26 November, 2010

Gosport and HM Submarine museum

My best mate used to work building submarines and I'm pretty curious about these ultimate stealth weapons. So a visit to HM Submarine Museum at Gosport was called for during a recent visit to Hampshire. Gosport is a bit chavvy being just across Portsmouth Harbour from Portsmouth but has an art nouveau/arts and crafts former grammar school and a reasonable bus service to Southampton.
However the submarine museum took up most of my day there so only got a glimpse of the discovery centre (which I think was really the town library) and the tiny art gallery. The high point of the submarine museum was HMS Alliance, which had been built for the war in the pacific and is the only submarine from that era still existing.

The guide was an ex submariner who had worked loading torpedos and knew his stuff.
The cramped quarters were something to behold but there were thankfully, four 'heads'.
The museum also had the first ever navy submarine - the Holland 1. This had been dredged up from the bottom of the sea off Devon and was displayed in its existing condition. Much smaller than the ALliance it was kept in a special atmosphere controlled environment, although as it survived at the bottom of the sea for eighty years one might assume it can survive in a shed for quite a long time. All in all not bad for a tenner.

05 November, 2010

Woodcote - homes for heroes?

A suburb of Purley hides some very exclusive developement- the Webb Estate. Said to be a garden village before the time of the Garden cities it hardly carries the radical message of the real garden cities and suburbs - Freedom and Co-operation are not represented here. It is an exclusive development for city men and the unfriendly notices forbidding all kinds of activity including driving tuition and frequent gates deter all those who might even walk here. I am undeterred by such notices and claim the right to walk. I came here to see the Promenade de Verdun, a memorial To the French soldiers who died in glory during the Great War. The road is planted with poplars and they are planted in soil from the battlefield of Armentieres.

This soil (ten tons of it) had to be sifted in order to remove bullets and shrapnel to prevent damage to the trees by souvenir hunters. The sifters found 2 sacks full.

The memorial is a simple granite obelisk from Cornwall with lettering in French.

A short walk brings one to the heart of the Estate, the Village Green complete with stocks (installed in 1937 presumably). I shouldn't think they've seen any prisoners.

It's unlikely anyone would be in the stocks after an evening at the Lord Roberts Temperance Inn either.

I wonder what Bobs would have made of that?
The village green was intended to be inhabited by the men working on the estate but they proved too expensive for the working men.

All in all the Webb Estate did what it set out to do - an exclusive home for city men, and now no doubt houses similar people, TV and film stars and perhaps government ministers all in leafy exclusivity.

26 September, 2010

The Camber Well

Strange things lurk behind suburban houses, and the lady who lives in this house has a historic monument in her back garden.

A rare opportunity arose to see this today, so I set off in the gloom of an autumnal day to see the Camber Well. After a trek round the whole of Grove Park off Camberwell Grove I managed to find the right house with a small printed notice on the gate. I joined a small group and Noreen introduced the well and John, who has been digging it out. All they have recovered so far is Victorian back fill when the well was filled in got building land. The great slab of York Stone you can see in the picture is an attempt by a Victorian builder at a cap. You can also see the round brick work of what must have been a substantial well at least four feet in diameter.

John, who is digging it out supported by donations from coffee supplied to visitors, I had a cup as it was rather too cold for a beer or a wine, thought that the well might be pre Roman although all he has found so far is Victorian backfill. The well has been there for a very long time and is marked on some old maps. Other speculation is that "Camberwell Grove" might be something from prehistoric religion 'druid', or of course it might be eighteenth century romanticism. Never the less the dig is of great interest for the insight into the lives of the early inhabitants of London. John's website is here and you can read more about the well there, as well as some other aspects of London'd history.

25 September, 2010

Cheam, Dorking and Leatherhead

A visit to Cheam as a convenient stopping off point to buy a fare to Dorking led to an interesting hour or two in the Sutton Museum and the Lumley Chapel. There are a few interesting old weatherboarded buildings in Cheam and one of these is called 'White Hall' and was home to one family from the 17th Century until the 1950s.
The display there was quite interesting and encompassed the history of the house and Cheam in general.

After Cheam it was time to take the train to Dorking and Leatherhead. Leatherhead did not have much of interest about it but Dorking had a massive cock.

