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  • Historic Streets of Liverpool by David Paul

    William Brown Street

    General view of William Brown Street. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    The street that is now known as William Brown Street was originally called Shaw’s Brow and was very different in character and aspect from the present one. Predominantly heathland, the area boasted a number of windmills – perhaps because of its high elevation.

    At the beginning of the eighteenth century new industries were coming to Liverpool, together with a corresponding increase in the town’s population. Shipbuilding and its concomitant industries were developing along the Mersey’s shores, and other industries and trades were also finding a place in the flourishing town. A number of sugar refineries were located in Liverpool and the town was gaining a reputation for the beauty and accuracy of the timepieces that were now being manufactured. The area around Shaw’s Brow, Islington and Dale Street was also developing a reputation as being the home of fine pottery manufacture.

    James Shaw and his brothers were residents of Newton-in-the-Willows before coming to Liverpool. They came to the town as contractors for the building of St George’s Church. In addition, they also made bricks from the excavations of the Old Dock and built in and around King Street. But the Shaw’s are principally noted for another industry that they introduced to the town in the early eighteenth century: the manufacture of earthenware.

    Looking down William Brown Street. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Their pot works was first established on the brow of the hill by Samuel Shaw. The pottery ovens were built on both sides of the road but most of the activity took place on the north side. Much of the production was subsequently moved to Dale Street, where Samuel’s son, Thomas, owned a large mansion on the corner of Fontenoy Street. Other pot works soon became established on the Brow, and the industry grew to such an extent that the Brow had several different pot works and numerous workmen’s cottages. Many of the proprietors of the works also chose to live on the Brow.

    A famous potter who lived in Dale Street was Mr Chaffers. His pottery was on the north side of the Brow and he had moulding houses in Islington. His colourful and elegant pottery was manufactured from clay that was shipped directly from a mine in Cornwall. The Penningtons were another leading family in the area. Mr Pennington owned a pottery works on the Brow itself, while his eldest son, James, had a factory not far away at Copperas Hill. His second son, John, had his business near to Saint Anne Street, while Seth (Mr Pennington’s youngest son) had his works on the Brow like his father. The businesses owned by the family became famous for manufacturing punch bowls and ornamental ware. There were other leading potters in the vicinity, including Mr Phillip Christian, whose works were located on the Brow, and Mr Zachariah Barnes, who had a pottery in the Old Hay Market. Indeed, when the census of 1790 took place it was recorded that there were seventy-four potters’ houses inhabited by 374 people, all of whom were associated with the manufacture of pottery in some manner. Workers at the potteries were not known for their high wages and many who lived at the bottom of the Brow in the area known as St John’s Tillage, were not averse to exhuming recently interred bodies in the hope that they could be sold to medical students working at the nearby infirmary, thus supplementing their meagre wages.

    Former College of Technology. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Shaw’s Brow acquired its name as it was on the main coaching route out of Liverpool. This was an easterly direction via Dale Street and Townsend, but it was very steep, causing problems for coaches leaving the town. The route passed near to Mr Alderman Shaw’s pottery on the Brow. Because of the abundance of the passing coach trade, the Brow was littered with a good many almshouses and the like.

    In 1821, when Manchester Street was opened from Dale Street to St John’s Lane, a different route out of town was established, even though the crest of the Brow had been lowered on several occasions. Shaw’s Brow was widened in 1852.

    Towards the end of the century, the potteries in Liverpool were facing increasing competition from potteries in the Midlands and, with the demise of Shaw’s pot works and many of the other potteries, different industries soon sprung up in their wake. There was a coach factory, wheelwrights, grinding mills, a soap works and a number of builders’ yards.

    William Brown Street from Old Haymarket. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Before moving to the more recent history of William Brown Street, it’s worth recounting a curious incident took place in the area early in 1830. A widow living with her daughter and son in Islington – a little further up from the Brow – required the services of a maidservant. As a result of the recommendation of a woman who owned a shop nearby in London Road, a young woman was interviewed and given the job. Although her appearance and dress left much to be desired, she was conscientious and diligent in her duties. In fact, on a number of occasions she displayed skills and expertise that would normally not be associated with someone from her class. She was a talented pianist and artist, and had extensive knowledge of medicine and the treatment of the sick. She also proved to be fluent in a number of foreign languages – not a common accomplishment for a person from the lower classes. Hannah Brade – her given name – also displayed exemplary fortitude during her period of employment. One day, when she was alone in the house, burglars entered and attempted to steal some valuables. Hannah soon saw them off! But, curiously, whenever guests arrived at the house, Hannah was always reticent to meet them for some reason.

    Two years after joining the household, Hannah left her employment for no apparent reason, much to the dismay of the widow and her children. All contact and knowledge of her whereabouts was lost until a few months later, when a package was delivered to the home of her former employer. The parcel contained a number of lavish and expensive presents for members of the household, thanking them for the kindness that they had shown her during her period of employment. There was no forwarding address and there was no further contact with Hannah, so the mystery as to just who Hannah Brade was still remains.

     

    County Sessions House

    William Brown Street, often referred to as the cultural quarter of the city, has so much to offer that it’s worth taking some time to stroll down the street and maybe call into one or two of the many listed buildings in the area. Looking across from Wellington’s Column – a good place to start walking along this short but historic street – we can see the County Sessions House, which stands just to the east of the Walker Art Gallery. Up until 1877 magistrates in Liverpool tried non-capital offences at the court in Basnett Street and at Kirkdale Sessions House, but changes in the legal system at this time meant that the courts had to find another venue. The new County Session House was designed in the late Victorian style by Liverpool architects Francis and George Holme, who had also designed the omeopathic Hospital in Hope Street. Building work was started in 1882 and the first sitting in Islington took place on 4 August 1884.

    The courthouse was one of the first in the country to be air-conditioned, but because of other economic considerations, the court had been designed with the main emphasis on visual appearance from the front. The rear of the building – similar to others along William Brown Street – is far more utilitarian in aspect, being built of brick.

    Following the Courts Act of 1971, which curtailed all quarter sessions, the building was effectively redundant. It is now managed by the National Museums of Liverpool and houses a number of departments, including the Fine Art Curatorial and Learning Departments.

     

    Walker Art Gallery

    Walker Art Gallery. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    A little further down, on the same side as the County Courthouse, we come to the Walker Art Gallery. The gallery itself was not established on its current site until 1877, but before that, following the Public Libraries Act of 1852, a library and museum opened in 1860. The new public library was the venue for the first Liverpool Autumn Exhibition, held in 1871. The success of this exhibition enabled the town’s Library, Museum and Arts Committee to purchase in excess of 150 works of art over the next fifty years, perhaps one of the most famous being And When Did You Last See Your Father? by William Frederick Yeames. In addition to enabling a public library and museum to be built, the Act of 1852 also made provision for an art gallery to be established in the town. In order to commemorate his term as mayor, local brewer Andrew Barclay Walker donated £20,000 towards thebuilding of an art gallery in the town. The following year – 1874 – Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, laid the foundation stone. The gallery, named in honour of its founding benefactor, was designed by local architects Cornelius Sherlock and H. H. Vale, and opened on 6 September 1877 by Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby.

    In 1893, the gallery was given long-term loan of the Liverpool Royal Institution’s collection, and in 1948 the Institution gave the gallery the thirty-seven paintings from the William Roscoe collection it had acquired in 1819.

