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  • Secret Swindon by Angela Atkinson

    The GWR hooter still in situ on what is now the McArthur Glen Outlet Village. (Secret Swindon, Amberley Publishing)

    The sprawling urban conurbation that is modern Swindon began life as an Anglo-Saxon defensible settlement atop a limestone hill. Old Swindon, known today as Old Town, grew into a sleepy market town. The chances are it would have stayed that way were it not for the Industrial Revolution.

    The subsequent acceleration in Swindon’s growth began 1810 with the construction of the Wilts & Berks Canal. The real transformative factor though came between 1841 and 1842 with the historic decision by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Daniel Gooch to establish their Great Western Railway works a short distance from Old Swindon. This led to the birth of another town: New Swindon.

    The town’s connections to London and the South West made it possible for many later industries to come to the town. Over the decades, Swindon’s engineering and manufacturing associations have run the gamut, from BMW to Honda, and Garrard record decks to Triumph lingerie – though they are all gone now.

    Today’s Swindon is a surprising, multi-, multi-cultural creative and cultural hotspot that is home to artists and writers of every genre and calibre. In Secret Swindon, I take a sideways look at all this and more.

    The story of how I got to writing this book has its roots twenty years ago this year, for 2018 is the silver anniversary of my move to Swindon.

     

     

    A new life in Swindon

    Before moving to Swindon I’d visited the place several times and found it to be a perfectly pleasant place. So, when the opportunity arrived to relocate I arrived with no negative perceptions. In fact, the converse was true for I left behind an area devastated by the wholesale pit closures of the 1980s.

    We had poor transport connections, no work, no prospects, no nothing.  Well – slag heaps, emphysema and mass unemployment. We had that.

    So, I came to Swindon. Within days I found work. Actual proper, full-time work. This one thing was little short of a miracle. You can’t know how magical that one thing was. Let alone the rest.

    I bought a house in West Swindon – a fifteen-minute walk from Shaw Ridge leisure park. Here we (my then 12-year-old daughter and I) found:

    • A swimming pool
    • An ice rink
    • A bowling alley
    • A cinema and oh joy of joys to a pre-teen daughter in the 1990s – a Pizza Hut

    I felt I’d pitched up in the land of milk and honey.

    So that’s my arrival in Swindon. I settle into full-time employment and building a life. I’m content with where I’m living, I like it well enough, it becomes home.

    But the real love affair with Swindon doesn’t begin then. Oh no. To get to the igniting of that flickering fire of fondness into a truly, madly, deeply red-hot love we have to fast forward about sixteen years to when I’m in my early 50s and compulsory early retirement comes my way.

    Fast forward another year and I began a joint English Honours degree at the University of the West of England.

    Becoming a Born again Swindonian

    Fast forward two more years. I’m now approaching the end of my second year at university and selecting modules for my final year. A travel writing module called “Moving Words’ piques my interest. A conversation with the module leader sparks a classic light-bulb moment and my Swindon blog, Born again Swindonian was… well born.

    As I progressed with what largely started as a means to an end, I learnt more and more about the area and all it has to offer – that’s when I truly fell in love with the place.

    It’s now around five years and 600 posts since I started blogging as Born again Swindonian. I’m still at it because there’s so much to tell.

    Late last year (2017) someone left a message on my blog. That someone was a commissioning editor for Amberley books. Would I be interested in writing Secret Swindon?

    Hell yes!

    Which brings us bang up to date and me a published author with Secret Swindon. Wow!

     

    Angela Atkinson's new book Secret Swindon is available for purchase now.