22 September, 2010

Barrow in Furness and the Lakes - Semper Sursum

Barrow is an industrial town with some reasonably good bus services into the Lake District. I went there for my holidays this year, which was quite fun in spite of the diurnal rain. The main photographic highlight was a tour of the Barrow Town Hall with its ballroom, council chamber, retiring room and Mayors Parlour. There were lots of things with Bees and arrows on them (B-arrow) and some furniture which had come from Mr Ramsden's house, the first mayor, which had R on them. The first mayor was the promoter of the Furness Railway and he and other industrialists, including the Duke of Devonshire, got together to promote the first town council. The history of the town is writ large in the town hall in stained glass and oil paintings.

A day in Kendal was wet so no pictures there alas. We did not stay for the torchlight carnival as that would have meant taking a bus back at eleven at night. Some fine cafes in Kendal though, and a very fine Quaker tapestry exhibition. This showed aspects of the Friends history and works, and I was impressed to see a panel depicting the Scott-Bader Commonwealth. This was a fine insight into the beliefs and practices of the Friends. You can read about, and see it here.

A day at Ambleside and Windermere was fun with a cruise on the lake. Ambleside has the quaint bridge house and also the Armitt Library and Museum where we hid during the downpour and looked at Beatrix Potter's paintings of fungi.

Another day saw us go into Ulverston and look from afar at the Sir John Barrow monument.

I also saw Swarthmoor Hall which I had met at the Quaker Tapestry exhibition.

All in all a good holiday even if the weather was unkind.

21 September, 2010


I've blogged about East Tilbury before, but this time I found the library with its Bata Museum. This was very interesting. The factory stands all alone in its bleakness.

The main reason for going was to see Tilbury Fort, a fort built by Henry VIII originally but altered during Charles II day. Visitors enter by the watergate, an impressive gate to show the might and majesty of the Kingdom to visitors.

The underground passages were closed due to a power failure (so they said) but the rest of the fort including the powder magazine complete with replica barrels was open.
The Officers quarters had some curious chimneys.

It's interesting to see these places...

02 August, 2010

Hustler 2

An account of the voyage of the HUSTLER TWO, which set sail with a skipper and crew of one, from LUDHAM, in the County of NORFOLK on the SECOND day of AUGUST of this year of grace two thousand and TEN during which we were BECALMED, attacked by PYRATES, suffered a mop OVERBOARD, experienced TERROR and CONTENTMENT and returned to LUDHAM in the space of FIVE days.

Arriving at Ludhaam where we were to pick up our craft, Skip and I were helped by a kind gentleman who gave us a lift to the boatyard and saved our weary legs. We had slept in beds for the final time the night before. We looked around the boatyard and only the Hustler 2 was in. Unpacking our thihgs for the voyage was but the work of a moment then it was time to be taken to Womack water to raise sails. We had an uneventful and steady voyage down to Acle where we were due to take on board provisions. Duly stocking up at East of England Co-operative Society we then sought out the church. Acle church had an exhibition about church weddings and provided lunches, of which we ate heartily.
After returning to our vessel, skip and I tacked up the river to Thurne Mouth where we moored for the night. Our first night inside the mahogany and oak vessel which reminded me of being inside my wardrobe.

A night under a bit of canvas involved a good sleep in preparation for the following day...

25 July, 2010

Bognor Regis, Arundel and Amberley

Bognor isn't that nice, but I didn't stay there for very long. Bognor and Littlehampton (another dreary place) do have an art trail though. I upped sticks and went to Arundel, home of the recusant Duke of Norfolk (in West Sussex?) with their fairy tale castle. The Duke of Norfolk is the hereditary Earl Marshal responsible for the ceremonial relating to the Crown. If you're organising a coronation he's your man!
I went into the church to have a look around. The church is separated from the castle chapel by a wrought iron gate with a perspex screen, this is because the castle chapel is RC whereas the church is protestant. The attendant stared at me for having the affrontery to look into the castle chapel without paying for it. I simply stared back and lingered a bit longer than I would have! Pshaw - what a cheek. The protestant part of the church was a bit ordinary though, the chapel a bit more well appointed as befits some of the wealthiest nobs.
The tiny container vn museum in Arundel took me about 5 minutes to get around, including a pleasant conversation with the Lady in charge. Some of the Tower Hamlets Libraries are called IdeaStores so I wonder where they got the idea for the name from?

Just up the road from Arundel is Amberley Industrial Museum, mainly a road transport collection of Southdown busses with some craftworkers and an Electricity and a telecoms hall. Jam packed full of stuff it took me slightly more than the half day recommended, although I would advise going on a weekday in term time for maximum freedom from screaming kids.

THese pictures give a good impression of what's there that isn't (Tillings) Southdown.

