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  • Illustrated Tales of Derbyshire by David Paul

    Over the years many stories have been written and recounted concerning the visitation of the Plague, or Black Death, when it was inflicted upon the tiny Derbyshire Peak village of Eyam.  At that time the vicar of Eyam, as is well documented, was Rev. William Mompesson. However, it is the exploits of another of Eyam’s vicars that I have researched and retold in Illustrated Tales of Derbyshire. The story relates to a bizarre marriage that took place towards the latter part of the seventeenth century and is recounted as follows:

     

    The Parish Church of St Lawrence, Eyam. (Illustrated Tales of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    One winter’s day in 1684 the Rector of Eyam, Rev’d Joseph Hunt, had been called to the Miners Arms to perform the office of baptism, as the landlord’s infant son had suddenly taken ill. Having baptised the child the landlord, Mr Matthew Fearns, invited the rector to stay and enjoy a drink or two with some of the village’s miners who were sat in the bar enjoying a well-earned couple of pints at the end of a long week. The rector took the landlord at his word, and enjoyed his hospitality and the company of the miners until he became totally inebriated. Now, it was well-known in the village, especially amongst the miners in the community, that the landlord had a very charming and beautiful daughter, Ann, who, at the tender age of 18, was destined to break many hearts. Before very long Rev’d Hunt was seen entering into flirtatious conversation with the young woman. As is often the case when large quantities of ale are consumed, one thing led to another and, ‘egged on’ by the miners, the rector, enjoying the prevailing mood and one or two drinks too many, agreed to participate in a mock wedding with the publican’s daughter. The miners had little trust in the rector’s promise, so they insisted that he should honour his promise there and then. After imbibing in another glass or two, the rector consented to go ahead with the ceremony. Without further ado, one of the miners produced a Book of Common Prayer and promptly acted as officiant. He read through the whole of the solemn ceremony, with the young girl and the rector performing the roles of bride and groom respectively.

    News of the event quickly spread throughout the neighbourhood, and before very long the unfortunate act of theatre came to the notice of the Bishop of the Diocese. He had no hesitation in commanding the beleaguered rector to legitimise the mock wedding, declaring that he must fulfil in earnest what he had done in jest. Although Hunt was already engaged to another lady from Derby, he duly complied with this edict and legally married Miss Fearns (Furness) on 4th September 1684. This action had unfortunate consequences, as the lady from Derby, who was very wealthy, took out an action for breach of promise against him. Many of Hunt’s subsequent years were occupied in legal proceedings. The legal expenses alone ensured that he lost what little money he had, but the stigma of his actions soon lost him his friends in the village, whilst the reality of his actions meant that he was continually harassed by the officers of the law.

    Desperate to escape from the multitude of pressures which were besetting him, Hunt, together with his new bride, took refuge in the vestry which, supposedly, had been built for the specific purpose of providing him with a place of refuge from his enemies. He dwelt in the vestry, together with his wife and nine children, until his death. In later years he was characterised as being of a very friendly disposition, with young people from the parish visiting him in his abode, where they would sit round the fire telling tales to while away the dreary winter nights.

    Rev’d Joseph Hunt was Rector at Eyam between 1683 and 1709.  He resided in his makeshift dwelling until his death. There is a tombstone in a corner of the churchyard which records his death and the death of his wife. It simply states that of Rev’d Joseph Hunt, Rector of Eyam, was buried on 16th December 1709 and Ann, his wife, was buried on 18th December 1703.

     

    There are many other strange and incredible stories, garnered from numerous sources across the county, and retold in Illustrated Tales of Derbyshire.

    David Paul's book Illustrated Tales of Derbyshire is available for purchase now.

  • Queen Victoria and The Romanovs by Coryne Hall

    Sixty Years of Mutual Distrust

    Much to my surprise, no previous author has ever looked in depth at Queen Victoria’s ambivalent relationship with Russia and its ruling family. Armed with permission from the Royal Archives at Windsor to quote from the Queen’s Journals, I decided to put this to rights.

    Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg (Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna of Russia) as a young woman. Stories about her treatment in Russia greatly influenced her niece Queen Victoria. (Private collection, Queen Victoria and The Romanovs, Amberley Publishing)

    The reasons for her dislike and distrust were both political and personal. The political centred on the historic British distrust of Russian aims since the expansion of the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great. The personal reasons centred on the bad treatment of Queen Victoria’s maternal aunt Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld by her Romanov husband Grand Duke Constantine, Catherine the Great’s grandson.

    As I worked through the Queen’s Journals, I found that there were a lot more communications between Victoria and the Romanovs than I had thought. So many of them visited the Queen at Windsor, Osborne or Balmoral.

    The first to arrive was the future Tsar Alexander II in 1839. Alexander and Victoria were almost the same age. Victoria described him as tall with a fine figure, a pleasing open countenance without being handsome, fine blue eyes, a short nose, and a pretty mouth with a sweet smile.’ His impression of her was less complimentary: ‘[She] is very small, her figure is bad, her face plain, but she’s very agreeable to talk to.’ Nevertheless, when he whirled her giddily around the ballroom she was soon completely bowled over. The feeling (at the time) was mutual. Years later Victoria’s granddaughter described Alexander as ‘Grandmama’s first beau.’

