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  • Film and Television Star Cars - The Latest Additions by Paul Brent Adams

    No one I have ever met seems to have any idea what a Star Car is, but as soon as you mention the James Bond Aston Martin or the Batmobile, no further explanation is needed. It is any vehicle, not just a car, used in a film or television programme. The term has been around since at least the 1980s - I first recall seeing it used by Mat Irvine in the pages of the British modelling magazine Scale Models. It has also been used in the titles of several books devoted to the actual screen vehicles.

    Film and Television Star Cars 1 Corgi Junior Lotus Esprit submarine car from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, released in 1977. The wheels are hidden in the base.

    I began collecting these models in the 1990s. Apart from a book by Dave Worrall in 1996, which covered only the Corgi James Bond range, I think this is the first book ever devoted entirely to collecting model Star Cars, although diecasts have featured heavily in a number of books on film and TV toys, or on characters such as Batman. It is amazing that it is still possible to find a subject that has not been covered before. As it appeared no one else was going to write a book on Star Cars, I decided it was up to me. Between finishing the book, and publication in November 2016, I have added several more models to my collection, a mixture of older models bought at various fairs for collectors; and current models bought in retail shops, and a local supermarket while doing my grocery shopping. To show just how affordable this hobby can be, none of the models shown here cost more than $10 New Zealand, less than £5. At the opposite extreme, it is possible to spend hundreds of dollars or pounds on a single model.

    The James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) featured probably the second most famous of all Bond cars, the Lotus Esprit which converts into a submarine.  Corgi did a large version, with pop-out fins and missiles, which was included in Star Cars. This is the smaller Juniors version. It does not have any special features, and the fins are fixed in place. Like the larger version, it runs on concealed wheels. The 007 and gun logo on the nose did not actually appear on the movie car; after all, James Bond is a secret agent.  This slightly play-worn example was picked up at a collectors fair for $10.

    Film and Television Star Cars 2 From a small range of Flintstones models, the Corgi Junior model of Wilma's Coupe, released in 1983, with Wilma Flintstone at the wheel. Again the model runs on concealed wheels.

    From The Flintstones cartoon series of the 1960s, Corgi produced a set of three models in the early 1980s, each driven by one of the main characters: Fred or Wilma Flintstone, or Barney Rubble. All had plastic figures. This is Wilma's Coupe, which runs on four concealed plastic wheels, and again it was about $10.

    Film and Television Star Cars 3 Corgi Junior Chopper Squad Bell Jetranger helicopter with floats. Both the main and tail rotors rotate.

    Next up is a Bell Jetranger helicopter from the Australian TV series Chopper Squad, about a team of surf life savers at an Australian beach. The model has white plastic floats (other versions of the model had a different lower fuselage, with the more common skid undercarriage), and the main rotor blades fold so the model will fit inside its packaging - this is common among diecast helicopter models. There was also a larger version. I am not sure now how much this one cost, perhaps $5.

    Film and Television Star Cars 4 The Hot Wheels mainline toy version of the Aston Martin DB10, built expressly for the Bond film Spectre.

    From the most recent Bond film, Spectre (2015) is the Aston Martin DB10. Hot Wheels have included it in both their main toy line and in the more detailed and higher priced HW Entertainment series. Very few of these Hot Wheels models have any working features, and this applies to the DB10. Oddly, the model is not included in the HW Screen Time series of film and TV models, but is part of the HW Showroom series, although it still comes on a card with the Spectre title in the corner.

    Film and Television Star Cars 5 The 2016 Hot Wheels Yellow Submarine is much smaller than the 1969 Corgi version, but both run on concealed wheels. The model can be found on both long and short cards.

    Yellow Submarine (1968) was an animated film starring The Beatles. Corgi released a regular model of the submarine in 1969, which has been reissued several times with slight differences; but they never did a small Juniors version. In 2016 Hot Wheels finally gave the world a small, Matchbox-sized model of the Yellow Submarine. Like the bigger Corgi model it runs on concealed wheels. This one was included in the HW Screen Time series. This proved a very hard model to find in the shops, but I did manage to get a 2016 model on a long card; and a 2017 short card version from my local supermarket. The only difference in the models seems to be a very slight variation in the shade of yellow used for the lower hull, which is so slight it is only apparent when the models are studied side by side. The main difference lies in the design of the cards. Hot Wheels begin releasing their new models late in the preceding year, which is why I obtained a model dated 2017 in November 2016. These models were both $3 each, the usual Hot Wheels price in NZ. I have seen them at fairs for $10, and $15 for the less common short card version; prices which I refuse to pay for current models.

    Film and Television Star Cars 6 The popularity of video games has seen a number of tie-in models being produced, these Hot Wheels models are for the games Halo and Minecraft.