    The Walker Art Gallery was the first public art gallery in the country and has been extended on two occasions – first in 1884, then again in 1933. The gallery’s collection includes works by Degas, Rembrandt and Poussin, along with a major collection of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Works by twentieth-century artists such as David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Gilbert and George can also be seen in the gallery. Cardinal Sin, a statue by Banksy, was added to the gallery’s collection in 2011. The Walker Art Gallery is part of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside.

     

    Steble Fountain

    Steble Fountain in earlier times. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Walking down the street we come to Steble Fountain. It was in 1877 that a former mayor of the town, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Fell Steble, offered £1,000 to the Improvement Committee of the town council so that a fountain could be erected on a plot of land at the top of William Brown Street – just to the west of Wellington’s Column, between St George’s Hall and the buildings on the far side of the street.

    Michel Joseph Napoléon Liénard designed the fountain, which was unveiled in 1879 by the town’s mayor. However, because the water pressure was very low, the resulting ‘fountain’ was little more than a trickle! The steam pump, which was located in the basement of Saint George’s Hall, was replaced by a more efficient electric pump.

     

     

    Steble Fountain. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Steble Fountain stands 23 feet high and is constructed from cast iron, with the circular base being 30 feet in diameter. An octagonal stem rises from the centre of the basin and a marine god stands at each corner of the cruciform base, representing Acis, Galatea, Neptune and Amphitrite. Above this there is a shallow octagonal bowl 8 feet in diameter, and at the top of the fountain there is a mermaid holding a cornucopia. Steble Fountain is a designated Grade II-listed building and was refurbished in 1992.

     

     

     

     

    Liverpool Central Library

    Picton Reading Room. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    On the far side of the road we come to what is often called the Picton Library, but is more correctly known as the Liverpool Central Library.

    When St George’s Hall was completed in 1854 it became necessary to demolish all of the properties along the Brow, which required an Act of Parliament. The alignment was also changed: the modified street now skirted the perimeter of St John’s Churchyard. In its turn, this development freed a further area of land.

    Prior to this, Mr J. A. Picton (later Sir James) brought a scheme before the town council that would establish a free public library in the town. His scheme was adopted. The first library was opened on 18 October 1852 and located in Dale Street; however, the library proved to be such a success that new and larger premises were soon being sought. William Brown (a local MP) donated land in order to build a public library and museum. Born at Ballymena, Brown was the eldest son of a Belfast linen merchant. After spending some time learning the trade at his father’s business in America, Brown returned home in 1808. He then sailed to Liverpool, realising that the expanding port was the entry point for American exports. Then, after a number of years, he transferred his expertise in trading to merchant banking. Brown also became involved in politics and was elected to Parliament in 1846. He was re-elected on a further three occasions. When Brown had been made aware of the dire need for a public library in the town he financed the entire building costs, which amounted to £40,000.

    Looking towards St George's Hall. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Thomas Allom and the council’s architect and surveyor Mr John Weightman designed the building, with William Brown himself laying the foundation stone on 15 April 1856. Brown’s generosity not only provided funds for the new library, but also enabled a museum to be built on Shaw’s Brow. The library, known as the William Brown Library and Museum, was opened on 18 October 1860. Somewhat modestly, Brown described it as a ‘gift to the nhabitants of Liverpool’. Shortly after the opening of the library, the council voted to change the name of Shaw’s Brow to William Brown Street.

    Over the years, in order to accommodate the increasing collections, a number of extensions have been made to the library, the first being the opening of the Picton Reading Room in 1879, followed by the Hornby Library.

    Central Library. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    The foundation stone for the new circular reading room was laid in 1875 by the chairman of the William Brown Library and Museum, Sir James Allanson Picton, and it was later named the Picton Reading Room in his honour. The reading room was designed by Cornelius Sherlock and was the first electrical-lit library in the country. The Picton Reading Room was modelled after the British Museum Reading Room.

    Standing directly behind the Picton Reading Room is the Hornby Reading Room, named in honour of Hugh Frederick Hornby, who bequeathed money for its construction to house his collection. The architect Thomas Shelmerdine designed the building and it opened in 1906. The Picton and Hornby Reading Rooms are two Grade II-listed buildings.

    More recently it was recognised that, with changing technology, a radical new approach was needed in Liverpool’s libraries. Following lengthy consultations and negotiations, it was decided to close the main library while extensive refurbishments were carried out to modernise it. The library closed its doors to the public on 23 July 2010 and reopened on Friday 17 May 2013.

     

    World Museum, Liverpool

    World Museum, Liverpool. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    Directly below the library complex is Liverpool’s World Museum, but the first museum in the town was known as the Derby Museum. Towards the end of the nineteenth century there was no longer enough space for all of the artefacts housed in the William Brown Library and Museum, so a competition was held to design a suitable extension. The College of Technology and Museum extension opened in 1901. The number of exhibits continued to increase during the latter half of the twentieth century and early in the twenty-first century, the museum acquired more exhibition space in the former College of Technology. Because of the increasing diversity of the exhibits, the museum took the name of World Museum, Liverpool.

    The museum’s planetarium opened in 1970, which covers space exploration and the solar system. The museum’s Egyptology collection (which includes objects from Egypt and Sudan) ranges from the Prehistoric to the Islamic period.

    A number of new galleries have recently been opened in the museum, including World Cultures, the Bug House and the Weston Discovery Centre.

     

    St John’s Gardens

    Laying track in William Brown Street, 1905. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    On the opposite side to the World Museum is St John’s Gardens. In earlier times, because of the upwards slope of the land towards the east, the area of heath land known as the Great Heath was redolent with a large number of windmills and was an area much favoured for the public drying of washing. The area was first built upon when a general infirmary was opened in 1749. Later, the Seamen’s Hospital was built in 1752, followed by a dispensary in 1778 and an asylum in 1789 – all in close proximity to one another. The area also attracted industrial enterprises such as limekilns, potteries, a rope works and a marble yard.

    In 1767, the town’s cemetery was located on the side of Shaw’s Brow. The Church of St John the Baptist was built in the centre of the graveyard and dedicated in 1784. Documents in the Liverpool Records Office show that burials ceased on 11 June 1865 after 2,491 people (including many French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars) had been interred in the burial ground. Because of the building of St George’s Hall, all of the other buildings in the area had to be demolished and the work of local industries relocated. Because of its close proximity to the hall, the church was demolished in 1898.

    In 1888, a facility had been granted for the creation of a public garden in the area formerly occupied by the graveyard. The bodies were removed and interred elsewhere. Saint John’s Gardens were designed by the city’s surveyor, Thomas Shelmerdine, and opened in 1904 with the rather grand appellation of ‘St John’s Ornamental and Memorial Gardens’. There are seven memorial statues in the gardens, commemorating some of Liverpool’s most notable citizens, including William Rathbone and William Ewart Gladstone.

     

    Queensway Tunnel

    Opening of Queensway Tunnel, 1934. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    As our walk along William Brown Street draws to a close, we can look over towards the entrance to the original Birkenhead Tunnel, more correctly known as the Queensway Tunnel. The entrance to the tunnel is at Old Haymarket. A road tunnel going under the river had been proposed as early as 1825, but safety concerns were raised so the proposals were rejected. As motorised road traffic increased at the beginning of the twentieth century, long queues at the Mersey ferry terminal became an everyday occurrence. The Mersey Tunnel Act of 1925 enabled construction of the tunnel to proceed.

