30 March, 2014

Clapham Workers of all lands unite!

Some pictures of Clapham - the Bread and Roses and the RMT

29 March, 2014

Sydenham - respectable suburb.

Compelled to roam over the surface of the world by Die Blogenleser the wanderer Rechthardt came to the roof trees of Sydenham.  These houses are certainly made of the roof trees and look as though they have been there since just after the war, although they might be 1960s hippyish but not I suspect 1990s ecohomes.  

Entering the Sydenham Wells Park the wanderer learned from the Rheintöchter that when the London County Council laid out the park in 1900 they had laid out a watercourse in the shape of the Rhine as a tribute to the local German community.
Wandering down the Rhine with the maidens and and dwarves sporting in the summery meadows and basketball courts and no doubt getting into some power dramas over gold the wanderer came to a fountain - a large boulder but it was switched off.  Oh for a Moses or the action of Psalm 105 41
By now the wanderer's feet were aching due to new boots and the staff wasn't holding up so well either so this called for a new direction.  

In this place there were strange beasts, possibly one of them was Fafner and it looked as though a smith had been active with the railings.  And so the wanderer awaits a Siegfried to slay the terrible beasts lurking in the undergrowth and pools.

Driven by hunger from the open country the wanderer  came to the town of WestwaldHĂĽgel but the inhabitants did not look kindly on the wanderers request for a smoked salmon sandwich and they did not have it.  And so the wanderer returned to the wanderer's dwelling but did not go into the tavern because a football match was in progress.

08 March, 2014

Milton Keynes

Arguably the last new town, Milton Keynes is as old as I am.

Certainly not as old as the rocks on which she sits MK (as maybe we should call it) is also very different aesthetically from other new towns as you can get. The church of Christ the Cornerstone is a joint venture between all the mainstream churches in England not just protestant but also including the RCs something that certainly didn't happen at Harlow or any other new town I've been to. The Cornerstone cafe was closed when I called.
The MK art gallery was presided over by quite a handsome young man who thrust a leaflet into my hand giving details of their exhibition. 
And quite an exhibition it was. Not too many real treasures although my dad would have gone for the Aston Martin DB4 sports car but the items were not junk either. Artists included Tom Chadwick Derek Jarman, Thomas Gainsborough, Picasso and Maggie Hambling. To be fair there were a lot of schools represented too. So when you've seen the church and the gallery what else is left - and the reply to that has got to be 'not much'. There is a lot of public art in the town centre, not a patch on Harlow's, but it's not that good and no post about MK would be complete without a shot of concrete cows! There is a pleasant park which has some sculptures but central MK is all about the shops. There are pleasant places to live in round about but couldn't spare the time to visit them today.

09 February, 2014

Kingsbury bristol- suburb of imagination.

I think it was Bristol.  It might be York or perhaps Durham with little alleys going down to the river.  The two houses with the mosaic gardens and the mosaic walls depicting willowy maidens in the Arts and Crafts rational dress style. The hillside shops the dark stone alley running down to the river, the steep hillside, the forked station road, the dereliction.  Our life experiences conspire to build suburbs of imagination and dreams. Historical enough but also and up to date, with spacious garden surrounded dwellings for a dignified life, but with the bustle of the town.

No pics- it doesn't exist. But I have added a picture of beauty in suburbia.