    I am not a video game player, and know little of the subject, however Hot Wheels have released a number of video game related models over the last few years. It seems logical to count these models as Star Cars, especially as several games have been turned into movies. Hot Wheels clearly share this view, and have included these models in their Screen Time series. The models shown here are for the games Halo and Minecraft, and again cost just $3 each. There is also a separate series of Halo models, on special cards. Other game related models have been the Red Bird and green Minion Pig from Angry Birds; Super Mario Brothers; and various Atari games as part of one of the higher priced premium lines.

    9781445662107

    Paul Brent Adams book Film and Television Star Cars is available for purchase now.

  • Steam railways and a new generation by Stuart Hylton

    Not long ago, I was on the platform at Oxford station when an express train, drawn by a steam locomotive, came through at speed. For a moment, all activity on the platform stopped – it was as if we had all been transported back in time. Another moment and it was gone, and all that was left were wisps of steam and the happy smiles on the faces of the travelling public. Surely no piece of our industrial heritage has a warmer place in the nation’s affections than the steam railway engine.

    For no other piece of machinery comes closer to having the attributes of a living, sentient creature. One of the first people to witness a primitive prototype of a railway locomotive was Thomas Grey in 1812, and he certainly saw the kinship between these early ‘walking horses’ and their flesh and blood counterparts:

    The superabundant steam is emitted at each stroke with a noise something similar to the hard breathing or snorting of a horse – the escaping steam representing the breath of his nostrils and the deception altogether aided by the regular motion of the beam.

    Steam Engines and Steam Railways pic 1 A safety valve, doing its job. (c. Steam Engines and Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    Small wonder too that another pioneer, Richard Trevithick, the unacknowledged father of the steam locomotive, found the best advertisement for his engine Catch me who can was to offer a speed trial against the finest race horse Newmarket had to offer.

    I belong to a generation whose childhood memories include a railway that was almost entirely driven by steam. The sights, sounds and smells of it are still fresh in my mind and for me a steam engine evokes a whole host of memories. From standing on another platform and enjoying a little childhood frisson of fear, as a Great Western express thundered through on its way to the West Country or Wales, to being my own master of the universe as I created my own little railway world on the sitting room carpet, courtesy of Messrs Hornby and Triang.

    But my generation is growing old and those that follow will not have the same store of memories, on which an attachment to steam can be built. How will they view steam locomotion? Will it just be another historical curiosity, as far removed from their direct experience as the stagecoach or the penny-farthing bicycle? Will they even be remotely interested? Perhaps more to the point, how many of them will be interested enough to put themselves through the lengthy and demanding process of learning to drive or fire a steam locomotive?

     

    Steam Engines and Steam Railways pic 2 No. 31806. This U class locomotive started life as something rather different - a K Class tank engine. (c. Steam Engines and Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    Since retiring from my day job I have devoted part of my time to being part of the education team at the Didcot Railway Centre, home of the Great Western Society. Our main activity is introducing parties of up to a hundred or more school children to the world that the steam railways helped to create. One of the things this brings home to myself and my fellow guides is how far the world has changed in our own lifetimes. We find ourselves having to explain what coal is and, for many of our car-centred young visitors, the very idea of travelling anywhere by rail is a novelty.

    Steam Engines and Steam Railways pic 3 Gladstone, the first in a class of thirty-six locomotives built for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway from 1882. (c. Steam Engines and Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    But one thing I have learned from my experience is that heritage railways offer a rich potential for engaging young people’s interest and a way into a variety of areas of the school curriculum. For history, there is the story of the industrial revolution, which could not have happened in the way it did without the railways. It gives an insight into the lives of all classes of the Victorians, from the Royal family to the poorest travellers, enduring the harsh conditions of early third-class journeys. For all of them, the railways changed their lives in a way that no other development, before or since, has done. For more modern history, a staged ‘evacuation’, with the children being assigned to new ‘foster carers’ at the end of the journey, can provide the basis for a wide range of teaching about the home front during the Second World War.

    For the sciences, we have the physics and mechanics of how steam engines work and the dramatic development of that technology, which meant that the main operating principles of the steam locomotive for the next hundred years had been worked out within about a decade of the opening of the first modern railway, in 1830. Then there are the engineering feats of the giants of railway building such as Brunel and the Stephenson’s, which redefined the boundaries of the possible in railway building.

    For those of us who care about the future of steam locomotion, one of our priorities must surely be to help educators to make the most of this rich history, and use it to fire the enthusiasm of a new generation of steam railwaymen.

    9781445656687

    Stuart Hylton's book Steam Engines and Steam Railways: A Young Person's Guide is available for purchase now.