The village of Amberley has its old castle (well really a fortified manor house although I'm not sure what the distinction is - Arundel is a castle but that's also a fortified manor house too. Amberley castle was first built by the Bishop of Chichester and, as is fitting, the castle abuts the church. The castle is as jealously guarded as ever with unfriendly notices saying 'inspection by appointment only' and prohibiting access to the lane where it stands. It was late so I did not trespass as I would have done had it been earlier.

The village has some lovely thatched cottages but is about a mile from the station for the morning commute.

The church has a romanesque chancel arch and some meadieval wall paintings. It is an impressive structure with long low sloping roofs.

I had a great day out in glorious weather!

Aylesbury and Wendover

I've blogged about Aylesbury before but even in the short time since then the restaurant I enjoyed has changed hands. I think the proprietor was quite old then so he may have retired. I was able this time to visit the County Museum, converted from the old grammar school and what looked like an 18th century house, but the house was really Tudor with a facing of brick. A gallery in the museum showed the old structure and how it had once been painted.
Another old building, is the Kings Head inn, mentioned by Arthur mee, it is one of the few ties he mentions an inn, coming as he did from a temperance background. Most of the inn was closed when I called, although the Tourist Information Centre and the courtyard were open. I went into the farmers bar to see what was on the menu but there was nothing I fancied. By this time I'd had enough of Aylesbury so decided to move on to Wendover.

Wendover Tourist Information Centre is housed in this curious clock tower, and the custodian was helpful. I don't know why the clocktower was built but built it was.

The land hereabouts belonged to John Hampden, Cromwell's cousin, who, by refusing to pay ship money can be regarded as the father of the English civil war, and thus the Commonwealth of England. Hampden is commemorated on the wall of the library.

John Hampden's descendent gave some thatched cottages in the high street to the Wendover Society for preservation.

When I called the church was undergoing restoration so was really a building site. No access and covered in scaffolding. I suppose that's a good reason to make a return visit...

Marlow, Maidenhead and Slough

Marlow features in Three Men in a Boat with it's bridge. Unfortunately the bridge is not too accessible for photography so I can only note that the chained swan of Buckinghamshire appears on the medalions underneath. Built by the man who linked Pest and Buda in Hungary, it is a beautiful suspension bridge.
The church by the bridge is a 19th century replacement, and was covered in scaffolding so again no possibility of a photograph. However it is quite pleasant inside, very light, and with a portrait of a child with piebaldism, who was buried in the churchyard. The Town Hall has been converted to a kitchenware shop but was previously a pub.

Shelley once taught at the grammar school here, that still exists in its original building and a stone plaque was placed on his house. Mary also lived there and wrote Frankenstein.

A house called 'Remnantz' (funny spelling is not a 20th century trait) was originally part of the Royal Military Academy, before this moved to Sandhurst. Almost all the houses in Marlow, including Remnants and the Old Parsonage with its meadieval window are surrounded by high walls and impenetrable hedges that make photography difficult. The station is rather bleak with its single track line that runs to Maidenhead.
Maidenhead is rather chavvy with very little beauty to the casual observer. The church of St Mary is a civic church, and a lady kindly allowed me to look around even though she was rushing off. Built in the 1960s I would guess there is some fine modern stained glass, and the whole thing was very well done.

Slough has even less going for it than Maidenhead. Betjeman was right. This stuffed dog is on the station as a revard for his services collecting for Raailway orphans and widows.

18 July, 2010

Havant and Emsworth in Hampshire.

I thought I might make it into Sussex this time but I stayed within the bounds of Hampshire. Havant is another town on a crossroads like Chichester it has North, South, East and West Streets. It even has a pallant, although there is only one here and it's called THE Pallant!
The origin of Havant is in a spring that runs south west of the churchyard, where two ancient roads crossed. In the middle ages Havant became known as a parchment producer, assisted by this and other fresh water springs, and this trade lasted until the 1930s. The treaty of Versailles was written on Havant Parchment. There is a sculpture representing leaves of parchment by this well, although I hope nobody mistakes it for a urinal.

The church contains some of the oldest things in Havant, because it has Roman bricks in the wall. Open when I called with some cheery parishioners there are lots of cobwebs adorning the upper windows, but the lower windows have some modern glass. I particularly noticed a memorial window to the sailors of HMS Havant with a battleship on it. The Church is dedicated to St Faith and is pleasing inside and out. The Chancel has some beautiful vaulting of the 13th century although the nave was renewed in the 19th century.

One of the gardens, locked when I called, contains this pretty gazebo or 'gazing place'. A great pity it was locked.