19 January, 2014


Suburbs can conceal real wonders as we have learned before on this blog.   Bushey was the home of an artists colony established by Hubert von Herkomer a member of the Royal Victorian Order who had a school in a house called Lululand. He also produced film and promoted motor racing so he seems like my kind of artist - not much of an ascetic. After he got tired of the school he sold it to another artist called Lucy Kemp Welch who sold it back to Herkomer after a while. Ms Kemp-Welch had a memorial gallery in the church hall but this was closed in the 1980s due to insurance problems. No matter: Herkomer's and Kemp Welch's pictures are now kept in Bushey Museum which is in the former town hall.
When I called in the museum there was an interesting exhibition that I called Sheldon Cooper's Fun With Flags. This was a display of flags put up by the inhabitant of one of the houses in Bushey to celebrate various national occasions. There were quite a lot of flags although the Swiss flag was not square as it should have been. There was local history too and a memorial to William Schwenk Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan. The best bit of the museum was undoubtedly the paintings. Lots of late nineteenth and early twentieth century paintings although there was one described as a town in East Anglia which I thought represented Uxbridge. The gardens of Lululaund have been converted into a beautiful rose garden although not so lovely in January.

30 December, 2013

Middlesbrough and Hartlepool

I worked in Middlesbrough for the worst four years of my life! Middlesbrough started its life as a railway docks town of the Stockton and Darlington Railway called Port Darlington. Incorporated as a borough in the 1850s the prime minister at the time called it an 'infant Hercules. Until very recently there was a firm called 'The Ownere of the Middlesbrough Estate' who had their offices in the place with the columed portico in the picture. The Owners of Middlesbrough did not, at the end, own Middlesbrough but they did at the begining. I called in Middlesbrough on a Monday and most of the newly built cultural places were closed. Hartlepool is a place that was used by the writers of Coronation Street to write out charachters who usually said they were improving their job prospects by moving to Hartlepool. I'm not sure that they could but I think that's a case of irony in soap operas. Hartlepool is the home of Andy Capp. 'Nuff said! Andy Capp The old part of Hartlepool has some historic buildings like St Hilda's Church.
From Travels around London
St Hilda's Church

29 November, 2013


A long walk in the Essex town was supposed to be interesting but it wasn't.  There are lots of historic buildings in the high street and an interesting 18th century brick church with a clock commemorating Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee.

26 October, 2013

Ipswich - Urbs veteris

I hope it's not the onset of senility: I said to the custodian in the museum that I'd never been to Felixstowe before. But I had a good day none the less in the oldest town in England (it sez 'ere). The first thing that greets you when you come to Ipswich proper from the station is the Willis Faber Building - a black glass walled building housing a firm of solicitors that like impressive buildings - they are also in the former Port Of London Authority building. The first commission of Norman Foster after establishing Foster Associates it was the youngest building to be given grade 1 listing. This certainly makes a statement in what is a meadieval town but the black glass reflects the older buildings and is a pleasant blend of old and new. The museum is also a blend of old and new too with a proper Victorian natural history display, including a woolly mammoth and these bad boys. The whole museum has some interesting artifacts, including a scolds chair and a gallery devoted to Thomas Clarkson an Ipswich man who campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade. Not all the galleries looked like this. The Co-op department store in Ipswich has alas been closed down. But there is an Age Concern charity shop in there, and I'm glad I went in because they had limited edition prints of the store, done for the 120th anniversary of Ipswich Society in 1988. Five years later the Ipswich Co-operative Society merged with Norwich and twelve years later East Of England Co-op was formed from societies in Essex and East Anglia. Sadly the department store business isn't what it was and these vast co-operative palaces had to close. You can see pictures here. Ipswich is under catered foodwise but has three Wetherspoons! I ended up in the Golden Lion which had nice food. After lunch it was time to call in at the Christchurch mansion and the Wolsley Art Gallery which contained some great art and artefacts displayed to advantage in the historic house. I particularly noted the Great Hall had some half doors which I thought unusual. Ipswich does not neglect its famous sons: Cardinal Wolsley is honoured by a statue in front of his birthplace although the plaque is rather back handed in its compliments. Although not as protestant as Lewes Ipswich is firmly puritan. Aother Ipswicher to be honoured is a rugby playing pilot, Prince Obolenski who has his statue in Cromwell Square. Ipswich worth a return, although might do Lowestoft and Felixstowe...

