Sunday, September 16, 2018

St Lawrence's Hospital, Caterham

Not much remains of the former hospital of St Lawrence's now. A plaque has been put up recently by  The Bourne Society on what was the main gate post.
Beyond that is the new housing that replaced the hospital. The road names off St Lawrence Way do apparently remember people associated with the hospital: Deacon, Straw, Danvers, Gwynne, Bunce, Drew, Pye, Marcuse. Joey Deacon was very well known but I will have to find out about the others.

Beyond the houses the land dips away to an open area, and a tree covered walk in the valley - Green Lane, and beyond that, where the land rises again, is Surrey National Golf Club.
Old postcards (like this one) show how the front entrance looked when the building was big enough to house 1500 residents from the Metropolitan area of London, and when it was a large employer of people from Caterham and from far flung places of the commonweath (Mauritius and Barbados etc.).
What has been kept is the screen of high trees, the fence and gate posts.
The long H shaped corridors connecting the wards have long since gone. There was the male side and the female side with the utility corridor connecting them, off which came the kitchen, the pharmacy, the laundry, the swimming pool, recreation hall, tailors shop, dentist, and everything needed to keep the hospital going.
It was a large utiltarian hospital built to keep the cost per patient down and had no great architectural merit. So it was bulldozed rather than converted, when the era of Victorian Mental Hospitals ended in the 1990s. The residents had been rehoused in smaller units by the 1990s Lifecare NHS Trust.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Loft - 46 Westway, Caterham

In 1982 Noel and Maureen moved to Caterham in Surrey and set up an antique business called the Loft at 46 Westway. (picture slightly distorted as taken from their album).
Noel also used his photographic talents in the business and that became the main money earner. He still has a Instant Passport Pictures sign in the window. He took passport photos of many of the residents of St Lawrences Hospital at the far end of the Westway. The snowy picture by Noel is one of the many on his walls in his shop.
Noel was once an adventurer and rally driver who started life in New South Wales, and spent time in Papua New Guinea, and other antipodean locations until coming to Caterham with Maureen (pictured behind him), and his growing family.

Next week Noel and Maureen close up shop in Caterham after 36 years  to move to somewhere new, and a time to enjoy full retirement.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Cardington R101 Memorial

The last time I walked through Cardington was in November, and I was suprised to see, near the two big hangers, one of the prototype airships outside. Development of the prototype Airlander 10 continues inside the hangers.
The village sign has an airship, and inside the church is a memorial, and a stall with airship memorabilia and newspaper cuttings about the R101 disaster, and back numbers of The Dirigible - a magazine for airship enthusiasts.
In the village cemetery is the mass grave and memorial to those who died when His Majesty's Airship R101 came down in bad weather in France on 5th october 1930, during a maiden flight. It caught fire on a hillside. Of the 48 crew and 6 passengers, there were 6 survivors. The airship had been built in Cardington. The newspaper cuttings show that the bodies, of those killed, lay side by side beneath the soil under the memorial.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

St Andrews - Headington - An Epiphany

In Old Headington, a village within the city of Oxford, you will find St Andrew's Church. It flies the Saltire or Saint Andrew's Cross, the Scottish flag in the heart of England.
The church was open, and warm and welcoming. One chapel was decorated with white cyclamen with the three Maji kneeling,  bringing their gifts after a long pilgrimage: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. The camel was also kneeling at the Station of the Epiphany.
On the other side of the entrance was a window, the lead-work forming tree branches, and the glass delicately painted with leaves.
The church had a new organ. Next to the organ were music books. One older looking book had a marker at Epiphany.

"OH WORSHIP the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
Kneel and adore him the Lord is his name!"

(Post dedicated to John Clapp whose stone I saw by chance in the memorial garden behind the church. He had been the organist in this church from 1993 - 2009, and my boss at work from 1984 for quite a few years.)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Annie's Tea Rooms - Walk - Thrupp

On Christmas Eve in 1874 there was a great railway disaster near Thrupp. Heavy snow lay on the ground, and a Great Western Train from London Paddington had added an extra coach at Oxford and left at 11:40 AM. The carriage was needed to deal with the crowds of people wanting to get to the Midlands for Christmas.