    Tsarevich Alexander (later Alexander II) who completely bowled over the young Queen Victoria when he visited England in 1839. (Private collection, Queen Victoria and The Romanovs, Amberley Publishing)

    Nicholas I came to Buckingham Palace and Windsor in 1844. He refused a comfortable bed in favour of his own camp bed from St Petersburg and asked for straw to stuff the mattress. He was an autocrat to his fingertips but Victoria found that ‘his sternness is less remarkable, when one gets to know him better.’  Ten years later the Crimean War broke out and they were enemies.

    On his death in 1855 Victoria’s former ‘beau’ Alexander II came to the throne. Nevertheless, at least once during his reign Britain and Russia were brought to the brink of war.

    What Victoria did not foresee was the Romanovs marrying into her own family. Her son Alfred married Alexander II’s daughter Marie in 1874 after long and tortuous negotiations, when both the Tsar and the Queen proved reluctant to give way on any issue. When Marie arrived in England after the wedding she insisted on being treated as a Russian Grand Duchess. Not only was she autocratic but her jewels dazzled the court and made the Queen and her daughters rather jealous. Marie was soon complaining about the Queen and life in England in letters home.

    Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Windsor. To the annoyance of the tsar, Victoria married her Coburg cousin in 1840. (Private collection, Queen Victoria and The Romanovs, Amberley Publishing)

    The only Tsar who did not visit during his reign was Alexander III. His wife, Marie Feodorovna, was a sister to Princess Alexandra, wife of the Prince of Wales. Tsarevich Alexander and his wife came on a visit to her sister in 1873, when the Queen also invited them to Windsor and Osborne but, when he became Tsar after Alexander II’s assassination by terrorists in 1881, he and Victoria did not get on at all. ‘A sovereign whom she does not look upon as a gentleman’ was her comment about Alexander III.  In return, he described her as a ‘pampered, sentimental, selfish old woman.’

    The differences in language and culture, as well as the unstable political situation in Russia, explained the Queen’s horror when two of her favourite Hesse granddaughters, Ella and Alix, married into the Russian Imperial family – Ella to Alexander III’s brother Grand Duke Sergei, and Alix to Tsar Nicholas II. The Queen did her best to discourage both young women from going to what she called ‘horrid Russia’ but to no avail.

    Victoria gave an especially warm welcome to Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna when they stayed at Balmoral in 1896, but although the Queen liked Nicholas as a person, she didn’t like or trust his country. Her Empire always came before family connections.

    ‘Russia,’ the Queen Victoria once wrote, ‘is not to be trusted.’ It is fortunate that she didn’t live long enough to know that she would be proved right. Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, their children and Ella were all killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

    Coryne Hall's book Queen Victoria and The Romanovs is available for purchase now.

  • Shropshire Airfields Through Time by Alec Brew

    Wander nowadays down many Shropshire country lanes near small villages like Atcham, Condover, Montford Bridge or Rednal, and you will come across silent, sightless sentinels, looking out across empty fields of corn or cows, derelict control towers watching over long forgotten airfields. High above, only soaring skylarks can be heard, where once aircraft engines filled the heavens with noise, as young men from across the World learned the necessary skills to fight the aerial battles of the Second World War.

    The Spitfires moved south in August and were replaced by the Lockheed Lightnings of the 14th Fighter Group, who flew their aircraft from California. An RAF officer greets one of the pilots. (Shropshire Airfields Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    When war clouds loomed in the late Thirties, the adjacent counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire were seen as the ideal place to site the training airfields which would be needed for an expanding air force, thought to be far enough away from Europe to be out of range of the Luftwaffe. Shropshire alone had nearly twenty airfields across its Northern plain, two of them, at Shawbury and Tern Hill, reviving First World War airfields, which had served the same function. Suddenly the skies over Shropshire were filled with aircraft, the circuits at many airfields almost touching.

    There was basic training from RAF Tern Hill, advanced training from RAF Shawbury, Bomber Operational Training Units (OTUs) at Tilstock, Sleap and Peplow, a fighter OTU at Rednal and Montford Bridge, the Fleet Air Arm used an airfield at Hinstock which they called HMS Godwit, about as far from the sea as a godwit could fly. Even the Americans came, operating a Combat Crew Replacement Unit at Atcham, and when their P.47 Thunderbolts chanced upon the Spitfires from Rednal, could they resist a mock dogfight?

    Other combats were far from mock. Night fighters operated from High Ercall and Tern Hill, stalking the Germans who came to bomb the North-West or the Black Country. Bomber OTUs joined raids on Europe, new crews testing their skills.

    Even in training accidents were many, young men let loose on powerful machines, always a recipe for disaster, and especially with the Shropshire and Welsh hills close at hand. The Americans at Atcham had a favourite sport, chock to chock races in their powerful Thunderbolts, all around the Wrekin, which loomed large just to the south. Such was its peril that they placed a warning beacon on the top, with the on/off switch in Atcham control tower, turning it off when Germans were about. After the War, when Atcham closed, the switch was moved to High Ercall, and now resides in the tower at RAF Shawbury.

    This photograph has always been attributed to Tern Hill, but shows 1456 Flight Turbinlite aircraft. In the foreground is a Handley Page Harrow transport ‘Boadicea’, sometimes called a ‘Sparrow’ without the front turret. Behind is an Airspeed Oxford of No. 286 Army Co-operation Squadron, a Havoc and two black Hurricanes of 1456 Flight. The Pontoon and Dock Company, currently make Marina equipment in this Type K hangar on No. 2 Sub Site. High Ercall has a total of three Type K hangars. (Shropshire Airfields Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    When the invasion of Europe loomed, assault gliders were assembled at RAF Cosford, and glider pilots trained at Tilstock, Peplow and Sleap, and then they went away to carry the fight to Normandy fields.

