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Tag Archives: Local History

  • Secret Whitechapel by Louis Berk and Rachel Kolsky

    Mile End mural at No. 31 Mile End Road, E1. (Courtesy of artist Mychael Barratt, commissioned by T. V. Edwards, Secret Whitechapel, Amberley Publishing)

    Revealing the secrets of four centuries of history in Whitechapel

    In 2016 Amberley published our first joint collaboration, Whitechapel in 50 Buildings which has proven to be a very popular title. At the time we were also asked by Amberley to create a similar title for their ‘Secret’ series of books and Secret Whitechapel is the result.

    Whitechapel in 50 Buildings celebrated buildings that proclaimed from the exterior their age, history or purpose. Secret Whitechapel encourages readers to look up and down, discovering stories not immediately evident to the passer-by.

    Edward VIIth statue on Whitechapel Waste with the Royal London Hospital in the background (Secret Whitechapel, Amberley Publishing)

    The story of Whitechapel is not always emblazoned on walls but there are often other clues to its fascinating past – they just need interpreting. When passing the Royal London Hospital, you might notice the distinctively shaped windows of the top floor. What do they mean? You can pass by a shopfront on Whitechapel Road without knowing it contained a peep show connected to one of the most moving human stories in English history. Within this book, doors, windows, pavements and even drainpipes – among other items – all have a hidden story to tell.

    ‘Light is my glory’: The ornate but largely unnoticed bas relief on the former Captain Montefiore secondary school, a typical Victorian building created by the School Board of London. (Secret Whitechapel, Amberley Publishing)

     

     

    Whitechapel continues to captivate people from all over the Britain – indeed the world. Many have passed through on their journeys, either living or working there. Within this small area, you discover a microcosm of London’s social history and those who strove for change including the Dancing Academy on New Street that hosted missionary meetings that led to an international philanthropic movement. One of the most popular songs of the twentieth century was created in a modest recording studio on Osborn Street and shopfronts and ghost signs are reminders of both past businesses and those now in fourth-generation family ownership.

    The surprisingly rural feel of the workers cottages in Belle Vue Place between Whitechapel and Mile End. (Secret Whitechapel, Amberley Publishing)

    It would be impossible to reveal all the secrets within Whitechapel in one single volume. Indeed, as we wrote this book we continued to discover more wonderful stories that for reasons of space we had to omit. If we had to sum up this collection of special places, we chose to concentrate on the minutiae and truly hidden meanings in buildings and locations. There is a vicarious delight in knowing you are following in the footsteps of famous men and women in history, or finding spaces that, even in Whitechapel, are so ‘off the beaten track’ they appear almost rural.

    There is no doubt that Whitechapel is going through an important transition as the thirst for space pushes outwards from the nearby City of London. Central Whitechapel is likely to go through dramatic changes during the rest of this decade as Crossrail arrives and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets commences its vision for a new twenty first century civic centre for its borough. There may yet be time to savour some of the back roads and surprisingly tranquil spaces shown in this book and we hope it will both inform and fulfil its role as a guide to secrets in the area.

    Louis Berk & Rachel Kolsky's book Secret Whitechapel is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Chester by John Idris Jones

    Godstall Lane had a hermit. Gerald of Wales wrote that this man was Hnry V of the Holy Roman Empire. (Secret Chester, Amberley Publishing)

    Before I forget, may I first put in a good word for Editor Jenny Stephens. She has been a star for my work on Secret Chester. It is the first time I have done this format, and there were many tricky moments. However, Jenny sailed through and put the book together in admirable form.  She juggled the images and the text in a way which brings out the pictures; some larger, some smaller; and also a good word for the printers; some of the pictures I was doubtful about, but the printers have done a sterling job, bringing out some details I could not see on the originals. The picture of Godstall Lane on page 7 for instance; very dark in the original but a great deal less so when printed. The paper is excellent quality and does good justice to the images; they are printed much better than I expected.

    Gee gees dates back to the first recorded horse race at Chester in 1539. (Secret Chester, Amberley Publishing)

    Well, there are lots of books on Chester, some of them with archive pictures, but I am hoping there is only one like mine. With new pictures and short explanatory text, it’s reliable and accurate but not academic. The mixture looks good to me; some history, some contemporary; some quirky things, like ‘gee-gees’ being derived from a Mr Gee who started the racecourse in c1550. Then to various things about the Romans, and King Arthur, who seems to have spent some time in Chester. I have put in lots of pictures of houses. They are so attractive with their half-timbering and carvings and have odd things like John Lennon’s grandmother being born in one.

    It is an outstanding place; packed with good details. The French restaurant Chez Jules used to be the Fire Station, and you can see the bays.