  • From Horses to Artics: The Tales Behind the Transport by Nick Corble

    A book on the history of fairground transport? It sounded like the sort of thing that might feature at the end of Have I Got News For You? – I was going to need some convincing. As it turned out, not that much convincing, as my co-author, Allan Ford, is a compelling story-teller, as well as being a fount of knowledge on all things connected with the travelling funfair. The more we spoke, the clearer it became that there was the opportunity to put some of those stories onto paper, and the result is A History of Fairground Transport: From Horses to Artics.

    Once a travelling showman himself, Allan was largely responsible for reviving interest in the Wall of Death motorbike attraction at the turn of the century, when he restored and travelled with a wall after a period when the spectacle had died out in Britain. These days he spends much of his time chronicling the showman’s way of life, as well as building up an impressive collection of fairground memorabilia, while at the same time being active in safeguarding the safety of rides.

    We had worked together before, both on You Can’t Wear Out an Indian Scout: Indians and the Wall of Death, an Amberley title that underwent a re-issue earlier this year, and on canal-related books (a passion we share). Collaboration is not for every author, but in our case it seems to work. My role, as I see it, is to streamline the process of extracting the requisite knowledge and details we need for the book, and project managing the task of getting thoughts onto the page. Allan brings the knowledge (and the treasure trove of material), and his role is to bring this to the table and, with gentle nudging from me, bring it to life.

    A History of Fairground Transport From Horses to Artics pic 1 The earliest form of showman's transport was the simple handcart. (c. A History of Fairground Transport, Amberley Publishing)

    Once we started to investigate the potential of the title, it became clear that there was an opportunity to use transport as a vehicle (as it were!) to tell a number of other parallel stories. Perhaps the most significant of these was the history of funfairs themselves and how they have met the need inherent amongst all human beings for a little light relief from the predictability of their lives. This history goes back nearly a thousand years, to the Charter Fairs established in the 1200s, when a showman’s two legs and his back, and if he was lucky a barrow, were the only the transport available to him as he travelled around from site to site.

    The sorts of people who adopted this way of life, and the conditions in which they operated, in turn provided an insight into a part of history beyond the traditional curriculum of kings, queens, empires and battles. A sense of how the vast majority of the population lived their lives, seen through the prism of the diversions that occasionally lifted them out of those lives, even if for only a brief few days a year.

    A History of Fairground Transport From Horses to Artics pic 2 A belt-driven dynamo, providing the power for illumination. (c. A History of Fairground Transport, Amberley Publishing)

    As showmen were able to afford horses their shows got bigger and they were able to take their families on the road with them. Even this detail revealed a deeper understanding of the world ordinary folk inhabited. Of how towns and villages had grown to a size where they offered a support network of blacksmiths to conduct running repairs and tenant farmers willing to let the horses graze in their fields while the showmen did their thing.

    Then, as now, horses could be reliable one minute and temperamental the next, offering the potential to release catastrophe if they bolted, or even died, unexpectedly. Little wonder then that showmen were early adopters of steam once it came around with buying and ornamenting traction engines, incorporating their sound and fury into the show. Obviating the need for friendly farmers but still locking into the network of blacksmiths for assistance when required.

    The more I learned of the history of fairground transport, the more the adaptability of showmen came to the fore. As industrialisation gathered pace, so demands changed and opportunities for entertainment widened. Showmen had to respond to these changes, whilst at the same time organising themselves to meet the tightening grip of regulation. Forces beyond their control, such as world wars, also brought the need to respond. Showmen proved resourceful in using redundant military equipment as the basis of their attractions, as they needed to harness the potential of petrol and diesel engines.

    This was particularly the case as the world tried to get back to normal after 1945, with most military equipment after the first left on the battlefields. Very quickly however, perhaps the most challenging period on the evolution of the travelling funfair and the transport needed to make it possible began – the clue, after all, is in the name; without transport there is no travelling funfair.

    A History of Fairground Transport From Horses to Artics pic 3 (c. A History of Fairground Transport, Amberley Publishing)

    Changing tastes and the need for ever more inventiveness in the face of a consumer revolution were reflected in showmen’s transport, with old military platforms giving way to converted commercial vehicles and to today’s massive articulated lorries. Throughout all this change however many traditions have survived, including the brotherhood of showmen and their families. One of the parallel stories we were able to tell is how showmen’s accommodation has evolved during history from sleeping in a convenient hedge, through bender tents and converted gypsy caravans to ‘living wagons’ and today’s modern homes on wheels.

    So, what looked on first glance to be a fairly dry subject, turned out to offer a fascinating microcosm of social, technological and history change, all sandwiched in under a hundred pages, many of them graced with lavish illustrations in both colour and black and white. Suitably emboldened, Allan and I are now turning our thoughts to our next project: From Frost Fairs to Funfairs, a history not just of fairground transport, but of the funfair itself.

    9781445661407

    Allan Ford & Nick Corble's book A History of Fairground Transport: From Horses to Artics is available to purchase now.

