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  • Caernarfon Through Time by Steven Dickens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Windmills and Watermills of Suffolk by John Ling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 50 Gems of Derbyshire by Mike Appleton

    'Of the High Peak are seven wonders writ.’

    There’s a saying … if you do what you have always done, then you will get what you always got.

    I’m paraphrasing a little but I’m sure the basic premise remains the same: if you stay with what you know then it is almost impossible to experience new horizons.

    Discovering 50 Gems of Derbyshire was a simple feat. The Peak District National Park itself, Britain’s first, covers 555 square miles. It has two distinct areas – the White Peak in the lower southern part of the park featuring its caves and valleys, and the Dark Park; more northern and wilder.

    It reaches into five counties: Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester and more than ten million visitors a year enter its boundaries.

    Then you mix in those areas just outside the Park. Buxton for instance is the self-entitled Gateway to the Peak, whilst down in the South East, Derby is one of the finest cities in the country.

    Choosing gems with such an array on offer was a gift. Here are a sneak preview of five of the treasures the county contains.

    Edale Cross

    Sheltered and inset in the corner of the point where two drystone walls meet is an interesting medieval wayside and boundary cross. It stands on the parish boundary between Hatfield and Edale, next to the ancient moorland track between those two villages. It is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 because of its national importance – yet because of its location it begs the question – just how did it end up there?

    Edale Cross - Just a little wander from the Pennine Way, and well worth the diverson. (50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Kinder Downfall

    I’ve been lucky to visit Kinder Downfall, the 98 foot waterfall on Kinder, in two differing states – but largely in the same weather! The first was on a damp and dreary day, where the upper part of the fall near the Pennine Way was flowing decently and the lower part clouded in mist. The second was when I viewed it from lower down in more windy times and saw the fall blow back on itself. Both states were pretty impressive after a long walk and in winter ice-climbers take on its majesty too.

    The Downfall on a misty day. This is at the point where it crosses the Pennine Way. (50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Mam Tor

    Dominating the skyline to the west of Castleton is the ‘shivering mountain’ Mam Tor. It stands at 1,696 feet and is part of the Great Ridge which takes in Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill - one of the finest walks in the Peak.

    Mam Tor summit looking towards the great ridge. (50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Eldon Hole

    One of the ‘original’ wonders of the Peak, around half an hour’s walk from Peak Forest. Whilst its depths are the goal of cavers, the open chasm is well worth visiting. It is the largest open pothole in Derbyshire at 110 feet by 20 feet at the surface. It descends some 245 feet under the slopes of Eldon Hill and has some fine formations; Phil Wolstenholme’s attached picture doing it more than justice.

    Stunning formation. (c. Phil Wolstenholme, 50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

    Ashford-in-the-Water

    Edensor may have been designed as a model village, but Ashford-in-the-Water is an original catwalk star; one of the prettiest in the country. It’s a chocolate box scene with beautiful idyllic houses and buildings alongside a medieval packhorse bridge that is sure to be one of the most photographed in the area!

    A medieval packhorse bridge. (50 Gems of Derbyshire, Amberley Publishing)

     

    Mike Appleton's new book 50 Gems of Derbyshire is available for purchase now.

  • Illustrated Tales of Lancashire by David Paul

    Grave of Chylde of Hale. (Illustrated Tales of Lancashire, Amberley Publishing)

    The ‘Chylde of Hale’

    In 1578 John Middleton, known locally as the ‘Chylde of Hale’, was born in the village of Hale, which was in the parish of Childwall and under the jurisdiction of the See of Chester. He was buried in the village churchyard in 1623. His gravestone bears the following inscription: “Here lyeth the bodye of John Middleton, the Chylde of Hale.  Born ad 1578.  Dyed ad 1623.”

    Middleton’s claim to fame is that he was reputed to stand nine feet and three inches tall. His hand alone measured seventeen inches from the carpus to the end of the middle finger; and the breadth of his palm was eight inches and a half. Because of his size, the Sheriff of Lancashire, Sir Gilbert Ireland, hired him as a bodyguard. In 1620, at the direct invitation of King James I, Middleton was taken to the court where he is said to have been regaled “with large ruffs about his neck and hands; a striped doublet of crimson and white round his waist; a blue girdle embroidered with gold; large white plush breeches powdered with blue flowers; green stockings; broad shoes of a light colour, having red heels, and tied with large bows of red ribbon; just below his knees bandages of the same colour, with large bows; by his side a sword, suspended by a broad belt over his shoulder, and embroidered, as his girdle, with blue and gold, with the addition of gold fringe upon the edge.” Whilst at court, it is said that he pitted against the king’s wrestler whom he overcame and inflicted a degree of injury, causing some disquiet amongst the courtiers. Middleton was immediately dismissed from court with a purse of £20; a significant sum at the time. On the way back to Hale, Sir Gilbert stopped off at Brazenose College Oxford, his former college, where, so taken by Middleton, a life-sized portrait of him was painted. Unfortunately, when continuing on their journey, they were set upon by robbers and his purse of £20 was stolen. John Middleton died in penury.

