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  • Brighton From Old Photographs by Christopher Horlock

    Brighton From Old Photographs The Royal Pavilion 1846 one of the earliest photographs taken in Brighton The Royal Pavilion 1846 one of the earliest photographs taken in Brighton (c. Phillipe Garner, Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Another book of old Brighton photographs? There have been so many over recent years (and I’ve written seven of them!) it might seem there really isn’t the need for another.

    What’s different about this new book is it contains a large number of really old photographs of the town, some dating to the 1840s. I doubt if any other seaside resort has pictures from this decade. Even the nation’s capital, London, doesn’t have a significant number of views from this period.

    To put the earliest photograph in the book into context, Brighton’s most famous resident and patron, George IV, died in 1830. Just sixteen years later, we get our first photograph of Brighton – taken in 1846 - and it’s fitting that it’s a view of the Royal Pavilion, George’s seaside residence in the town. He was succeeded by his brother, William IV, another monarch to take a liking to Brighton, whose reign ended in 1837. Queen Victoria, William’s niece, then became monarch, but she found Brighton people repellent, and the cost of maintaining the Pavilion a real burden, and so sold the building off, in 1850, to the town’s Commissioners - the group responsible for administering local government then. The price was £53000, but this didn’t include any of the furniture, fixtures, and fittings, which she had removed. Over 140 van-loads of items were taken away, leaving the place a shell. One observer said the place, ‘looked like it had been plundered by Cossacks.’ Even tiny items, like plant pots and gardening tools were sold off. The job of restoring the Pavilion to its former glory took many decades.

    Brighton From Old Photographs The seafront 1863 This animated 1863 view looks east before the West Pier was built, with plenty of period fashions to be seen. (Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The Pavilion estate, with its stabling (now Brighton’s Dome concert hall), and riding school (the Corn Exchange) form the first section of the book. There follow sections everyone will be expecting, featuring views of the beaches and promenade area, the piers (three of them), plus the main seafront roads and their hotels. I was pleased to put in a section on theatres and early cinemas, which often get neglected, and there are sections on the Old Town area (including the famous Brighton Lanes), the oldest streets - East Street, West Street and North Street – and also a large section on trade and industry. This last one will surprise some readers, as Brighton is not really known as an industrial town. Yet its North Laine area contained many factories, foundries and workshops, while at Brighton Station, a huge area became one of Britain’s major locomotive building centres, employing, in Victorian times, some 2000 people, making railway engines from scratch, turning out one a month. The book ends at the period of the First World War, with views of the Royal Pavilion being used a military hospital, so goes full circle.

    I’m always being asked where all the old photographs I have come from. It’s a long story! In 1968, my brother bought a ‘proper’ 35mm camera, and, loaded with film (36 pictures worth), we went out early one summer evening to try it out. We walked around central Brighton, taking photographs of things we noticed had changed recently, or had just been built. Why we chose to do this, I’ve never worked out. I’m not sure we really knew what we were doing. We took the old Hippodrome variety theatre, recently converted into a bingo hall, the new Brighton Square in the Lanes, plus views of the Palace Pier, and seafront. We took others, over succeeding years, including the huge American Express complex going up, one street down from where we lived. In 1972, the book ‘Victorian and Edwardian Brighton from Old Photographs’ came out, which really was the first collection of old photographs to be published. I found it a total revelation. I contacted the author, James Gray, and visited him many times over a twenty-year period, at first just to buy photographs off him, to go with all those modern day views we had been taking. I bought other photographs at collector’s fairs and other places, copied some out of old magazines, guidebooks, etc. etc. In time, as my own collection built up, I would swap pictures with Jim, having had copies made for him, he’d give me spares he had, and I would take any modern day views he needed, of buildings about to be demolished in Brighton.

    Brighton From Old Photographs Brighton's Chain Pier opened in 1823 destroyed by storm in 1896 Chain Pier opened in 1823 destroyed by storm in 1896. (Brighton From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Surprisingly, our collections were, and are, very different. Jim’s was mainly topographical - streets, housing, buildings, etc., with Hove, Portslade, Falmer, Woodingdean, Rottingdean, plus all of ‘Greater Brighton’ included, entirely in photographic form, no old drawings, engravings or prints. Mine would be exclusively Brighton, nowhere else, and included drawings and prints, interiors too, which Jim wasn’t keen on, plus ephemera, tickets, letters, advertising material, and theatre programmes.