On passing Thrupp a wheel tyre on the additional coach broke and the carriage left the rails. The rest of the train plunged down an embankment beside the Oxford Canal. 31 passengers died in the crash, and over 60 were seriously injured.
We parked the car at Thrupp near Annie's Tea Room.
We crossed the Oxford Canal and then went under the railway. The line was busy with freight and passenger trains.
The path went through a plantation for a mile or so until emerging beside the meandering River Cherwell. The slim spire of the church in Kidlington could be seen across the fields and was visible for most of the walk. We crossed open meadows with horses, and after the village of Hampton Poyle, saw sheep and cows.
The route then took us to what remained of Hampton Gay. The 16th Century Manor House had burned down in 1887. There is still a farm with a number of cottages nearby.

By mistake, we went off the designated footpath at this point and ended up going under the railway through water and coming to a field with a notice saying 'Bull in this Field.' So we turned back and found the way we should have gone, by the church at Hampton Gay. The church is still used but is surrounded by fields with no driveway or road access. The path took us under the railway, alongside the River Cherwell.
The last part of the walk was along the canal towpath ending at the canal maintenance yard, and Annie's Tea Room  where we went in and enjoyed Sweet Potato Soup with bread and butter.

There were no boards or memorial to the 1874 railway disaster we could see anywhere.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Westgate Library Re-opens

A few weeks ago, the new Westgate shopping centre opened. And today the Westgate Library re-opened. There had been a much smaller library during the twenty months it was closed.

There was no great radical change in the structure of the building. The staircases and view from the upper balcony looked much the same.
Different community groups were performing music, and that will be a feature in future. We met George Haslam, and he told us he will performing there on 6th January at 7pm. There was a string quartet when we arrived, and a choir singing carols when we left. The music section has now moved upstairs, as have poetry and computing. If anything the Local History section upstairs has shrunk.
What was the music library is now a multi-purpose education and community space. There were educational electronic kits, and ozobots - little robots that obey commands given as a sequence of colours. The space can be used by people wanting to pass on their knowledge on any subject.
The windows facing Castle Street look new with the colourful stained glass books.
Some of the furniture also looked new. The shelves are not so regimented but have different configurations. The different book sections now have a picture with their name.

It is good to have the Westgate Library open again. The library in Oxford is a bigger draw for me than the shopping centre.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Elstow - John Bunyan's birthplace

I am working in Bedford this week. It gave me the chance to visit John Bunyan's birthplace, a village called Elstow - not far from Bedford.
The village has a green where there used to be monthly fairs with all kinds of entertainment from jousting to maypole dancing. The green was the inspiration for Vanity Fair in Pilgrim's Progress ... "at this fair there are at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.... Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red colour"

The stump of a Market Cross remains as testament, and the fine Moot House from the 15th Century.

Nearby is the Abbey Church of St Mary and St Helena. It was once the 7th richest Abbey in the Kingdom with a very extensive building. A reduced sized church still remains, and some ruined walls.

Inside the church is the original Wicket gate that John Bunyan immortalised in Pilgrim's Progress. A Wicket Gate is a pedestrian door or gate, particularly one built into a larger door.
In the church is a fine window showing scenes from Pilgrim's Progress, and an even finer window, shown above, showing scenes from John Bunyan's third book, 'The Holy War – The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Man-soul.' It shows the evil forces to the left, in green, and the good forces to the right, both trying to take the town of a man's mind - the evil forces by force, and the good forces by invitation.
Pilgrims come in coaches and cars these days to visit the church and other places linked to John Bunyan. There are more from China and Japan than England. His allegorical book, Pilgrim's Progress, and his being jailed for what he believed, are greatly admired in those countries.

Over the church door is a seal from the time the Abbey was handed over to King Henry VIII's forces. It shows Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Saint Helena, who discovered the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.
Elstow itself also has a fine row of houses, some dating back before John Bunyan. The village is also cut across by the very busy A421 Bedford Bypass, but you would hardly know it as the bridge over the road has such high walls.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Whose house is this?

