30 July, 2007

Brighton (and 'busses)

A visit to Brighton to see M & T and do a store visit. You'll have to look at the other blog for the info on that but on Sunday we went to Worthing for a 'bus rally. The first picture shows a Brighton Corporation 'bus in a fairly old livery, I remember the blue 'busses just before privatisation rather than blue and white.

The picture of the green van was formerly a coöperative mobile shop. After a brief look at the preserved 'busses it was time to get on board the special open top 'bus route which led out to the villages near worthing, our aim was to get to Findon. But about two miles short of Findon the 'bus engine conked out and smoke started rising from the engine compartment. Oh dear. The driver poured water in (which someone from Loughton advised me might crack the cylinder head and cause more trouble), and we were waiting at the side of a busy and narrow road for half an hour before our relief bus arrived. (see illustration).
After arriving in Findon we went for a sherbert in the Black Horse Inn with a mountain on its pub sign (why?). After this we walked into the village to partake of a sherbert in the extremely expensive pub called The Gun, and then into the helpful pub called the Village House. By this time my money had run out and the preserved bus to Worthing was due, so we waited for it, and waited and finally decided it wouldn't turn up. So we went back into the Village House where other refugees from the bus show had gathered, including the people from Loughton, who appeared to be a family with mother, father and son. Eventually we took the service bus (lucky on a Sunday there was a service bus) being the only people on it and returned to Worthing and thence to Brighton. I will draw a veil over the rotten journey home.

The other picture shows an unusual view of St Bartholemews Church.

16 July, 2007

Braintree, Temple Cressing and unwelcoming Witham

Braintree was home to the Courtaulds and the Crittalls, two well respected firms. I took the town trail from the Town Hall, paid for by the Courtaulds, round by the Courtaulds silk mill and up to the hostel and fountain provided by the Courtaulds as a memorial to King George V. The walk then led me through the modern shopping centre and past the original workshops where Crittall windows were made. Crittall's mother injured herself on a wooden window and he went to work on a lightweight metal frame with great success. He found a market in India and other places during the days of Empire, as the steel windows were light weight and not subject to destruction by insects or warping with heat. Even today Crittall Windows are produced in their original styles but with modern innovations such as double glazing for those who want to replace their windows. There was a good coöp department store in the town.

The town museum in Braintree is double price if you're not local, it's obviously a local museum for local people - nothing for me there!

After Braintree I went to Temple Cressing, a former Knights Templar monastic foundation dating from the 12th Century. However the monastic buildings are gone, except for the meadieval barns, the large barn for wheat and the smaller barn for barley. Intensive agricultural production is nothing new as these barns were enormous the barley barn being 36m long and the wheat barn constructed 50 years later being 40m long. Truly awesome inside and marvelous examples of oak construction. There is also a farmhouse (not open to the public) and a tudor walled garden. it's a pity the weather wasn't kinder but the barns could beat the weather any day.

I did not realise that Temple Cressing and Silver End, the village built for the employees of Crittall Windows were within a mile of each other, otherwise I would have visited it. Perhaps another day.

Unwelcoming Witham

Witham town was a long way from the station and I arrived there after 4. The first thing I noticed was the Labour Hall and the Conservative Party HQ glowering at each other across the road. The labour hall looked better being more up to date and modern. The town hall contained a museum about the town but I got the impression that they were about to close and my prescence was not desired. There were a few coöperative artefacts there. The town was bricky and 18th Century, and it seems that its claim to fame was that Dorothy L Sayers lived there. There is a Dorothy L Sayers centre in the public library. I went in to the typical 1960s coöp department store, an interesting look at coöp history.
Then it was time to go home.

13 July, 2007

Thaxted and Saffron Walden

Then raise the scarlet standard high
Within its shade we'll live and die
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
We'll keep the red flag flying here.

A day out to Thaxted and Saffron Walden.


Thaxted had its market day today, but instead of the bustling 14th and 15th century market there were about five stalls that sold food and one that sold carpet. It did not seem to be a thriving market to me. The Post Office stores sold a lot of toys etc giving a real 1930s feel.

The guildhall or moothall of circa 1390 incorporates a lock up (for villains not a toilet see picture) and also has a museum closed Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays). The real glory of Thaxted is its Church, remarkably free of memorials and very empty with tractarian chairs although laid out for a concert when I called. A sleepy village like this would be calming and extremely sleepy in the 1930s but Thaxted attracted its fair share of controversy. Rev'd Conrad Noel, who loved justice and hated oppression was vicar here from 1910 until he died in 1942. Prominent in the Christian Socialist Movement he was given an Irish tricoleur in the church to hang in the church alongside the flag of St George, and, as these represented nationhood he decided to raise the red flag to represent the one in many and the many in one with the inscription 'He hath made of one blood all nations'. This was not pleasing to cambridge students who came down to Thaxted to dstart a riot. Eventually an ecclesiastical court decided that Noel could stay as vicar but the flags should be removed and they have been.

The church also has a wooden font cover that envelopes the font and is most unusual. In the churchyard is an old chantry that Conrad Noel converted into a single dwelling in 1933 and a row of three extremly pretty almshouse cottages converted in 1975.

The town trail leads to John Webb's windmill, closed Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays), and from this there were some good views.

The town trail leads back to the village and past a house where Morris Dancing has its origins from 1911, encouraged by Mrs Noel.

There was a shelter that had been presented to commemorate the coronation of 1953, but this was not at the bus stop. There wasn't even a seat.