    At the end of the War the cut back was swift, airfields soon closed, those at High Ercall and Tern Hill lasting longer than most. RAF Shawbury remains today training the helicopter pilots for all three services, including, in its time, two young princes. Its runway remains a safe haven for aircraft in difficulty, in an area of the country where few remain. RAF Cosford remains the sole training base for ground based trades, and the home of the RAF’s only surviving annual Air Show. Tern Hill was turned over to the Army but the helicopters from Shawbury visit often. Sleap became Shropshire’s main general aviation airfield, and up on the Long Mynd, the one airfield closed during the War, has thrived since, as the home of the Midland Gliding Club. One other airfield is a surprising survivor, little RAF Chetwynd, a neat grass field lost down the lanes north of Newport, continues to serve as an extra landing field as it has for over 75 years, currently for the helicopters from Shawbury.

    Hopefully my book makes sense of what once was there, and what little still remains, those silent sentinels, the old control towers, those small industrial estates in surprisingly rural places, built on the old technical sites like Condover, Hinstock, Atcham or Rednal, those derelict Romney or Maycrete huts in farmyards or woods. Unsung memorials to a generation of young men now disappearing as they are reclaimed by Nature and the march of time.

    Alec Brew's book Shropshire Airfields Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Broadstairs by Andy Bull

    The untold story of the lady who inspired David Copperfield’s aunt, Betsy Trotwood.

    Charles Dickens’ semi-autobiographical story of David Copperfield has proved a timeless classic, and is gaining new admirers through Armando Iannucci’s 2019 film version.

    Aunt Betsy chasing donkeys off the green in an illustration for the American edition of David Copperfield. (Secret Broadstairs, Amberley Publishing)

    A central character in the story is David’s eccentric aunt, Betsy Trotwood. A key comic scene in both book and film is that in which she chases donkeys off the green in front of her home.

    Aunt Betsy was based on a formidable lady Dickens came to know during his annual summer stays at Broadstairs. That lady was Mary Pearson Strong and, while her connection with the character is well known in the town and where her former home houses the Dickens Museum, I discovered a fascinating untold story about Miss Strong while researching my new book, Secret Broadstairs.

    It involves a long-forgotten legacy which means that Mary, who was a hugely public-spirited character and did a great deal to help the people of Broadstairs, is still benefiting the town’s children and elderly today, 165 years after her death.

    Here is the story I uncovered.

    Mary Pearson Strong’s home, now the Dickens Museum. (Secret Broadstairs, Amberley Publishing)

    Mary Pearson Strong was a member of the wealthy Strong’s brewing family from Hampshire. She had a sister, Ann, and while Mary remained single – like her fictional counterpart – Ann married Stephen Nuckell in 1799.

    Stephen owned the cottage in which Miss Strong lived, and several adjoining buildings in what was then called Nuckell’s Place. He also owned the land running down to the cliff edge, which is now an enclosed garden. It was from this spot that Betsy (and Miss Strong) tried to ban donkeys.

    Stephen Nuckell was a prominent figure in Broadstairs, running Nuckell’s Library and the town’s Assembly Rooms, which stood at the western end of Nuckell’s Place (now Victoria Parade) where the Charles Dickens Inn is today. Mary, Ann and Stephen share a tomb in St Peter’s churchyard.

    The green from which Mary Pearson Strong chased donkeys. (Secret Broadstairs, Amberley Publishing)

    Stephen Nuckell’s death, in 1834, coincided with a change in the law regarding provision for the poor. The occupants of the town’s workhouse, in the High Street in the St Peter’s area of town, were moved to another facility at nearby Minster-in-Thanet, and the building put up for sale. It was bought by Stephen’s widow and named Nuckell’s Almshouse in his memory. In 1838 she paid £700 for the building and a further £100 converting it from what had been a grim and forbidding place into pleasant homes for ten poor, elderly widows.

    This pattern of charitable giving continued in the wills of Mary Pearson Strong and Ann, in which they both endowed charitable institutions that still exist in Broadstairs to this day.

    Delving into documents including a Board of Education report on endowments for the years 1853 to 1894, I discovered the details.

    Nuckell’s Almshouse, which still benefits from a bequest by Mary Pearson Strong. (Secret Broadstairs, Amberley Publishing)

    When Ann died, in 1843, her will left instructions that, upon her sister Mary Pearson Strong’s death, the sum of £5,000 should be invested and the income used to support or establish three schools in Broadstairs: an infants’, a girls’ and a boys’ school. The money was expressly to be used ‘for the purpose of educating the children of the poor in religious and useful knowledge ... and towards the clothing [of] such children of the said schools’, and to help them become ‘good and profitable servants and labourers’.

    Ann left it up to the vicar of St Peter’s, John Hodgson, to decide exactly where and how the money should be spent. He divided the income in equal proportions among the six schools built during his incumbency in the parish of St. Peter.

    When Mary Pearson Strong died, in 1855, her will left money for the improvement of St Peter’s Church and ‘for the benefit of the Girls’ School at St. Peter’s ... and of the inmates or any of them in Nuckell’s Almshouse’. Shortly afterwards, in 1858, Nuckell’s Almshouse was radically rebuilt, creating the grand Palladian-style Grade II-listed building to be seen today, with its niche holding a sculpture of a mother and children, representing Charity.