    Chez Jules restaurant in Northgate Street. (Secret Chester, Amberley Publishing)

    Not many know that the design side is misleading. Most of the half-timbering, Tudor-style, is fairly new; Victorian; designed in 1850-1890. I have dedicated the book to five architects; such good fortune to have them there at the same time. They really were outstanding designers and without them the city would be a pale shadow of what it is now. The buildings have survived time; some from the very early centuries are still fresh and good-looking.

    I think this combination of quality pictures of a decent size, with illustrative text, is a good commercial idea. I think people, tourists especially, will buy it; it is a souvenir of a visit perhaps. Very good news that genuine paper books are coming back and e-based material is in decline. On holiday in Spain last week I noticed fewer kindles around the pool and more books.

    I sincerely wish Amberley Publishing all success. They are taking a chance in a difficult marketplace. They are producing decent books of good quality content and material. I would like to mention Alan Murphy as well; as commissioning editor, he has excellent judgement and looks to the future in a very positive way.

    John Idris Jones' book Secret Chester is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Greenwich by David Ramzan

    The Enderby's of Greenwich Marsh

    Whaler Samuel Enderby by William John Huggins (1781-1845), after engraver C. Rosenberg. (Author collection)

    Having produced several books for Amberley Publishing over a period of many years, a majority concentrating on the history and heritage of my place of birth Greenwich, in Southeast London, I was asked to compose a blog for the Amberley website. Not sure of what type of subject to write about, I took a look through other posted blogs, all of which made fascinating reading, describing how to photograph models, a writer’s passion for public parks and another documenting the history of Brunel’s steamship the Great Western, an account which gave me an idea for my own blog.

    The Great Western was the sister ship of the Great Eastern, constructed opposite Greenwich on the north shore of the River Thames at Millwall. It was the largest steamship ever built up to that time. The vessel later became the first to successfully lay telegraph cable, which was made at the subsea cable works in Greenwich, from Britain to America. However my interest is not in the ‘Great Babe’, the name Brunel affectionately gave his ship, but at the works at Enderby Wharf Greenwich where the subsea telegraph cable was fabricated and manufactured. The site, developed commercially by a family of whalers, sealers and Atlantic explorers, was acquired by Samuel Enderby II in the early 1800s. His sons, Samuel, Charles and George, expanded their business interests through the manufacturing of rope and canvas to supply the family’s fleet of whalers operating in the subantarctic and Antarctic, several berthed on the Thames off Greenwich Marsh. At its peak the company owned or leased sixty-eight ships, one of which, the Amelia, sailed west around Cape Horn in 1789 to become the first whaler to carry out whaling in the Southern Ocean. The Enderby’s built a house on the river’s edge during the mid 19th century, which had an unusual octagonal room with a glass ceiling and a large bay window giving a panoramic eastwards view of vessels sailing up and down the Thames.

    Enderby House, centre right, from Enderby Wharf, with the cable winding gear to the right of the image, prior to demolition of the site buildings to the rear. (Author collection)

    Although commercial whaling is now a subject of intense ethical and moral debate, between the early 17th and mid-20th century, the hunting of whales for their oil, meat and bone was a respected and highly profitable industry. The Enderby’s became London’s largest whaling company, funding several pioneering expeditions into the Southern Ocean which led to the discovery of the Bellany Islands and the establishment of the Enderby Settlement at Port Ross in the north-east of the Auckland Islands. At one time only whalers and sealers ventured as far south as Antarctica, only the men of those ships ever having set foot on its vast and desolate ice sheets, and no one had ever seen the Antarctic mainland up until as late as 1820.

    So well noted were the Enderby’s that the company and one of its whalers, the Samuel Enderby, feature in the novel Moby Dick, written by American author Herman Melville. The whaler Amelia is also mentioned in a chapter of the contemporary publication The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian, set during the Napoleonic Wars, where the ship is taken as a prize by the American ship USS Norfolk.

    The Enderby family originated from Bermondsey, South London, trading in leather tanning, and were supporters of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. Their patronage of Cromwell and funding of his new model army earned them huge favour with the Parliamentarians, resulting in the family being granted forfeited lands in Ireland, which the Enderby’s later sold to finance an oil trading business with Russia and in founding their whaling and sealing enterprises. After many years of successful trading, the money invested in the unproductive Enderby Settlement in the South Atlantic eventually brought about the company’s financial ruin, and the family business was liquidated in 1854.

    Painting of Enderby House and Enderby Wharf mid 1800s by David C Ramzan. (Author collection)

    The site at Greenwich, along with Enderby House, was sold on to submarine cable makers Glass, Elliott & Co, supplying telegraph communication cables laid down below various stretches of water in the North Sea and Mediterranean. Glass, Elliott & Co later merged with the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, to become known as Telcon, the manufacturers of that first transatlantic telegraph cable successfully laid by the Great Eastern.