    Sir Basil Mott was the tunnel’s designer and during construction he worked in close partnership with John Brodie, the city engineer.

    Much of the 1.2 million tons of clay that was excavated during construction was used as backfill for Otterspool Promenade – some way down the Mersey at Aigburth.

    Queensway Tunnel entrance. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    The tunnel took nine years to complete and was opened on 18 July 1934 by George V, watched by a crowd estimated at 200,000 people. When the tunnel was opened it was the longest road tunnel in the world, which had been built at a cost of £8 million. But, as early as 1960, the volume of traffic flowing through the tunnel had reached such a level that it was obvious another tunnel was needed in order to relieve congestion. The Kingsway Tunnel was opened in 1971.

     

     

     

    Hillsborough Monument Memorial

    Hillsborough Disaster Memorial. (Historic Streets of Liverpool, Amberley Publishing)

    The Hillsborough Monument Memorial is the final stop on our walk today; it stands at the bottom of William Brown Street in Old Haymarket. It commemorates the lives of the ninety-six Liverpool football supporters who lost their lives on 15 April 1989 while attending a football match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest. The work – by sculptor Tom Murphy – was commissioned by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. The circular monument has a particular design concept, which is meant to guides one’s thoughts back to recall all that happened on that tragic day and the struggles that have been endured and overcome by the Hillsborough families since that time. The design depicts a number of figures representing Justice, Hope and Loss. The ninety-six people who lost their lives are represented as free-flying birds, all of whom are listed on the memorial.

    David Paul's new book Historic Streets of Liverpool is available for purchase now.

  • Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk by John Ling

    Herringfleet Mill set against a spectacular summer sky. (Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk, Amberley Publishing)

    Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is a follow-up to my previous book for Amberley, Windmills of Norfolk (2015). As its title indicates, the new book includes watermills to reflect the rich diversity of milling in Suffolk over the centuries. Long before the first windmill turned a sail the county already had many water-powered mills, most of which were small and primitive structures using a single pair of millstones. Some watermill sites date back to Saxon times, though the mills themselves have been rebuilt or enlarged numerous times over that period of time.

    Suffolk was one of the first English counties to embrace the newfangled windmill in the late 12th century and many hundreds were built here during the next 700 years. The post mill was the earliest type of corn mill, followed by tower and smock types. Drainage mills or windpumps were primarily used to drain low-lying marshland but could also pump water from wells.

    Woodbridge Tide Mill has become a Living Museum. (Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk, Amberley Publishing)

    This book takes an in-depth look at most of the county’s surviving mills, some of which are still capable of working. Many others have been converted to family homes or holiday accommodation. Several watermills have become hotels or restaurants. The book acknowledges a number of the many mills that sadly no longer exist, including some of the long lost giants. It also traces the rise and fall of traditional windmills and watermills and looks at the reasons behind their decline. Windmills of various types outnumber surviving watermills in Suffolk and this is reflected in the amount of space devoted to each. The book is intended to inform and entertain those already interested in mills and also to introduce newcomers to these ancient machines. It includes histories of all featured mills along with one or more photograph(s) of each. The book includes relevant facts and figures but does not claim to be an exhaustive academic study.

     Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is mainly illustrated with new colour photographs specially taken for this publication. This necessitated several trips around Suffolk and led me to many locations I had not previously visited. Other images have kindly been supplied by various contributors. Information regarding the location of each mill is included to assist those who wish to visit or view them. Almost all of the main featured mills can be seen from the roadside and some are open to the public on at least a part-time basis. The two mills pictured here represent the wind and water varieties and both are in full working order. Herringfleet Mill is still operated by volunteers on open days and Woodbridge Tide Mill is open to the public as a Living Museum.

    John Ling's new book Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk is available for purchase now.

  • Ham & Petersham Through Time by Paul Howard Lang

    Ferry to Twickenham - The ferry crossing gave access to the nearby Ham House and had existed at this spot from the late seventeenth century. (Ham & Petersham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Ham and Petersham have such a large concentration of historically significant houses that I felt they needed to be better known. This was one of the leading factors that encouraged me to research these areas. There are relatively few books on these parishes compared to other parts of the London borough of Richmond upon Thames.

    Ham House being a National Trust property has a high profile and is well known, but to a certain degree some of the other houses in the vicinity have been overshadowed and their importance, I think, needs to be highlighted.

    Star & Garter Hotel - Stands at the north-east extremity of Petersham, on the boundary with Richmond. (Ham & Petersham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Some extremely distinguished persons resided in both Ham and Petersham, for example Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798) the famous navigator, lived in Petersham at Glen Cottage in River Lane and he was buried in St Peter’s churchyard not that far away from where he lived. Vancouver died tragically young at the age of forty so it is remarkable that he achieved so much in such a relatively short span of time. The house that he lived in ‘The Glen’ dates to the 1670s, so is far older than appearances would indicate. It is very likely that Vancouver wrote his seminal work at this house ‘Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific and Round the World’.

    Another famous name linked to Petersham was that of Charles Dickens who resided at Elm Lodge, and periodically took his friends for various celebrations to the Star and Garter Hotel. No doubt he would have gone for long recreational walks around Petersham, which would have been far more rural at that time than it is now.

    Montrose House, Petersham Road - Named after Caroline Maria, Dowager Duchess of Montrose who resided here from 1836 until her death in 1847, the property actually dates back to the late seventeenth century. (Ham & Petersham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Lord John Russell, the Prime Minister from 1846-52 and from 1865-66, lived at Pembroke Lodge in Petersham and died at the lodge on the 28th May 1878.

    As regards to Ham, the writer Miss Hesba Stretton, who contributed stories to Dickens’ ‘Household Words’ and to ‘All the Year Round’, lived at the Little House on Ham Common from 1891 until her death in 1911.

    As to more contemporary persons of note, Tommy Steele, the well-known pop star of the late 1950s and early 1960s lived at Montrose House. Many people associate this house with Tommy Steele, but there have been other distinguished residents before his occupancy. The Dowager Duchess of Montrose lived here from 1836-1847, the house being named after her.

    I have also included some rare photographs of the gravestones and memorial slabs of famous dignitaries buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s church. These include the Berry sisters, Agnes and Mary, who were friends with Horace Walpole and another notable person is Theodora Jane Cowper, the cousin of the famous poet William Cowper (1731-1800).

    Hornby & Clarke's Milking Sheds, River Lane. (Ham & Petersham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    The book also portrays an unusual plaque in St Andrew’s Church in Ham of the Australian explorer Edward Boradaile (1845-1874) who it is believed perished of starvation whilst trying to reach Port Essington in the Northern Territories. A mountain in Australia was subsequently named after him.

    Some rare photographs never published before are shown in the book, in particular, the view of the back of the cottages in the Petersham Road taken in the 1950s. Also the schoolhouses in Ham Street which date to the 1840s and to my knowledge have not been researched before.

    The book also contains photographs highlighting Petersham’s agricultural past, notably, Walnut Gathering, Petersham with Richmond Bridge in the Distance and Haymaking in Petersham, 1890. There are two nostalgic photographs of Hornby and Clarke’s dairy, one depicting the milking sheds along River Lane, which no longer exist and another showing some of the employees with milking stools and containers. Hornby and Clarke’s dairy was in business from 1870 until 1935 and they grazed their herd on Petersham Meadows.

    I hope this book will show that despite the inevitable changes that the 21st century has brought to Ham and Petersham, both have, fortunately, retained something of their former rural identities and that many of the important houses have survived and have important histories to divulge.

