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.

24 August, 2013


Redcar is a fading seaside town with the major hotel (the Coatham) transformed into flats. Never built for high-class visitors it was the resort for the steel workers and miners of Middlesbrough and Northern North Yorkshire. The resort may well have had a steady and slow death had the council not thought to actually spend some money on it. The day I visited was foggy and damp but there were some new things going for the town. The lovely sandy beaches are not really enough for today's tourist: there must be something else. And here we have it: the Redcar Vertical Pier.  This is really a 25m observation platform.
I couldn't see much from it the day I called but on a clear day it must be an impressive view. The colours are bold using purples and yellows (ticks all the boxes in my view) and has space for micro businesses in the craft industry. There is a stained glass workshop in one of the rooms. This observation platform is complemented by...
The Hub which is a place for creative and digital industry replacing a disused cinema. All that was in there when I called was an art gallery, and although there were some interesting pieces there was nothing to induce me to buy. Backing up this stuff is also Tuned in! Redcar's centre for young people which has facilities to develop their musical and dramatic talents.
Alas the vertical pier has generated controversy and has even been put up for a carbuncle award. I think they should ignore the knockers and give themselves a pat on the back for embracing the future and actually spending some money on a very run down and tatty resort. Redcar also has it's history. The world's oldest lifeboat is in the town. The Zetland lifeboat saved lives at sea and is preserved in the old lifeboat station. There is also an exhibition about lifeboats and the sea generally with some goss ware with the Redcar arms collected by a lady.

04 August, 2013

Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation

Donald and the Duchess, the Compton theatre organ at the Odeon Leicester Square, entertained a large crowd, mostly male, in fact amongst the whole crowd, about 300 people I only counted about ten women. The Odeon was celebrating its 75th annivetsary although it opened in November 1937 and
Donald MacKenzie was celebrating 21years as resident organist.

02 August, 2013

Dangling above the Thames

A venture onto the ArabFly Dangleway as another London blogger puts it. After admiring the snazz uniforms of the guardians of the cablecar I paid my money and queued up for a short while to take a flight on the cablecar. After a family asked me to go in front so they could be together I actually stepped back to allow them to go ahead. But they weren't having any of thaat so I went ahead. I got a pod to myself, then some vulgar family muscled in on me! You'd think they would want a car to themselves as well - there was certainly no shortage. The doors closed and the flight began. The whole thing was surprisingly smooth if steep. Even when the car goes over the poles there is the most muted of vibration. However wind is rather a problem making the car shake. I have to admit that the steep climb and the height had a somewhat unnerving effect on me and it was with a profound sense of relief that I got out of the car and my boots touched the terra firma of the Royal Borough. The footaage I took was completely unusable.

Hackney - the abode of love

Hackney is usually considered the abode of crime and violence and indeed there were a few times today whn I feared for my (extremely cheap) camera. But back in the day, Hackney was home to a false messianic cult - the Abode of Love.

First I called at Leandro Erlich's Dalston House an art installation in Dalston where visitors interact with the exhibit by walking on the facade of a house laid on the ground and are reflected in a mirror showing them seemingly hanging off a facade in a sort of 'human fly' way. The next bit I got wrong although the Round Chapel is of great interest it is not the abode of love. It was once the Clapton Park Congregational Church. A grade two listed building it is now used as a community arts centre. I thought the inscription was suitably far out to be cultish but it seems it was not intended to be so as the Congregationalists were and still are eminently respectable. So I shall tell the story of the Abode of Love another day.

01 August, 2013

Brixton Windmill and the Rookery, Streatham

I didn't know there was a windmill in Brixton, but there is and it is an ancient monument. The windmill is in the south of Brixton in a rather scrubby little park with a non-working drinking fountain. The windmill is covered in tar as a kind of primitive weatherproofing and it's type is known as a tower mill, rather similar to remains of mills on farms seen during my youth in County Durham. The sweeps, or sails, would once have been covered with canvass and are new after the old sails were burnt in the 1860s. Yo can visit the mill inside, which might be a whole lot more interesting than staring at it from the outside, but it is small so probably quite a lot of ladders meaning it is not suitable for the infirm. We first met The Rookery in 2006 when I walked in it as a deviation from the Capital Ring. The Gardens have celebrated their centenery on 23 July this year and were purchased when the Streatham Spa went into decline. You can still see one of the wells, which still has water in it although wether it is still sulphur water or chalybeate I could not determine by smell. Water could be had for 6d a gallon in 1878, delivered for 1/6. It could cure a lot of things too, such as gravel, giddiness and eczema. Now the gardens are simply formal and informal gardens with what one mother described as a fairy path, with water flowing down it in a rockery. I could well believe it.