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  • Whitechapel in 50 Buildings 'History through a Lens' by Louis Berk

    The renowned British photographer, Don McCullin once said of Whitechapel “This district is the most visually fascinating in the whole of London, in fact in the whole of England.” I feel exactly the same way. Even after more than a dozen years photographing in and around the area there are days I feel I have barely scratched the surface.

    whitechapel-in-50-buildings-1 Sundial on the Neuve Eglise now the Jamme Majid mosque in Brick Lane (c. Whitechapel in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    The key attraction of Whitechapel to me is the enormous amount of social history contained within its streets and buildings. You can barely walk a hundred yards without finding an architectural gem which links to the impact of immigration, philanthropy and social history. I am not drawn to photographing people. Our lives are but shadows (to echo the sundial of the former Huguenot chapel in Fournier Street) but the buildings have a permanence belying the often powerfully changing circumstances of the people associated with them.

    It was opportune that in Rachel Kolsky, a historian and award-winning London tour guide, I discovered someone whose passion and interest for the back streets of this fragile hinterland (increasingly fragile as the City pushes eastwards) matched mine. The combination of her energy, extensive knowledge and passion for Whitechapel with my attempts to capture the buildings in photographs allowed the idea for this book to become a reality.

    whitechapel-in-50-buildings-2 World class architecture in the heart of Whitechapel: the Idea Store by David Adjaye (c. Whitechapel in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Recent popular television programmes (“Whitechapel”, “Ripper Street”) have brought a resurgence of interest to this area and while these series tend to focus on the notorious late 19th century history of Whitechapel, the area contains buildings that cover a much broader historical period.

    The book spans from the 16th century all the way to the modern day, from the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry to Shoreditch High Street station, the latest gateway to the area. The story associated with each building explains the social history of the area which has seen successive waves of immigration going back more than 400 years.

    Deciding on 50 Buildings out of the many hundreds, if not thousands contained within the area of Whitechapel was not an easy task. Rachel and I agreed very quickly on a number of landmark examples, including the magnificent 17th century Hawksmoor Churches which are at the west and east end of the area but we also wanted to include many of the buildings associated with the different immigrant communities who found refuge here. In turn Whitechapel has been the refuge for Huguenots in the 17th century, Irish and Jewish immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries and more recently the Bangladeshi community in the late 20th century. What is interesting is how each successive wave has not only added new buildings but also modified old buildings to their use.

    whitechapel-in-50-buildings-3 Sandy’s Row Synagogue, a former Huguenot Chapel (c. Whitechapel in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    For example, the Jewish population has often reused former chapels as Synagogues. A fine example is the Sandy’s Row Synagogue which began life as the L’Eglise L’Artillerie formed by the local Huguenot population. After time as a Baptist chapel it then became the ‘Society for Loving Kindness and Truth’, a Dutch-Jewish congregation which moved into the building in 1867. The strength of the Jewish community in the East End endures even today and the Synagogue is still in use.

    whitechapel-in-50-buildings-4 Gwynne House (1934) (c. Whitechapel in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Whitechapel has some great surprises in store for anyone who wanders the back streets. One building Rachel and I agreed on emphatically that had to be included in the book is a magnificent example of 1930s Art Deco, Gwynne House. Landlocked by 18th and 19th century buildings all around it we both think it has a distinctly nautical flavour to the design and reminds us of an ocean liner ploughing its way steadily through the back streets behind the Royal London Hospital (who owned the building until recently, as accommodation for medical staff).

    The architect, Hume Victor Kerr had an interesting life serving as an officer in both world wars of the 20th century. In the interwar years he left his mark on Whitechapel with a number of distinctive buildings in Turner Street, New Road and as far as field as Middlesex Street in Aldgate.

    Nothing stands still in London and central Whitechapel is planned to have a facelift that will make it closer in look and feel to Canary Wharf. No doubt this will lead to casualties amongst some of the least loved buildings in the area. Whatever the future holds for Whitechapel, its buildings will continue to tell its fascinating and important story. May they remain for future generations to discover and enjoy.

    9781445661902

    Louis Berk & Rachel Kolsky's new book Whitechapel in 50 Buildings is available for purchase now.

  • The Secrets of London's Squares: Westminster and Bloomsbury by Alan Brooke & David Brandon

    Many cities of the world are famous for their squares. For example: Red Square in Moscow, Times Square in New York, Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City and Tiananmen Square in China. When it comes to London many people, if asked, would name Trafalgar Square or even Leicester Square. The squares (and one might add the parks and gardens) are a defining feature of England’s capital city. ‘Square’ is a generic term for urban open spaces and as we know many are not actually square or even rectangular. Squares are a form of architecture and town planning not exactly unique to the metropolis but never exploited to the full in other cities although it could be said that Bath, Edinburgh and Liverpool all made some use of the concept.

    secrets-of-central-londons-squares-2 The statue of William Shakespeare with fountain at Leicester Square. (Secrets of Central London's Squares, Amberley Publishing)

    Given the hundreds of squares in London we decided to focus on Bloomsbury and Westminster. We also included a handful of what might be called ‘stand alone’ gardens so see this as a bonus!

    Some squares have an abundance of features including statuary, gardens, inscriptions on benches, fountains, gravestones, commemorations and of course many London plane trees, which account for over half of the city’s tree population and are in evidence in many of the squares in this book. It was the unusual, quirky and curious that fascinated us as well as the familiar features of the selected squares.