    Paul Howard Lang's new book Ham & Petersham Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Northampton Buses by John Evans

    Northampton buses in Wellingborough Road in the 1960s. (Author's collection, Northampton Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    We hear a lot about classic car and railway preservation. But buses? Not so much. After all, why would anyone dig deep into their pockets to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds and preserve that most humble of transport vehicles, an old bus?

    Yet in recent years there has been a flurry of restorations. Take John Child’s perfectly-restored wartime Daimler, for example, which spent all its working life on the streets of Northampton in the 1940s and 1950s. Eventually No. 129 made its last melancholy journey, along with several others, to a Cambridgeshire scrapyard run by Romany bus breaker Joe Hunt.

    John Child's Daimler No. 129 sleeps away in Joe Hunt's scrapyard, with sister No. 136 behind. Both would escape to live new lives. (c. John Child, Northampton Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    For some reason Joe decided not to cut up these vehicles. So for thirty years they sat in his yard, most of them exposed to the wind and rain, gradually deteriorating and robbed of parts. Old No. 129, however, led a more charmed life, as it had been stored under cover.  It eventually emerged, battered and bruised yet still restorable, to win a place in the heart of Mr. Child. He acquired it in 2000 and with the help of a team in Lincolnshire, lovingly brought it back to life.

    John Child is not alone. One other Northampton bus, No. 146, in much worse condition, was also rescued from Joe’s yard and beautifully restored. Others were bought direct from Northampton Transport in the 1970s by enthusiasts.  And No. 154, a 1947-built training vehicle kept at St. James’s Garage after retirement from everyday service, found its way into preservation when it was used to promote the opening of a new bus station. Yet another Northampton bus, No. 267, was the very last open platform, front engine bus delivered in the UK, and also survives. These were the last buses that needed a conductor and driver.

    Refugees from Hunt's yard reunited; John Child's wonderful wartime Daimler No. 129, restored to pristine condition with the correct adverts on the side, is seen in Northampton with Crossley No. 146. (c. John Child, Northampton Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    With so many old Northampton buses winning the hearts of enthusiasts, it might be thought that the town had one of the more important bus fleets in the country. Not so. But it was one of the more interesting. For a start it was very late making the change to one-man operation (one person these days, of course). Under Deputy Transport Manager Ken Dyer, Northampton Corporation also maintained its buses to a very high standard – by the late 1960s the town had 70 almost identical Daimler vehicles still with conductors and gleaming in pristine vermilion red.

    Recently, a few of them have returned annually to ply the streets of the town, bringing enjoyment to those with long memories and enlightenment to younger passengers. They are as important a part of the town’s transport heritage as the corporation’s old Allchin steam roller, the tram shelters at the White Elephant and Cock Hotel or old photos of Castle station.

    A new life for a Northampton CVG6 - still resplendent in its immaculate Northampton livery, No. 258 has been converted to the Bowland Brewery bus bar. (c. Paul Brookfield, www.flickr.com/photos/lancashire, Northampton Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    Look around the town today and deregulation of bus operations has led to a delightful array of companies and liveries. Your bus may be a pink double-decker or a red, white and blue single deck vehicle; it will have a hi-tech destination panel visible a hundred yards away.  But enthusiasts long for the old days, when route 14 meandered all over the town to get to Kenmuir Avenue, on a cold day a piece of cardboard would be shoved down the front of the radiator grill to keep the engine warm and on a hot one the driver would leave the sliding cab door open to stay cool.

    Researching my new book on Northampton Buses for Amberley was very much a labour of love.  I started with old town records, made a nuisance of myself with the very helpful team in Northampton Public Library’s local history team and was given free access to all the photos stored by the Northampton Chronicle and Echo. I also had hours of fun sorting and scanning the dozens of colour pictures I took of Northampton buses in the 1960s. Even now I cannot quite remember why I took so many.

    Meanwhile, I’m off for a pint served from Northampton bus No. 258. Did I mention it has been perfectly restored – as a bus bar?

    John Evans new book Northampton Buses is available for purchase now.

  • Edinburgh at Work by Malcolm Fife

    Edinburgh owes its existence to the Castle Rock, which could easily be defended. (Edinburgh at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    There have been untold numbers of books on the history of Edinburgh. Few of them, however, have been devote to the City’s economy and industries. My book, ‘Edinburgh at Work’ should go some way to remedy this situation. Its development was very much bound up with the skills of its tradesmen and the enterprises of its merchants. There is evidence that the inhabitants of the region traded with the Romans when they built their fort at Cramond, on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth.

    In the early Middle Ages a small town grew up in the shadow of the Castle which was perched on a rocky hill. Although Edinburgh had yet to become the official capital of Scotland, its kings often resided in its Castle or at the important abbey of Holyrood. This created a demand for luxury items some of which were manufactured locally by craftsman living in the town. Others, particularly wine from France were imported through the nearby port of Leith. Over the centuries Edinburgh’s merchants built up considerable fortunes. They often acted as an early form of bankers lending out their money for business ventures or the purchase of land.

     

    In the days before steam, watermills were the main source of power for driving industrial machinery. (Edinburgh at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    Towards the end of the 16th century a university was established setting Edinburgh on course to be an important centre of learning. It was also becoming an important legal centre with numerous lawyers among its inhabitants. The thirst for knowledge and the demand for legal documents   gave rise to a flourishing printing industry. The Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603 were a setback for this as well as the development of the City. The King and his court moved to London taking with it their considerable spending power. The Scottish Parliament, however, remained in Edinburgh which somewhat cushioned the economic blow.

    The 17th century also saw the introduction of new skills such as watchmaking and the manufacture of surgical instruments. One of the first attempts to produce beer on a large scale was undertaken by an Englishman who built a new brewery at Yardheads, Leith. The prosperity of Edinburgh was dealt a further blow with the Act of Union in 1707 with an exodus of numerous members of the aristocracy to England.

    Towards the latter part of the 18th century, the City experienced a period of unprecedented expansion. It broke free of the confines its old town walls with the construction of the New Town. This created work for thousands of stone masons and artisans. Large quarries, sometimes hundreds of feet deep, were opened up on the edge of Edinburgh to supply building material. With many of the well to do now living in spacious houses there was more room for household items such as furniture. Large numbers of women found employment as maids looking after the new residences. Horse drawn coaches began to appear on the streets in increasing numbers. Many were built locally. Such was the reputation of their quality that many were exported overseas.

    Statue of James Young Simpson in West Princes Street Gardens. (Edinburgh at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    Edinburgh also had a booming textile industry manufacturing woollen goods and high quality linen items. With the Agriculture Revolution taking place in the surrounding countryside numerous former farm labourers made their way to Edinburgh in search of employment. Many were unsuccessful and had to resort to begging.

    The coming of the railways in the mid-19th century had a profound effect on the way Edinburgh developed. Up until that point many of its industries such as paper making were concentrated along the Water of Leith their machinery driven by mill wheels. Coal now became the main source of power and industries now became concentrated next to railway tracks particularly in the vicinity of Haymarket and Gorgie.

    Brewing which had first been practiced by the monks at Holyrood now became one of Edinburgh’s most important economic activities. By 1896 of the ninety nine breweries in Scotland, thirty one were located in Edinburgh. Another more recent industry which Edinburgh became noted for was the manufacture of biscuits. The well-known firm McVitie’s started life in a shop in Rose Street in 1830. Somewhat unusually, the City also became a noted centre for the manufacture of rubber goods including Wellington boots. This was due more to a quirk in the patenting of certain forms of rubber manufacture than to any natural advantages of the location.