    Jim put me in touch with other historians and collectors, including Antony Dale, founder of the Regency Society of Brighton and Hove ( I supplied all the pictures for his last book), and Philippe Garner, a photographic expert of Sotheby’s, London, who has a really unique collection of original Brighton photographs - no copies or postcard views - dating from the 1840s. Some of his pictures appear in the book. Other views come from postcard collectors I know, notably Robert Jeeves, who has the best set of Brighton cards there is, and Peter Booth, who has a very fine collection too, with many unusual views.

    That’s only part of the story. I don’t know really how many I have now, but it must be getting on for 20000. At present, about half that number has been digitalized and ‘photoshopped,’ if faded or damaged - an ongoing situation at the moment.

    As my collection spans all periods of Brighton’s history, right up to the present day (I still take photographs of what’s changing), there could easily be a follow-up book, with more photographs continuing from the First World War, through the 1920s and 1930s (when Brighton reached the peak of its appeal), ending with the start of the Second World War. We’ll see!

    9781445669403

    Christopher Horlock's new book Brighton From Old Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Secret High Wycombe by Eddie Brazil

    One of the pleasures of writing local history is, of course, the research. Yet, even the hardest bitten historian who thinks he has uncovered all that his local area can conceal will sometimes unearth gems and nuggets of the past which will pleasantly raise the eyebrows and bring about a little surprised shake of the head. Such as it was for myself during the writing of my latest book for Amberley Secret High Wycombe.

    Anglophile American writer, Bill Bryson, once observed that it was impossible to go no more than a mile in Britain without coming across something interesting, fascinating and worthy of losing an hour for. He could well have been describing my own home turf of south Buckinghamshire.

    LE MAJOR DE HAVILLAND VERS 1925 Geoffrey de Haviland, designer of the Mosquito. (Secret High Wycombe, Amberley Publishing)

    For example, within a five mile radius of where I am writing there can be found:- The site of a Roman villa, three Iron Age hill forts, the Hell fire caves, the ruins of an 11th century Leper hospital, a 12th century castle which was besieged during the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. The Village which gave its name to the American state of Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the military academy which was later moved to Sandhurst, the former home of Victorian statesman, Benjamin Disralli. The home of Geoffrey de Haviland, designer of the Mosquito fighter bomber, the headquarters of Bomber command, where the plan to destroy the Ruhr dams was conceived. And the private school where American band leader, Glen Miller performed his last concert.

    If one expanded the area by another ten miles it would include the house where Mary Shelly wrote part of her novel, Frankenstein. The Quaker meeting house which was constructed from timbers taken from the Pilgrims Fathers ship, Mayflower. And the stately home where the exiled Bourbon King Louis XV111, accepted the crown of the restored throne of France.

    Yet, it is perhaps those seemingly insignificant people, places and historical associations which we probably pass by everyday without giving a second thought which prove to be the most poignant and arresting. Sadly, many of these forgotten secret pieces of local history are to be found in churchyards dotted across the country. And it would seem appropriate that the peace and tranquillity of a remote graveyard bathed in summer sunshine and lulled by the sound of birdsong, is the most fitting backdrop to such history.

    Just a mile from my home in the churchyard of St Margaret’s, in the village of Tyler’s Green, there is the last resting place of Arthur Whitten Brown. In June, 1919, together with his co- pilot, John Alcock, he made the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. They also carried some mail which made it the first transatlantic air mail flight. Both were knighted by King George V.

    Secret High Wycombe 2 Sir William Penn, founder of the state of Pennsylvania and city of Philadelphia. (Secret High Wycombe, Amberley Publishing)

    A short distance from Tyler’s Green, in the churchyard of All Saints, Penn one can find, not only, the graves of the family of William Penn; he of Pennsylvania fame, but also the last resting place of 1950s, Soviet spy, Donald MacLean, and the grave of David Blakeley. He was murdered outside a London pub in 1953 by Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Ellis lies in an unmarked grave at nearby Amersham.

    Perhaps the most poignant churchyard grave relates to a story which is the most heartfelt.

    Lady Georgiana Curzon, was the eldest daughter of the 5th Earl Howe, who lived at Penn House in the village of Penn Street just outside High Wycombe. In 1934, just 24, she met Roger Bushell, a dashing RAF pilot who’s Spitfire was shot down in France in 1940. He escaped from three prisoner of war camps before being recaptured and, while in hiding sent vital information back to Britain through coded letters, including information about the development of V-bomb rockets.