    Garden squares provide a welcome retreat for people seeking rest and for those who work nearby. However there are many squares off the main streets that are probably less known to the visitor. Of course there are limits to what can be seen in London in a short space of time but some of the squares and gardens in Westminster and Bloomsbury are certainly worth seeking out and do provide many unexpected discoveries as well as a peaceful haven.

    The London Square has to be seen as an evolving historical and architectural phenomenon. Its origin probably lies in the work of Inigo Jones in Covent Garden in 1631-39 on land then owned by the Earls of Bedford and of which very few traces still exist. Despite the Georgian association of some squares many were built in the Victorian period notably between 1840 and 1880, in such districts as Kensington. The grandest squares were largely in estates whose ground landlords were the Russell, Grosvenor, Portman and Cavendish-Bentinck families or their connections.

    secrets-of-central-londons-squares-1 One of many benches with personal inscriptions in Berkeley Square Gardens. (Secrets of Central London's Squares, Amberley Publishing)

    The earlier squares were paved and largely of open access which made them less exclusive. The private enclosed garden in the centre of a square emerged as a conscious attempt to safeguard the existence of at least some open space as London expanded in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and especially the nineteenth century. Even the resulting ‘green’ amenity was only available to a small privileged elite. As the nineteenth century wore on many resented the social privilege of these gated spaces. The closed or private garden squares had few, if any occupants. Those that had open access drew huge numbers of visitors, clearly enjoying, respecting and appreciating the space and the surroundings.

     

    George Orwell felt strongly about the exclusive nature of the squares. ‘…the railings are returning in one London square after another…So the awful denizens of the squares can make use of their treasured keys again, and the children of the poor can be kept out. When the railings round the parks and squares were removed, the object was partly to accumulate scarp iron, but the removal was also felt to be a democratic gesture…The parks were improved out of recognition by being laid open, acquiring a friendly, almost rural look that they had never had before’ (As I Please 1943-45).

    Most squares did their duty in the Second World War and not just in giving up their iron rails. Belgrave Square became a tank park, St James’s Square was dug up and given over to vegetable growing and air raid shelters were built in Soho and Manchester Squares.

    The building of residential squares started to decline in the early twentieth century and many faced demolition. It was the London Squares Act of 1931 that saved many from such a fate. There has been a minor resurgence of squares in the latter part of the twentieth century notably with the expansion of office squares such as Canada Square in Canary Wharf. In more recent years events and organisations such as the London Open Garden Square Weekend and the London Parks and Gardens Trust have added to the interest and upkeep of these places.

    As with much of London the most fascinating aspects are those in the less familiar places. Do seek out both the lesser as well as the better-known squares and gardens – there is much delight to be had and discoveries to be made.

    9781445656649

    Alan Brooke & David Brandon's new book Secrets of Central London's Squares is available for purchase now.

  • Digging deep in the Pennines – The story of stone quarrying by David Johnson

    I can probably trace my interest in and fascination with quarries back to ingrained memories from early childhood when I would spend what seemed like hours gazing out of the window on gloomy winter days across the fields behind our little cottage. Entranced by the red glow from the open doors of a Hoffmann brick kiln, and when my best friend and I (illegally) played in the clay pits during school holidays. Add to that is a life-long love (well, since the age of 10) of being in hills and mountains, and an incurable obsession with peering down holes in the ground. I am drawn to rock, not just the ways in which it was won from the ground in quarries and underground mines, but how different types of stone have been used in buildings and how this all impacts on the landscape. I have also, and not just as a hobby, spent many a day repairing the dry stone walls that are such an iconic and essential feature of the landscape in the Yorkshire Dales where I have lived and worked for over 30 years. Up here it is hard not breathe rock, to feel it, to empathise with it and to become totally enveloped by its effects on life, work and landscape.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 1 Underground quarrymen using hammers and bars to prize away blocks of rock in a now-disused chert quarry in Swaledale. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    My deep interests in the quarrying of limestone, in particular, led to my undertaking a comprehensive field survey of the many hundred lime kilns that are peppered across the Dales and the former county of Westmorland, most now in a ruinous state – if they survive at all. One result of this was my first book for Amberley Publishing (the second, revised edition of Limestone industries of the Yorkshire Dales, October 2010) which has come to be recognised as THE classic work on limestone quarrying and lime burning.