     

    The Tennent Caledonian Brewery at Roseburn in the mid-1980s. (Edinburgh at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    Edinburgh had the distinction of having a higher proportion of professional workers than most other cities in Victorian times. It had risen to become the most important financial centre in Britain outside London. Several banks had their head offices here as did numerous insurance companies. With the growing availability of consumer goods in the 20th century, Edinburgh became an important retail centre serving south east Scotland. Princes Street was home to many well-known department stores some of which were household names. There were also thousands of small shops scattered across the City. In the early 20th century, the manufacture of electrical goods such as refrigerators and radios became increasingly important activity in southern England. Edinburgh was initially slow to adopt these new innovative industries tending to rely on its traditional activities.

    During the Second World War, however, Ferranti established a factory to manufacture gun sights for Spitfires. By the 1960s it had become the City’s largest employer manufacturing radar and missile guidance systems. The long established industries, however, such as brewing and the printing of books at this point in time continued to flourish. The situation changed drastically as the 20th century drew to a close. International competition and the mergers between many long established companies saw the almost total extinction of the important brewing, biscuit and printing industries. Many other once important sources of employment also suffered including food processing and engineering.

    Construction cranes in the centre of Edinburgh at sunset. With a booming financial sector there is a constant demand for new offices. (Edinburgh at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    Edinburgh, however, successfully adopted to meet these new challenges. The growth of the tourist industry and associated services has more than compensated for the loss of jobs in other sectors with some 30,000 jobs now depending on it.  Edinburgh is the second choice for foreign visitors as a destination to visit after London. It has also become an important destination for cruise ships.

    Another major source of employment is the financial sector which has a long legacy in Edinburgh. It is second only importance to that of London and is of international importance. The Royal Bank of Scotland has its headquarters, close to the airport and new financial institutions are also well represented including Tesco Bank. Digital technology now plays a vital role in financial transactions. Edinburgh has gained a reputation a reputation as a driving force in the evolution of the fintech sector which includes e-commerce and mobile banking.

    By 2017 Edinburgh had over 25,000 people working within the digital sector and the number of software companies number over 100, one of the highest concentrations anywhere in Britain. The City’s overall place as a centre of learning has also continued to grow in importance. A hundred years ago there was only one university. The number has now increased to four. The 82,000 university and college students drawn from numerous countries across the world provide a major stimulus for the local economy with their demand for accommodation and services. In 2017 one survey named Edinburgh the best city in Britain to launch a business. It ranked ahead of London, Bristol and Glasgow because of its ‘speedy internet connections, reasonable office rent and a host of university graduates’.

    Malcolm Fife's new book Edinburgh at Work is available for purchase now.

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  • 50 Gems of South-West Wales by Geoff Brookes

    The selection of places for this book was very hard to make – of course it was. It is such a wonderful part of the country, full of beauty, history and mystery, and there are always discoveries to be made, always hidden pleasures to unearth. Writing this book has given me the perfect excuse to wander around these beautiful and much-loved locations, and also some which I hope are less familiar but equally deserving of your attention. Because wherever you stop, if you pause and look around, you will find a ‘gem’. That is the point of the book: to urge you get out of the car and be a part of the countryside you see around you. It is hard to think of anywhere richer in history and beauty, more appealing than South West Wales. So here’s a gem to get you intrigued.

    The Church of St Brynach. (Author's collection, 50 Gems of South-West Wales, Amberley Publishing)

    Cwm yr Eglwys

    The Royal Charter Storm

    This is a real gem, an enchanting place forever touched by the sea. It is on the eastern side of Dinas Head facing Newport Bay. You need to leave the A487 between Fishguard and Newport and take the signposted road east of Dinas Cross to Cwm yr Eglwys. The narrow road drops down for around a mile and you will see the superb views to your right that are the reason for your journey. You can park easily close to the beach where you will find safe bathing and easy access to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

    It has a very sheltered position and reputedly has its own warmer microclimate. At the end of the nineteenth century it was claimed that no one in Cwm yr Eglwys died under eighty. It is an achingly pretty place and yet carries within it a striking reminder of the brutality of the sea.

     

    The model of a cwm trader, a coastal trading vessel, at the entrance to the churchyard. (Author's collection, 50 Gems of South-West Wales, Amberley Publishing)

    Above the beach and behind the sea wall you can see all that remains of the twelfth-century Church of St Brynach. The rest of it was washed away in the enormous storm of October 1859, a hurricane in which 133 ships were wrecked and ninety were badly damaged. It became known as the ‘Royal Charter Storm’ when the ship The Royal Charterreturning from Australia to Liverpool was wrecked off Anglesey and at least 450 people died. The hurricane ravaged the whole of the west coast and Cwm yr Eglwys did not escape. There had previously been storm damage in 1850 and 1851 but nothing like this. A storm surge 15 feet above normal high water carried away the side wall and roof of St Brynach, ‘together with a wide slice of the churchyard’. A witness interviewed in 1897 remembered that ‘human remains in large quantity’ were exposed as the earth was washed away. She saw the coffins of the vicar’s six dead children exhumed by the waves and carried out to sea. Two ships were lost in the bay and eight bodies were subsequently washed ashore or recovered from the cliffs.

    The ruins stood until 1880 when they were demolished, leaving just the end wall of the chapel you can see. The sea wall was built in 1882 to serve ‘as a rampart resisting the devastating inroads made by the sullen sea’. The churchyard is now an attractive grassed area ideal for picnics, and it is hard to equate what you see now with the terrible devastation the village and the church once suffered.

    You can use the postcode SA42 0SJ to find Cwm yr Eglwys. The sea has never needed any help to find it.

    Geoff Brookes new book 50 Gems of South-West Wales is available for purchase now.

  • Preston at Work by Keith Johnson

    The ancient craft of clog making. (Preston at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    If you should stroll along Fishergate on a typical working day you would see window cleaners, street cleaners, traffic wardens, telephone engineers, postal workers, security staff, a busker or two, or a person selling copies of the Big Issue. Enter premises along that highway and you can observe travel agents, waitresses and waiters, bank clerks, shop assistants, hairdressers, barbers, perfumers, newsagents, pharmacists, beauticians, jewellers, estate agents, insurance agents, booksellers, mobile phone providers, greeting card sellers and confectioners all busily doing a day's work. They are all earning a living and are part of Preston's working life.

    Richard Arkwright and John Horrocks developed the cotton trade industry. (Preston at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    Many trades and professions have ancient origins and many more have been created for a modern age. My latest book Preston at Work traces life back to days of yore when Preston was described as an elegant and economical market town remarkable for the gentility of its inhabitants. It is abundantly clear that Preston folk have been at work here and did create, in the Georgian era, a cotton town. The city of Preston is at the very heart of Lancashire and over the last 250 years has been transformed from a market town into a University City, embracing the Industrial Revolution on the way.

    Far-sighted and ambitious speculators built the factories, warehouses and workshops in Preston. Impressive engineering works soon followed, either to serve the cotton trade or to pioneer advancements in other industries. Ideas and inspiration have never been lacking in Preston and we can be proud of what was produced. The engineering skills forged in Victorian days led to knowledge that enabled the town to trade in worldwide markets with products proudly made in Preston; from tramcars to railway engines, from pioneering aircraft to jet planes, from knitting machines to printing presses, and from lorries to motor cars.