  • Caernarfon Through Time by Steven Dickens

    Caernarfon Castle and Slate Quay, c.1880. (Caernarfon Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    The Royal town of Caernarfon overlooks the Menai Straits and the isle of Anglesey. It is a port and holiday resort and is also noted for the substantial monument of Caernarfon Castle, whose construction was undertaken by King Edward I, as part of the English conquest of Gwynedd. It was one of the largest and most imposing fortifications built by the English in Wales. In 1284 the English-style county of Caernarfonshire was established by the Statute of Rhuddlan and in the same year Caernarfon was made a Borough, a county and a market town, and the seat of English government in North Wales. Today Caernarfon is a major tourist centre with its town walls, market and castle, first class attractions.  Travelling to the town has changed greatly since the construction of the A55 ‘Expressway,’ including several tunnels through the sheer rock of the North Wales coastline. In the 1970s when I first began to holiday in this area with my parents and visit my relatives, the journey beyond Llandudno was along a tortuous and winding coast road with 30mph speed limits and a single lane carriageway in many places. Whilst speed limits still apply, the journey takes less time and is of great benefit to those travelling to Holyhead for the Irish ferry.

    Floating Restaurant, Eagle Tower and Pont Yr Aber, Caernarfon, c. 1950. (Caernarfon Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    The town itself has also changed greatly, with many old buildings now beneath the route of the A55. However, the castle remains much as it appeared in my childhood, with the car park along the old Slate Quay still as packed as it always has been! Some childhood memories are now gone – there is no longer a ‘floating restaurant’ along the Slate Quay – once a popular destination for many tourists, and the roundabouts in the market square are gone, to be replaced by an open ‘multi-functional’ space for traffic, pedestrians and the market. The market, however, still remains a popular feature and is a big-draw in the summer months’ tourist season, especially in the fine weather we have experienced recently! However, there have been reports of localised forest fires in inland areas close to Caernarfon (and notably near Bethesda), reminding us of the potential perils associated with the heat and sun.

    Castle Square from Eagle Tower, c. 1910. (Caernarfon Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Compiling Caernarfon Through Time has brought back many childhood memories of my visits to the area and the times we visited relatives here, or spent our leisure time on holiday along the coast. Some forty years later it is still a popular destination for my children – especially the castle. I hope that the book will evoke some similar memories for the reader, as well as provide an informative and historic record of the way the district has changed over the last century.

    Steven Dickens' book Caernarfon Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Oldham Through Time by Steven Dickens

    Oldham Town Hall, Yorkshire Street, c. 1910. (Oldham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Although I live in Flixton, which is on the opposite side of Manchester to the town of Oldham, it is impossible to remain outside for long in the hot evenings of June and July, without Oldham immediately being brought to mind. For many evenings – if the wind was in the right direction – we could smell the acrid smoke produced by the raging peat fires on Saddleworth Moor. Looking towards Manchester it was impossible not to notice what looked like an orange/greyish mist in the direction of the Pennines. Which was the smoke produced by the moorland fires that took over three weeks to be completely put out. I know from personal experience that the terrain in this area is wild and – particularly in winter – desolate. In the 1980s I was employed at the archaeological site of Castleshaw Roman fort (and ‘fortlet’), close to Saddleworth Moor, by the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit. Snow-fall can make the area impassable at times. However, in clear weather and in the summer months there are some spectacular views looking towards Oldham and Manchester.

    The Ornamental Lake, Alexandra Park, Oldham 1907. (Oldham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Oldham Through Time shows how the former mill town has changed over the last one hundred years. Its Victorian Metropolitan origins are still self-evident, even in the twenty first century. The green expanse of Alexandra Park is a classic example of its time, constructed as it was by the unemployed mill workers of Oldham, during the economic downturn and cotton famine caused by the American Civil War. In clear weather there are some spectacular views from the park of the Pennines and the surrounding environs. In more recent times, and since the arrival of the Metrolink tram system, Oldham has undergone an economic revival and the historic Tommyfield Market remains a vibrant hub, with the possibility of further development of the town centre.  Oldham’s civic buildings have been rejuvenated and invigorated by their adaptation for alternative uses – the former town hall, now a cinema complex, being a prime example of this. The town of Oldham, despite being on the edge of the vast Metropolitan sprawl of Manchester, has managed to retain its own character and has resisted being incorporated without trace by its larger neighbour. I have attempted in Oldham Through Time to exemplify elements of the town’s uniqueness and hope that the reader will appreciate the result.