    Quarrying in the Pennines is not just about limestone, though. The diversity of quarry materials – past and present – is a direct reflection of the region’s varied and complex geology, and of the multi-faceted ways in which stone products were such essential ingredients in the days before manmade substitutes started to kill off our traditional industries. For anyone of a certain age, when they were children, lime fired in kilns from limestone quarried in almost every parish, found its way into most aspects of daily life – in textile dyes, carpets, clothes, as whitewash and limewash, as disinfectant, in tanning leather, making soap the age-old way, for mortar, for preventing cereal seed from rotting, for improving the productivity of soil and pasture, for curing cattle disease ... the list is endless.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 2 A massive judd wall built to hold back waste stone in a disused sandstone quarry near Shibden in West Yorkshire. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    Houses and barns were roofed either with slate or flagstones – the thackstones of old – all of which came from quarries across the Dales and the wider Pennines. Dairies and domestic pantries had shelves made of Blue Flag, actually a hard mudstone quarried in Upper Ribblesdale; public buildings across the country had fireplaces and floors finished off in Black Marble (really just polished fossil-rich limestone) from Dentdale and Garsdale; terraced housing, town halls and other public edifices across Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire were built from sandstone rock quarried across the Pennines, each town’s character being partly determined by the type of sandstone used – some smooth and fine grained, others coarser, some light in colour, others deep brown. Chimney pots and sanitary ware were manufactured from fireclay dug from pits and underground workings across the region and, of course, the endless terraced houses of many an industrial town were built with bricks using clays, again of varying colours.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 3 A group of men in a limestone quarry in Ribblesdale in the 1880s proudly displaying the tools of their trade. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    Stone has been quarried in the Pennines since Roman times though it is difficult to pick out either Roman or medieval quarries today: they were not large and many have long since been in-filled or buried in vegetation but they can still be found and recognised by their hummocky and seemingly disorganised nature. Quarrying took off in a major way in the late seventeenth century, and grew apace during the next two hundred years as towns and industrial complexes mushroomed with their never-ending need for building materials and raw products. Until the late nineteenth century quarries were on a small scale compared to today’s giants, and most of the work was done by men reliant on hand tools and sheer graft. Dimension stone – large blocks of stone – were prized out using long iron bars, stone to be crushed was broken up in the quarries by men wielding sledge hammers; access to deep quarry holes was by often rickety ladders called stees while, later on, stone was hauled out by A-frames or steam cranes. It was hard and demanding work, and weather dependant, and accidents were common, but many quarrymen then as now took pride in their work and were loyal to the quarries where they toiled.

    Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines 4 Breaker and filler pushing V-skips full of limestone that they have broken up by hand. They were paid on a piece-work basis – the more skips they filled, the more they got paid. In poor weather they earned nothing. (Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines, Amberley Publishing)

    For this book I have drawn together a collection of historical photographs from across the Yorkshire Pennines which provide the reader with a wide-ranging view of quarries that have long since been abandoned or even in-filled, that quarried a broad range of stone types, and that used simple technology. Many of them are published here for the first time. In addition, I have included photographs I have taken especially for the book showing evidence of old quarries and methods as they are seen today. Each site has been given a grid reference so that the interested reader can visit those sites which are publicly accessible and safe to enter.

    My research interests do not just focus on quarrying and the use of quarry products: I am keenly interested in rural trades in general in the Pennines and Cumbria and my next book is due to be published by Amberley this year. An Improving Prospect? A  history of agricultural change in Cumbria examines the ways in which farming in Cumbria has changed over the centuries since medieval times – the hows, the whys and the by whoms of agriculture.

    9781445653679

    David Johnson's new book Quarrying in the Yorkshire Pennines: An Illustrated History is available for purchase now.

  • Lichfield Pubs by Neil Coley

    The British pub is a unique institution. So-called pubs can be found in other countries but they are never quite the same as the real thing. We all have our own opinion as to what makes an ideal pub. Whether it is a venue to meet and chat with our friends or a refuge from the world with a quiet corner, perhaps in front of a roaring fire. It could be a favourite haunt where a great meal can be had or simply somewhere to relax with a packet of crisps and a pint of good ale. There are pubs for all tastes.

    Lichfield Pubs 1 The Bowling Green (Lichfield Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    A city such as Lichfield has many pubs, some of which are so old that their origins are lost in the mists of time. Today about thirty or so public houses can be found in or just outside the city centre. Over the years many more have disappeared. Indeed in the nineteenth century there were over eighty inns, taverns or simple beer houses in the city. Some of these were forced to close by local licensing authorities worried about the number of outlets selling alcohol at a time when the temperance movement was a force to be reckoned with. Others faded out of history for other diverse reasons. Some closed due to simple economics or the poor state of their buildings. One was closed after locals objected to its use as a brothel and another ancient pub reportedly fell down in the middle of the night after building work had been carried out.

    Some of the oldest pubs in Lichfield are ancient coaching inns. Back in the eighteenth century the city of Lichfield stood on the main north/south coaching route and in those days the city would have been incredibly busy with the comings and goings of laden stagecoaches clattering along its cobbled streets. Bird Street was the main coaching inn area of the city with the Swan and the George being the foremost ones. People often broke their journeys in Lichfield and stopped at such places for good meals and beds for the night. Another old coaching inn, the King’s Head, is also situated in Bird Street. It was here in 1705 that the Staffordshire regiment was founded, an army regiment that would subsequently take part in many important conflicts down the centuries.

    Lichfield’s most famous son and the writer of the renowned dictionary, Samuel Johnson, having made his name in London, often returned to his home city. When he visited Lichfield Johnson used to stay at the Three Crowns, which just happened to be next door to his childhood home (now the excellent Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum). Johnson’s love of the Three Crowns’ ale is well documented and indeed up until the early part of the nineteenth century most pubs in the city would have brewed their own beer with Lichfield rivaling nearby Burton as a brewing centre. Sadly the Three Crowns, magnificent in its day, is now no longer with us although the actual building still provides some evidence of its coaching inn past.

    Lichfield Pubs 2 The Bridge Tavern c. 1906 (Lichfield Pubs, Amberley Publishing)

    My book Lichfield Pubs examines the history of the existing and the extinct pubs of the city. My main objective in writing it was to produce something that was very informative with historical stories that had never been gathered together in one place before, but also to write something that was readable and, hopefully, fun. It required me to do a great amount of research in the local records’ office where I accessed old newspapers, documents and books. As a result I was able to not only write about the famous people who interacted with the inns and taverns of the city (as well as Johnson there were individuals like the writers George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Farquhar) but also stories about the unsung people of the city.

