30 June, 2014


So is Redditch the worst town in the whole world? Conversation in the ticket office - Me: "Single to Five Ways please." Booking clerk: "Single? Not return?" Me: "Are you kidding me?" Apparently most of the tattoo needles used in the world are made in Redditch and, judging by the art on display under rolled up sleeves and summer dresses quite a lot of them stay there. However good the needles are, the work done with them ranges from brilliant to bleurrgh. There are two pieces of art about needle making in the town centre

 and a mural composed of tattoo imagery, of a rather traditional kind.
Redditch also made Royal Enfield motorbikes but there is hardly any trace of this industry now and I could only find the Wetherspoons pub called the Royal Enfield. Other than that there's not much to tell. Redditch was designated a new town in 1964 and Gues Keen and Nettlefold, or GKN, have their HQ in Redditch. Redditch Co-operative Homes is one of the main social landlords in Redditch and, if I ever go back, I will try to get their story.

14 June, 2014

Suffolk Villages Part 3 - Long Fenton, Cavendish and Clare

The same full day out, another post. Long Fenton is remarkable for having an unusually wide high street, a department store with the biggest collection of Portmeirion pottery my companions had ever seen and a church with tons of medieval glass. Not to mention an old almshouse, a detached lady chapel with a unique internal cloister and two halls, Kentwell Hall in private ownership and Melford hall the property of the National Trust.

Begining in the Street there is an unusual building - a Railway Passengers Insurance Office!
So if you need insurance as a railway passenger - and who doesn't these days - you know where to come.

Melford Hall stands beside the elongated village green - a Tudor bricky pile with a rather nice gatehouse. I didn't go in but enjoyed what I could see from the green. On the green was also a ruinous conduit house very overgrown.
The church has a great collection of medieval stained glass which includes a tiny piece with three hares. Each hare has two ears but there are only three ears between them. Thought to represent the trinity (similarly to the diagram of the Anasthasian Creed - Est-est-est) it may be an even more ancient symbol. The glass is the glory of the church but another feature separates the church even from the other wealthy wool churches of East Anglia.  This church has a detached lady chapel with an internal ambulatory.
The chapel was used as a schoolroom from the 17th century and a multiplication table on the wall date from this period. The stone carving and woodwork around the ambulatory are very fine. Cavendish had a lovely group of almshouses near the plain looking church (equipped for a concert when we called)
and one of the vintage cars appeared to have broken down.
Clare is a bigger village than Cavendish and had some fine houses, some with later facades.
There was also a very old house serving as the village museum. The Sundial on the Church admonishes us to go about our business in the daylight hours

10 June, 2014

Suffolk villages Part 2 Lavenham

When towns fall on hard times they are can be well preserved.   Lavenham is one such town that saw great prosperity from wool in Medieval times but had nothing else to fall back on and so is preserved in aspic.   However one can, if one has space on one's phone, download the Love Lavenham App from the wifi phone kiosk in the high street.  So it's really quite up to date.  Obviously there are some 18th century and more modern houses but the medieval street pattern remains.  So inspiring was the sunshine and the black and white houses, although some were painted in traditional pigments such as Suffolk Pink (made with waste blood) that I decided to black and white the pictures too.   Not all the buildings were black and white, some, no doubt inspired by Mexico were a bright orange.   Some others were a deep shade of crimson.   All were very photogenic.  There was a vintage car rally taking place on the day with lots of pre-war Morris cars thundering along the Suffolk lanes.   Combined with medieval buildings these went very well in pin sharp black and white.
vintage car
Lavenham guildhall is the property of the National Trust and is splendid. The New Hall Museum is also splendid There is a fine market cross too. All these buildings bring the past to life Lavenham Church of St Peter and St Paul is well worth seeing. It has all you would expect in a wool church with parclose screens and miseriecords all of the very finest quality.
I could have spent a lot more time in Lavenham.

09 June, 2014

Suffolk Villages Part 1 Monk's Eleigh and Kettlebaston

In some of the stormiest weather I have ever experienced. Thankfully I was sitting in a car while this was going on and by the time it was time to get out the rain had stopped. With grateful thanks to R and A for kind hospitality. Our first call was Monk's Eleigh, a pretty village with an old pump on the green The church is very old with some furnishings dating from the 17th century including a wooden collecting box dated 1636 and the Royal arms from the reign of Queen Anne. While my companions and I were in the church a man and a woman came in and started to chat. They suggested we should visit Kettlebaston church which had an icon on display. I thought it would be an unnecessary distraction on the route to Lavenham but I was in for a surprise. After the twisty Suffolk roads, some little more than tracks, we saw our first sight of Kettlebaston, a decaying thatched cottage tumbled down and with vegetation growing out of the roof. The village is home to about 30 people and is typically secluded and quiet. The Church was set back behind a thick hedge of yews to keep out of sight the Anglo Catholic practices that went on in there. Apparently the Minister there for many years until the 1960s took down all the state notices, refused to keep registers and refused to recognise the Archdeacon. This clergyman said a Roman Catholic mass every day. The church still bears the signs of Anglo Catholic practises, with a statue of Jesus showing his heart on top of the Stuart holy table! The font is very early (1200) and there are some broken alabaster carvings. Kettlebaston Church also has an icon outside, which appears to depict a woman kneeling before Christ.    This is the real glory of the church and the village.

08 June, 2014

Wandsworth Prison Museum

Part of Wandsworth Heritage Festival. The prison museum is in a shed outside Wandsworth Prison the former Surrey House of Correction. Dark and foreboding on the outside Peter Hitchens has a view of what goes on inside. However the museum is small but fairly good with a film set reproduction of a gallows which is the highlight. There are also prison uniforms, old prison mechanisms like locks and cell bells and other artefacts of interest. No real photographic opportunities though.

03 June, 2014

Fashion Street

The novel "A Kid for Two Farthings" by Wolf Mankowitz takes place in Fashion Street. Here is a picture of fashion street for you It looks like not a lot has changed since the 1950s, except perhaps the inhabitants.