    They fell deeply in love. However, her father, unimpressed by Bushell's social standing did not approve. Consequently, Georgiana was forced to marry the son of a motor racing friend of Earl Howe.

    Despite losing her, Roger Bushell told other prisoners that "Georgie" was his true love whom he would one day marry. Sadly, they were never to meet again. Bushell was the mastermind behind the daring, Tom, Dick and Harry Tunnels escape from the POW camp, Sagan, in Poland. Tragically he was captured, and along with 50 other escapees, murdered by the Gestapo in 1944. The story was told in the film, The Great Escape, in which Richard Attenborough played the part of Bushell.

    Secret High Wycombe 3 Penn parish church. (Secret High Wycombe, Amberley Publishing)

    Lady Georgina could never accept that Bushell was dead. Every year for years she placed an, In Memoriam, in The Times on his birthday ending with the words "Love is Immortal" and signed "Georgie". She ended her days in a home for the mentally ill and on her gravestone in Holy Trinity, Penn Street are two lines of poetry by Tennyson:

    "Oh for the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still."

    Stories and histories such as these are the strength of Amberley’s Secret series. It is a strength which is ironic. For it is secret history for those who wouldn’t necessary have the time or inclination to delve in to an area’s past, let alone the wider national picture.

    It is history in easily digested bite size chunks. They are books which give the reader a new perspective on their communities, opening eyes and minds to the triumphs, achievements and calamities of their home turf. Perhaps it also instils in one a sense of civic pride.

    “I come from the town where this happened”, could be the cry.

    And yet, stories, events and histories such as these abound throughout our country. What we need is a new series, The secret county guides. There are thousands of readers waiting to discover their shire.

    9781445665306

    Eddie Brazil's new book Secret High Wycombe is available for purchase now.

  • 50 Gems of Cumbria by Beth & Steve Pipe

    50 Gems of Cumbria 1 Bishop of Barf. The two bright white rocks are just about impossible to miss among the deep green hillside of Barf. (50 Gems of Cumbria, Amberley Publishing)

    I’m pretty sure that when I tell most people that Steve and I write books, they envisage us wafting around the countryside on lovely sunny days before returning to our mansion to scratch out a few words before dinner.  Well, it’s not really like that – and this book was particularly not like that.

    First of all we had to agree which 50 Gems we were going to include.  Now, we both passionately love Cumbria and its many hidden away corners so this in itself was no mean feat.  Lists were drawn up, argued over, re drawn up, researched, drawn up again and then finally agreed on.  We know we’ll never keep everyone happy with the 50 we’ve chosen because we know there are so many others we could also have included – perhaps the next book could be “50 More Gems of Cumbria – the ones we couldn’t quite agree on”

    We then set about the task of revisiting them all several times to get the right photos, researching and double checking all of our facts and deciding how best to organise them in the book.  Some gems were easy to research whereas others were more problematic. Take the Bishop of Barf for example; I spent days sending dozens of emails and making lots of bizarre phone calls trying to establish who currently paints it.  It’s a huge white rock half way up an inaccessible hillside which is resplendently white – someone, somewhere, knows who paints it but no-one is letting on.  On the bright side my enquiries did enable me to prove Wikipedia wrong and that always makes me happy.

     

     

    50 Gems of Cumbria 2 Grasmere from Loughrigg Terrace. (50 Gems of Cumbria, Amberley Publishing)

    On top of all that research we were hampered with a run of bad luck on the health front – during the course of the year I had two bad falls resulting in two nights in hospital, two concussions (one of them severe), two broken bones, a two inch cut on my head and a few resulting problems with my short term memory.  Not to be outdone Steve damaged his right knee and spent 6 months of the year on crutches.  One of the finest sights to be seen in the county occurred on a crisp and frosty November morning – Steve headed up to Loughrigg Terrace on crutches while I slithered my way around the lake and into to the village with one arm still in a sling. (The result being the rather lovely photo to the right, which is at the top of page 48 in the book)

    Hopefully we’ve included some of your favourites as well as inspired you to seek out corners you perhaps haven’t previously explored. For us the book represents 50 of our favourite places to visit and, as I flick through it, I remember all the fun and adventures we had putting it together.  Writing books may not be as idyllic as many people imagine – but it is a lot of fun, and an absolute privilege to live in and explore this breathtaking county.