    Steven Dickens' new book Oldham Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Luton and Secret Bedford by Paul Adams

    Mossman Hearse – The Victorian hearse at Stockwood Park from the Luton Mossman collection, driven by Dracula in 1968. (Author's collection, Secret Luton, Amberley Publishing)

    Writing a local history book would appear to be a reasonably straightforward task. If you know your area and your subject then the book almost writes itself. For the two titles that I have contributed to Amberley’s ‘Secret Towns’ series – Secret Luton which appeared in 2017 and Secret Bedford which is published July 2018 – I found that things were not that easy.

    This was entirely due to the fact that from the outset I made a rod for my own back, something that was intentional, but ultimately was to make better books of each. In both cases I decided that if the reader already knew about it then it wasn’t a secret and the fact would either be ignored or only mentioned briefly in passing. For Luton this meant dismissing the town’s famous hat industry and ‘The Hatters’ themselves (Luton Town FC), and giving no place to either Vauxhall cars or Luton Airport (sorry Lorraine Chase).  In Bedford, noted eighteenth-century prison reformer John Howard and the earlier Puritan preacher John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, are conspicuous by their absence, as are the town’s indigenous brick making and lace industries.

    The Grand Theatre in the former Waller Street - now a lost building. (C. Old Photos of Luton FB group, Secret Luton, Amberley Publishing)

    Both Secret Luton and Secret Bedford demonstrate an eclectic undercurrent of local history that is decidedly off the beaten track. I also felt that it was important to explore the connections with subjects that have personally interested me for a long time, namely true crime, film making, music and ghosts! I also wanted each book to be practical, which is why both end with a guided walk around the town centre pointing out locations, buildings and other features of interest.

    George Mossman (1908-1993) from Caddington on the outskirts of Luton is one of the un-sung heroes of the British film industry. His collection of horse-drawn coaches and carriages, the finest in the country, was donated to Luton Museum in the early 1990s and is on display at the Stockwood Park Discovery Centre. If you watch any British period film from the 1950s and 1960s, the chances are that the coaches in it were supplied by the Mossman Company, and in many cases George Mossman himself plays the coachman. Horror fans who take a trip to Stockwood Park can see in person several vehicles used by the famous Hammer Films including the Victorian hearse driven by Christopher Lee in the 1968 Dracula Has Risen From the Grave as well as coaches used in 1958’s Dracula, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) and Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter from 1974. Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who was also filmed around Luton in the early 1970s, while Bedford’s film and television connections include 1965’s Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and the comedy classic, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, which was filmed in numerous locations in and around the town.

     

     

    The giant airship R101 photographed at its mooring mast at Cardington, Bedford. On 5 October 1930 it crashed in France with the loss of forty-eight lives. (Secret Bedford, Amberley Publishing)

    Although urban development has taken place in Bedford through the years, the layout of its main streets and many historic buildings remains the same. The noted architect Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905), creator of the iconic Natural History Museum in London, designed the town’s Shire Hall, while another architect Francis Penrose (1817-1903), who held the same position as Surveyor of the Fabric of St Paul’s Cathedral once occupied by Sir Christopher Wren, also worked here. When researching Luton’s architectural history, it became clear that many fine buildings from the town’s past have been lost. One such casualty is the old Grand Theatre which was officially opened in 1898 by the Edwardian beauty Lillie Langtry, former mistress of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales.

    The mysterious world of the paranormal is both well represented in both towns. The first ‘official’ investigation into a haunted house in 1947 involved Luton Council which was requested to lower the rates of a building alleged to be haunted by the ghost of Dick Turpin! In the 1970s, the daughter of the famous Scottish materialisation medium Helen Duncan (1897-1956) also lived in Luton and ran a Spiritualist centre in the town. Bedford has strong connections with another medium, the Victorian William Stainton Moses (1839-92), but its most interesting ghost story is one that connects the flamboyant psychical researcher Harry Price, the investigator of the famous Borley Rectory, with the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and the ill-fated R101 airship which left Cardington on the outskirts of Bedford on 4 October 1930 never to return.