  • Whitehaven and Around From Old Photographs by Alan W. Routledge

    When asked by Amberley if I would put together, what would turn out to be my eleventh book based on old photographs of Whitehaven, it took a while to say yes because I felt there was not a lot more to add to the towns’ story. Fortunately, at much the same time I was asked by the Beacon Museum to look at a box of CDs and DVDs and catalogue what was on them. There were about 30 discs with large numbers of images stored on them. A couple had over 4000 images between them of which 3,095 were scanned image from glass plate negatives from the 1920s and 30s. These wonderful images seemed like a gift from the gods and I wasted no time in seeking and getting permission to use them in a new book, for which I am grateful to the Beacon Museum.

    Whitehaven & Around FOP 3 Around the Green Market in Whitehaven in the 1930s, with marketeers offering flowers and locally grown fruit and vegetables. (c. Whitehaven & Around From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    I then set about the task of selecting some 250 images from the many images and quickly found life was not going to be simple because a very large proportion of the photographs had been produced in local studios and were of families and family events. Lovely pictures but no answers as to any who, what, when, where and why questions you may have. This reinforces the need to label up your pictures after you take them. I decided to lay out the book in 8 sections, each covering an aspect of life in Whitehaven. These included industries, education, recreation, shops and shopping and the outlaying villages and towns.

    The port of Whitehaven is situated on the west coast of Cumbria, some 50 miles or so from the Scottish Border by road or rail but only 28 by sea across the Solway Firth, the harbour is also the nearest on the mainland to the Isle of Man by a like distance. The Solway Firth is also well known for its magnificent sunsets viewed from the Cumbrian coast.

    Whitehaven itself straddles the St Bees Valley which rises steeply to 300 ft about the town centre. There are several claims that Jonathon Swift stayed at the High Bowling Green Inn directly above the harbour when he was an infant and that he based the tiny Lilliputians from Gulliver’s Travels on the equally small looking workers on the harbour and ships.

    Whitehaven & Around FOP 1 Commercial fishing often resulted in nets being damaged by snagging on rocks or wrecked ships which necessitated a mending session after nearly every trip. (c. Whitehaven & Around From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Whitehaven was to be invaded by enemy troops in a time of war when John Paul Jones led a couple of boatloads of sailors and US Marines in a raid on 23rd April 1778 to set fire to the ships in the harbour. Fortunately for the town the US Marines headed for the nearest pub – The Red Lion in Marlborough Street – returning to their boats having done no significant damage and in a condition described by Jones himself as confused. That was not to be Whitehaven’s last close encounter with the enemy when in 1916 a German U-Boat popped up outside the harbour and in 30 minutes fired 70 high explosive shells into Lowca Tar Works. Again only a little damage was done despite the shells hitting their targets. The damage was enough to close the works for a few days though.

    During WW2 the harbour became the home of the Danish national fishing fleet from where the fishing and sailing skills of the Danes did a great deal to keep up the countries food supply in dark times. After Whitehaven passed into the hands of the Lowther family in the 16th Century it began to trade with Ireland, particularly Dublin and Belfast. Selling salt, coal and manufactured goods and returning with beef, tallow and flax. Trade grew so rapidly that it required a proper quay to provide shelter for the increasing number of boats wanting a berth. The first stone built quay was erected in 1632 and the last major commercial facility – the Queens Dock – was opened in 1875.

    By 1750 Whitehaven was the third most important harbour in England after London and Bristol. By that time trade with Virginia and Maryland had grown to the point where Whitehaven was the biggest importer of tobacco except for Glasgow. The War of American Independence brought that trade to an end leaving only trade with the West Indies as a profitable venture and bringing the Slave Trade to some of the boat owners and merchants.

    Whitehaven & Around FOP 2 Haig Colliery (c. Whitehaven & Around From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The harbour slowly declined leaving only fishing as a commercial activity in the North Harbour today. It has since been delightfully restored and converted to recreational use, with a large marina. The Beacon Museum and a good quantity of artworks around the harbour are there to be enjoyed.

    Deep coal mining continued in Whitehaven until January 1986 when Haig Colliery finally closed. The chemical industry ceased in 2005 bringing an end the manufacture of sulphuric acid and phosphates. The Rum Story on Lowther Street tells the story of sugar, rum and the trade with the West Indies.

    Whitehaven and Around From Old Photographs concentrates on the 20th Century and documents changes, focusing on the 1920s, 30s and 60s. Though I am sure there is much more to learn about this wonderful old town of ours here is what I have found out so far.

    9781445662329

    Alan W. Routledge's book Whitehaven & Around From Old Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Sittingbourne The Postcard Collection by Robert Turcan

    Sittingbourne The Postcard Collection features a collection of vintage postcards and photos dating back to Edwardian times and documents the transformation of the area's industry and history. It includes images of the surrounding villages, wartime photos and some of the paper mill, offering an insight into life from past decades.