    Most of the photographs in the book are of city pubs today as well as buildings that are still there but now have a different usage. I was extremely pleased at how the photographs have been reproduced in the book. (I can now, rather grandly, think of myself as not only a published author but as a published photographer!) The book also includes a number of historic photos of Lichfield pubs and I was very pleased to be able to delve into the St Mary’s Heritage Centre’s photographic collection for some wonderful views of bygone Lichfield and the old pubs of the city.

    Pubs are, without doubt, one of the great British inventions and a lot can be learned by studying their history and relevance to their local communities. In Lichfield there are, I believe, some of the most interesting pubs in the country and they are just one of the many reasons to visit this great cathedral city.

    9781445651385

    Neil Coley's new book Lichfield Pubs is available for purchase now.

  • 25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales by Mike Appleton

    Pint and A Walk...

    A long walk and the beacon of a pub goes hand in hand to many of us. Ideas are formed in Inns, conversations become firm plans and locals become friends. It’s also good to put something back into the communities we walk around.

    This book features pubs that cater specifically for walkers and have historical and cultural importance - with a detailed walk and suggested route to get those tastebuds going.

    Choosing twenty-five of what I considered to be the best was a hard job … well, someone had to do it. I met locals, landlords and real characters. I was told stories of ghosts, snow drifts, shootouts and quirks. To get on my list they had to be walker friendly; but that’s not a surprise in an area famed for its countryside. They also had to have character and, naturally, a damn good walk nearby. They also needed to be able to tolerate a very wet and muddy author following said rambles.

    I used many of the pubs from my own travels in the Dales over the last three decades. Several were very familiar. The Wheatsheaf in Ingleton has been the end point of many a walk and caving trip. The George & Dragon in Dent stems from my time as a child in the village hearing my dad sneak out of our friend’s cottage while I pretended to be asleep. Others came as recommendations such as the Fountaine in Linton and The Farmers Arms in Muker, and several were just the result of when preparation meets opportunity – serendipity.

     

    Five of the Best

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 5 No smoking, unless it’s from this.

    1) The New Inn, Clapham

    This grade II pub was traditionally a place for cavers to meet and share stories. It is next door to the Cave Rescue Organisation in the Dales village of Clapham. It has been revamped to attract people who aren't just cavers – a dwindling number these days!

    Originally, this pub was a farmhouse in the early 1700s but was covered into a coaching inn around 1745. In 1807, an extra floor was added to make it four storeys. The new decor aims to bring this out, being fresh inside and bright without removing some of the original features such as large tables where people would gather to swap those caving stories.

    The proof is in the eating… or drinking and suffice to say the menu is top class as is the beer.

    The suggested walk takes you past Ingleborough Cave, Gaping Gill and on to Ingleborough.

     

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 1 Lots of walking to be had from Muker – Kisdon is a superb choice.

    2) The Farmers Arms, Muker

    “Remember when pubs used to be real pubs? Places where people would go to unwind and socialise with friends, drink good beer and eat hearty wholesome food … ”

    The marketing from The Farmers Arms in Muker couldn’t ring more true. This is a gem of pub in a beautiful Dales village. Darren and Emily Abbey took over the establishment in 2010 and have made it into a real destination for Dales walkers, whilst maintaining its history and atmosphere. They incorporated the walk from Keld, over Kisdon Hill, to the pub on their wedding day in 2008, well before they had the opportunity to take ownership.

    Muker in Old Norse means ‘the narrow newly cultivated field’ and it will be clear if you follow the suggested walk – to Kisdon Falls – why that is apt. The Norse settled here as it is near the River Swale - a perfect spot to establish crop growing. Originally, it had a chapel of ease in 1580 (restored in 1891) which was rebuilt and a graveyard consecrated. The tower, nave and chancel all date from this period. The village shop was built in 1680 and used to be the vicarage.

    The suggested walk takes you to Kisdon Falls.

     

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 2 The George & Dragon is effectively the marker point for two roads out of the village.

    3) The George And Dragon, Dent

    Walk through Dent and you’re transported back to the Dales and country life how it used to be.

    The small village with its cobbled narrow streets and the smell of coal and wood fires, give a reflection on what remote Yorkshire Dales life would have been like many years ago. It’s this charm that makes it a very popular destination for visitors and walkers.

    More importantly, it has a great pub in the George and Dragon. Much of my ‘Dalean’ life has focused around this pub, situated between two roads in the middle of the village. As a child I would visit Dent with my father whose friend owned Ivy Cottage at the back of the Dragon. As I went to bed in an evening, tired from walking up Flintergill – a gorge nearby – or walking the River Dee, he would sneak out the front door with his mate John and have a few beers in the pub. I would wake the next morning none the wiser, only realising in my later years what had caused my dad’s thick head; the local brew in the George.

    Local ale is still the key and the main reason the pub is an important stop on an walker’s trip. The grade II listed George is the tap house for the Dent Brewery and source of many a hangover over the last few years! It is brewed just up the road in Cowgill and is internationally recognised. Originally, the idea was for the staple Dent beer to be sold at the Sun Inn in Dent, but as word spread so did demand and the brewery was at capacity. Now, it makes around six real ales - including my favourite, the blonde Golden Fleece. Ramsbottom is good too as is Kamikaze. The latter is exactly how it sounds. Say goodbye to any feeling in your body if you drink more than four!