    9781445663968

    Beth & Steve Pipe's new book 50 Gems of Cumbria is available for purchase now.

  • Hanwell and Southall Through Time by Paul Howard Lang

    Hanwell & Southall Through Time Manor House, Southall The war memorial was unveiled in 1922 and stands proudly near the Manor House. Hanwell has no similar war memorial but there is a small memorial in Churchfields Park commemorating the scouts who died in the First World War. (c. Hanwell and Southall Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    My job from 1982 until my retirement in 2014 was Hospital Librarian at St Bernard’s Hospital where I had dealt with many enquiries concerning the history of this establishment and had built up a store of knowledge in regard to this subject. I also collect postcards relating not only to the hospital but also to other buildings and scenes around the area. St Bernard’s is a large psychiatric hospital in West London, and although technically situated in Southall, it is only just over the border (the Brent River being the boundary) thus it is sited nearer to Hanwell than to the town centre of Southall.

    The former asylum, known as the Middlesex County Asylum dates back to 1831, so a relatively early asylum. It was designed by the architect William Anderson and built by William Cubitt. The Rev. Norris, the hospital chaplain, started to write a history of the asylum, but sadly died before it was published, and only his notes remain. Therefore I felt compelled to try and put this right, and include some historical facts about the asylum in my book.

    Hanwell & Southall Through Time Farm House, Dormers Wells The drive leading to Dormers Wells Farm can be seen in this Edwardian view. The farm consisted of the farm buildings themselves, Dormers Wells House and Dormers Wells Cottage. (c. Hanwell and Southall Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    I further felt that there were many buildings of interest in Hanwell and Southall that should be better known, for example the Manor House in Southall, which dates back to the 16th century. I have given talks to various historical societies on the history of St Bernard’s and other aspects of Ealing’s history. My talk on ‘Ealing’s Private Asylums’ led me to research the Southall Park Asylum and also Featherstone Hall. Another talk I gave was on ‘The Great Fires of Ealing’ and this inspired me to research the 1914 fire at Endacott’s store in King Street, Southall. I have also detailed the fire at Southall Park Asylum in the book.

    I thought Dormers Wells, originally known as Dormoteswell, was possibly not an area greatly known to the public, and was delighted to source two images that show the rural nature of this area, notably the Farm House and a view of Dormers Wells Lane.

    I think there are some rare images in the book that have never been published before, for example the picture of William Vincent Taylor’s shop in the Norwood Road, also the image showing the Rev. Broadbelt outside the King’s Hall, Southall and the picture of the grocers in Norwood Green, to name but a few.

    Hanwell & Southall Through Time Maypole Margarine Works An aerial view of the margarine works, clearly showing its good transport links and the unspoilt rural surrounds. The factory opened in 1895 and closed in 1929. It was owned by Otto Monsted Ltd, a firm of Danish origin. Note, however, the British flag flying above the works. (c. Hanwell and Southall Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Other buildings of interest featured in the book include the Maypole Margarine Works, the largest margarine factory in Europe at the time, which opened in 1895 and closed in 1929. Also the almshouses in North Road, Southall, which were commissioned by William Welch Deloitte, who founded the famous accountancy firm.

    The most remarkable contrast in the whole book in my opinion, is the view of Leggett’s Forge, which in the book is under the heading The Broadway, Southall ll. It is difficult to equate the modern view with the tranquil scene of the old forge, at all. Equally incredible is the Hanwell scene of the Boston Road. The older scene reminds one of an image straight from the pages of a Thomas Hardy novel, and in contrast the modern view shows how the urban sprawl has entirely spoilt the countryside.