    The author Robert Turcan, 66, has lived in the town all of his life and this is his fourteenth book he has had published on local history. His long standing interest in this subject is supported by a growing collection of topographical books and postcards. He also collects antique maps of Kent and Regency bank notes of this county's towns.

    Sittingbourne The Postcard Collection pic Greetings postcard (c. Sittingbourne The Postcard Collection, Amberley Publishing)

    The golden age of postcards was between 1902 and 1918. During this period, it is estimated that some 400 million cards were posted annually. Postcards were an everyday item in their heyday and provide a window into life in the town as it grew following the industrial revolution. When the railway line to London was built in mid Victorian times, the area's population boomed.

    The town's renowned products – bricks, paper and cement – were transported by sailing barges (built nearby) along the Thames. Agriculture played its part in improving prosperity, with fresh produce such as corn, fodder and fruit jams delivered to London. Now lonely and derelict, the wharfs and quays around Milton and Sittingbourne Creeks can be appreciated in their heyday from a group of atmospheric postcards pictured within.

    9781445662282

    Robert Turcan's book Sittingbourne The Postcard Collection is available for purchase now.

  • Strathclyde Traction by Colin J. Howat

    In preparing Strathclyde Traction, I must admit that one of the main problems was the selection process. Going through my collection, I initially narrowed the amount of photographs to approximately 2000, which ultimately had to be narrowed down many times before getting to the required 180 for the book. I would like to have used more but that is for the future.

    Strathclyde Traction pic 3 320321 (GW) at Partick with a Dalmuir-Cumbernauld Service. (Strathclyde Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    Fortunately, my whole railway photographic collection has now been saved on computer. Which was completed over a couple of years by scanning all my old black and white and colour slides and negatives.

    Moving on from my earlier book Ayrshire Traction the opportunity was taken to scroll through the archives and as Strathclyde is quite a large area itself, a varied selection of shots were available. There have been many boundary changes within Scotland over the last forty years but it has not really changed the railways. Scotland’s railways overall have expanded and although some line closures have taken place, on the whole there has been a refreshing outlook by both Strathclyde PTE and later Transport Scotland.

    In a wider context compared to other European countries, the UK has been incredibly slow in the electrification process. In Switzerland for example, 90% of their railways are electrified whereas in Scotland only approximately 40% has been done.

    Strathclyde Traction pic 1 Orange livery 314201 (GW) at Glasgow Central with a Glasgow Central-Neilston Service. (Strathclyde Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    The Orange livery that came out in the early 1980s was not only applied to the trains but also to the buses and the underground system. The underground trains were affectionately known as the “Clockwork Orange Trains” which was a reference to the film A Clockwork Orange made in 1971 by Warner Brothers and directed by Stanley Kubrick starring Malcolm McDowell.

    Railway photography like most photography has its own special delights and drawbacks. I have been out in all sorts of weather to get the rare shot. I think heavy rain is the railway photographer’s worst nightmare although I have also endured temperatures as low as -20 degrees. I have also encountered some alarming moments. I was once chased by a bull at Mossgiel farm near Mauchline. I have also walked a number of disused railway lines and have had interesting encounters with various animals! I have also met many members of the public some good, some not so good. Most people in my experience usually enter into good banter but there are a few who are not so accommodating. On the whole most people are pleasant but since the 07/07 bombings in London, understandably there has been a distinct downturn in trust from rail staff who are now much more vigilant at all stations with rail enthusiasts and visitors.

    Strathclyde Traction pic 4 380113 (GW0 at Western Gailes with a Glasgow Central-Ayr Service (Strathclyde Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    I have included in this blog some of the photographs that were not used in Strathclyde Traction but may be used in the future. As well as railway photography, I enjoy many other interests including walking with my two German Shepherds. When I started getting interested in the railway in the 1970s, I used to visit Bogside and Irvine signal boxes. I can remember being welcomed in, the smell of the coal fire and some chat always passed the time of day. Aye those were the days!

    9781445662848

    Colin J. Howat's book Strathclyde Traction is available for purchase now.

  • Reading 1800 to the Present Day by Stuart Hylton

    As you may gather from a book whose first chapter deals with the relationship between the town and the motor car, this is not a conventional local history. Most local histories start by taking you back to the earliest origins of a community (in Reading’s case, somewhere around 600AD). Either that or they are rooted in a particular (and often atypical) period of the communities’ history, such as one or other of the world wars or the Civil War.

