot.
We have met Ewell before on the London Loop and it is a pleasant and interesting town with a 1960s library, Bourne Hall, with a museum. This is where the Hogsmill River rises from springs in the ground forming into ponds. There is a detached church tower and a castle. there is also a remnant of an old justice system in the lock up.
We walked further on to Cheam, (I've been before) and then on to the station and a weary return home.
02 May, 2011
Beginning at Rickmansworth with a coffee in the Wetherspoons then a walk down the Grand Union Canal for a few miles (76 miles from Braunston)
|From Travels around London|
|From Travels around London|
Heronsgate was partially laid out as an estate by the Chartist Coöperative Land Company. The intention was to enfranchise working people by allowing them to buy freehold land. The chartists obtained 2-4 acres of land with a luxuriously equipped cottage on roads named after the industrial towns they were drawn from. Stockport Road, Nottingham Road, Bradford Road being examples used there. The Estate was named O'Connorville after Feargus O'Connor MP who led the company. Of course like many other back to the land movements it failed, not least because the people attracted to the scheme were industrial workers, rather than farmers, and that 2 acres is not really enough to support a family. Somebody living in Rickmansworth in the 1840s could hardly take a job in London to support themselves.
|From Travels around London|
The estate is now an exclusive development of housing for the wealthy but one or two charterville cottages remain. There was a plaque on one cottage celebrating the Estate's 150th anniversary of 1997, and a plaque on the village hall of 1884 that reads: 'In proud memory of O'Connorville founded here in 1847 by Feargus O'Connor MP Chartist, Idealist and Social Reformer'. The church's foundation stone was laid in 1886.
The local pub, which is not on the Estate, bears the name 'The land of liberty, peace and plenty', which I thought was a fitting tribute to those pioneers who came from the industrial north with high hopes of freedom.