    Originally, the pub stands on the site of Dent’s marketplace where a market cross and stocks would have been housed. It has a distinctive V shape because it is at a intersection with two roads coming narrowly to one point. It began life as a mill building, some two storeys high, but a third tier was added in the early 1800s. The beer was brewed in a local shop opposite wth the water taken from a fountain which was the village’s only source at one time. Now that fountain is a memorial to Adam Sedgwick (22 March 1785) one of the founders of modern geology.

    The suggested walk takes you up flintergill.

     

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 3 The original Woolpack from Emmerdale.

    4) The Falcon Inn, Arncliffe

    Quirks abound in this fantastic pub based in the tranquil and sheltered Arncliffe - but this isn’t a gimmicky venue to be shunned - it is a pilgrimage all walkers should make!

    The Falcon was the original Woolpack in long running soap Emmerdale until filming relocated to Esholt in 1976. The ITV programme shot their outside scenes around the village - no doubt because it reflected Yorkshire life perfectly. The pub for instance is ivy clad with mullioned bay windows poking out where they can to enhance its look. The village follows a similar theme in effect making it an ideal film set.

    But it’s the way it serves its beer is the real treat here and well worth the journey. Whilst other beers are available, the ale of choice, Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, is served in the time honoured traditional way … from a jug. It is decanted from the cask in the back room and then poured from that jug, when ordered, into your glass. It gives the ale a chance to breathe and certainly brings out its flavour at room temperature.

    The suggested walk takes you to Malham... and more pubs!

    25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales 4 The upside-down protest.

    5) The Black Bull, Reeth

    Classed as the unofficial capital of Swaledale, Reeth is a charming village in the north east.

    The Black Bull dates from 1680 and is the village’s oldest pub. You’ll notice it because the sign above the front entrance is upside down in an apparent two-fingered salute to National Park officials. Previous landlord Bob Sykes attempted to tidy up the exterior of the pub by removing its render to expose the original 250-year-old walls and to comply with English Tourist Board accommodation grading requirements. He was also worried about it being a danger to the public because the the existing facia was crumbling so much.

    The Park felt differently though and threatened legal action if it wasn’t replaced. They said it would have had some kind of render years ago and wanted it to be keeping with the original format. Upset at this, someone local turned the sign upside down in protest at the attitude of park officials - and although it has moved from its original spot, it is still that way round.

    The Black Bull won’t be to everyone’s tastes but is a true local pub!

    The suggested walks takes you along the river!

    9781445653297

    Mike Appleton's new book 25 Great Walkers' Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Aberdeen by Lorna Corall Dey

    Secret Aberdeen 1 Suffragette Helen Fraser campaigning in the 1908 Kincardineshire by-election (courtesy of Aberdeenshire Libraries)

    Secret Aberdeen belongs to Amberley Publishing's series on UK towns and cities which tantalises readers with some rare historical delicacies.

    I did not compile the information for this book under any misconception I was revealing actual secrets but with the intention of bringing to the forefront of public attention people and incidents long forgotten which deserve a higher profile in the story of this city.

    The story of Aberdeen could be told in innumerable ways for its history stretches back so far and episodes from its past are so many and varied that interpreting them is surely infinite. It is the oldest corporation in Scotland; its Royal Charter was bestowed by King William the Lion in the twelfth century and it became a thriving trading port with the Continent but what you will find in Secret Aberdeen are snapshots of more recent chapters of the city's life which reflect something of the character of its people and the influence it has had on the wider world since the 18th century.

    There are no intentional links between the sections of the book but more observant readers will detect them for in a small city there are inevitable confluences of occurrences and personalities.

    Secret Aberdeen 3 Jopp, wine and spirit merchants. James Jopp was the Lord Provost who presented Dr Johnson with the freedom of the town in August 1773. (Secret Aberdeen)

    William Cadenhead's The Book of Bon-Accord is a wonderful resource for all sorts of nuggets that are available for anyone interested in history but for today's reader his language can be a barrier and so all the better for translation into a more familiar idiom. What he has to say about something as simple as supplying a city with water became the starting point in our story before it veered into howffs and bars, long gone and faded from public memory, that were once lively and raucous escapes from gruelling work and bleak, pitiful homes for a few short hours – where fortunes were made and lost and drinking tastes changed by century from French wines to whisky, the juice o' the barley. Hard drinking and dry humour; the timberman who drowned while negotiating his dangerous cargo down river from the forests of Deeside to the consternation of the local publican who claimed he'd never known him pass that way without dropping in for a drink.

    We find out that the oil and gas capital of Europe enjoyed an earlier gas boom (not always terribly safe), in the nineteenth century, which began privately in a small way before being bought by the council and finally nationalised as part of British Gas. Then there was Stinky Miller's, notorious in Aberdeen, it was a very successful off-shoot of Aberdeen's town gas.

    There is a chapter which picks out some of the many industries in Aberdeen which contributed specialist machinery and expertise to the British Empire including ones involved in the development of processing chocolate and coffee, which you might think about while you nibble on that chocolate bar and sip on your latte. If Aberdeen does not strike you as having been an industrial town then think again, its influence has been immense. 'Most dams start in Aberdeen' claimed an advertisement for the engineering company J. M. Henderson and that sentiment might have applied to so much more.