    Reading 1800 to the Present Day pic 1 Queen Victoria in about 1893, shortly after her installation as a traffic hazard outside the Town Hall. (c. Reading 1800 to the Present Day, Amberley Publishing)

    Interesting and valid as both approaches are, what Edward I said to the towns guild in 1301, or how the community reacted to wartime rationing, does not necessarily add a lot (at least directly) to our understanding of the place in which we live, work and spend our leisure today.

    Over recent years, Reading’s mainstream local history has become ever more fully documented, through the efforts of myself and others, I was looking for a new way of telling the story – ideally one that might be relevant to a wider audience. What I came up with was more of a companion to modern Reading. Explaining how the town as we know it today came about; the institutions, the services, local landmarks, different means of transport, the economy, the shopping centre; in short, anything that characterises the modern town.

    I then looked in reverse at the history of these institutions to try and establish the point at which they took on a recognisably modern form. Anything preceding that is kept to a brief introductory context. The 1800 date in the title tended to be honoured in the breach – after all, the first hundred years of the motor car in the town since 1800 would have made for rather thin reading. (I had wanted to call the book The making of modern Reading, but the publishers wanted a more “does what it says on the tin” type of title).

    Reading 1800 to the Present Day pic 2 Queen Victoria in 2015, safely pedestrianised. (c. Reading 1800 to the Present Day, Amberley Publishing)

    This approach meant focusing on matters that might not normally be given a great deal of attention in a local history. Hence it goes into some detail about the tortured process by which the M4 motorway was planned and built, what became of the M31, the motorway that never was, and why the town centre roads are overloaded. The origins of the Reading Rock Festival, the towns major claim to international fame. How the town transformed itself from a manufacturing to an office-based economy and some of the architectural horrors that were committed along the way. To the evolution of the university, the police force and the welfare state in Reading, and the post-war transformation of the shopping centre.

    I have tried in each chapter to add a little to the readers’ understanding of why the modern town that they know is as it is – for better or worse. As other towns also find their mainstream local history increasingly well documented, this might be a new direction for inveterate scribblers on the subject, like myself, to pursue.

    9781445648316

    Stuart Hylton's book Reading 1800 to the Present Day is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Portsmouth by Steve Wallis

    I like Portsmouth. I find it a very varied city with lots of character and places to find out about. I admit that I have never lived there, but when I wrote a book on Portsmouth before, I enjoyed the exploring most of all.

    Portsmouth Naval Memorial The Portsmouth Naval Memorial (c.Secret Portsmouth, Amberley Publishing)

    So when Amberley asked if I would like to write a book on ‘Secret Portsmouth’ it seemed a good opportunity to find out more about the city and its history. And indeed that’s how it turned out – let me give you some examples of what caught my attention.

    First of all, something that most people from outside the area find surprising is that Portsmouth is actually an island city. This is only thanks to a narrow channel that separates Portsea Island on which it sits from the mainland – a channel that you can easily travel across without noticing it. But before the modern rail and road bridges, the separation was more obvious. This heightened the way that Portsmouth naturally looked to the sea, and a great deal of its history is bound up with naval and other maritime matters.

    For instance, this was the place from which Admiral Nelson left Britain on the voyage that led to his death at the Battle of Trafalgar, while on the Esplanade there is a collection of memorials set up by returning ships’ crews in the 19th century to commemorate their oversea activities and their lost comrades.

    Southsea Castle Southsea Castle (c.Secret Portsmouth, Amberley Publishing)

    As the home port of the British navy, the place is full of fortifications that defended the town and its dockyards. And it wasn’t just attacks from the sea that was a problem – a series of 19th redbrick forts on the hill above the island were often mocked because their guns pointed away from the sea, but there was a real danger that an enemy force might land elsewhere along the coast and then attack the port from inland.

    Different areas of the city have vastly different characters: - there is the historic town that is now called Old Portsmouth, Spice Island that was outside the town’s walls and whose many pubs illustrate the freedom it had from the regulations of the town, the holiday resort of Southsea with lots of open spaces and the villages and hamlets engulfed by the expanding city where you can sometimes get a glimpse of what they were like when set in open countryside.

     

    Portsmouth Point The viewing area at Portsmouth Point (c.Secret Portsmouth, Amberley Publishing)

    Then there are the unusual places dotted around the city. Places like the road out to the Hayling Island ferry, looking like a small and isolated coastal village but down a road lined with concrete blocks left over from the Second World War. Or the little church at Wymering, hidden among the mainland suburbs, where relatives of Jane Austen are buried.

    I was also fascinated by how Portsmouth had expanded across Portsea and onto the mainland. Marshes were drained and made into parks and there was proper planning that made sure the new suburbs had the facilities they needed – pubs, shops, sports pitches and cemeteries. Among the many rows of 19th and early 20th century terraced houses there are lots of interesting features. Birthplaces of famous people, a church with the font in which Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Charles Dickens were both christened and a ‘Station Road’ that never had a railway station to lead to. And always the military connections – those famous people often had a father in the navy!