    Enderby House, which retained the name of the whaling family, continued to be used as company offices up until the early 2000s, when much of Greenwich Marsh came under redevelopment and regeneration. The northern stretch of the site, including the Grade II listed Enderby House and Enderby Wharf, then owned by Alcatel-Lucent, was sold off to developers. While negotiations continued over the redevelopment of the works and wharf, where a proposed cruise liner terminal and hotel were planned to be built, Enderby House, where Major General Gordon, son of Elizabeth Gordon, nee Enderby, daughter of Samuel Enderby junior, was entertained the day before leaving for the Sudan, soon fell into a state of disrepair. Local campaigners fighting to save the celebrated property, which has important links to the historic industries and technological innovations associated with Greenwich Marsh, made various proposals to ensure the iconic house has a sustainable and productive future, initiatives which include use as a visitor centre, museum, cafe and bar. As large areas of Greenwich Marsh, now known as Greenwich Peninsular, come under redevelopment and regeneration, apartments, offices and hotels replacing industrial buildings and wharfs of the industrialised landscape, very few original properties have survived from a period of advancements in technological manufacturing and engineering during the late 18th to late 20th century. Enderby House, one of the most important historic structures still standing, although in a perilous condition, alongside Enderby Wharf, are the only surviving reminder of the important role Greenwich Marsh played in not only the development of global telecommunications but also in the early years of Britain’s whaling industry.

    Artistic impression of Enderby House during the mid 1800s. (Author collection)

    Incidentally, in 2010, the bones of a huge North Atlantic right whale were uncovered in the mud off the Greenwich foreshore, believed to have either beached itself or having been caught and brought to shore from the Thames estuary. The remains we said to be the size of the white whale as described in Moby Dick, its bones dating to the early 19th century, a period when half of the Britain’s whalers gathered on the Thames off Greenwich, including many Enderby company ships.

    David Ramzan's new book Secret Greenwich is available for purchase now.

  • Lancashire in Photographs by Jon Sparks

    Summit of Clougha Pike (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    It’s often said that modern cameras have made photography easier. I can’t deny that the odds of consistently getting an image that’s in focus and correctly exposed are very much better than they were when I began my own photographic journey, before ‘digital imaging’ was even thought of. But ‘in focus and correctly exposed’ is not enough; it is not, and never has been, the be-all and end-all of photography. Landscape photography, for example, is not merely about making a record of a place but capturing how the photographer felt about that place.

    In fact, whether you’re shooting idyllic landscapes or hard-hitting news images, all the skill and all the equipment in the world count for very little unless you’re in the right place at the right time. And, yes, that’s another cliché, but it’s still true, and I hope the images in Lancashire in Photos show that I’ve managed to live up to it.

    Of course there’s an advantage for me in photographing Lancashire. I’ve lived here most of my life, and I’ve explored it in many different ways. When this book came on the horizon, I already had an extensive stock of images covering most of Lancashire, and I also had a pretty clear idea of places I wanted to visit, or revisit, for new pictures.

    Train and Arnside Tower from Silerdale Moss (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    However, I haven’t always had the advantage of playing at home. Other assignments have taken me to places I’m far less familiar with, and with strictly limited time to work in too. In those circumstances, there’s always a temptation to head straight for standard views and locations that you’ve already seen in other photographers’ work. Commercially, that’s sometimes a necessity, but from a personal perspective I tend to wonder what the point is. Photography for me is about capturing my own view of places, not reproducing someone else’s. And the ideal way to find my own view is to explore on my own, at a slow pace, and with a willingness to take a random turn because it looks interesting.

    In my view, landscape photography means being part of the landscape. It means engaging with it in some way, whether it’s walking, rock-climbing or cycling (on road- or mountain-bike). All of these have the great advantage of being slow; you move through the landscape at a pace that lets you take in details and allows all the senses to engage. Photography may be a visual medium, but it’s still underpinned by what you hear and feel and smell and taste.

    Working in my own backyard also means I’ve visited certain locations many times. I’ve trodden the summit of Clougha Pike at least three hundred times, and apart from the very early days I’ve always carried a camera, even if photography hasn't always been the first thing on my mind. When it comes to being in the right place at the right time, familiarity with the place certainly helps you figure out what might be the right time.

    Fireworks and train, Lancaster (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Sometimes this means that I can head out with a pretty clear idea in my head of image(s) I hope will materialise. The image of a train and Arnside Tower had been in my mind for some time, and this hazy evening with the sun sinking behind and creating a semi-silhouette effect was just what I’d been looking for (maybe a steam train would be even more picturesque, but it would be a lot less typical).

    But you always have to be open to other possibilities too; while waiting for a train to appear, I noticed the backlighting on the moss crowning the wall right in front of me, which became the very next image in the book. The two were taken almost exactly five minutes apart.

