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!

04 July, 2010

Clacton on Sea- don't bother

A trip to Clacton courtesy of a scheme whereby one can obtain cheap tickets to places. Firstly the train journey was OK although trains are infrequent and the station is not too far from the town, and very near the library which was having a booksale. I went into the Tourist Information office to ask if there was a self guided walk around the town, which there wasn't. The staff were helpful and told me that the gardens were lovely, which they were, but that there were no museums or anything like that. Clacton was founded in 1871 as a resort by somebody called Peter Bruff, so it has no aristocratic pretensions: it's a basic plebian holiday resort.

I had a look at the gardens, especially the 1920s garden

which were particularly nice, although more at their best in bright sunshine.
I also had a walk on the pier, where there were sociable urianls - arranged back to back so you could talk as if over a fence while you micturate... There weren't enough people in there to talk to.
The pier was OK with lots of rides and stuff for kids, as well as a gambling hell.

After walking through the gardens to the Martello Tower

and then walking back again the other way, looking in the charity shops (pretty poor really for a retirement place) I really had had enough of Clacton, even though Joe Longthorne was on at the Town Hall.
Pretty gardens but otherwise no interest.

01 July, 2010

Richmond and Twickenham - Strawberry Hill for ever

A stroll on a summer evening from Richmond to Strawberry Hill, after picking up some bargain antiquarian books that will help this blog when I comment on the history of London Suburbs.

Richmond is leafy and affluent - millionaires live here and they always have - with the Royal Star and Garter Home for Ex servicemen and the newly politicised-poppy factory. The British Legion have asked Nick Griffin not to wear one, so the Legion have politicised the poppy now. I walked from the centre of town along what the council call the Arcadian Thames towards the lovely Marble Hill House but was shocked to find a notice - from English Heritage of all people stating that it was the home of George II's mistress! How lacking in dignity.

There is a grotto and an ice house in the grounds

But the house itseld is the gem, although when the LCC acquired the land in 1902 for a park they did not think so - it was rather an embarrasment and it took the impetus of the second world war to at least begin the thought process that leads to restoration. The money they spent appears to be well used although the opening hours for the house are diabolical now English Heritage have their greedy paws on it.

The south front

the north front.
After Marble Hill I went on through Twickenham - Which I've already blogged about, and I decided to walk to Strawberry Hill, passing a school with this plaque on the wall commemorating the villainous MP Henry LaBouchere.

LaBouchere introduced the crimme of gross indecency - a blackmailers charter and the crime for which Oscar Wilde was prosecuted. That that nobody should be commemorated by a plaque!

I walked on to Strawberry Hill Horace Walpole's Gothick (not Go thick please) mansion. Alas it was surrounded by scaffolding and builders impedimenta.

So no good photograph of the mansion in its glory

just one of the wall.