    Horrockses Fashion advert, 1955. (Preston at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    Preston also displayed the desire and determination to produce the essentials of life with factories and production lines for a variety of goods including soap, tobacco, gold thread, chocolates, cigarettes, light bulbs, slippers and even biscuits.

    We can marvel at the achievements of the civil engineers who have been constantly at work making a town into a city for an ever increasing population. The old toll roads have given way to multi lane highways and motorways with links to industrial estates and shopping centres on the outskirts of the city. Within the city centre the factory chimneys and the engineering workshops are fewer now having given way to retail outlets, office blocks and towering apartment blocks for students. Even a port was created here for ships laden with cargo and canals and railways essential to progress were laid.

    Preston remains at the centre of administration for the county and commerce and legislation sustain the employment of many. Solicitors, barristers, lawyers and attorneys still practice in the city as they did generations ago along with their clerical and legal assistants. Money matters are still dealt with in the city with banks and building societies aplenty particularly on Fishergate.

    A reminder of the Gold Thread days on Avenham Road. (Preston at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    Our ever expanding education system not only provides places of learning with teachers and academics, but is also a source of much employment for local folk. Whilst our hospitals and clinics are supported not only by doctors and nurses, but by many care workers too. If we should need to call 999 for the emergencies in our lives we can call on police officers, firefighters and medics to assist us.

    This book also takes a glimpse at the days when there were tea merchants, who shipped and blended their own product; provision dealers, who salted and cured Lancashire hams, reared and fed within a few miles of the town. Bootmakers who could produce a pair of real leather boots throughout by hand, soft and pliable, that clung to the foot like a glove. Tailors, livery coat makers, tinkers, and brawny blacksmiths have all forged a living here too.

    You or your ancestors may have clocked on at Dilworth & Carr, Goss Foster, English Electric, Drydens, Simpson's Gold Thread Works, Horrockses, Courtaulds, Siemens Lamp Works, Tulketh Mill, Atkinsons Vehicles, Sharps Commercials or Beeches Chocolate factory and played a part in their story. You may have been employed at County Hall, or the Town Hall, or by Preston Corporation or been amongst the army of retail workers at the Co-op, Sainsbury's, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons and contributed to their tale.

    There are many things we take for granted today such as lighting, heating and fresh water supplies, yet it has not always been the case. This journey through Preston's working life takes us from the cotton trade, through the days from paraffin lamps to electric light bulbs, from steam power to nuclear energy, all of which met with the endurance needed to progress in Preston.

    Royal Mail sorting office, 1935. (Preston at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    Preston has had down the decades quite a few industrial duos whose names have been etched into the city's history. Dick & Kerr, Dilworth & Carr, Gregson & Monk, Vernon & Carus, Cooper & Tullis, Dorman & Smith, the Atkinson brothers and of course the Horrocks brothers, John & Samuel, who all contributed to the progress of Preston.

    Indeed, since the Georgian days Preston folk have embraced and endured the developments of the industrial age, and been swept along on the tide of change into the world of technology in which we now live. For successive generations the evolving world has brought many differing challenges that would have left our ancestors bewildered and baffled.

    Generations of Preston workers can be rightly proud of their contribution to society and to the way they have confronted the challenges of earning a living willingly. Working for the common good was reflected by Preston born poet Robert Service when he penned the following verse in his poem 'I Believe'.

    It's my belief that every man

    Should do his share of work,

    And in our economic plan

    No citizen should shirk.

    That in return each one should get

    His meed of fold and food,

    And feel that all his toil and sweat

    Is for the common good.

    Preston Dock workers, 1961. (Preston at Work, Amberley Publishing)

    It is apparent that great strides have been made and adversity overcome to accommodate a population that is nowadays over 140,000.  Preston folk have achieved many great things for the benefit of all.  They showed great loyalty to their employers many of whom acquired great riches with their investment in local people. The cotton masters have now gone and the corporate bodies rule the world of work. Yet still there are enterprising individuals who create companies for the benefit of all.

    Hopefully, this peep through the lives of the Preston workers down the years will leave you in admiration for their achievements. No doubt they stuck to their tasks despite the troubles and strife that they faced, thus ensuring we have a thriving enterprising city to dwell within. They took pride in their work for which we can be eternally grateful.

    Keith Johnson's book Preston at Work is available for purchase now.

  • Merseyside Traction by Doug Birmingham

    On 15 March 2017, at a rarely photographed location, Rail Operations Group, Class 47, No 47815 arrives at Edge Hill Wapping with 5V67 12.17hrs Allerton Depot to Long Marston empty coach stock move. The train consisted of two Class 319 EMU’s No’s 319218 and 219 which were being returned to storage pending possible further use. This image was originally considered for the front cover of the book before the present cover was selected. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    I think most people during their lives have wishes, some would call it a bucket list but more often than not they remain just dreams. Occasionally some dreams do happen which fortunately for me some on my bucket list have actually come true, mainly by good fortune rather than preplanned. One of my wishes, has been to publish a book with a selection of my railway images, but approaching any publisher with such a proposal has always been put on the back burner. Consequently, as the years go by, it has remained just a dream. By sheer coincidence and out of the blue on my birthday in 2017, Connor Stait on behalf of Amberley Publishing emailed me asking would I be interested in compiling a book, entitled ‘Merseyside Traction’. At first, I thought this may be a little wind up but in reality it was not, as Connor had viewed my 8A Rail Flickr photographic site and thought I would be the ideal person to compile such a book.

    Connor had agreed that it was up to myself what the contents would be as long it was related to Merseyside. In due course, the formalities were agreed upon, along with providing two previous published book examples to give myself an idea what the layout and format of the book should look like. On viewing these book examples, I knew that I could complete the project given a little time with the brief of a maximum of 180 images and 10,000 words, along with the front and back cover images too. I also had to consider that other authors had published books on a variety of rail related subjects linked to Merseyside, some whose knowledge and experience I would acknowledge well beyond my own.

    Now the hard work began with a completion date set for December 2017. I had to choose the images first and foremost. That was not an easy task, as I have been photographing trains in Merseyside since 1980 with a total of images taken running into five figures! This figure did not include other images I have taken around the UK, let alone the thousands I have taken of preserved steam too. Clearly I had to decide a time spam to cover, as realistically it would take more than one book to cover almost 40 years to give the locality some justice. Having decided to cover a 20 year period from 1998 to 2017 rather than say the last 10 years as example, I wanted to include the variety of motive power and liveries that had operated in Merseyside during that time, as well as the variety of photographic locations too.  Basically I needed to make the book as interesting as possible to attract wide attention as Merseyside is not exactly known as a mecca of railways within the United Kingdom. However, I knew different and maybe this was an opportunity to prove otherwise?