    A train figures in my next example too, though this time it was a bonus, rather than central to my original plan. Shooting fireworks displays like this one over Lancaster Castle definitely requires preparation (and a good tripod), and because each exposure lasts a minute or more you can only shoot a limited number during the 15 or 20 minutes of the average show. I’d scouted the location beforehand, so I knew the railway line ran through the middle distance, but I couldn’t guarantee that there’d be a Pendolino pulling out of Lancaster station during the display. Once I saw it start to move, however, I had to keep the shutter open until its headlights had travelled right through the frame; fortunately this meshed perfectly with a 60-second exposure.

    War Memorial, Slaidburn (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Then there are the shots that weren’t planned at all, like the image of the war memorial in Slaidburn. I was heading for a walk over the hills to Clitheroe but as the bus passed through the village I noticed the light making an already poignant memorial even more so. Fortunately, the bus-stop was only around the corner, and the first thing I did after disembarking was to jog back up the street to get the shot.

    Planning and spontaneity have to coexist, then, as they did with the image of Lytham that graces the cover of the book. I’d gone expecting to shoot images of the windmill and the old lifeboat station from almost exactly the opposite direction, bathed in late-autumn evening sunlight. However, you can plan for many things but clouds will always do their own thing – and even as they were threatening to frustrate my original intentions I saw the potential for a completely different shot. The first requirement for a landscape photographer – any photographer – is keeping your eyes open.

    Jon Sparks new book Lancashire in Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Woking in 50 Buildings by Marion Field

    Tante Marie Resturant. (Woking in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Over the twentieth-century Woking has been ‘redeveloped’ several times. This trend has continued into the twenty-first century so writing a book with the above title was not an easy task. However, it is hoped that most of the buildings featured are still standing although there may have been some changes since the book was written.

    The Tante Marie Restaurant, which served delicious meals with waitresses and waiters trained by the Academy next door is now closed as it was competing with so many new eating places.

    Newark Priory today. (Woking in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Old Woking is featured in the Domesday Book. A Saxon church probably stood on the site of St Peter’s Church built in the eleventh-century. This still has a flourishing congregation with services and activities held throughout the week. A few miles away in Pyrford the ruins of Newark Priory are a reminder of Henry VII’s desecration of the monasteries. The monks from the Priory may sometimes have worshipped in St Peter’s Church.

    Another ruin near the church is Woking Palace. Originally a medieval manor house, it was transformed into a luxurious palace by Henry VIII’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort. Here, she entertained her grandson and possibly his current wife. When James I sold the Palace to Sir Edward Zouche, the new owner left it to decay and eventually used the bricks to build himself a new mansion on the site of the Hoe Bridge School.

    The Shah Jehan Mosque. (Woking in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Most of the area around Old Woking was common land at this time and it was not until the nineteenth-century that the railway was built through it and ‘New’ Woking developed. When a cholera epidemic erupted in London, a new cemetery was required outside the city and Brookwood Cemetery was created from 400 acres of common land. Trains on the new railway line carried the coffined dead to their final resting place.

    Dr Gottleib also found the railway line of use when he decided to open a school of Oriental Studies in 1883. In the grounds he built a Mosque for his Muslim students to worship. Sadly, Dr Gottleib died at the end of the nineteenth-century and the school and the Mosque were no longer used. The Mosque, however, was resurrected a few years later and is still in use by the large Pakistani community who came to Woking after the Second World War.

    The Lightbox. (Woking in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    ‘New’ Woking continued to develop in the nineteenth-century with shops, churches, pubs and schools being established. Culture was not forgotten. Visitors to the Lightbox can hear about the history of the area and enjoy one of the many temporary exhibitions. In April 2017 the venue also hosted Woking’s first ‘Literary Festival. The 120 photographs in the book show the variety of buildings that the town contains.

    Marion Field's new book Woking in 50 Buildings is available for purchase now.

  • Bournemouth Airport Through Time by Mike Phipp

    Before the end of World War Two BOAC established a base at Bournemouth. Services included the route to Australia with Lancastrians, which were converted Lancaster bombers. (Author collection)

    Researching Bournemouth Airport Through Time I discovered that the development of an airport can often be a torturous affair. Many UK cities and towns have ended up with one, whilst others, seemingly deserving, have not. During 1929/30 many locations were visited by aviation pioneer Sir Alan Cobham as part of his Municipal Airport Campaign. He considered that air travel was the way ahead and that Municipal Airports would be required all over the country. His reports were forwarded to the Air Ministry who would occasionally publish details of what progress was being made. They also pointed out that to become an airport the site had to provide customs facilities. Despite suitable locations having been established, many cities and towns were unable to finance the development of their own airport. However forty had been established around the county by the end of the 1930s.