    Hardingstone Grave – The grave of the unknown victim of the ‘Blazing Car Murder’. (Author's collection, Secret Bedford, Amberley Publishing)

    Bedford’s Corn Exchange is intimately associated with the wartime concerts of Glenn Miller. The American bandleader was based in the town and left nearby Twinwood Farm on 15 December 1944 never to be seen again. There is also a proud history of music making – the BBC Symphony Orchestra was based here during the Second World War – and British premieres of major orchestral works by composers such as Stravinsky and Shostakovich were given in wartime broadcasts by Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Henry Wood. Nearer to our own times, the popular violinist Nigel Kennedy gave his first profession performance with the Luton Symphony Orchestra in 1984, while the town was a major centre for the development of punk music and culture in the mid-1970s.

    Where true crime is concerned, Bedford Prison’s status up until the 1960s as a hanging prison brought several notorious murderers both to the town and the gallows. They include the 1961 ‘A6 killer’ James Hanratty and the earlier perpetrator of the 1930 ‘Blazing Car Murder’ Alfred Arthur Rouse whose victim has to this day never been identified. In 1944, the Luton Sack Murder gripped the town when an unidentified body was retrieved by factory workers from the River Lea. This proved to be Irene Manton whose husband ‘Bertie’ Manton escaped the hangman but died in Bedford Prison in 1947. The Sack Murder involved the celebrated London pathologist Professor Keith Simpson whose celebrated cases include the murders at Rillington Place and ‘Acid Bath’ killer, John Haigh.

    These are just a few of the facts and figures which go to make up the secret history of these two seemingly unassuming Bedfordshire towns.

     

     

    Paul Adams' books Secret Luton and Secret Bedford are available for purchase now.

  • Phillimore's Edinburgh by Jan Bondeson

    Reginald Phillimore’s house ‘Rockstowes’ at what is today No. 9 Melbourne Road, North Berwick. (Phillimore's Edinburgh, Amberley Publishing)

    Reginald Phillimore was born in 1855, one of five children of Dr William Phillimore, the superintendent of a lunatic asylum near Nottingham. He showed promise as an artist already as a schoolboy, winning a Government Art Prize for the painting of a still life group in watercolour, from nature. After a third-class Oxford B.A. in history, he worked as an assistant schoolmaster for many years. A shy, retiring man, he very much disliked the boisterous pupils and their unseemly shenanigans, and wished to be free of his humdrum day job to concentrate on his art, but he could not make a living with pen and brush. The turning point came when three capitalist aunts of his, who had taught school in North Berwick, East Lothian, all died in 1900 and 1901, leaving their house, school and money to Reginald. He decided to move into ‘Rockstowes’, the house formerly occupied by the aunts, with its splendid seaside views. The contrast from the impoverished assistant schoolmaster who hated his job, to the financially independent North Berwick property owner of great expectations, could not have been a greater one.

    Reginald Phillimore with his friend Dr Richardson. (Phillimore's Edinburgh, Amberley Publishing)