     

    Another image that did not quite make the final cut but still provides a good representation of the contents of the book is GBRf Class 59, No 59003 working 6F27 12.47hrs Liverpool Biomass Terminal to Tuebrook Sidings Biomass were the Class 59 will detach before heading to Drax AES Power Station behind a single Class 66 locomotive. It is seen here on a nice autumn day approaching Edge Lane Junction on the Bootle Branch line. 29 October 2015. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    However, the hard work was only just about to begin with the process of selecting images for the book given the thousands of images to choose from! Why I selected the last 20 years was an easy decision as one of the images I wanted to show, was the last occasion a ‘Peak’ class locomotive hauled a Freightliner train in May 1999 and I was one of the few to record the working(s). I had also established early on, that over that period of time, numerous different locomotive classes had appeared in the area, not forgetting the variety of multiple units along with all the different liveries too. However, what I needed to avoid was the repetition of the ‘much loved’ EMD Class 66’s as that alone would be prevent people looking at the book let alone purchasing one! So a balance had to be met in order to make a fair representation of the motive power operated in Merseyside. Also during the 20 year period I had chosen, many locations and lines had changed, especially with regards to the railway infrastructure, basically out with the old, in with the new. Non-more so than the Liverpool & Manchester line with the introduction (and long over-due) of the overhead electrification. In consequence this allowed me the opportunity of one or two before and after images to be presented in the book.

    While compiling the images for the book, it was only then I realised the extent of the actual Merseyside county boundaries, where I thought a couple of locations were in Cheshire, were actually in Merseyside. However, I also then noted that the ‘Merseytravel’ transport boundary did actually go beyond the county boundary which gave me good reason to include, for example, Rainford which is in Lancashire. I had also noted at least twenty-six locomotive classes had been recorded as well as the appearance of twenty-two classes of multiple units most of which are regular visitors to the area. Merseyside is currently regularly served by seven Train Operating Companies, including Arriva Wales, Arriva North, East Midlands Trains, London Midland (now LNWr), Merseyrail, Trans Pennine Express and Virgin Trains with three Freight Operating Companies operating daily in and out of the area including DB Cargo, Freightliner and GBRF. However, Colas, Direct Rail Services, Network Rail, Rail Operations Group, and West Coast Railways do pass through the area too. So there is much variety to be recorded and that does not include the amount of liveries that have appeared too. It would also beg the question, how many areas around the UK actually provide such variety too? Not many I imagine!

    Passing the closed but now preserved Rainhill Signal Box on the Liverpool and Manchester line, Direct Rail Services Class 37, No 37194 with sister locomotive No 37667 on the rear hauling 1Q14 08.52hrs Derby RTC to Crewe 'Network Rail’ Measurement train. Since this image was taken, this line has now been fully electrified. 17 September 2012. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    In selecting the 185 images which took me 3 months to complete and no easy task either (not including the captions), I then realised how many images that were excluded rather those included, that gave me the feeling that this project had only just began. This is also not forgetting the numerous images taken from 1980 to 1998 which could produce another book or two also? However, I need to wait to see how ‘Merseyside Traction’ is received first and foremost, along with the sales too! Added to this is the thousands of other railway images I’ve taken around the UK including preserved steam, which makes me wonder are there other book projects could be in the offering especially as I enjoyed putting ‘Merseyside Traction’ (Part One??) together.

    Finally, I must thank Connor Stait, Commissioning Editor for considering me for this project and hopefully his faith is rewarded in due course. I also wish to sincerely thank various staff at Amberley Publishing for their time, patience and support. Also to Gordon Edgar whose words of wisdom and encouragement were much appreciated. Now it remains to see how the book is received and hopefully it becomes a popular book, but more importantly, I have done my local area proud? Fingers Cross.

    Doug Birmingham's new book Merseyside Traction is available for purchase now.

  • 50 Finds from Staffordshire by Teresa Gilmore

    Thor's Cave, Manifold Valley, Staffordshire Moorlands. (Author's collection, 50 Finds from Staffordshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Over 13,000 finds have been recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) as being found in Staffordshire and this book highlights fifty of those finds and their significance to the county. The majority are in private ownership, but some have been acquired by either the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery or Tamworth Castle. The finds I have selected are a personal choice, with them either having come in to me for recording or are of major significance to the county. More information can be found on each find by searching on the PAS database (www.finds.org.uk/database), using the database record number, often prefixed by WMID or another similar combination of letters. Treasure cases are referred to using both their PAS database record number and a reference number which takes the form of yearTnumber, e.g. 2016T1037.

    The chosen finds come from inside the modern county boundary, not the historic one, but include the unitary authority of Stoke-on-Trent.

    Each of the fifty finds should be considered to be ‘Treasure’, either by the legal definition of Treasure or because they were a ‘treasured’ possession.

    Treasure is legally defined as:

    * Any artefact older than 300 years old, with a precious metal content of greater than 10 per cent;

    * Two or more precious metal coins from the same find-spot;

    * Ten or more base metal coins from the same find-spot;

    * Two or more items of prehistoric metalwork from the same find-spot, found after 2003;

    * An item found in association with an item of treasure, i.e. a pottery vessel that held a coin hoard;

    * Anything that could be classified under the original Treasure Trove legislation, i.e. less than 300 years old but hidden with intention to recover, with a significant precious metal content.

    To be recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, finds do not have to be classified as ‘Treasure’. Any archaeological find, over 300 years old, is worth a record.

    Letocetum, Wall near Lichfield. The bath house remains are in the foreground, and the mansio is in the background. (Author's collection, 50 Finds from Staffordshire, Amberley Publishing)

    These finds provide tantalising clues about the lives of everyday people in past societies. From cooking pots to brooches; from ear scoops to hair pins; from coins to weights; from axeheads to bridle bits; each one helps complete our archaeological jigsaw puzzle.

    All artefacts recorded have been found by metal detectorists, field walkers or members of the public. The PAS record includes an identification of the artefact and details of where it was found, with a minimum of a six-figure Ordnance Survey (OS) grid reference (100 metre square).

    Knowing where something has come from can change the understanding of an artefact.

    For instance, a Roman coin by itself can be just a stray loss, but being found alongside other coins and artefacts of similar dating might indicate a settlement.

    A selection of different finds types encountered, not to scale. (C. Birmingham Museums Trusst/Portable Antiquities Scheme, 50 Finds from Staffordshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Responsible detecting is promoted, so landowner permission must be sought prior to detecting. All land in England and Wales is owned by someone, whether it is private, Crown or public. Finds are then reported to a local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for recording on the PAS database.

    We advise that metal detectorists adhere to a code of conduct, recognised by the National Council for Metal Detecting and the PAS. This recommends that permission is sought, the Countryside Code followed and that finds are shown to the landowner and reported to the PAS. The code can be found online at https://finds.org.uk/getinvolved/guides/ codeofpractice.

    Scotland is not covered by the PAS, due to different landownership laws. There, all archaeological finds found below ground are considered to be Treasure and must be declared. The Scottish version of the PAS is Treasure Trove Scotland, managed by Historic Scotland and based in Edinburgh at the National Museum.

    Generally most archaeological work undertaken in Staffordshire, and the rest of the country, is the result of development, e.g. a new housing estate or road-widening scheme. The National Planning Policy Framework, in particular Planning Policy Statement Five (PPS5) and its predecessor Planning Policy Guidance Sixteen (PPG16), states that prior to any development occurring, where appropriate, an archaeological investigation has to take place.

    This investigation can take many levels: from a desk-based assessment, which makes reference to previous recorded finds, known standing buildings and sites, to assess the potential for archaeological remains; to trial trenches dug through selected features, like Time Team; through to a full-scale excavation, where a large area is opened up, features sampled and dug.

    Tamworth Castle. (Author's collection, 50 Finds from Staffordshire, Amberley Publishing)

    PAS data contributes at the start, at the desk-based assessment level. Each find recorded by the PAS adds another dot to the map, sometimes supplying dating for crop mark or earthwork features in the area. The more dots there are, the more information we have for an area, so the full potential can be assessed and the right approach can be recommended to the client, such as excavation.