    9781445654942

    Paul Howard Lang's new book Hanwell and Southall Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • A-Z of Conwy by John Barden Davies

    A-Z of Conwy 1 The suspension bridge, designed to blend with the architecture of the castle. (c. A-Z of Conwy, Amberley Publishing)

    I have been fascinated by the town of Conwy since I was very young, having been brought up in the nearby town of Colwyn Bay. My parents often took me to Conwy for the afternoon either in the car or for the twenty-minute bus ride. Even from that young age as I explored the castle, looked at the fishing boats on the quay, from where my mother bought fresh fish just landed off the boats, I somehow sensed that Conwy was different from the neighbouring towns of Colwyn Bay and Llandudno. Now I would say that Conwy is not just different, it is unique. It was always a treat to go to Conwy Fair when the little town was packed with people, and to listen with amazement to the banter going on between the stallholders and their customers. Since the middle of the twentieth century, I have watched with interest the changes in the town. I remember on one of our afternoon trips to Conwy standing on the suspension bridge and looking across the gap in the middle of the new bridge, just before it was completed.  Later, when I became more interested in history, I liked to read the books by local author and historian Norman Tucker, which included a definitive history of my home town of Colwyn Bay as well as many historical novels. His favourite historical period was the English Civil War and its impact on North Wales. One of his best books was ‘Castle of Care’ which told the story of Conwy in the Civil War.  In later years, he wrote a definitive history of Conwy, ‘Conwy and its Story’.  He and his wife were friends of my parents and my mother typed the manuscript for that book. In those days, of course, it was by mechanical typewriter. After reading the book, I became even more interested in Conwy. Little did I realise at the time that I would write two books about Conwy.

    A-Z of Conwy 2 The anchor commemorating the saving of 400 lives by the trawler Kilravock's crew. (c. A-Z of Conwy, Amberley Publishing)

    After I retired, I found that I had time to write. My first book, ‘North Wales Coast Tourism and Transport’ reflected a lifelong interest in public transport and tourism and I told the story of the how transport systems on the North Wales coast developed hand in hand with tourism.  Three years after that book was published, I was delighted when Amberley Publishing asked if I would write a book about Conwy in their Through Time series.  I already had a collection of old pictures and was able to obtain some more and also to take my own photographs in the town. By the end of the summer of 2014, the task was complete and the book was published in the autumn. The following year, I started to write again only this time about the inland resort of Betws-y-Coed. I was fortunate in already knowing that community well as I once lived there and so know many people who were able to help. This was published in the autumn of 2015.

     

    A-Z of Conwy 3 St Mary's Church, on the site of the twelfth-century Aberconwy Abbey. (c. A-Z of Conwy, Amberley Publishing)

    By the spring of 2016, my thoughts turned to yet another book. I approached Amberley and we discussed many options of what form my next book would take. We eventually agreed that I should write a book in their new A to Z series about Conwy, but what else could I say about the town?  Whereas the Through Time series describes a comparison of locations in the past and the present, the A to Z series tells one continuous story of people and places, as well as looking to the future.  I have often said to myself, “If the walls of the castle could talk, they would have many an interesting story to tell,” but of course they cannot talk and never shall, but people can talk. While preparing this book, I met many people. It was interesting to chat to the retired fishermen on the Quay who have many an interesting story to tell and are so willing to share their stories. This is living history, not just a dusty past. Almost every building in the town is listed, and has its own story of people who were associated with it. I soon found plenty to write about and plenty of places to photograph and was given much help and support by the people of Conwy.

    A-Z of Conwy 4 Plas Mawr as seen from High Street. (c. A-Z of Conwy, Amberley Publishing)

    Conwy is a small town where (almost) everybody knows everybody. The town is mercifully free from the major development of chain stores and most of its shops, pubs and cafes are independently owned, where the staff know their customers which leads to a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.  I like Conwy early in the morning before it gets crowded, when there is time to buy things in the small shops and have a cup of coffee and a chat. It sounds idyllic, but a walk around the town in the quiet early morning gives time to ponder on the town’s past, which was often violent during the English-Welsh wars and the Civil Wars. It is miraculous that so much has survived and in past centuries, as much of the town was burned down more than once.

    The future of Conwy hangs on a delicate thread. Its popularity with tourists from all over the world increases from year to year and the tourists provide employment for many people in the town. However, there is always the danger that over development could kill the very atmosphere that draws people to Conwy.  The town’s history in the past two hundred years has been about setting a balance and many a battle has been fought between the townspeople and those trying to overdevelop the town. Conwy is often accused of dwelling on its past, but it is the old buildings and the stories around them that draw in visitors. Up to now, common sense has generally prevailed, and although the town is not a museum, but a place where people live and work, it is important to remember it is the old buildings and old stories that attract people to this unique town.

    9781445664392

    John Barden Davies new book A-Z of Conwy is available for purchase now.