    Sir Alan Cobham was a prominent figure in the aviation world. In the 1930s he was heavily involved in the establishment of airports around the country. (Author collection)

    In the early 1930s Bournemouth made use of the airport at nearby Christchurch. In 1930 Sir Alan Cobham had recommended a number of more suitable sites. However these were ignored by the Council who decided to enter into a partnership in 1935 with adjacent Poole to establish an airport there. Finance proved the downfall of this plan, with Poole pulling out of the project in 1938. Sir Alan had also visited the county town of Dorchester in 1929 in the search for a site. Although a field was selected and a few services operated in 1934, there turned out to be insufficient demand. Weymouth had a site which was also visited by Sir Alan (which he referred to as Weymouth Aerodrome) but it failed to be developed into an airport for the town. I compared this situation to Southampton which opened its Municipal Airport in 1932, although situated in the neighbouring town of Eastleigh. In the other direction Exeter in adjacent Devon developed a successful airport which opened in 1937.

    Aircraft of BOACs successor - the present day British Airways - are still seen at Bournemouth. This Airbus A319 has been diverted from Gatwick. (Author collection)

    Back in Bournemouth I found that Sir Alan Cobham has been seeking other sites in 1938/39 as the existing Christchurch Airport was proving too small. As normal he passed on his recommendations to the Air Ministry but nothing had happen prior to the outbreak of World War Two. It was wartime needs that saw the Air Ministry requisition land at Hurn Village for the establishment of a fighter base. This was one of the sites recently surveyed by Sir Alan. RAF Hurn opened on 1 August 1941 and proved to be a valuable military airfield. Its operational use came to an end three years later and, as with most wartime airfields, it could have returned to farmland. However, anticipating the return to peace, the Air Ministry selected Hurn as a new base for BOAC. It was also the UKs initial post-war international airport pending the completion of Heathrow. Even when Heathrow opened BOAC retained a base at Hurn/Bournemouth due to the lack of space at Heathrow. When they moved out further uses were found for their hangars and Bournemouth Airport slowly developed. It has seen ups and downs in traffic over the years, but remains important due to the amount of businesses – both aviation and non-aviation – situated around the airport. Having visited all my life I still find Bournemouth Airport a fascinating place.

    Mike Phipp's new book Bournemouth Airport Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Yeovil in 50 Buildings by Bob Osborn

    Millennium Blue Plaque (Supplied by author)

    It is frequently difficult to establish the history of an old building unless there is early documentary evidence. I recently came upon such a case with the building 1&3 Princes Street, Yeovil, Somerset (which features in my book Yeovil in 50 Buildings) on the corner of today’s Westminster Street. Until recently the earliest known occupant of the building was a printer named William Porter around 1830 and a Millennium Blue Plaque was erected on the building to this effect. However, a chance purchase of several old leases on an internet auction site enabled me to uncover much of the unknown earlier history of this building.

    Although there has undoubtedly been a building on this site for centuries, the date of the present building is difficult to ascertain. From one of the leases, dated 1835, the earliest known occupier of the site was a saddler, John Reeks (died pre 1764), and his family during the early eighteenth century. Very little is known of John Reeks the Elder. It is known that in 1716 John Reeks, 'Sadler of Yeovil' took on Jos, son of Samuel Lester, as an apprentice. The Poor Rate of 1729 recorded that John Reeks paid 1½d Poor Rate on property in the Manor of Hendford. At this time 1½d was ‘average’ so unlikely that it would have been such a large building as the present 1&3 Princes Street. Between 1737 and 1739 he served as a Churchwarden at St John's church.

    John Reeks the Younger (1713-1770) was presumably the eldest son of the above John. He was baptised at St John's Church on 31 December 1713. John the Younger attended Pembroke College, Oxford, and matriculated in 1731 aged 18. He was awarded a BA from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1734 aged 21, an MA in 1737-8 aged 24, a Bachelor of Divinity in 1745 aged 32 and a Doctorate of Divinity in 1756 aged 43. He was Rector of Stratford St Anthony cum Hanny, Berkshire, in 1769 but died the following year, aged 57. Although he would probably have inherited his father's property, the saddlery would most likely have been taken on by John Reeks the Elder's younger son Thomas, who was also a saddler. He had presumably served an apprenticeship with his father that worked alongside him and finally assumed the business after his father's death.

    The Reeks family was followed by Samuel Toms (a deed of 1770 notes that a farrier by the name of Samuel Tomes was active at this time). In turn, he was succeeded by a solicitor and banker Samuel Watts the Elder.

    My 1835 lease refers to Samuel Watts the Elder "who erected and built the said messuage or dwellinghouse". Samuel Watts the Elder was born in 1734 and died in 1820, so it is logical to suppose that he had the building constructed around, say 1760.

    Samuel Watts the Elder's son, Joseph Watts, is known to have 'modernised' the building prior to his leaving Yeovil in 1812. Assuming he carried out the alterations around 1810, this would have meant that the building was then some fifty years old and therefore a fashionable facelift would not have been unreasonable. The building was re-fronted by Joseph Watts in the then-fashionable Regency style and had a new low pitch roof with wide eaves at the same time.