The Post Office in the town is one of the few buildings to bear the monogram of Edward VIII. The Telephone exchange at Reigate also bears his monogram. It is a reminder that all communication used to be guaranteed by the crown, and that telephones used to be under the Post Office.

Emsworth is a pretty little yachting town at the top of the Hampshire side of Chichester Harbour. The museum contained a tribute to Emsworth's most famous resident P. G. Wodehouse, the author who broadcast for the Nazis during the Second World War. I enjoyed his books when I was about twelve but the world of pig breeding aristocrats soon pales into insignificance as one grows up. People do take Wodehouse seriously though. I once read an article that analysed train times to try to find out where Blandings castle was! I always thought the thing about fiction was that you made it up. Wodehouse escaped the fate of William Joyce, even though Wodehouse actually was under allegiance to the Crown, and Joyce wasn't, but Wodehouse went to America and stayed there.

The self guided tour takes one round the town, although there is nothing of more than local importance. However the boatyard and fishermans cottages are attractive.

10 July, 2010


Horsham is famous for Christ's Hospital but that has its own station. I called there in the afternoon and stayed until evening. Horsham hides well and the signs to direct one to the town centre via park are not always accurate. But the town is old and has some interesting artworks around.
The Registry office in the park has a sundial in fromt of it in a rather nice garden

There is also a swimming pool and gymnastic centre in the park and kinetic sculpture around the town. THis ball gradually fills up with water on the way down, releases it and begins to rise again. To the delight of kids of course!

The museum is extensive with a lot of collections with real old stuff! It's rather typically a small town museum that does not say a lot about the town's uniqueness - perhaps Horsham isn't that unique. They had also run out of self guided walk/town trail leaflets when I called.
The church was locked when I called but apparently is good inside, and genuinely old. Made from ironstone and roofed with horsham stones it looked good from the outside, alas unphotographable.
Thr road to the church was lined with old worlde cottages such as these .

Chichester - What a nice pot of tea!

Chichester is a town on the Roman pattern with streets running to all the points of the compass from a central market cross: there are North, South East and West Streets. There is also a town within a town in the Pallants, which in the south eastern quarter. These streets monitor their big brother with North South East and West Pallants. When I called the Chichester Festivities were in full swing so it was difficult to see interiors of buildings but externally some are splendid.

King Charles Stuart gazes down from the 16th Century market cross in the town.

The market has moved to a car park near the station but the cross is rich with carvings although the statue niches are empty today.

Chichester's glory is the Cathedral with its tall spire visible from the sea.

Unfortunately when I first went there was a prizegiving for the local prebendery school so I couldn't really go in, and later there was a concert in the cathedral so I saw very little of the nave and transepts, although there was a large painting of the bishops of Chichester. The treasury was open and I had a look in there at the various parish treasures including chalices and bread plates. There were many communion cups from 1568 which was the year that Chichester Diocese began the innovative practice off giving the wine to the people, previously it was reserved for the clergy alone. I reflected wryly that this should be the practice today - Perhaps that's the way round women bishops - From 2010 x diocese will be able to appoint a woman bishop - from 2011 y diocese and so on... Perhaps even one day we will have gay bishops who do not conceal it. Maybe that's a step too far (sigh). The Cathedral was filled with modern art, much of it collected by the previous bishop and included a sculpture garden, including this one - Place for a boy!
. In fact the city does well for modern Art, the Pallant House gallery, recently extended with the addition of a restaurant is a major modern art gallery in the South. Can't remember the admission charge being as steep as £8.25 last time I visited though...

There was once a priory in the town and the remains, formerly used as a guildhall are now in Priory park. Surronded by the Chichester Festivities no picture was possible. It is an accompaniment to the Chichester Museum and contains some Roman stoneware. The real guildhall is in North Street.
The museum was pleasant enough but being wound down for its closure and removal to a site opposite the library, where a Roman Baths had been found. I will look forward to this. The Library was opened by Prof. Asa Briggs while he was chancellor of Sussex University.

You may be thinking that Chichester is all art and culture, but you'd be wrong. When I last visited regularly there was an industrial meat processing plant in the middle of the Town Centre. Shippams meat paste was produced in a factory there, and stank out that part of town. When I was a child upermarkets carried shelves of this nasty teatime staple, but thankfully the market has declined since then. This may possibly be due to some extremely off the wall advertising by Messers Shippams, which did not bring the product to the minds of people but seemed to positively discourage them from buying it.

And in case you don't know what I mean, here's a link, which also explains the title of this post!