Saffron Walden

The town shield bears tulips within a wall - saffron walled in - and saffron is the foundation of the town's prosperity. Our most complete medieval town it did not get the refurbishment that York got in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

I followed the town trail here from the Town hall of 1792 with victorian gable via the corn exchange, covered in scaffolfding. The former Sun Inn with marvelous pargetting (see illustration) contained an antique shop and second hand bookshop with very expensive books (what I usually buy for £3.99 were on sale for £12.50 - the proprietor must love his stock).

The Church is large and peaceful, the benches dwarfed by the soaring height of the nave, aisles and chancel.

There is a beautiful garden, the former retreat of a quaker family with connections to the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry was extremely relaxing and enjoyable.

The finest building of the meadieval period was the youth hostel. An essay in English vernacular architecture of the period.

07 July, 2007

Bishop's Stortford home of the Empire Builder.

A brief visit to Bishop's Stortford, where Cecil Rhodes was born, although I saw nothing of his birthplace. There is a pleasant high street with some old houses converted into shops and what was the Wimpy Bar has been converted into a Zizzi. There is a six hundred year old church with a norman font and it was open strangely enough. The tower had been restorred in the 1990s. It was at this church that Cecil Rhodes's father preached.

I once came upon the phrase "There is no evidence that [Rhodes] was homosexual". Dose this mean that there was a lot of rumour and conjecture?

I also saw a little row of single storey cottages, the King's Trust Cottages. They had a medallion of Edward VII (perhaps) on each one.

A short period spent there but happy.

05 July, 2007

The New River path completed.

Call me no more O gentle stream
To wander through thy sunny dream
No more to roam at twilight cool
Above thy wier and glimmering pool.

It is with a sense of relief that I have completed this walk, which was mixed to say the least. The trip to the starting point for tonights walk was dreadful with a bus accident on the way that held me up for half an hour, and the rains came down with a vengance. But if I had waited for the fine weather I think I would have waited for a long time.
A lot of the sections on the banks of New River had not been made into footpaths so there were many houses in the 'by-pass variegated' style en route, and these had the usual quotient of skips and building work being done. I saw some perfectly good WC pans in these and just wonder why people put up with living on a building site as the home improvement squanderbug takes hold. When I got to the New River it was quite pleasant as it was fairly green. Via Enfield the River has been made into a water feature through the parks. This section is very picturesque with old houses on the other side of the river crossed by private bridges. I got lost through Enfield as the path was not well marked, but ended up seeing some curious residential streets, including flat roofed houses and green tiled Beverly Hills in Britain places. One point of interest was the clarendon arch which was built in the 17th century to take the Pymm's Brook, which we met on the loop, under the river. There are commemorative stones to say the Earl of Clarendon built the arch when governor of the New River Co and a commemorative stone for the building of the clay embankment and removal of the wooden trough that had carried the river for 173 years.

After Winchmore hill with its cricket club the river disappeared into a tunnel fairly quickly and I had to walk through streets. On one street a person asked me (in a xxx moment) who earned most money, footballers or golfers. I wasn't sure what would happen if I answered incorrectly, perhaps I would not be allowed to pass, so I hazarded that footballers earned most. I got the answer wrong, but was allowed to continue unmolested on my way.

The tunnel was marked above ground by NRC posts (New River Company). New river Company shares were sold for pence at the begining of the company but when the water was municipalised in the early twentieth century were worth six figures. It just goes to show if you hang around for 300 years you'll make money from shares.
Passing by the Alexandra palace I entered an unappealing area of bread and other factories but I knew the end was in sight Cutting through a curious sloping tunnel under the East Coast Main Line I went through a luxury estate built on a reservoir (no wonder London is now short of water) and saw the welcome sight of the pumping station now turned into a restaurant. It was supposed to be an art gallery but it looks more like a restaurant with pictures on the wall than aa gallery with a refreshment room. (see picture)

04 July, 2007

A visit to the O2

A visit to the O2 which was formerly known as the Millennium Dome.
I haven’t been in there for just over seven years so it was a bit strange going back. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. The main point of the O2 is to have a concert venue that with suitable commercial hyperbole is the biggest in Europe, although there is also a smaller arena which presumably is not. As always I am suspicious of superlatives, there being at least three smallest counties in England There has certainly been a lot of money spent on it with a large number of chain bars and restaurants, which I suppose are reliable. Chains predominate here, however there was a café called S & M although this was closed when I called. I dread to think what happens in there.

Even the bizarre range of sponsors are all international firms or linked to them. Why BMW, Nestle, and Vivitar are sponsors seems extremely bizarre. InBev and Pepsi Max are no doubt selling drinks and Credit Suisse is probably using up some numbered account that was last accessed 40 years ago and under Swiss banking law becomes the property of the bank.

I was quite impressed by the O2 in spite of myself, although the (chain) sushi bar had a very dirty floor. Clearly a lot of money has been spent here and it is arguably better than the Millennium Dome, which was glitzy where it should have been serious and serious where it should have been glitzy. The catering facilities are still as expensive as they always were but the hand driers in the lavatories were very effective: they almost blew your hands away.

There is a concession in this temple of Mammon to religion as there is a prayer room. I don’t know whether this has Christian facilities as I couldn’t find it. There were also facilities to make your own pop video.

So will it catch on – probably. London is under concert halled and new ones can only be better for everyone. But I wouldn’t want to live near it.