    Reginald Phillimore did not want to live in idleness, and anyway there was a need to accumulate money and provide for his old age. At an early stage after he had come to North Berwick, he began to produce picture postcards from his own drawings. All his early cards had local motives, from North Berwick and its immediate surroundings. The start of the picture postcard boom in Britain coincided with Phillimore’s move to North Berwick, and the quaint East Lothian surroundings must have inspired him to become a full-time postcard artist. From the bay window of his first-floor study at ‘Rockstowes’, he had a good view of the Bass Rock, a steep-sided volcanic rock that is home to many thousand gannets and other sea birds; it inspired several of his early cards. He employed a teenaged North Berwick schoolgirl, Mary Pearson, to do the delicate colouring; since she liked some variation, no two hand-coloured cards are the same. Most of his early picture postcards were conventional in that they depicted a standard view, like the Bass Rock or Tantallon Castle, with brief explanatory text; from the very beginning, they enjoyed good sales locally, since people appreciated that they were of superior aesthetic quality. As he grew more experienced, Reginald invented a style of his own for his picture postcards: there was still a main motive, but often several smaller vignettes as well, and brief explanatory text describing the history of the building, close or street depicted. This proved both a novel and felicitous manner to produce a postcard, and Reginald’s business flourished as a result. He sold his postcards for a halfpenny each to a network of dealers, initially mainly in the Lothians, but with time all over Britain. Between 1904 and 1914, he was one of Britain’s postcard kingpins, admired and collected by many, and easily able to make a living for himself.

    Edinburgh Castle. (Phillimore's Edinburgh, Amberley Publishing)

    Little is known about Reginald’s private life during his North Berwick Edwardian fame and fortune. He kept busy producing his cards, some from his own etchings, others from motives in the Lothians that he personally visited, yet others from old prints he procured in Edinburgh. He more than once went on tour looking for inspiration, and visited Gloucester, Malvern, Bath, Bristol, Exeter and the West Country, producing a series of felicitous cards with various local landmarks. He also visited Manchester, toured Northumberland and Yorkshire, and travelled to most parts of the Scottish lowlands. Since he did not approve of Glasgow, only one of his cards (Cathedral) is from the sprawling Scottish metropolis; nor did he like London particularly, and again just one card (St Paul’s) is from the English capital. The most felicitous of his cards were those from Edinburgh, a city he knew very well, and his many cards from East Lothian. Reginald remained a shy, introverted man during his North Berwick heyday, with a dislike for social pursuits and a fondness for a solitary life in his comfortable Rockstowes studio. The only woman he is known to have befriended was the aforementioned schoolgirl Mary Pearson, who became his housekeeper once she gained adulthood.

    Phillimore’s books about the Bass Rock and Tantallon. (Phillimore's Edinburgh, Amberley Publishing)

    The Great War came, with its depressing influence on commerce in general and the postcard industry in particular, although Reginald continued to produce postcards throughout the war years. When hostilities ended in 1918, he was 63 years old, but it was not yet time to retire. Since the market for his picture postcards had largely disappeared, he had to conduct an orderly retreat for his postcard company, which once had enjoyed such meteoric success. He sold the occasional painting and etching, but the influx of money was nothing like it had been in pre-war times. He had produced 122 cards from early 1914 until 1919; from the summer of 1919 until the end of his life, he would make only 37 more cards. The market for his postcards continued to decline: town after town on the English mainland was lost, and shop after shop stopped stocking his cards since they were no longer fashionable; yet he remained well represented in Scotland throughout the 1920, particularly in his Edinburgh and East Lothian strongholds.

     

    Reginald Phillimore in his old age. (Phillimore's Edinburgh, Amberley Publishing)

    Reginald Phillimore’s health, both mental and physical, had always been very good, but in 1936, he suffered a serious stroke, becoming paralysed in the right side of his body and experiencing an impairment of his speech. On sunny days, the loyal Mary Pearson wheeled him about in an invalid chair, and he liked to sit in the small garden to the rear of his house. He is said to have learnt to write, with difficulty, with his left hand, and even to have attempted to copy an old water-colour painting of his; still, this is scant consolation for an artist whose creative power had been broken, for good. As the Bass Rock gleamed in the bright North Berwick sunshine, the shadows grew longer in the Rockstowes geriatric gloom. The memories of a man in his old age are the dreams and hopes of a man in his prime, and as Reginald sat lopsidedly in his armchair in the downstairs parlour, he must have pondered his unhappy days as a schoolmaster, the great inheritance triumph in 1901, the heady Edwardian days as one of Britain’s postcard kingpins, and the slow but steady post-war decline. Reginald Phillimore died on Christmas Eve 1941 and was buried in the family vault at Bridgnorth.