  • Manchester Ship Canal Through Time by Steven Dickens

    Manchester Ship Canal Through Time - Docks Trafford Wharf Nos 6, 7 and 8 Docks, Salford & Trafford Wharf, c. 1910. (c. Manchester Ship Canal Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Surviving near bankruptcy and opening in 1894, the Manchester Ship Canal was founded by Daniel Adamson, who first presented the idea to the Manchester business community in 1882.It was an amazing feat of Victorian engineering. A colossal structure, with huge lock gates and the unique Barton Aqueduct, it was the ‘international super-highway’ of its day. Shipping regularly crossed the Atlantic to Canada and the United States of America, and there were also regular services to Argentina and the Mediterranean in the early days. Vessels brought back to the Port of Manchester cotton, livestock, building materials and foodstuffs for sale on the domestic market. The canal was unlike those built previously, in that it had to be large enough to accommodate the biggest of ocean-going vessels at the time and lead to the foundation of Manchester Liners. These vessels were purpose-built to the exact dimensions of the canal and were sturdy enough to negotiate the worst Atlantic crossings. Manchester Liners headquarters were near the old Number Eight and Nine Docks, at the Port of Manchester, with their vessels a common sight on the canal, until it closed to traffic around 1980. Closure came about due to a combination of the growth in container traffic, for which the canal had not been designed, and long-term economic decline. In the 1960s containerisation on a large scale meant that vessels could no longer negotiate the Ship Canal’s limited lock space and traffic rapidly declined as the 1970s progressed. However, today the canal continues as a working waterway on a limited scale, servicing the industrial complex of Trafford Park and all points along its course, until it reaches the Mersey Estuary at Eastham and the Irish Sea beyond. There has also been talk in recent years of the development of ‘Port Salford’ and the expansion of commercial shipping activity as a result of this. Whether this development takes place remains to be seen.

    Manchester Ship Canal Through Time - Barton Oil Terminal Aqueduct c 1930 Barton Oil Terminal and Swing Aqueduct, c. 1940. (c. Manchester Ship Canal Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    The canal is about thirty six miles in length and begins at the Port of Manchester, now the retail, leisure and media complex at Salford Quays. Logistically, negotiating the whole length of the Ship Canal presents many more challenges today than it did when it was still a working-waterway some forty to fifty years ago – unless you are aboard a vessel that is! The canal has some magnificent examples of swing-bridges along its course, but getting close enough to them in order to observe their structure, or attaining the right angle for a photograph, is another matter altogether! Fencing has been ‘strategically’ placed along the canal’s length, particularly true of Barton Aqueduct, where I had to climb onto the structure in order to get the image I wanted. Sometimes I feel that the photographer would benefit from gymnastic training at times like these. Of course the canal is not maintained to the extent that it was when a fully working entity, so access is a little more difficult and care has to be taken.

    Manchester Ship Canal Through Time - Irlam Locks Railway Bridge CWS Factory Irlam Irlam Locks, Carrington Power Station, Irlam High Level Railway Viaduct and Former CWS Wharf and Factory Site, Irlam, c. 1894. (c. Manchester Ship Canal Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Living close to the Manchester Ship Canal, as I do, also has its benefits. Gone is the thick layer of oil that enveloped the surface of the canal some forty years ago. The canal, along with the rest of the Mersey Valley, has undergone an environmental transformation. At Irlam Locks, where there was once a soap-works, there are now swans and herons. All very different from the way I remember it in the 60s and 70s.

    The Barton Oil Terminal and dock, where my father worked, was a hive of activity in this era, benefitting from the oil-boom years of the 1960s. Oil tankers were constantly loading and unloading at the terminal and negotiating the tricky corner and narrowing of the canal, where Barton swing-bridge and aqueduct crossed. It was a 24/7 occupation, although there were many lighter moments, particularly on one New Year’s Eve in the 1970s, when a Polish tanker was being unloaded at the terminal. The captain had laid on a huge spread for the crew and those who were off-loading the tanker, including my dad, could not understand why the captain had brought his bike with him. Everyone was invited aboard to enjoy the festivities while unloading continued and all was going well, until my dad noticed that both the captain and his bike had disappeared. On enquiry it was explained to him that the captain had used his transport in order to cycle into the local town, where he was meeting a young lady. The crew appeared oblivious to their captain’s disappearance and to the fact that his bike had gone AWOL. One can only assume that it was a regular occurrence in every port of call.