    The inscription on Mary Pearson Strong’s grave, urging charity. (Secret Broadstairs, Amberley Publishing)

    John Wood, clerk to the trustees of Nuckell’s Almshouse, confirms: ‘Together with a few others, Nuckell’s Almshouse benefits from a small charity of Mary Pearson Strong. I understand that Miss Strong also paid for a girls’ school to be added to St. Peter’s Infants school in the village ... Nuckell’s Almshouse still houses “poor” people. The building is now arranged in six self-contained flats – one two-bedroomed and five with one bedroom. The residents help towards the upkeep of the premises by paying a weekly maintenance contribution.’

    Charities in the names of Mary Pearson Strong and Nuckell’s Almshouse still exist. The charitable object of the Mary Pearson Strong endowment, as the current Charity Commission listing makes clear, is little changed. It is to provide: ‘Almshouses for poor persons of good character who are members of the Church of England and who have resided in the Isle of Thanet for not less than seven years ... with preference to persons who have so resided in the ancient parish of St Peter.’ It is linked with the Nuckell’s Almshouse charity.

    Mary’s inscription on the family tomb in St Peter’s churchyard reads: ‘Give alms of such things as ye have’. Ann’s inscription records that she died ‘bequeathing large sums to pious and charitable uses in this parish. Founder of Nuckell’s Almshouse’. Inflation has eaten away at Mary Pearson Strong’s endowment and, says Mr Wood, the charity now receives just £19 per year from this source.

    Andy Bull's book Secret Broadstairs is available for purchase now.

  • River Thames Shipping Since 2000 by Malcolm Batten

    Cargo Shipping, Passenger Ships, Ferries, Heritage Shipping and More

    I grew up and still live in East London, only a few miles from where the Port of London Authority ‘Royal’ Docks used to be – the largest enclosed dock area in the world. My grandfather was a boilermaker in the ship repair yards – considered such an important skilled job that he was not called up during the First World War. Later he was chosen to demonstrate a pneumatic riveting machine to the King at the opening of the King George V dock in 1921. Although my father did not follow him in his career, he had an interest in ships and took several photographs around the docks, particularly towards their end. So it was perhaps inevitable that I would also be fascinated by the local shipping. As a boy I would often ride back and forth on the old Woolwich Ferries, which were coke-fired paddle steamers until replaced in 1963. Later when I first started working as a library assistant it was often on the mobile library that served North Woolwich, a location accessed via the bascule bridges that gave access to the docks. Therefore whenever a ship was coming in or out the bus would have a long wait, but the passengers would have a grandstand view.

    CMA CGM Sambhar (Monrovia) (2006, 51,870 tons). (River Thames Shipping Since 2000: Cargo Shipping, Amberley Publishing)

    Although I started taking photographs in 1969, I didn’t tend to take ships very often as my early cameras did not have a long focus lens. In fact it was not until around the end of the 1990s that I started photographing shipping regularly, by which time the ‘Royals’ and other London docks had long since closed. However there was still shipping to be seen on the Thames, albeit mostly downriver around Tilbury. The Port of London had concentrated development here when changes in cargo handling towards container and Roll-on, Roll-off ships made the old docks unsuited for such traffic.

    I have been following the events since then, and have endeavoured to record the changing scene in this pair of books. Change is continuous as shipping companies and services come and go. New expansion has come about with the Thames Gateway port at Thameshaven, capable of taking some of the largest container vessels now afloat. While this has led to a reduction in the container traffic handled at Tilbury, Tilbury is gaining an extension to its Ro-Ro and aggregates handling facilities with the construction of the new Tilbury 2 complex, on the site of the former power station. But elsewhere some things remain as they have seemingly always been. Bulk carriers bring sugar cane to the Tate & Lyle refinery at Silvertown as ships have done for over 140 years.

    The Marco Polo [Nassau] is seen on 4 August 2013. (River Thames Shipping Since 2000: Passenger Ships, Ferries, Heritage Shipping and More, Amberley Publishing)

    The Woolwich and Tilbury ferries still cross the Thames as they did in my grandfather’s time, but of course the vessels are several generations removed from those he would have known. Thames sailing barges can still be seen, though now sailed for pleasure rather than commercially. Each year (though unfortunately not in 2019) the paddle steamer Waverley has visited the Thames for a fortnight or so, to bring back the experience of the past when Londoners would flock to the paddlers for a day trip down to Southend or beyond.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

      

    Malcolm Batten's books River Thames Shipping Since 2000: Cargo Shipping and River Thames Shipping Since 2000: Passenger Ships, Ferries, Heritage Shipping and More are available for purchase now.

  • Yorkshire Buses by Scott Poole

    Gods own country is a name bestowed upon Yorkshire, with her variations of major cities, historical towns and award-winning villages. There are many attractions within the county of Yorkshire, from Minsters, Cathedral’s, ancient Abbey’s, market towns, rolling hills and vast moorland, Yorkshire offers plenty.

    Preserved 180 - a Horsefield car with Brush bodywork - stands in Crich Tramway Museum. (Yorkshire Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    Today transport within the county is operated by three large operators Arriva, First and Stagecoach, alongside Transdev. With the 1972 local government re-organising of the Yorkshire county from   Ridings to Metropolitan councils, it saw major transport departments of the cities vanish into new PTEs or merge into parts of the NBC bus operations. But the 1985 Transport Act again saw major change, as PTEs could no longer operate bus services, new arms-length companies arrived. New names, updated vehicles and the low floor generation saw new styles arrive into Yorkshire.