    Jan Bondeson's new book Phillimore's Edinburgh is available for purchase now.

  • Cumbria in Photographs by Steve Pipe

    Cumbria through the seasons

    Each year Cumbria sees in excess of 15 million visitors and many of them come between Easter and October, which is a shame as Cumbria is a county of year round beauty. This ever changing beauty is something I tried to show in my Cumbria in Photographs book; capturing the colours and the activities is less of a challenge than capturing the atmosphere and feeling of the changing seasons; here are a few of my favourite seasonal moments which I think show the county at its finest.

    Spring

    Rhododendrons at Wastwater. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    For me spring is a season of colour, especially if we’ve had a particularly long winter, and the rhododendrons at Wastwater really show that off. I remember taking that shot; it was a beautiful spring day, crisp and clear with a gentle warmth from the sun. Taking the perfect picture often involves a lot of hanging around so it’s nice when the weather warms up and makes things a little more comfortable. Even the small things like taking your time over lunch rather than hiding behind a tree or a rock for shelter and wolfing something down before your hands go numb, make a big difference.

    The county is awash with snowdrops, crocuses and bluebells but surely it’s our daffodils which are most famous, thanks to Mr Wordsworth. They were really late flowering this year due to the Beast from the East bringing some late snows and the daffodils photo was the very last one I took for the book, just a few days before the deadline. I kept visiting to check on their progress and wasn’t sure they’d be out in time, but thankfully they just made it.

    Summer

    Kelly Hall Tarn. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The challenge in summer can be escaping the crowds and finding a little peace and quiet and there are a few excellent “off the beaten track” sites in the book. Devoke Water and Kelly Hall Tarn are both usually pretty quiet, as are the fells to the south of Haweswater where you can often wander around all day and only see a few other people.

    If crowds are your thing then there are plenty of events on throughout the summer months where you can enjoy some of the more traditional aspects of life in the county. Many of the shows began as farming meets which, in the years before the phone and digital communication, played a vital role in local life. They are usually well advertised locally and are definitely worth a visit. As well as an increasing number of modern athletics events you’ll also be able to see local wrestling and hound trailing – both events are unique to the county.

    Autumn

    The Milky Way over Castlerigg Stone Circle. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    As the nights draw in the county begins to glow with the glorious colours of autumn. The leaves on the trees turn through various shades of reds, golds and browns and the fells follow suit as the bracken dies back. Autumn is a great time to enjoy the dark skies above the county too; we have low levels of light pollution and, when the weather is clear, it’s easy to spot the arm of the Milky Way arcing high overhead.

    Autumn is also the best season to spot an inversion – when the clouds stay in the valleys leaving the fell tops clear. Although many inversions are gone by lunchtime some can last for several days so, as was the case with the Windermere inversion in the book. There’s nothing quite like hiking or driving up a hillside through thick fog then suddenly emerging into crisp clear sunshine, especially when you’ve got a full flask of hot tea and a rucksack full of sandwiches.

     

    Winter

    Flying over Ullswater. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The county is pretty much empty though the winter months. Many of the villages with high numbers of holiday homes become ghost towns and there’s no problem finding parking in even the most popular of spots. Although Cumbrian winters can be harsh, they can also be incredibly beautiful – though it’s best to make sure you’re well layered up with plenty of thermals. Crunching through the snow on top of a high fell is a wonderful experience, but only if you’re properly kitted out.

    One time when you’ll find plenty of people on the high fells is Remembrance Sunday when people gather at the war memorials dotted around the Lake District summits. The most well attended event is on top of Great Gable where, whatever the weather, several hundred people gather for a short service of remembrance.

    Last year I was lucky enough to enjoy a ride in a Gyrocopter which allowed me to take a couple of aerial shots for the book. It was a fantastic experience but perishing cold; I’d definitely do it again, but perhaps in the summer next time.

    Steve Pipe's new book Cumbria in Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • 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.

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