    Nos 1 and 3 Princes Street, seen from the High Street. (Yeovil in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Yeovil Bank, probably founded around 1810, was a private bank established by Samuel Watts the Elder (when aged about 76) and it is very likely that his bank was located in this building. Certainly, his sons' bank was later located here and it is surely not unreasonable to speculate that the bank of the sons was a continuation of the bank of the father, albeit under different names.

    A reference in the London Gazette in 1812 refers to the bank as Watts Marsh & Co (run by Samuel the Elder's sons, Samuel and Joseph Watts, and Thomas Marsh). In 1815 it was announced that this banking partnership was dissolved by mutual consent under the signatures of Samuel Watts the Younger, Thomas Marsh, Thomas Bullock, and James Glyde. In 1856 a writer referred to Yeovil's third bank as “the Bank of Messrs Samuel (and) Joseph Watts and Cayme." By 1822 (Pigot's Directory) the bank had become Samuel Watts & Co. It would then have gone out of business on 8 November 1823, when Samuel Watts the Younger, scrivener and banker, was declared bankrupt.

    My earliest lease of the property, dated 9 November 1815, was made between Thomas Bullock, Gentleman, James Glyde, Gentleman and Samuel Watts the Younger, Gentleman, (all of Yeovil) of the one part and Markes Lambe, Surgeon of Yeovil, of the other part. James Glyde and Samuel Watts were brothers-in-law (Glyde married Watts' sister Mary) and Thomas Bullock was the brother of Watts' mother, Mary née Bullock.

    From the 1835 indenture it is known that the property was divided by another lessee, Thomas Sydenham - "which said messuage or dwellinghouse hath been lately divided by the said Thomas Sydenham into two Dwellinghouses with front Shops and the same are now or later were in the occupation of the said Thomas Sydenham and his tenant Thomas Hain." It is known that by 1829 the building, or at least the southern half of it, was occupied by William Porter (see above), therefore Sydenham must have divided the property between 1825 (the date of my third lease which only speaks of a single property) and 1829 when Porter was in occupation – which brings us to the known history of the building as described on the Millennium Blue Plaque.

    Bob Osborn's new book Yeovil in 50 Buildings is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Loughton by Michael Foley

    An old view of the High Road showing the original ornate fountain that was destroyed in a road accident. (Secret Loughton, Amberley Publishing)

    The Loughton Poisoner

    The nineteenth century was a time of rapid development in the use of drugs to treat illness. Unfortunately not all of the new discoveries were well tested or were even abused for profit. I came across a shocking example while writing Secret Loughton.

    Between October 1877 and March 1878 there were thirteen infant deaths in the Loughton area, as well as sixteen other non-fatal illnesses in young infants, due to skin disease or poisoning. This attracted the attention of The Medical Officer of Health.

    At the Epping Petty Sessions May 1878 Henry George King, wholesale chemist of Kingsland Road London was charged with the unlawful killing of Elizabeth Sears in February 1877. He was charged with unlawfully and fraudulently selling Violet Powders with arsenic which was used on the bodies of those of tender years to endanger their health. It was claimed that the powder contained between 28 and 51 % of arsenic which was cheaper than the starch that the powder also contained. King was told to stop selling the powder by the treasury but did not reply until visited by Sargent Roots from Scotland Yard.

    John Nottage a grocer of Loughton had bought a gross of the powders from King for one shilling and nine pence and had thought that it was the purest of powders for use in the nursery. Nottage sold the powders for one penny a packet. He had also sold the powders from other sources in the past with no complaints. When a Mr Deacon complained about the powder he stopped selling them and contacted Mr King. He asked for a warranty as to the powder’s safety and King took some of the packets for testing. Nottage heard no more until someone from the treasury arrived and took all the rest of the powders.

    Emma Grout a grocer of Baldwins Hill Loughton had known King as a chemist for some years; she bought three dozen packets of the powder from him. Mr Bell, the inspectors of nuisances, called on Mrs Grout after complaints from Mrs Martin, Mrs Scars and Mrs Mead. She wrote to King who again took some of the packets for testing.

    Another old view of the High Road with houses on the right where shops now line the street. (Secret Loughton, Amberley Publishing)

    Sarah Mead of Benjamin’s Mead Loughton had a child in January 1877 named William. She had bought the Violet powder at Grout’s shop which had King’s Name and address on it. She used it until March with no ill effects. She then purchased some more which made the child very red and sore where it was used. This then turned into blisters. She called Doctor Fowler and stopped using the powder and the child got better. She then gave the remaining powder to Mr Bell.

    Isabella Martin of Ash Green Loughton had a baby on 21 November 1877. She bought some Violet Powder from Grouts shop and after using it for nine days the baby died. Where she had applied the powder there were a number of black blisters, again Mr Bell took the powder away. Hannah Reid also of Ash Green had been Mrs Martin’s midwife and said that the baby had been healthy when born.

    Elizabeth Sears of Baldwin’s Hill Loughton had one child early in 1877. She used King’s Powder from Grouts and the baby died after a week. She had another baby in February 1878 and bought more of the powder and the second child died at a week old. The baby had been healthy at birth but had died in agony.