We found this house after driving along a very narrow lane. We needed to get a ticket from a National Trust hut which allowed us to enter at 2:25pm, and get in out of the rain. Inside was a blazing fire in a stove that has been pictured in some books by the person who lived here.
Most of the house was kept fairly dark to help preserve the fabrics and pictures. There were a lot of pictures, many by this person's brother and father, and even a hat and some clothes belonging to the person who lived here.
In the kitchen was a basket of vegetables picked from the garden that is also shown in books by the person who lived here.
That person wrote and illustrated this letter to a young friend. It was the start of what this person is most famous for. But they also kept prize winning sheep, and helped set up the early National Trust.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Quarry Bank

We arrived early at Quarry Bank and looked round before anything was open. This old cotton mill was run by the Greg family in the Bollin valley in Cheshire - just one their mills. The River Bollin turned the huge waterwheel that drove the first machines on this site before they converted to steam. That wheel is still working.
At 11am we got our tickets and crossed a bridge into the factory. The first floor was fairly empty - undergoing a revamp. Part of it was being prepared for the children's activities.

But we could hear the thump of the machines down below. First we saw the carding, and spinning machines. Then a lady showed us the same process on earlier wooden machines: from carding through spinning to weaving - first with a hand moved shuttle, then a faster flying shuttle.

After that we came into the largest machine room (showed above) where a volunteer had four weaving machines going together.
There was then a lot of history displays, but we had to dash to get to the apprentice's house for a booked tour at 12:15 to learn how these children lived.

The children worked 12 hour days in the mill, 13 as punishment if they were a minute late. Then had an hours schooling from 8-9pm. Mr Greg's wife was a Unitarian and made sure the girls also learned to read and write, not just the boys. Some of the detail of their lives came from two boys who ran home to London to see their mum.

The government were gradually tightening up on the hours of child labour, and eventually the apprentice house was closed down. The guide gave a very interesting, animated talk - accentuating some of the horrible history for the children in our audience. The children's lives in those days was very hard. They were picked for being fit and given a medical before starting. Many came from the workhouse. After a trial period, to make sure they were good workers, they could sign up for anything from 2 to 10 years. In return for work they got the board and lodging.
There are also some beautiful gardens at Quarry Bank, with recently restored glass houses, and waterside walks, and some houses to view in the workers village .

The National Trust were also restoring the Greg family home, to be re-opened in September, and building a new visitor centre.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dunham Massey

We passed a 500 year old Oak Tree on the path from the Carpark to the grounds and Manor House of Dunham Massey in Cheshire. It had seen a lot of changes on that site.
Inside we were given a tour and shown some of the owners of houses on this site. The earliest picture was of old Sir George Booth who rebuilt the house in the late 16th century, and then his grandson, young George Booth (above), who fought first on the side of Oliver Cromwell, and then deciding the new regime had got things wrong, on the royalist side. He got sent to the Tower of London until the restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II.
The present house was mostly built in 1770s, and then abandoned by the 7th Earl of Stamford in Victorian times, and that was the story the national Trust are telling this season - as a family attraction.

The Earl took for his second wife a circus performer called Catherine. The Cheshire set were against this marriage, as was Queen Victoria. Feeling rejected, the Earl and Catherine abandoned their house in Cheshire, taking some treasures with them, to their other 2 houses.

Outside children had a carnival theme with performers and tents to learn about Catherine's circus life, and inside they could discover more of what happened when the Earl left.
The downstairs servants area, with a cook, milk maid, and wash maid brings the place to life.
The 9th Earl of Stamford moved the family back to Dunham Massey and set about trying to create a grand house with a new elaborate front entrance. He was not altogether pleased with the result and fired the architect. Perhaps he wanted it even grander.

On his death in 1910 the house was given to his son Roger, the 10th Earl of Stamford, who tried to recover some of the former possessions of the house, including a Grinling Gibbons wood carved crucifixion seen in the library. He left it all to the National Trust.