    A strength of the PAS is that, through recording these finds, it means that fields and upland areas not under threat of development can be surveyed. These areas would not get investigated by other means.

    When looking through the PAS database, there is a strong bias towards copper alloy and lead artefact types, as opposed to ferrous (iron), lithic (stone) and ceramic (pottery) materials. This is explained by a discrimination feature on most metal detectors, allowing them to tune out ferrous signals and concentrate on those from other metals, such as copper, lead and precious metals. Most ferrous finds tend to be modern. Lithic and ceramic materials are not picked up by the metal detector, but rely on visual scanning methods, such as field walking or good observation.

    Teresa Gilmore's new book 50 Finds from Staffordshire is available for purchase now.

  • 50 Gems of Mid Wales by Geoff Brookes

    The Murder of John Price 1826 - Llanafan Fawr, Powys

    I have included Llanafan Fawr in my book 50 Gems of Mid Wales but I have only been able to give it a bare 220 words. But it is insufficient to capture the story of a remarkable dispute between two families, remembered now by a crumbling gravestone.

    Llanafan Fawr church. (Author's collection, 50 Gems of Mid Wales, Amberley Publishing)

    The B4358 sweeps up from Beulah towards Newbridge on Wye and, if you are paying proper attention to the traffic, you might miss the church which stands quietly opposite the Red Lion, the oldest inn in Wales. The Church of St Afan has a long history – and a murderous one. It contains one of the oldest living objects in the country and also a fascinating gravestone.

    The church, built upon an Iron Age mound, is pre-dated by the huge yew tree, estimated to be over 2300 years old. It is a tree that has seen so much drama, so much murder.

    This is such a beautiful and remote place. Hills unchanged, kites circling as they always have. And through the years a community has lived here, where lives have been carved out, away from the rest of us. Jealousies, rivalries, disputes, vendettas – things that the rest of us have known nothing about – have consumed them, defining their lives and their deaths. Old rivalries. Old crimes.

    About thirty metres away from the church door, on the left, you will find it.  An old weathered stone, almost indecipherable now, but unique, carrying both the name of the victim – and his murderer. If you stare at it long enough the inscription will still emerge from the past.

    John Price who was murdered on the Darren Hill in this parish by R. Lewis.

    April 21 1826

    The gravestone. (Author's collection, 50 Gems of Mid Wales, Amberley Publishing)

    The Cambrian newspaper reported the murder a week later. It tells us that John Price was found, ‘his neck twisted till the blood ran out of his ears so that his death must have been occasioned by a dislocation of his vertebrae.’ Suspicions fell upon Rees Lewis, a shepherd and neighbour, who had disappeared. But the Price’s didn’t need evidence. Their suspicions always fell upon the notorious Lewis family.

    This was one of the final acts in a dispute that combined these two families in mutual loathing and which had sparked another notorious murder 42 years previously, when Lewis Lewis killed Thomas Price.

    The Lewis family were, it seems, a lawless bunch, ‘a vicious, wicked set of people.’ Sheep stealing, riotous behaviour and assault run unchecked through their history. David Lewis was transported to Australia for stealing a turkey. His wife Margaret was accused of murdering an illegitimate infant son, fathered in David’s absence. She was acquitted and went on to become the midwife in the parish.

    The Price family weren’t much better. Thomas Price himself was accused of Riot and Assault in July 1784, just before his murder, and others were involved in stealing livestock themselves.

    By 1784 the Lewis family were finding Thomas Price hard to take. They might have been self-confessed villains but they took comfort from the fact that he was worse. They would often find their sheep dead in the fields, laid head to tail, killed by Price and his dog.

    Then, in October 1784 Thomas Price disappeared. A search was organised, one that even involved young Thomas Lewis, but there was no trace of him. The Lewis family, naturally, were accused by Thomas Price’s wife Gwenllian to no avail. Rewards for information were offered but the trail went cold and the Lewis sheep remain untroubled.

    However, in 1788 John Lewis was convicted of sheep stealing and was sentenced to transportation for 14 years. The prospect was horrifying. He was ‘frightened in the highest degree at the accounts from thence and resolved rather to be hanged here, than to be starved there.’ Who can blame him?

    And so he sang.  He told the magistrates everything he knew about the death of Thomas Price four years earlier. He had fallen out with his brother Lewis Lewis and could see no reason to protect either him or his two sons, one also called Lewis and the other, Thomas.

    So Thomas Lewis was arrested. Within a fortnight he too turned King’s Evidence and in so doing condemned both his father and his brother to the gallows.

    Lewis Lewis the Elder had offered sheep to his sons if they would kill Thomas Price. Lewis Lewis the Younger and his pal Evan Davies were eager to take up the offer, though Thomas claimed that he was less enthusiastic and that it was Lewis who made the plans.

    The yew tree, a silent witness to 2,500 years of history. (Author's collection, 50 Gems of Mid Wales, Amberley Publishing)

    In October 1784 the three of them had waylaid Thomas Price. Lewis knocked him to the ground with a stick and then strangled him, whilst Davies thumped him in the stomach. Thomas Lewis said that he just held down his legs. Their indictment would later say that they ‘did not have the fear of God before their eyes but were seduced by the instigation of the devil.’ Well, it happens a lot in Mid Wales, even today.

    Once he was dead, Lewis took Price’s purse and shared with them the contents of 6 shillings. They threw the body into a pool and Lewis hanged Price’s dog with the same cord that had strangled its master.

    Thomas Lewis, already regretting his involvement, joined the search party to throw suspicion away from himself. It was Lewis and Davies who then dragged the body from the first pool and threw it to a deeper one called Varlen Vawr, submerging it with a large boulder. Thomas was the one though who found the body in May 1785, when it bobbed back up to the surface. Together with their father, they put the corpse into a sack and carried it by horse to the home of the Younger Lewis Lewis where they spent all night trying to burn the wet body using wood and turf.

    In the morning they packed up the bones yet unburnt and trampled the fragments and the ashes into the garden. The next night they tried again to burn the troublesome bones, this time at the Elder Lewis Lewis house, again scattering the debris into the garden the next morning. They did indeed stamp upon the skull but the fragments were still recognisable in 1788.

    Evan Davies and the younger Lewis fled once they realised that Thomas was singing in custody. Davies disappeared but Lewis was apprehended in Dolgellau. He was tried and condemned to death. He was reconciled with his brother Thomas and a large crowd witnessed his execution, the first in Brecon for 30 years. It was an occasion of the ‘greatest decorum and solemnity,’ despite his mother turning up to watch, calling out ‘Bydd fawr’n galed Lewis (‘Die hard Lewis’) whilst eating a pie.

    Vendettas have a habit of repeating themselves. In 1826, Rees Lewis strangled John Price with a necktie. He pleaded not guilty but was condemned and, like his relatives before, was hanged at Brecon. The Price family could not miss this opportunity to point a finger at their enemies through the gravestone we can still see. All that passion and hatred, once so real, is now represented by a simple crumbling stone.

    We cannot visit the grave of Lewis Lewis. After his execution his body was displayed in a gibbet near Llanafan Fawr. The family took away his body for secret burial at night during a storm. Unable to release the ankle chains, they cut off his feet and left them behind. A local dog found the feet and took one home to his master.

    Who owned the dog?

    John Price.

    Geoff Brookes new book 50 Gems of Mid Wales is available for purchase now.

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