Coventry historic buildings

A rather late in the day visit to Coventry on the heritage open days. Having been to see the Birmingham back-to-backs in the morning and a rather indulgent lunch in the Loft Lounge it was rather late in the day when Phil and I arrived in Coventry. The Cathedral was closed for Evensong so we couldn't go in but we looked round the ruins of the old. I took the plunge and bought a guide book to a walk around the historic buildings of Coventry. Considering the bombing there are surprisingly many of these buildings left. However the 1950s buildings are now considered historic although not mentioned in the guide.

06 October, 2013

London Open House

I'll say one word - Trains! and everybody in London will know what I mean. Getting around London at weekends is now almost impossible although not necessarily within the control of the companies concerned - Passenger under a train I'm accusing you! First up Taberner House in Croydon. As this is shortly to be demolished (in around two weeks time I understand) I thought this was worth going to. It's story is interesting although the building is not particularly. Built in the white heat of the technological sixties Taberner House represents some sensible forward planning on behalf of the Croydon County Borough as it then was. The London Borough of Croydon was to be created in 1965 which would incorporate Coulsdon and Purley UDC and new space for council officers would be needed - the result was the 20 storey Taberner House named after a long serving Town Clerk. The open house access was to the 18th floor and the viewing galleries above. There were wonderful views of Croydon and Surrey although not so much to the north. Overall a worthwhile experience. After that on to Little Holland House which only opened at 1400 - and I got there at 1250. Oh well just go on another day. Perronet House. After an appalling journey by train and bus I arrived at Perronet House an interesting block of council flats at the Elephant and Castle. Constructed on a scissors structure with all living rooms on the noisy side of the building and all bedrooms on the quiet side of the building it is quite confusing, all bathrooms being under and over corridors, presumably for easy cleaning of drains. But it might be difficult to know where your drains are. You go into a flat on the 10th floor and there is a hall with pram/bicycle space. Down a few steps to floor 9.5 and there is a living room and a kitchen. Down again to floor 9 and there is a bathroom and storage area. Down again to floor 8.5 and there are bedrooms. Down to floor 8 there is a 'back door' leading out onto the 8th floor corridor. There are communal outdoor areas on every floor. Such generous room sizes - we shall not see it's like again.

 Kingsley Hall and the Lesters - Wind of Change. Muriel and Doris Lester wanted to set up a community centre in the East End and did so on a type of university settlement basis, with live in staff leading a communal life together housed in six 'cells' on top of the building for maximum fresh air. I was more interested in R D Laing's philadelphia association but the guide was more interested in dhowing the small party Ghandi's cell used by him when he went to the conference on Indian independence, therefore causing trouble for the organisers and not achieving his objective of staying with working people. The Lesters were solidly middle class. River Police Museum Wapping Interesting display of artefacts relating to the river police. The Red House Bexleyheath. Lots of queues to get into the former home of William Morris designed by Phillip Webb. Morris only lived here for five years but went mad with the interior and exterior decoration. There was even a minstrels gallery for midget minstrels in the first floor room. Loads of stained glass, Morris wallpapers and furnishings and some recently discovered murals ('and painted muriels) from behind a wardrobe. Bricky fireplaces completed the image. A meadieval fantasy for a Victorian industrialist, albeit one who was reviving crafts.

30 August, 2013


Well she tried, I'll give her that! I refer to the lady in the Tourist Information Office in Halifax who gave me some tips as to where to go in Halifax during a short break. However the lady in the hotel was more au fait and directed me to three real ale pubs - and rather good ones at that. Halifax has the head of John the Baptist on its shield and this makes for interesting municipal buildings - bit scary!
Halifax does have a few points of interest though.  One of these is the gold postbox to Hannah Cockroft, the wheelchair athlete who won gold at the London Paralympics.  It stands outside the Town Hall.  As Halifax is a woolen town the Piece Hall is a fine space originally used for selling cloth and now a shopping centre for all kinds of crafts and things, as well as a gathering space for town events.
The Minster in Halifax is a recent creation of an old church by the present Archbishop of York. Many of the windows were installed after the reforms of Thomas Cromwell and are of a unique design. There is a large wooden figure carrying the poor box. The stocks are outside the Minster.
An altogether more grisly artifact is the gibbet which bears a strong resemblance to a guillotine. Thankfully a modern installation.
Halifax was once home to the largest building society in the world. Younger readers will not know what one of those is as there are so few left but they were once members organisations who took deposits from the public and leant them out so that people could buy houses. And that's all they did- isn't that funny! This building was once the Headquarters of the Halifax Building Society and shows something of the might of building societies before they were marginalised.