    Chylde of Hale's cottage. (Illustrated Tales of Lancashire, Amberley Publishing)

    Many years after his death, Middleton’s body was taken up and his principal bones were preserved at Hale Hall, where they were subjected to further examination. It was recorded that Middleton’s thigh bone, when measured against a normally-sized man, reached from his hip to his feet, and all of the other measurements which were taken were found to be in a similar proportion. It is thought that when Middleton grew to his great height, reputedly overnight, he could only stand upright in the centre of his cottage, and therefore had to resort to sleeping with his legs hanging out of the open window!

    Statue of the Chylde of Hale. (Illustrated Tales of Lancashire, Amberley Publishing)

    On one occasion Middleton’s was said to have fallen asleep near to the banks of the Mersey, only to find a massive bull stood some way in front of him when he woke up. The bull went to charge, but, because of his immense strength, Middleton caught the bull by the horns and threw him over to the next field. Middleton was able to walk home without any further hindrance.

    Another legend that lives on in Hale relates to the time when Middleton was suffering from an unknown illness. During the period of the illness he was imbued with immense strength, so much so, that one of his closest friends was forced to chain him to his bed so that he would not cause any damage in his delirium. Upon his recovery two of the chains were given away.  One of the chains was sent to Boston in order to prevent the Stump from being blown into the sea, and the second chain was despatched to Chester so that the Dee Mills could be saved from floating down the river. There was a third chain which, it was said, helped to restrain the king when he was suffering from a particularly troublesome complaint.

    David Paul's new book Illustrated Tales of Lancashire is available for purchase now.

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  • St Albans in 50 Buildings by Kate Morris

    St Peter's Church. (Kari Lungaard, St Albans in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Patronal saint’s day in St Albans – Albantide 2018

    22nd June, the height of midsummer, is the day on which the Feast of St Alban is celebrated, and celebrated it is, in a big way, in the town named for that saint, which grew on the site of the execution of Alban, the first recorded British Christian martyr.

    The Alban Pilgrimage will take place in 2018 on Saturday 23rd June, culminating in a re-enactment of the execution of that citizen of Verulamium on the hill overlooking the Roman city in the 4th century. The spot is outside the West End of the modern cathedral and the drama will be followed by a Festival Eucharist in the church. The procession begins at St Peter’s Church at the northern end of the town and makes its way through the market area to the Cathedral and Abbey Church, which began its life as a shrine to the martyr on the site of his execution.

    This celebration and festival day is truly of national significance for the culture of this island, given the impact of the event on the development of Christianity in Britain. Locally, the procession is a highlight of the community year, with the multitude of twelve feet tall carnival puppets depicting the saint, Roman soldiers, lions, gladiators, horse drawn chariots, played by 300 or so adults and children.

    Rebuilt in the 12th century by the Norman invaders, the abbey was all but destroyed completely in 1539 following Henry VIII’s dissolution of monasteries. Only the abbey church and the great gateway entrance survived, having been bought by the newly formed Corporation as parish church, school and prison.

    The West End of St Albans Cathedral. (Kari LundgaardSt Albans in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    These buildings form a notable introduction to the story of the medieval and modern city of St Albans which grew over the last one thousand years in South West Hertfordshire, just 20 miles north of London on the old Watling Street. The story is told in my recent book St Albans in 50 Buildings published in February this year. The town has a remarkable number of buildings to illustrate how it developed from being the premier abbey of the land in the Middle Ages, to staging post for packhorse trains and wagons, tourist destination and commuter town. Designated a city by Queen Victoria following the creation of the new Diocese of St Albans in the late nineteenth century, with the Abbey Church as its cathedral, the town had a long and interesting history as a corporate borough with a thriving market throughout the early modern period. With trade and transport at its heart, it hosted not only the Establishment with parish government, but a significant range of dissenting congregations, all of which leave us chapels and meeting houses to remind us of the town’s diverse and wide-ranging history.

    Industrial buildings from the cotton, silk and straw trades as well as printing and other trade premises remain as well as ancient inns and grand eighteenth century town houses, mostly now in commercial occupation, allowing us an insight into the social history of the town, which can truly be said to represent a microcosm of that of the English nation as a whole.

    St Albans in 50 Buildings with a map identifying the location of each of the buildings described, provides not only a good history read, but acts as a guide book for the thousands of tourists and new residents in the town. It also provides a taster for further investigation into the pattern of development of the town and its many more interesting buildings from all periods.

    For information about the Alban Pilgrimage https://www.stalbanscathedral.org/whatson/the-alban-pilgrimage/

    Kate Morris' book St Albans in 50 Buildings is available for purchase now.

  • Lancashire in Photographs by Jon Sparks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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