    From humble beginnings, using horse drawn trams and carts to steam powered vehicles pulling large trailer cars, to the use of electricity for the new generation of tram car, with designs created by forward thinking managers. Bradford, Doncaster, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Hull, Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield all had tramway systems, which towards the end of the 1940’s were slowly abandoned in favour of the motor bus. Some of our towns and cities used Trolleybuses to replace trams, which saw Bradford being the last operator of the type in March 1972.

    Bradford Corporation's last front-engine double-deckers were a batch of fifteen Alexander-bodied Leyland Titan PD3s. (Yorkshire Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    After World War Two, the manufacturing sector saw improvements to materials and equipment, which allowed new methods of construction. Gone were the traditional teak framed bodies, replaced by lightweight aluminum frames and sheets. Fiberglass parts were also constructed, which saw a much-needed shape arriving on to buses during the 1960’s. Yorkshire had many traditional industries and saw cities extend boundaries, as many of the population wanted to live outside of the centers. This is where public transport grew in the 1920’s, 1930’s and the 1940’s as the public moved around the area for reasonable fares, the boom time of the 1950’s saw an increase in leisure travel.

    Plaxton’s a Scarborough based coach builder would benefit from this coaching boom. With stylish bodies arriving at the Wallace Arnold firm, based in Leeds, with many journeys setting off from the Calls near the Corn Exchange, Leeds. West Yorkshire, West Riding, Yorkshire Traction and Yorkshire Woollen all joined together forming the coaching pool services. This saw in the 1950’s and 1960’s increased travel around the country, with days out to Birmingham, Edinburgh, The Lake district, Newcastle, Nottingham, Wales and London. With M1 opening, this allowed for express coach journeys to most of the cities’ south of Leeds.

    This bus is seen on the 163 in Kippax during the first day of the ADL E40MMC working the route. (Yorkshire Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    Charles. H. Roe, initially based on Balm Road in Leeds, moved to Cross Gates in the 1920’s, were the firm stayed until closure in September 1984. Roe had bodied almost all the vehicles of Leeds City Transport, with neighboring towns and cities also purchasing Roe bus bodies. As a tradition, Leeds always sent a specially built vehicle to the annual Commercial Motor Show at London’s Earl’s Court. The last Leeds buses at this show was a Roe bodied Daimler Fleetline 761 (211) in September 1972. Roe bodied the West Riding orders for the interesting Guy Wulfrunian, which arrived during the 1960’s a concept which failed. Luckily two examples of the type are preserved with the Dewsbury Bus Museum, one in the green and the other in the red West Riding liveries.

    The 1970’s saw the much-loved municipal transport departments close, as new transport ideas were generated, gone were local urban and district councils replaced by the larger metropolitan county councils. These in turn saw the creation of the larger Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) from 1969, the Yorkshire PTEs arriving in April 1974. The National Bus Company (NBC) arrived in 1969, taking into her fold were the West Riding group, West Yorkshire Road Car and Yorkshire Traction. With a poppy red livery, the Yorkshire based fleets. Agreements saw the creation of the Metro/National group, which saw integration of the whole service numbers, inter-ticketing solutions, the rail network and the off-peak fares. Plus, the introduction of the multi journey saver strip, which was introduced as part of the 1983 bus fayre held in Leeds. The saver strip was a success along with the off-peak fares; it saw a 2 million plus rise in passengers during the late 1981-1983 period. But it was South Yorkshire, which had the rest of the PTEs thinking, bus fares in the county were the lowest, allowing the passengers to travel over ten miles for around 10 pence. All that would change in October 1986, as the fares in South Yorkshire rose to a staggering 250%, a basic trip across town would cost the same a Leeds, about 30 pence.

    Sheffield ordered a batch of eighteen Bristol VRTs with East Lancashire bodywork. This example has been preserved and is housed at the Wythall Transport Museum. (Yorkshire Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    The 1985 ‘Transport act’ or deregulation, as it became better known, saw the new commercial enterprise era arrive. The PTEs were no longer allowed to run services, but could assist in financial subsidies of service, were required. Companies had to register a commercial service before 25th October 1986, after which time a 56-day notice was required to set in any alterations or cancelations to a service. Yorkshire saw some colour return to the transport scene, but it led to some confusion as to which company was operating an established route. In both South and West Yorkshire most of the former PTEs services were successfully tendered by the new at arm’s length companies. Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield were the areas were most of the competitive nature of deregulation occurred. But by the turn of the century, the situation had changed, with the now established big three of Arriva (West Riding routes) First (former PTE operations) and Stagecoach (Yorkshire Traction services and Hull Corporation). East Yorkshire remained independent until late 2018, when the firm was purchased by the Go-Ahead group. In 2019 a new livery and branding of key routes followed by investment in new vehicles, have ensured East Yorkshire continues. Blazefield, set up upon the departure of AJS Holdings took over the former West Yorkshire operations in Harrogate, Keighley and Malton, now operation as part of the colourful Transdev group.

    In this volume I chart the ever-changing transport scene, as operators are seeing more difficult situations from funding cuts, competition and loss of business. It has shaped the county from its humble beginnings in the 1860 until now in the 21st Century. Step on board and enjoy this look back at the various types which once were operating around the Yorkshire area.