    The defendant King said that he was well known in Loughton and that his mother in law lived next door to one of the witnesses. He very much regretted that the powder may have been the cause of the deaths and said that he would have stopped selling it if he had known. The case was adjourned on a number of occasions and during the various hearings expert witnesses were called. Leadenhall Street examined some of King’s Violet Powders and found 25% of the powder consisted of arsenic.

    An old view of Church Hill, which runs between the High Road and the Goldings Hill. (Secret Loughton, Amberley Publishing)

    It seemed that arsenic was sold for ten shillings a ton which was much cheaper than the starch normally used in the powders. Doctor Du Pre from Westminster Hospital also examined the powders and found that some contained up to 51% of arsenic. It was also said that it was very easy to see the difference between arsenic and the normal starch used in the powder. It was also evident from press reports that the adulterated Violet Powder was on sale all over London, not just in Loughton. Some of this was due to King but not all. There were also cases of adulterated powder being sold in Manchester where two chemists were fined but in this case it was Sulphate of lime not arsenic that was used.

    King claimed during the trial that he bought the powder to make the Violet Powders from other chemists and that once he knew that they may be dangerous he tried to stop the sale of them. The trial was moved from Epping Assizes to Essex Assizes and eventually to the Old Bailey and King was placed on bail of £200. The trial eventually ended with King being found not guilty as it was found that the inclusion of arsenic was accidental.

    There were reports of further deaths due to adulterated Violet Powder as late as 1881. This was again due though to Sulphate of lime rather than arsenic. It does seem though that the problems caused by this practice may have caused isolated cases of harm and even death of infants in other areas. In Loughton however the effects were immense with so many cases of death and illness. The publicity over the Loughton cases did however alert other mothers who had lost children to the effects of the powder in other parts of London.

    Michael Foley's new book Secret Loughton is available for purchase now.

  • Bristol From The Post and Press by Maurice Fells

    It’s surprising what fascinating stories can be found in old newspapers. When I say ‘old’ I’m talking about papers which were published 50, 80, 100 years or more ago.

    I’ve been delving through those published in my native Bristol for my latest local history book. It’s amazing that in 1908 the people of Bristol weren’t short for choice when it came to buying a paper. Three were published in the morning and another three in the afternoon. Today the city has just two papers, the Western Daily Press and the Bristol Post, formerly Bristol Evening Post. Both roll off the presses overnight and are available in time to be read with the bacon and eggs at the breakfast table.

    I was searching through the papers to find the events and the people that over the last century or so had helped to make Bristol the great city that it is today. However, my book, Bristol from the Post and Press also contains some rather quirky stories like the one about the 17-year old lad who jumped from a plane flying across the city, just for a dare. Fortunately, he lived to tell the tale to the local papers and was completely uninjured.

    The Grand Hotel has entertained many politicians, pop stars and captains of industry. (Courtesy of Andrew Gustar under Creative Commons 2.0, Bristol From The Post and Press, Amberley Publishing)

    Then there was the occasion that the Rolling Stones were turned away from the restaurant at the Grand Hotel where the group was staying for a night. The hotel’s head waiter Mr. Dick Court told the Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger that his sweat shirt and jeans were not in keeping with the hotel’s dress code for its restaurant. Mr. Court told him that he could borrow some suitable clothing - a jacket and tie - but the singer was having none of that. With the rest of his group he made off to a restaurant elsewhere in the city. It was a story that the made the front page of the Evening Post.

    My book starts though with a report from the Western Daily Press in 1899 of an investiture held in the centre of the city. Usually these important events are held by the monarch of the day in a royal place. But Queen Victoria decided to make her way to Bristol to confer a knighthood on the Mayor of the city, Cllr Herbert Ashman.

    The Western Daily Press, then a broadsheet, reports the visit in much detail giving its account a whole page. Readers were told everything from descriptions of the dresses of the civic dignitaries on parade to details about the music being played by a military band whilst the crowds waited for the royal procession to arrive.

    The first edition of the Bristol Evening Post. (Photo credit: Trevor Naylor, Bristol From The Post and Press, Amberley Publishing)

    However, the story takes a strange twist when we read that Cllr Ashman was not knighted inside one of Bristol’s grand buildings but on the pavement in the centre of the city – admittedly it was covered by a red carpet. Queen Victoria didn’t even leave her open-top carriage for the ceremony. She borrowed a sword, leant out of the horse-drawn vehicle and commanded the civic leader, who was kneeling, to “arise Sir Herbert Ashman”. After the brief ceremony the Queen made off for her next engagement.

    Unfortunately the paper didn’t explain why the investiture was held in Bristol, or in the open air, or why Her Majesty never left her carriage. The latter may be explained that through her advancing years she was frail.