    Secret Aberdeen 4 Little-known lithograph of a demostration on the Boradhill in 1832 (courtesy of Aberdeen City Libraries)

    Of all the 100 illustrations in the book, selected for their rarity, that which excited me most was one I had never come across before, a coloured lithograph of a pro-reform demonstration on the eve of the Great Reform Act of 1832, on the Broad Hill at Aberdeen beach. It is not only a fine illustration but an important record of an event little-known and I am glad to have managed to include it in a section on popular agitation which takes in Chartism, the Suffragette movement as well as featuring the first publication of documents relating to the Aberdeen Parliament.

    Dr Mary Esslemont, Professor Dugald Baird and Lord John Boyd Orr lived, worked and contributed enormously to health in Aberdeen, Scotland, Britain and across the world. Aberdeen was at the forefront of women's and children's health provision and in the expansion of family planning services offering free contraception and advice and it was in Aberdeen that life-saving cervical smear tests began. Aberdeen was also where experiments were carried out providing free school milk to young impoverished children before being taken up by the rest of the UK – one of the earliest influences of John Boyd Orr whose input into the wartime diet resulted in a population healthier at the end of the war than at the start. He went on to become the first Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and a major figure in the battle to alleviate world hunger.

    There is no space to write about the heroes who risked their lives to save the ancient Mither Kirk with its largest carillon of bells in Europe when fire broke out in 1874 – but it's all in Secret Aberdeen.

    9781445649146

    Lorna Corall Dey's new book Secret Aberdeen is available for purchase now.

  • Getting Out in 50s York by Paul Chrystal

    The 50s were at the wrong end of the golden years of the cinema in York.

    At the beginning of the 20th century film shows could be seen in the Opera House, the Festival Concert Rooms, the Exhibition Buildings, the Victoria Hall in Goodramgate, the New Street Wesleyan Chapel,  and in the Theatre Royal. The New Street chapel, after renouncing its use for worship in 1908, became first the Hippodrome, and then in 1920, the Tower Cinema, which was still going in 1959. You could also see films at the City Palace, Fishergate, a venue variety concerts from 1910; it was renamed the Rialto, but burnt to the ground in 1935 and replaced by the new Rialto on the same site. It was still going strong in 1959 with variety shows and concerts.

    York - Microsoft Word - Document1 The Scala in 1957, shortly before closure.

    The Electric Theatre, Fossgate was opened in 1911 as the first purpose-built cinema in York. Entrance was through a door beneath the screen. From 1951 it was known as the Scala; it closed in 1957 and became a furniture shop although the exterior is still beautifully preserved today. Locally it was known as the Flea Bin – and a visit meant a ‘laugh and scratch’. Admission on Saturday afternoon was 4d – or a clean jam jar - an early example of recycling.

    Three more picture houses were established between 1911 and 1921: the Picture House, Coney Street, was opened in 1915 and converted to shops in 1955;  The Grand in Clarence Street, opened as a cinema and ballroom in 1919 but converted to a roller skating rink and ballroom in 1958;  and the St. George's Hall, next to Fairfax House in Castlegate, was opened in 1921 and still going in 1959. Four more were opened in the 1930's: the Regent, Acomb, in 1934; the Odeon, Blossom Street; the Regal, Piccadilly, and the Clifton , in 1937.   The Regent closed in 1959  but the others survived the 50s. The Regent had the biggest screen in York and double seats on the back row for anyone not that interested in the main feature.

    York - Microsoft Word - Document1 The Regent in Acomb in 1959.

    The ten cinemas still showing in 1950s York were the Regal in Piccadilly; the Picture House in Coney Street; the Tower in New Street; the Electric Theatre in Fossgate; the Grand Picture House in Clarence Street; the Odeon in Blossom Street; the Rialto in Fishergate; St George’s Hall Cinema in Castlegate; the Regent in Acomb until 1959 and the Clifton in Clifton. A massive choice.

    Clubs were accessible to the well connected; as well as the usual Masons, Rotarians and Oddfellows there were branches of the Independent Order of Rachabites; the United Order of Druids; the Ancient Order of Foresters and the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. The Melrose Club for the Blind catered for the sight impaired.

    The 'York New Grand Opera House' was opened in 1902 and going strong in the 50s; it was built on the site of the corn exchange, King Street, by the owners of the Opera House, Harrogate offering 'varieties' - to avoid direct competition with the Theatre Royal.

    It was known then as the Opera House and Empire.   From 1945 to 1956 F.J. Butterworth owned the Grand Opera House and stars such as Vera Lynn, Laurel and Hardy and Morecome and Wise trod the boards.   The theatre was closed in 1956; in 1958 Shepherd of the Shambles bought it, and it became the SS Empire.   The stage, lower boxes and raked stall floor were removed and replaced by a large flat floor suitable for roller-skating, dancing, bingo and wrestling, reflecting dramatically changing tastes and requirements in entertainment in the 1950s.

    York - Microsoft Word - Document1 The programme for the 1957 production of The Desert Song at the Theatre Royal.

    Theatre Royal and Empire apart, culture thrived in 1950s York through a plethora of arts organisations. There were at least six musical societies and orchestras: York Musical Society; York Orchestral Society; York Symphony Orchestra; York & District Organists; British Musical Society of York and the Rowntree Choral & Operatic Society. There were nine bands including York City Brass Band; York Postal Military Band and Rowntrees Cocoa Works Band. Drama too was thriving with opera and dramatic societies in Acomb and in New Earswick; a community association drama group also in Acomb; the Settlement Community Players and the Rowntree Players at the fine Rowntree Theatre in Haxby Road.