    A huge thank you to Connor at Amberley for the opportunity to write a second book and to everyone else at Amberley too for their time. I hope you enjoy the book.

    Scott Poole's book Yorkshire Buses is available for purchase now.

  • Freight in the Peak District by Paul Harrison

    Living on the doorstep of the Peak District of Derbyshire has over the last forty odd years or so afforded me many opportunities to jump on the train or bus and travel to places to photograph and watch the many varied freight train movements and record the details. My first visits to the area were in the early 1980s usually with my parents, brother and often our Uncle, who introduced me and my brother to a lifetime of railway trains. A favourite treat was to ride the diesel passenger train to Buxton on New Year’s Day to visit the town and have a look around the model toy fair in the Pavilion Gardens where our Christmas money could be spent on items for our model railway layout.

    The driver of No. 60047 is about to relinquish the single-line token to the signaller leaning out of the box with his hook. (Freight in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

    Although I have visited the main location of Peak Forest many times since the mid-1990s, I do regret not going up more in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before privatisation of the railways started. Back then it was British Rail and the Railfreight Trainload Sector operations and the local Buxton based Class 37s that ruled the roost with some help from Class 31s and 47s. The new Class 60s were first introduced to the area in 1991 for driver and technical training at first and I quite liked these rugged heavy-duty locomotives even more so as their engines were supplied from the Mirrlees-Blackstone factory in Hazel Grove. Little did I know then that these Class 60s would be the main traction type for my favourite traffic flow the Tunstead to Northwich limestone flow locally known as ‘The Hoppers’. These wagons and the traffic they carried were another reason for my interest in the local freight scene. Along with the various other stone and cement flows and the ‘Speedlink’ feeder service that ran between Warrington Arpley and Peak Forest where the wagons were split into separate portions for onwards dispatch to Hope for cement, Buxton for gas oil and supplies for the locomotive depot, and Hindlow for powdered lime. Plus what I considered to be foreign wagons would turn up sometimes and I would try to figure out what they were being used for. I could happily view these freight trains passing from my bedroom window.

    A double-headed Freightliner train of empty HIA hoppers heads to Tunstead for loading. (Freight in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

    It was during the mid-1990s that I picked up my Dad’s Zenit camera and soon acquired one of my own, another similar Zenit 11, which did the job in taking photographs of the trains passing through Hazel Grove and recording what was going on at Peak Forest. A better Minolta SLR camera with auto-wind on came a few years after and the better optics and focusing certainly helped. By 2007 I had saved up to buy a new Sony A100 Digital SLR which became my main camera having tried several different digital cameras up until then, the best of which was probably the Sony CD camera, which recorded onto mini three inch size CD-R discs and that performed well until the A100 was purchased. And so with the ability to take more photographs recorded onto a memory card I began to take more of the trains and the wagons that they were formed of. I still try and visit the Peak Forest area when time permits and enjoy seeing what has changed since my last visit especially the locomotive colours and wagons.

    After publishing my first book in 2002 on the history of the traffic from Tunstead to Northwich and beyond, I published my own booklet in 2006, which commemorated two railway anniversaries in Hazel Grove where I grew up. It wasn’t until many years later when an acquaintance in the DEMU modelling society had his book on modern wagons published by Amberley Publishing that the thought occurred to me to maybe try getting a book of my own published. And so the idea of a book looking at the Freight traffic in and around the Peak District was born using my own photographic material.

    Paul Harrison's book Freight in the Peak District is available for purchase now.

  • A-Z of Glasgow by Michael Meighan

    On Glasgow's Dear Green Place

    Since long before Glasgow's George Square became our main civic centre, Glasgow Green has been a place for rallies, concerts, rowing regattas, athletics, football, and even soapbox races. It was here too that the Glasgow Fair was held after being moved from the grounds of Glasgow Cathedral in the 1800's. A stone also commemorates the place where, in 1765, James Watt was said to have come up with his ideas for a condenser for the steam engine so starting the age of steam.

    The River Clyde at Glasgow Green. (Author's collection, A-Z of Glasgow, Amberley Publishing)

    As a child, I was taken by the hand by my father round the People's Palace. The Palace at that time, like many museums, was a dusty mausoleum of stuffy old artefacts locked up in glass cases. The museum now reflects Glasgow's social and industrial past in interactive and very interesting exhibits - Glasgow in wartime, the cinema, Red Clydeside and fashion.

    The Winter Gardens with their extensively glazed panels and foliage draped paths make this a delight to walk or sit in. I wonder what the air quality might have been like when it was built. While it is set in the expansive Glasgow Green it would still have been in the middle of one of Glasgow's busiest and dirtiest areas. Now though, 100 years after its opening, the Palace was given a new lease of life with a £1.2 million refurbishment and this gives us the space for the new café. With a redeveloped Green and against the backdrop of the Doge's Palace and with the newly restored Doulton Fountain, it is a joy to visit.

    The People's Palace and the Doulton Fountain. (Author's collection, A-Z of Glasgow, Amberley Publishing)

    There can hardly be a Glaswegian who doesn't know about Templeton's carpet factory on the Green. James Templeton, its founder, was a Highlander from Campbeltown in Argyll, who along with many thousands of his ilk, left the poverty of the Highlands to find fame and fortune in Glasgow.