28 August, 2013


Some schoolboy giggles at the name of this rather small South Yorkshire town. There is not much at Penistone but a cinema I should have taken a picture of (Sorry Brian) a church (locked when I called - as usual) although there were some interesting artworks in the churchyard.
What sets Penistone apart is the new market hall completed in 2011 (and not on google maps yet). This building replaced some uninteresting corrugated iron stalls and has become the largest public oak framed building in the country. I can well believe it. The hall is available for other functions too such as wedding fairs etc. You can read about it here.

Wortley Hall and village

"In Memory of Vincent Albert Williams whose vision it was to transform this stately home from ruins and decay into the splendour of today". Wortley Hall is a co-operatively owned conference centre, holiday home and (it must be said) wedding factory in between Sheffield and Penistone. Once home to the Earls of Wharnecliffethey found it difficult to keep up after nationalisation of the mines upon which they depended for their income. The hall has beautiful gardens and at least one pleasant and up to date room (the one we stayed in) but reviews are mixed. Anyway I have no complaints about the place and good value it was too, although I was disappointed that the suppliers listed on the menu did not include the Co-operative Group or the Sheffield Co-operative Society.
There is an old walled garden near the old stable block that some volunteers are licking into shape with some success although I doubt they'll ever grow peaches there again.
There is also this mysterious door, rather grand but also very much locked. A peep through the keyhole revealed a pile of bricks so perhaps just an entrance to a builders yard, but what a grand one!
Wortley village has a pub, a post office (handy for co-op bnk customers), a tea shop also handy, a church and some houses, perhaps still the property of the Wharncliffs, perhaps the property of the Wortley Hall Co-operative. The church was locked when I called bt had a proper lych gate with a stone platform for a coffin
A very pleasant stay, heartily recommended.

27 August, 2013

The Darlington Train

A visit to have a look at the Brick train in Darlington.

26 August, 2013

Mount Grace Priory and the Lady Chapel

The path up the hill to the Lady Chapel from this Charterhouse of Yorkshire was quite covered by the most adorable tiny frogs, just about the size of a penny. Far too quick for me to photograph, I just hope I didn't tread on any. They were certainly abundant. The Lady chapel had been converted into use as a Roman Catholic church and was a long way above the priory - but I needed the exercise. The priory itself was given to the National Trust to be cared for by the nation by the Pennyman family who also gave their home, Ormesby Hall to the nation to be cared for by the National Trust. This is the right thing to do. The interpretation has improved a lot since I were a lad with the 17th century manor house owned by Sir Lowthian Bell brought into use as a museum of the priory. It shows the rooms decorated in the fashionable William Morris Style that was done when Sir Lowthian bought it.
The carthusian monastery was sold at the dissolution of the monasteries to one of the priory's benefactors whose parents were buried in the church. This is why the church is quite well preserved today as it was not quarried for stone until much later. Sir Lowhian also restorred parts of the priory including one of the monk's cells. Carthusians lived solitary lives in gtoups having their food passed to them through L shaped hatches. Each cell was like a mini monastery with its own garden, cloister, oratory, living room, workroom and bedroom. The monks seemed to have quite a good life in the fairly prosperous middle ages. They went into the church on festival days.
The pictures show the priory ruins and the reconstructed monk's cell.