30 July, 2008

A long walk to church in Reigate

Reigate is a small town in Surrey, which I have visited a few times but been unable to find the church. This time I decided to ask somebody and a very unhelpful woman dierected me first to the methodist church in the High Street. I told her I wanted the Church of England Church and she replied that if I hadn't an address... I would have thought most people would have known where a church was. I eventually found it in Chart Lane, not Church Street, but it was locked up and the church office was closed.

The Priory museum was also closed although the priory park was open. The old Market House is now a cafe nero.

All in all Reigate was a poor mans Godalming

28 July, 2008

East Tilbury: Bataville

East tilbury is a tiny village on the thames Marshes. In the 1930s Bata Shoes built a factory and some dwellings for the workforce there in the modernist style. However, one of the ideals of modernism is supposed to be for form to follow function and for any buildings built in that style that isn't a style to be a model of efficiency for the tenants. Now, according to a planning application in the street of houses, there was a desire to move the bathroom to the bedroom floor, it previously being next to the kitchen. This is not a model of eficiency. The houses look great though.

There is also a statue of Thomas Bata and a Thomas Bata memorial park.

26 July, 2008


Whitstable oyster festival was in full swing as I went there but I don't really like slippery things going down my throat live so I didn't participate in the oyster eating competition. Whitstable has an old fashioned look for the discerning visitor, although they'd have to be to tune out the industrial plants round the harbour, used for the processing of oysters. The Church of St Alphege was running a tea shop when we called and a very good tea it was for under a fiver. The weather was perfect and the stalls enjoyable.
The castle at Whitstable was inaccessible due to a private function but the grounds were pleasant. Tankerton lawns gave a fine view out to the Thames estuary where the windmills were turning to generate miniscule amounts of power. Actually they were not turning at all in the stillness of the day. Picture not too clear though.

25 July, 2008

Godalming - gardens and rabbits

Godalming is a pleasant little market town on the way to Portsmouth just outside Guildford. It is full of buildings from the 17th century when it made its fortune from wool and later from knitting stockings. I didn't feel it was very welcoming to visitors. When I said I'd never been there before most people looked with incredulity, although I have to admit that the staff in the museum were pretty good.

Godalming has had several famous residents: one of the first was a Mary Toft, a servant girl looking for the sort of notoriety that the present day version of serving girls seek on Big Brother. She did her own version of the trick where somebody pulls a rabbit out of a hat although she pulled them out of her... well lets say she gave birth to 16 rabbits. Maybe she had lots of eminent doctors fooled - maybe they were just there for the sight of something so freakish - just like big brother really. Anyway before too long she was exposed as a fraud: a porter had been smuggling rabbits into her room.

Other famous people were Jack Phillips, the radio operator on the Titanic and Gertrude Jekyll, the famous garden designer. She also lived in the town and designed the memorial to Jack Phillips. It is a pleasant cloister with lilly pond, but the planting scheme is rather the worse for wear at present.

Another place in the town is the Royal Court, a modern building built from the materials of old cottages previously on the site. I must say it did have me fooled.

The place is attractive and prosperous and must be a fine place to live.

I took part in the walks around the town, seeing the fine church and old stocking knitters houses etc.
The pictures show a former coaching inn, the Jack Phillips Memorial and Royal Court.

Guildford - mostly the cathedral

Guildford is not the county town of Surrey, that honour falls to Kingston, but it ought to be. There is a fine guildhall, and the impressive church of Holy Trinity built of red brick in the 18th century inspires awe in those who see it for the first time. The church has a light and airy feel with a painted apse that is in contrast to the rest of the building. It must have been refurnished in the 1980s and the woodden chairs do not dominate like bench pews must have, and even those would be an improvement on the 18th century box pews in this space, although not in every space. This church was the pro-cathedral.

Guildford cathedral dominates the town from the nearby stag hill. It's worse getting to than Linoln, and that's saying something. Building began in the 1930s using the clay from Stag Hill for making bricks, the cathedral literally has grown from the ground it stands on, but was not consecrated until 1961. It was in use by the University of Roehampton which states it is in London, so why they use a Surrey cathedral for graduations I do not know. I couldn't get in to the cathedral until later but the place was very impressive inside, pale stone with marble floors in direct contrast to the brick outside. Nice modern glass. The golden angel on top shows the wind direction.

16 July, 2008

Epping to Ongar - and Berners Hall Farm Berners Roding.