    By the time he was 27 James had set up a business in Paisley making shawls and with William Quiglay worked on a patent for the machinery for 'a new and improved mode of manufacturing silk, woollen, cotton and linen fabrics'. Buying out Quiglay he was joined by his brothers-in-law and moved to King Street in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow to expand his business. Production started in 1839 and by 1851 the company was employing 400 people. By the start of the First World War it was reputed to be the biggest carpet manufacturer in the United Kingdom. By the 1950s it was Glasgow's biggest employer with 7000 workers in this and other mills in the area.

    Templeton Building modelled on the 'Doge's Palace' in Venice. (Author's collection, A-Z of Glasgow, Amberley Publishing)

    It is said that the nearby residents in Monteith Row, which was then a very desirable area objected to Templeton's building plans for a new factory a number of times so he was forced to come up with a dramatic design which would guarantee acceptance. He recruited architect William Leiper who emulated the Doge's Palace in Venice to produce what must be one of the most unusual industrial buildings in Europe. Leiper is also known for Glasgow's Gothic Dowanhill Church, now home of the Cottier Theatre. The design of the factory also guaranteed its listing and survival as a business centre. Its opening in 1889 was tinged with sadness as soon after a freak gust of wind combined with alleged bad building work caused a partial collapse of a the main facade killing 29 workers. It was rebuilt and re-opened in 1891.

    At the end of the 1960s, the Guthrie Corporation, a rubber plantation owner, was looking for a foothold in the British flooring market. They succeeded with a takeover of Templeton's in 1969. Guthrie was ambitious and in 1980 they acquired a £1.5M stake in Stoddards. It subsequently closed down the Templeton factory and transferred production to the Stoddard mill in Elderslie.

    Following a takeover and then closure of Templeton, the redundant building was re-opened as a business centre in the 1980's with architect James Anderson winning the Regeneration of Scotland Design Awards. It now also houses a popular micro brewery, restaurant and bar, West On The Green. Highly recommended.

    West on the Green in the Templeton Building. (Author's collection, A-Z of Glasgow, Amberley Publishing)

    Although the area round Glasgow was sacked by Vikings from their Kingdom of Dublin in the ninth century, it was generally of little interest to invaders. For much of its early years it was simply a fishing village on a crossroads. Even Prince Charles didn’t bother. The Green at Christmas 1745, on his way back from an abortive attempt at invading England, his army camped on what is now part of Glasgow Green, Flesher’s Haugh. Charlie demanded that the city ‘donate’ £15,000 to his campaign as well as provisions, clothing and footwear.

    Glasgow had been doing rather well under the existing regime, and the Provost wrote back saying that as his citizens didn’t support the cause, he couldn’t help. He was actually more afraid of the reaction in the area than he was of the Jacobite army. A smaller contribution than asked for was given even as the citizens prepared to defend Glasgow against attack.

    While Charlie dined well with supporters his army made do with camping on the Green, some of them round the church of St Andrew's in the Square, just off the Green.

    Michael Meighan's book A-Z of Glasgow is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Dover by Jeff Howe

    Dover’s Quite Alright

    Dover holds a particular fascination for me. I don’t really know why, I don’t live there.  It’s just another run-down seaside town, suffering still from the effects of war-time bomb and shell damage, and population stagnation. Since then various economic impetuses have caused many buildings of monumental style and importance to be demolished; as recently as the 1990s, concrete pilings for ‘The White Cliffs Experience’, a new type of interactive visitor centre, were knowingly driven through part of a Roman fort. But to quote Jim Cairns, Mayor of Dover during WWII, “Dover’s quite alright…we are all very busy doing our jobs… we have our problems”, and Alderman Cairns’s words probably ring as true today as they did in 1942. Dover’s hustle and bustle is as busy as that of any other Kentish coastal town. So what makes this such an interesting place?

    Advert for 'The Magic Flute' featuring Esme Atherden and her future husband, Walter Hyde, 1899. (c. The Era, Secret Dover, Amberley Publishing)

    Of course, there is the Iron Age hill fort that is the site of Dover Castle, the Bronze Age boat discovered during a road building project, and the Western Heights which has the largest system of 19th century fortifications in this country. But for me it’s the little things about Dover that make it such a fascinating place. For example, the Flat Earth Society was founded here in 1956. Also, there was once a defensive military canal where today container trucks thunders along the town’s main road, much shorter, but with the same purpose of defending against Napoleon’s hoards, just like the impressive Royal Military Canal at Hythe just along the coast.

    More recently, Walter Hyde, the prolific Wagnerian tenor of the early 20th century sang at Dover Town Hall in 1904 and 05. He also married a local girl, Emma Atherden from the Pier District, an area now non-existent and once referred to as a slum. This was by the Western Docks and largely inhabited by mariners and their families, full of tumble-down houses, pubs and churches, where folk lived cheek-by-jowl.