    A few months before the ceremony Queen Victoria had announced that in future Bristol’s Mayor would be called the Lord Mayor. Cllr. Ashman was the last Mayor and first Lord Mayor of Bristol.

    Another story that I found fascinating involved Queen Elizabeth II who visited a pub completely unannounced to shelter from the snow.

    Apparently, she was delivering Christmas presents to members of her family in Gloucestershire when her car got caught up in a blizzard. She sought refuge in the Cross Hands Hotel at Old Sodbury on the edge of Bristol. Her Majesty was secretly taken into the landlord’s private quarters where she had a meal and met his children. It meant that none of the customers in the bar were aware of how close they were to the monarch.

     

    Maurice Fells new book Bristol From The Post and Press is available for purchase now.

  • Bradford in 50 Buildings by George Sheeran

    Bradford, a Wool City isn’t it?

    Bradford in 50 Buildings 1 Saltaire Mills, Saltaire, the 1853 building (Bradford in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Ask anyone what Bradford made its money from in the nineteenth century and there will be one answer – wool. ‘Wool city’, the capital of the wool industry, the richest city in Yorkshire with a millionaire on every corner, and all based on wool. Yet if this were true, why did William Cudworth, a journalist and historian working in Victorian Bradford, entitle his history of the rise of the industrial city, ‘Worstedopolis’?

    The first thing we need to clear up is the difference between woollen and worsted cloth. Wool yarns are made from short, hairy fibres and woollen cloth derives its strength partly from the tendency of these fibres to entangle and felt together. Those of us who are old enough to remember the woollen blankets of pre-duvet days will know what I mean – ‘The rough male kiss of blankets,’ as Rupert Brook put it.  Worsteds, on the other hand, are made from long-fibre wools which are combed straight before being spun into a strong, fine yarn.

    So what? I hear you say, It’s still wool. Yes it is, but in the early years of the nineteenth century some European and American textile manufacturers began to experiment with a cloth made with cotton warps (the threads that go up and down) and wool worsted wefts (the threads that go across), to produce a strong cloth that became known as ‘Orleans’.  But it had a major drawback. Being made of plant and animal fibres Orleans was difficult to dye, different fibres taking up dye at different rates.

     

     

    Bradford in 50 Buildings 3 Brigella Mills, the Briggs family, spinners of worsted and mohair yarns; manufacturers of umbrella coverings.

    Despite these technical difficulties Bradford manufacturers took up the challenge in the mid-1830s. They solved the dyeing problem, and Bradford was to become a centre of Orleans production. What is more, they were to introduce other animal hairs into the mixture such as Alpaca hair and mohair (the hair of the Angora goat), which replaced woollen wefts, and thus originated a new form of worsted. While fine wool worsteds had formerly been the preserve of the better-off, these new products were cheaper, hard-wearing, could be dyed in a range of colours and had a lustrous finish. Lustre cloths, as Orleans became known, were also ‘boardy’, that is, had a stiffness, and this was a stroke of either genius or luck, because it meant they were an ideal material for laying over crinoline hoops, the crinoline becoming fashionable from the 1850s.

    Between about 1850 and 1870 such lustre cloths became a fashion fabric and production boomed. It is said, for instance, that Saltaire Mills at Saltaire were producing 30,000 yards of alpaca-based lustre cloths a day at the height of their production. Elsewhere in Bradford, fortunes were made and business empires were built on this trade, the ‘Bradford trade’ as it was known, and mills big and small were built for spinning, dyeing and manufacturing lustre cloths. Yet much of this cloth did not have an ounce of wool in it.

    Bradford in 50 Buildings 4 The Wool Exchange, 1864-67 (Bradford in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Given this story of success, what could possibly go wrong? Well two things, actually.  Firstly, the crinoline was beginning to pass out of fashion by 1870 and lustre cloth along with it in favour of softer materials. Secondly, a trade recession halted the building of new factories and warehouses as international demand for Bradford goods slackened. The result was that numbers of Bradford firms went out of business; others diversified into linings or men’s suits and trousers, a more stable market; some went into more specialised products – umbrella coverings, for instance, which, because of the long-lasting qualities of the Bradford product, became known as ‘durables’.

    So here’s the secret of Victorian Bradford’s success – fashion and the specialised fabrics that went with it. And when the women’s dress goods market became a quagmire for some, expertise gained in producing mixed fibre worsteds was put to use in other areas. But let’s make no mistake: wool, yarns for export and wool textiles remained a vital part of Victorian Bradford’s economy. The point is it was an economy made up of a diversity of textiles and raw materials. When the town’s Wool Exchange opened in 1867, it became an international trading floor not just for wool, but for other fibres and hairs as well – and the most important such exchange in Britain. William Cudworth then reflected this in the title of his history: not ‘Wool City’, but ‘Worstedopolis’.

    9781445668482

    George Sheeran's new book Bradford in 50 Buildings is available for purchase now.

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