    And the stories of peoples’ lives really make a place. Like the riot caused when the locals were denied their rights to walk for free along one of the piers and part of the Esplanade that became known as the ‘Battle of Southsea’, or the doctor, one Arthur Conan Doyle, who didn’t have too many patients so used his spare time to write stories, leading to the creation of Sherlock Holmes.

    In fact, I enjoyed writing this book on Portsmouth so much, I think I might write another!

    9781445655161

    Steve Wallis' new book Secret Portsmouth is available for purchase now.

  • The Liverpool & Manchester Railway by Anthony Dawson

    the-l-m-r-1 A first-class coach, as depicted by Isaac Shaw in 1831. (Author's collection, The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    Friday, 17 September 1830. James Scott, Station Superintendent, resplendent in top hat, dark blue frock coat (with gilt ‘company buttons’) and white trousers checks his pocket watch.  Ten minutes to seven o’clock. All was bustle around him as passengers - all of them of the first class – clambered up into the primrose-yellow coaches, which sat waiting for them. Glancing along the train of four coaches; resplendent with the exciting names of Experience, Traveller, Despatch, and Victory. Fussing around are the porters, heaving heavy trunks and portmanteaus onto the roofs of the carriage. Seated on top, wrapped up from the elements in their watch coats are Johns and Hargreaves, the guards. It is their job to keep a good look-out for any dangers and to apply the brakes on the coaches upon which they are sat. Hargeaves, more senior of the pair, takes his place on the rearmost carriage facing forward and puts on his special wire-mesh spectacles to guard against any soot getting in his eyes. Johns takes his seat on the front carriage, but facing backward so as to be in visual communication with Hargreaves. In case of danger they each have a red, a green and a white flag.

    Some of the more curious gentlemen are dallying around North Star, the iron horse at the head of the string of coaches. Painted olive green with black lining-out she presents a compact, purposeful, look with her pair of large five-foot diameter driving wheels and powerful cylinders, set nearly horizontally, alongside the firebox. On her footplate are Thomas George and his mate John Wakefield. Suddenly the safety valve lifts with a whoosh, scattering inquisitive pigeons and passengers alike.

    the-l-m-r-2 Interior of the replica first-class coach, which sat six persons almost knee to knee: 'upholstered in French grey cloth with buttons and lace to match ... the upholstery is carried to a considerable height above the seats, padded head rests being included'. (Lauren Jaye Gradwell, 2016, The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    At five minutes to seven, Scott instructs the large brass bell on the platform to be rung, to inform passengers still dawdling in the waiting room to hurry up, that their train will be leaving at seven o’clock sharp and there would be only a 50% refund on the cost of their 7s (about £10 in 2016) tickets. If any passengers had a complaint, they could write it in the ‘Passenger’s Diary’ found below in the booking hall. The tickets themselves are oblong slips of bright pink paper and had to be purchased the day before, and included the name, address, details of any next of kin, and the reason for travelling. Once booked, a passenger was assigned a numbered seat in a named coach. Each of the coaches sat eighteen in three sumptuous compartments, lined with French grey cloth; the seats stuffed with horse-hair and provided with arm - and head - rests; carpeted throughout and as plush as any drawing room of the best sort. It was a tiny padded cell of luxury.

    One minute to seven. Scott nods to the bugler stood to attention at the head of the train. All the train doors are closed. The luggage is secure. The guards are in their seats. With a twitch of his gloved hand, Scott signals to the bugler; he puts his instrument to his lips and sends off the train with the opening strains of ‘I’d be a butterfly’. Wakefield responds with a brief toot on his own bugle; Thomas George eases open the regulator and for a few moments North Star is lost in a cloud of steam from her open drain cocks. With a barely perceptible whoof, she begins to slowly move away, the polished steel valve levers beginning their hypnotic dance as she clatters over the Water Street Bridge and on to Liverpool, where they would arrive 90 minutes later.

    the-l-m-r-3 The precarious position of the guard, perched on the coach roof, is readily demonstrated: it is easy to see how they could freeze to death on a cold winter's night. (Matthew Jackson, The Liverpool & Manchester Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    Such, perhaps, was the scene at Liverpool Road Station, Manchester on the first day of operation of what was the world’s first inter-city railway 186 years ago. Whilst not the first public railway (that was the Lake Lock Railroad in Yorkshire (opened in 1796)) nor the first to exclusively use steam traction (that was the Middleton Railway, Leeds, in 1812) it was the first double-track mainline inter-city railway; the first to have a working timetable; a written set of rules and regulations; and the first to develop a code of signalling and safety instructions. The Liverpool & Manchester, despite various false starts and the tragedy of the formal opening (15 September 1830) changed the world, not only in how people travel, but in what they wore, and what they ate.