Setting out from Epping station to walk to Berners Hall farm seemed like a good idea at the time. I had plenty of time to do it and the weather was perfect for a fairly long distance walk. I would take in a couple of old (one extremely old) churches and be at the farm by the appointed time of 1500. However the walk was slightly longer than I had anticipated and I had to get a taxi for part of the way.

The Essex Way runs from Epping to Harwich and goes for 81 miles through some of the Essex countyrside. The first part crosses a railway bridge and soon enters open fields. The natives were friendly with several calling cheery hellos. Coopersale Street had some attractive houses and I later found out it is a conservation area. Essex fields are very enclosed, where there is livestock with electric fences creating hazards. The worst of this was in Toot Hill Village where an electric fence had been placed across the path, so that travellers had to duck it. I had a shandygaff in the Green man at Toot Hill (more a restaurant than a pub though) before walking quickly on. The countryside was quite ordinary, but on the route was Greensted Church, a saxon church built of wood, that had survived from those days, although much altered. It must be marvellous for the congregation at their Sunday worship to know they are sitting in a building used by saxons. The wooden walls were preserved from decay in Victorian times by having a brick wall placed underneath them - similar to a footing. They also added three dormer windows. The nave roof was tiled in Tudor times which was when the chancel was built in brick. The Tudors also installed three dormer windows. The church is a remarkable survival, and to touch the timber is to touch history.

Eventually it was time to move on past the invisible Greensted Hall (I could only see its garden complete with lake) and walk across the fields to Chipping Ongar, which was known to passengers on the Central Line of the London Underground as Ongar. London Underground seem to have an aversion to the word 'chipping' as the station at High Barnet really serves Chipping Barnet.

Chipping Ongar was where David Livingstone lived for a while, but I missed the United Reformed Church where he preached. I did see the old church of St Martin of Tours. This church had an anchorite's cell next to the altar and remains of ancient work including roman bricks. The 15th century font was dug up in a garden in the town, and restored to the church in 1963.

By the time I had finished in the church it was time to go to Berners Roding, a tiny hamlet and location of the Coöperative Farm.
The Farm Manager spoke about the history and current production of the farm and showed fields of wheat and peas as well as a shiny, new combine harvester. People of my generation and older will now be thinking of The Wurzels!

We were also shown the former church of Berners Roding, completely empty except for two memorials, a prayer desk, stool and pulpit. The church was clearly old (although hard to date) and clearly in a state of decay with the floorboards lifting and cracks in the walls.

12 July, 2008

Hoddesdon to Cheshunt on the Lee Navigation Towpath

A visit to Hoddesdon and Cheshunt in the lovely Lee valley. Getting off the train at Broxbourne, which I passed through on the New River path I went North to Hoddesdon, to find the high street turned into a vintage car rally. There were some interesting cars there including the only half timbered car ever made – the Morris Minor traveller. After a good look at the cars and the elderly band playing popular music of the 50s and 60s it was time to look at the shops and the rather uninteresting 19th century church. Hoddesdon had been divided between two parishes until the 19th century when it became a parish in its own right. Hence the red brick church that I couldn’t bring myself to photograph.

Rawdon House was built in 1622 but was surrounded by trees and hard to photograph. Classic Jacobean house with dutch gables and the coat of arms of Marmaduke Rawdon over the front door. Marmaduke Rawdon was an investor in the New River Company and had a fountain in his garden fed from a conduit, as did several other Hoddesdon houses. Most of these seem to have been removed. There is a sundial on the wall of Rawdon House.

Having escaped the cars and the rain I headed down to the station again to walk by the Lee Navigation.

Having escaped the cars and the rain I headed down to the station again to walk by the Lee Navigation. My intention was to have a 2 ¾ mile stroll to Cheshunt, although Cheshunt as it turned out is a long way from the Lee and its railway station.

Walking by the lee is pleasant and less boring than the New River as there are boats going up and down. There are locks, including a lock on an aqueduct which was interesting.

When I got to Cheshunt the station is located a long way from the main shopping area. The shopping area was dominated by a fountain which was in full play. There was a pleasant court of almshouses on Turners Hill and a typically Festival of Britain block of flats on the High Street

But despite walking up Church Lane I couldn’t find Cheshunt Church, which was a bit of a disappointment. All in all a good day out.

11 July, 2008

Regent Street Polytechnic

Founded by Quintin Hogg to give a muscular christian education to the working classes, where physical and mental development had equal priority, it is now just a university. The pictures show the old cinema and St George and the dragon in mosaic.
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