    Manchester Ship Canal Through Time - SS Manchester Progress and Tug c 1938 Built 1938 by Blythswood Single screw turbine engine Coal fuel 13 Knots SS Manchester Progress and Tug, c. 1938. (c. Manchester Ship Canal Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Although the canal is now much less busy there is still some regular traffic, invoking childhood memories of waiting at Barton swing-bridge for huge ocean going vessels to silently glide past, whilst being carefully manoeuvred by their tugs. For me, compiling Manchester Ship Canal Through Time has brought back many memories like these, and I hope reading the book will produce many memories for you.

    9781445639727

    Steven Dickens' new book Manchester Ship Canal Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • Lancaster The Postcard Collection by Billy F. K. Howorth

    Lancaster The Postcard Collection 2 Within Williamson Park stands the imposing structure of Ashton Memorial, which is one of the largest follies in Britain. (c. Lancaster The Postcard Collection, Amberley Publishing)

    Shortly after writing my first book A-Z of Lancaster I embarked upon writing Lancaster The Postcard Collection. The idea of presenting a town and its history using only postcards was an interesting and intriguing proposition allowing me to search for the most unusual and interesting illustrations available.

    The Lancaster that we see today is the product of centuries of development, expansion and redevelopment. If you look close enough you can still see signs of Lancaster's glorious past, however, as is the case with many cities, Lancaster unfortunately lost many buildings over the past century or so, and you could argue it is a shadow of its former self.

    Whilst setting about writing my book, I initially came up with a hit list of the places and sites that I wanted to include. No book on Lancaster would be complete without the obligatory images of the castle and Ashton Memorial, but finding images which were more obscure and offered a different insight were the real challenge. Lancaster is a fascinating city with a history stretching back to the Roman Occupation. The town grew in the Middle Ages and by the Georgian Period had a well developed port and was heavily involved in the Slave Trade. All of these periods have added to the fabric of the city and makes it a great place to explore.

    Lancaster The Postcard Collection 1 One of the most prominent structures on the Lancaster skyline is the imposing fortress of Lancaster Castle that has stood proudly on Castle Hill for over 900 years. (c. Lancaster The Postcard Collection, Amberley Publishing)

    I also decided that whilst the town over the past hundred years had developed and grown it would be interesting to contrast this with the reality of living in one of the surrounding villages and how life would have been for the inhabitants. For those who know the local area, Lancaster is located on the River Lune. Further inland the Lune Valley is home to many small, yet important, villages including Caton, Hornby and Wray. If you head the other direction you come across the Lune Estuary villages of Glasson, Cockerham and Thurnham which have a history connected to Morecambe Bay and Fishing.

    In the process of writing my book, I discovered that although many of the buildings in Lancaster still exist, their history and stories seemed to be less well known. Even people who live in the town seemed unaware of the interesting stories behind the facades. This allowed me to pick the sites both popular and less well known as the basis for my narrative. I decided that in order to show off the history of the town to its full potential, it would be best to split the town into rough areas so each chapter would act as a showcase for the sites and buildings within that part of the town. As you go through the book you can explore the sites along the River Lune, around Castle Hill and in Dalton Square and the book acts as a guide offering a potted history into each area.

    Lancaster The Postcard Collection 3 When we take a look at the local landscape in the area, there is one feature that has played a major part in local history – the River Lune. (c. Lancaster The Postcard Collection, Amberley Publishing)

    The final decision on what sites to include and talk about came down to how many postcards I was able to find. For some sites the choice was huge, every aspect and detail was pictured whilst other sites I struggled to even find a couple of images. Unfortunately, there were a few buildings that were not to be found on any original postcards and in order to maintain authenticity I decided not to include these. My aim throughout the process was to tell this history of the town through the most comprehensive display of postcards I could put together.

    I hope that readers of my book will find it both an interesting interpretation of the towns history, and also act as the starting point to look a little further into the history of Lancaster and its buildings.

    9781445668505

    Billy F. K. Howorth's new book Lancaster The Postcard Collection is available for purchase now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    9781445662329

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

  • Sittingbourne The Postcard Collection by Robert Turcan

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

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

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

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

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

    9781445662282

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

  • Strathclyde Traction by Colin J. Howat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    9781445662848

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

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