    Henry Booth, the Secretary and Treasurer wrote:

    The most striking result produced by the completion of this Railway, is the sudden and marvellous change which has been effected in our ideas of time and space. What was quick is now slow; what was distant is now near.

    9781445661889

    Anthony Dawson's new book The Liverpool & Manchester Railway is available for purchase now.

  • Triumph 2000: Defining the Sporting Saloon by Kevin Warrington

    Is a simple form of transport a reflection of one’s personality?

    For many people a motor car is not just a simple means of personal transport, it is a reflection of who they are and of their status in life. Today, the prestige market for “executive” saloon cars is dominated by three German manufacturers: BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. But in the early 1960’s, certainly in the United Kingdom, the market was very different with local manufacturers having a near monopoly on supply and the market segmented very differently. Small family cars, a result of the helter skelter, stop go economy and fuel crisis brought on by the Anglo-French “Suez Adventure” were becoming popular. At the high end, well-appointed large motor cars with engines of around 3 litres and interiors finished more like country house drawing rooms than a car. In the middle sat a range of unadventurous and mundane models that, by repute, rusted before they left the production line and while they performed the task demanded of them, were neither adventurous or stylish.

    triumph-2000-1 Shown here is a Mark 2 model, a car that was to gain a slightly undesirable reputation as being the 'get away' car of choice for armed robbers. (Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    All this was to change in 1963 when the rival businesses of Standard -Triumph and The Rover Car Company each announced a new model that would create a paradigm shift in the motor trade by providing a new model that would offer the style and appointment of the existing three litre class, the performance of a sports car (certainly in the case of the Triumph), but be priced in the middle market area. That rival manufacturers were about to launch a new model that would turn upside down the established market segments and compete with each other was well known to each company for there had earlier been attempts to merge both businesses and historically, there were close family connections between the senior management of the two businesses.

    triumph-2000-2 Very early cars featured a two-tone dashboard covering that in certain colours was attrative, but could be quite garish with boled colours. (Steve Parkin, Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    “TRIUMPH 2000 – Defining the Sporting Saloon” tells the story of the Triumph model and how it established the market. The book starts with the origins of the Triumph company, one that like so many businesses that were to settle in Coventry had its foundations in sewing machines, bicycles and motor cycles before entering the world of motor cars. It tells of the perilous finances of the business leading to insolvency and eventual sale to the Standard Motor Company in 1945 where the Triumph name would be used to great success, initially on a range of highly successful sports cars and ultimately on the entire output. The chance meeting between senior executives of what was then called Standard – Triumph with Italian styling genius Giovanni Michelotti lead to a distinctive house style of cars that immediately suggested quality and sporting prowess. To the middle manager or professional looking for a suitable form of transport, the new Triumph or Rover was the solution. While the Rover 2000 expressed traditional “Britishness” and featured an innovative style of construction, the Triumph made great play of the company’s sporting success, which in the early 1960s was at its Zenith with multiple class wins both on the circuit at Le Mans and in rallying.

    triumph-2000-3 Inside the main assembly hall at Canley, saloons and estates are being assembled. (c. BMIHT, Triumph 2000, Amberley Publishing)

    Featuring many new and previously unpublished photographs, this book describes in detail the evolution of the car and Triumph’s efforts to substantially increase its performance through the addition of petrol injection. The first UK manufactured saloon car to feature such a system at a time where any form of fuel delivery other than by carburettors was restricted to the race track or exotic machinery with prices orders of magnitude more expensive than the Triumph. Such innovation was typical of Triumph; not always successfully.

    The book concludes by pondering whether had the Triumph brand survived the upheavals of the motor industry in the 1970s and the mergers with the volume car business of BMC not taken place. Would the aspiring successful business person of today now be considering the purchase of a Triumph rather than a BMW?

    About the Author:

    “TRIUMPH 2000 - Defining the Sporting Saloon” has been written by Kevin Warrington who has been Editor of the Triumph 2000 / 2500 / 2.5 Register club magazine “SIXappeal” for seven years and is actively involved in the management of the club. He is an enthusiastic writer and photographer, having started to take pictures when he was given his first Kodak 127 Brownie camera as a gift for his 7th birthday. “After 53 years, I think I am just about getting the hang of it”, he frequently says. Kevin’s family background has been in the motor and transport business for many generations, but prior to embarking on a writing and photographing career, he made his life in the computer industry where he did, as he describes if “just about everything”, starting as a designer, then a service engineer before moving into product management and eventually sales. A change of management and business strategy led to him leaving a very senior international management position in one of the largest software companies to pursue his own interests.

    9781445655635

    Kevin Warrington's new book Triumph 2000: Defining the Sporting Saloon is available for purchase now.

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