    In a city with such a rich history and so fertile a heritage, it   should come as no surprise to find that in the 1950s there were numerous organisations working to promote and conserve that history and heritage for contemporaries and for generations to come. All did sterling work, then, as now. York Civic Trust Association, York Georgian Society, Yorkshire Philosophical Society; Yorkshire Geological Society; Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society; York Art Collectors’ Society; York Art Society and York Photographic Society, York Film Society and York Science Film Society all contributed to the rich fabric of the city’s magnificent culture.

    But it was not all high brow and earnest : more pragmatic, caring and rehabilitation organisations also existed then such as the Borstal Association, the Infantile Paralysis Association, and York Castle Discharged Prisoners Aid Society.

    In 1955 York City FC were killers of giants when they defeated mighty Spurs to go on to the semi finals of the FA Cup. Sadly they were beaten 2-0 by Newcastle United at a replay at Roker Park. Newcastle went on to win the trophy. York had beaten Scarborough, Dorchester Town (2-5), Blackpool, Bishop Auckland, Tottenham Hotspur (3-1) and Notts County on their way to elusive glory. Arthur Bottom was top York scorer with eight goals. Arsenal were the next giants to fall to York in the 1985 FA Cup semi final.

    Extracted from Paul Chrystal’s York in the 50s. © Paul Chrystal

    York - 9781445640594

    Paul Chrystal's York in the 1950s Ten Years that Changed a City is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Newcastle by Ken Hutchinson

    I was asked to write this book by Amberley Publishing following on from my book on Lost Newcastle published in 2014. Lost Newcastle as its title suggests features buildings and structures that have disappeared from the streets of Newcastle over the years.

    As a direct contrast this book concentrates on features of Newcastle past and present that are all visible today. The reason why they are there is often unknown, has been forgotten, or in other words is a ‘Secret’. Many of the subjects featured in the book are ‘invisible’, in full view to everyone. In other words people walk past them every day taking them for granted, or have never noticed them before, or indeed have walked over them every day for years.

    Newcastle - Microsoft Word - Document1 The Response Memorial, Barras Bridge. It is a narrative sculpture telling different stories of the individuals called in the First World War.

    This was certainly true in my case, as I discovered a few years ago as I trained to be a Newcastle City Guide. All these features were pointed out to me and despite thinking I knew Newcastle like the back of my hand, having lived and worked here for well over 50 years, my eyes were well and truly reopened. Most of the photographs I have used show plaques, statues, sculptures, artworks and buildings that I have walked past for years without realising the reason for their existence, or their significance, both locally and nationally.

    Newcastle - Microsoft Word - Document1 Northumberland Street Scultptures. Thomas Bewick the famous wood carver.

    Newcastle and the surrounding areas have produced some of the most influential people in British and world history as well as great inventors, musicians, artists and politicians. The city has welcomed a wide range of British and international visitors including many visits by Royalty. All of this is recorded in the streets around us, in the centre of Newcastle, if you know where to look. This book has been arranged to follow five different walks around Newcastle. The first four radiate from Grey’s Monument in the centre of the city and the last is based on the Quayside starting at the Guildhall. Most are about a mile in length and are fairly flat and accessible to all. The Quayside walk is slightly longer but starts and finishes close to bus stops linking with the town centre. When I do my guided tours around Newcastle and the surrounding area, I always give out a general health warning at the start. This advises you to take care when you start looking above shop front level and down on pavements. You will discover so many features of interest that you may well forget to watch where you are going and might trip over a kerb or walk into a bollard. So be careful out there you have been warned!

    All the royalties from this book will be divided between St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

    Newcastle - 9781445641270

    Ken Hutchinson's book Secret Newcastle is available for purchase now.

  • Cranborne Chase – A Secret Landscape by Roger Lane

    Cranborne Chase – A Secret Landscape is published this month (June 2015) providing me with the end result of many years of deliberation and two years of research, writing and photography. Most pleasing however, is the coincidental launch of the book with two important events embracing Cranborne Chase in relation to its history and landscape.

    The historical element concerns the signing of the Magna Carta by King John on 15th June 1215 and Cranborne Chase was of course a much favoured hunting ground of his. The city of Salisbury residing on the edge of the Chase is home to the best preserved original copy of the Magna Carta and is the only place in the world where an original can be viewed in a true 13th century setting.

    As important as the Magna Carta is, I have to unashamedly admit to feeling more closely associated with the landscape event, and the launch of my book, sharing the 175th birthday to the month of undoubtedly Dorset’s most acclaimed landscape writer, Thomas Hardy. Hardy used Cranborne Chase in his novels and his poetry most notably in Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

    Being first and foremost a photographer, over the years I have been given the opportunity by various editors to accompany my images with words. In this respect I can also regard myself as a writer, although not under any stretch of the imagination a ‘Thomas Hardy’. The only commonality between us is the visualisation and description of the Dorset landscape.

    Thomas Hardy was both a landscape novelist and poet who managed to portray a certain atmosphere of the landscape into his work, providing a backdrop for his character’s lives and frequent tragedies. Had he been a photographer he would no doubt have produced images of the natural world in an equally subtle mood with the use of light reflecting the landscape in his story with much effect.