    The effects of the flame barrage at Studland Bay, Dorset, 1940. (c. Flame Over Britain, Secret Dover, Amberley Publishing)

    In a February 1957 broadcast of The Goon Show Moriarty gives Neddie Seagoon the deeds to the English Channel with a proviso that Neddie insures it against fire. Luckily, Moriarty and Grytpype-Thynne also happen to be wandering insurance agents, and they sold Neddie a policy with a £48,000 payout should the Channel catch light, for just 18 shillings. I always wondered if The Goon Show had any idea that there was such a plan to set light to the Channel just 17 years earlier. In ‘Secret Dover’ you will find a photograph of the 1940 anti-invasion flame barrage. This consisted of a set of large oil tanks and a pump house secreted in a ditch on the Western Heights, their purpose was to set light to the surf had a German invasion force arrived. This would have been used in conjunction with other fixed defences, such as the ubiquitous pillboxes and wire entanglements on the beach to repel the invaders. I think this is a textbook case of fact being stranger than fiction! I found the photo of Dover’s flame barrage tanks on Facebook, posted by a Dover resident who watched them being removed in 1991. And I’m convinced that there are secreted in people’s lofts in Dover and every other town in this country, shoeboxes of old photos waiting to see the light of day again, and these will amaze us with once familiar vistas.

    The music-hall comedian Harold Montague who played the Promenade Pier in 1905.

    These more esoteric odds and ends form the basis of ‘Secret Dover’. 22,000 words about the harbour; the blitz; Matron Louisa Stewart, stalwart of the military hospital during the Great War; Harold Montague who sang his new song, “When Maud Put Her New Bathing Costume On” in the Promenade Pier Pavilion around 1905; roof repairs to the Castle’s keep, and much more.

    I’ve been picking old Dover apart for approaching 30 years, and I think ‘Secret Dover’ is a culmination of my favourite bits, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop now. I mean, think about it; who else is going to uncover the intricacies of Maximillian Ball’s 18th century ‘Britannia Coffee House’, decipher Jatt Church’s last will and testament (he was Clerk of the Cheque of Dover Harbour, and died in 1808) and get to grips with Archcliffe Fort? After nearly three decades there’s still much to fascinate.

    I think Jimmy Cairns had a point.  Dover is quite alright.

    Jeff Howe's book Secret Dover is available for purchase now.

  • Scotland Remembered by Michael Meighan

    Scotland's Viking Past

    It is well known that from the 8th to the 15th centuries, Vikings – the name given to Scandinavians – raided, colonised and enslaved much of the islands surrounding the north and west of Scotland as well as Caithness and Sutherland. This included Orkney and Shetland, the Hebrides and the islands of the Clyde Estuary.

    Viking Longship in Shetland - waiting to be burned. (Author's collection, Scotland Remembered, Amberley Publishing)

    Very recently, on the Ardnamurchan peninsula a rare Viking burial was discovered in which a warrior was buried in a boat along with his decorated weapons. However, there are few solid remains of Viking Scotland but it is well remembered in place names and in language, particularly of Orkney and Shetland. In Shetland the yearly Up Helly Aa winter festivals commemorate Viking days and end with the ceremonial burning of a Viking Longboat.

    There are records showing that Scandinavians had been raiding along the coasts of the British Isles from the 8th century and that settlements may have begun soon after this. In fact it was resistance to the Vikings that resulted in the joining of tribes to form the kingdom of Alba under Kenneth Macalpin in 843.

    Hogback stones in Govan Old Church. (Author's collection, Scotland Remembered, Amberley Publishing)

    Following the sacking of Dumbarton Castle (then Alt Clut) in 878, Govan, now in Glasgow became a major town in their new kingdom – Strathclyde.

    Govan as the centre of the Viking estate is marked by the Govan stones held in Govan Old Parish Church in Glasgow. The most important is a sarcophagus that was found during excavations in 1855. This may contain the remains of Saint Constantine although the carvings are thought to be much later.  The stones are some of Scotland's earliest Christian carvings and include unusual Viking 'Hogback' stones. It is well worth a trip to the Govan Stones visitor centre there. It really is a most beautiful church and new finds continue to be made there and this is helping us re-assess the Scandinavian influence on Scotland

     

    The Battle of Largs 1263

    ‘The Pencil’ marking the Battle of Largs in 1263. (Author's collection, Scotland Remembered, Amberley Publishing)

    While the western seaboard of Scotland had been under Norwegian sovereignty for many years, the Scots had tried to purchase the lands but this had been rebuffed. The Scots then tried to take the lands by force so King Haakon set sail from Norway with a massive fleet to re-assert control.

    On the night of 30 September, 1263, the ships of King Haakon, which were occupying the Firth of Clyde were driven ashore in stormy weather near Largs. On the 2 October a Scottish army commanded by the High Steward of Scotland, Alexander of Dundonald arrived to confront the Vikings. A battle broke out on the beach. After hours of skirmishing the Norwegians were able to re-board their boats, sailing North to Orkney to over-winter.

    It was here that King Haakon took ill and died. His successor Magnus Haakonarson, King of Norway agreed with Alexander III of Scotland in the Treaty of Perth to lease the Viking occupied western shores of Scotland for a yearly sum. This fell through with Norway's civil wars and Scotland simply occupied the west. However, the control of Orkney and Shetland was ceded to Norway, so while the Scandinavian influence diminished in the West of Scotland it was to continue in the Northern Isles and to this day many in the Northern Isles do think of themselves as Scandinavians.

    The Battle of Largs is remembered by 'The Pencil' a tower on Craig Walk on the shore at Largs. The Pencil Walk takes you 2km from Largs to the monument and it is a fine place for a picnic. Each Autumn at the Largs Viking Festival, there is a re-enactment of the battle, held beside The Pencil.

    While you are in Largs you might also like to take the short ferry trip to the delightful island of Cumbrae that is brilliant for both easy walking and cycling.

    Michael Meighan's book Scotland Remembered is available for purchase now.

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