    Cranborne Chase - Microsoft Word - Document1With Cranborne Chase being featured in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which although set predominantly in the eastern end of Blackmore Vale around the village of Marnhull (Hardy’s Marlot) the story takes the reader into the Chase at Cranborne or the village of Chaseborough in Hardy’s novels. Here, the heroine danced in a barn at Chaseborough near the Flower-de-Luce Inn, seemingly one of the out-buildings of the Fleur de Lys Inn (Now the Inn on the Chase), before returning back across the hills to Trantridge (Pentridge). Cranborne Chase was in fact the scene of the seduction of Tess by Alec d’Urberville.

    The Chase has always had the character of a remote landscape, perhaps something of a forest wilderness with a dark reputation. By the early 19th century it became a notorious region for smugglers and poachers. Even the local squires dressed in their quilted coats and beehive helmets would steal deer and attack the gamekeepers merely as a blood sport. The forest was not brought under control until the 1830s when areas were deforested and the landscape opened up thus reducing the opportunity to hide within the dark forests of the Chase

    Cranborne Chase - Microsoft Word - Document1Today the forest areas are crisscrossed with open rides and footpaths with the rolling chalk downlands along the Wiltshire/Dorset border sculptured clear of the tree-line. The Chase now offers a far less foreboding environment to walkers who now frequent the region in search of the pathways used by our distant ancestors who travelled across the downs on trackways made by feet and hooves over many years of history. The Ox Drove, one of the oldest, traces an ancient route over the Downs, high above the woodland escarpment of Cranborne Chase.

    By the beech clump on Win Green, the very roof of Wiltshire, the traveller can take in a magnificent view from the distant blue of the Isle of Wight in the south-east to the Quantock Hills in the north-west.

    Cranborne Chase - Microsoft Word - Document1The chase has many faces, upland, downland, woodland and open fields; windswept open pastures and sheltered valleys. Despite years of transition by nature, here you can still find the nooks, crannies and wide open spaces moulded by history, agriculture and the landscapes that have inspired writers such as Hardy.

    I have read many of Hardy’s novels and have always been intrigued by his descriptions of the Dorset landscape, agriculture and of the country folk in his stories and settings. This may of course be due in some way to a link with my own childhood. I remember my great grandfather and great grandmother from the village of Durweston near Blandford Forum, where I spent many childhood summers harvesting on the hill, appearing like characters from a Hardy novel. Their names were Silas and Jane and Silas in particular was a strong man with whiskery sideburns but a gentle nature who all horses and sheep seemed to understand and obey. My grandfather also had a wonderful way with working horses and his brother was also a shepherd on the hills above Durweston. The characters I remember from those glorious ‘horse and cart’ summer days were certainly Hardy characters and later when reading his novels their faces would come back to me time and again.

    Thomas Hardy is perhaps the greatest writer of rural life and landscape and as we celebrate his 175th year it is no wonder that his words and indeed the landscape he has reflected should have stood such a test of time. As a photographer in the modern digital age I can’t help but wonder where my work might be in 175 years.

    Cranborne Chase - 9781445649849

    Cranborne Chase - A Secret Landscape by Roger Lane is available for purchase now.

  • Welcome to the Amberley blog!

     

    We are delighted to be able to present our new website to you, along with our exciting new blog.

    The Amberley blog will consist of our new and forthcoming releases, interviews with our authors and regular guest posts on a variety of subjects.

    We shall have posts on the Women’s Institute which celebrates its centenary this year, the history of the railways in Britain, the legacy of Henry V, the history of British weather, the writings of Eustace Chapuys Ambassador to Henry VIII and the sinking of the Lusitania!

    Also read all about Richard III’s reinterment in Leicester Cathedral on 26th March. Our bestselling biography by David Baldwin is being updated with information on the reburial and we will have posts on the events in Leicester that week.

    Out this month:

    Amberley Blog - small_9781445641041_3

    Our book of the month! With 25% off during March only, read the remarkable story of a life of privilege, tragedy and danger, of a woman who so nearly became the seventh wife of Henry VIII: Henry VIII's Last Love: The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Willoughby, Lady in Waiting to the Tudors.

    ‘A gripping biography... David Baldwin is a brilliant historical detective.’ Philippa Gregory

    Plus be in with the chance of winning a copy of this fantastic book on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/amberleybooks

    Check out this fantastic article which recently appeared recently in The Times:

     

     

    Amberley Blog - times-review-henry

     

    ‘Rude and feisty widow was in Henry’s mind for seventh wife.’

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    And this in this month’s BBC History Magazine:

    Amberely Blog - henry-bbc-history-1Amberley Blog - henry-bbc-history-2

     

    ‘David Baldwin tells the story of Katherine Willoughby, a great friend of the Tudor king, who seemed set to replace Katherine Parr as his bride.’

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Amberley Blog - small_9781445636795_3
    To commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, this is a new biography of Henry V, the warrior king. Teresa Cole looks at the life and legacy of a king whose heroic achievements and tragic early death may truly be said to have changed the course of British history.

     

     

     

     

    Amberley Blog - small_9781445621258_3
    In The Family of Richard III Professor Michael Hicks, described by BBC History Magazine as ‘the greatest living expert on Richard III’, reassesses the family ties and entrails of his wayward and violent family. Includes a scathing reappraisal of the 2012 dig which claims to have discovered Richard's remains and brings into question the authenticity of the find. Chosen by The Bookseller Magazine as one of their highlights of 2015.

     

     

     

    We look forward to telling you all about our exciting titles and up-to-date news. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates including exciting reviews, articles and interviews.

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