Monday, 31 December 2012

A row of gold coin

A street not far from Stoke town centre is a monument to good fortune, but unless you look carefully you'll miss the fine details - the words between the bricks.

The row of glazed tiles you see in the photo was installed on the exterior of all the houses along Shelburne Street, a row of terraced homes, when the street itself was created.

The story goes that the developer of the houses here had won a considerable amount of money at the races - which he then used the fund the project.
And the name of the winning horse?  Well, the clue is in the tiles... "Gold Coin"!

May we all have such good fortune in the New Year...

This post was featured on the City Daily Photo Theme Day

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Inky blue at Weston

Weston Park is one of those odd English compromises in which the ancient owners give up their rights to a stately home – to pay taxes usually - yet are still involved in its running.
Weston Park, which you see here, is the ancestral home of the Earls of Bradford.

It's in a thousand acres of parkland, which make for good walks and interesting views.

Annoyingly, the main house is not open to the public as much as you might think, so you need to find out exactly when it’s open, which is also not as easy as it should be.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Bleak midwinter

Foggy, misty day today.  I know that we're over halfway through the year (December 21st being the shortest day), and at least we can look forward now, but it still feels bleak when the light starts to fade at half-two or three...

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Ghost story for Xmas

A ghost story for you – seeing as it’s Christmas Day!

In North Staffordshire, the most famous ghost story is that of Molly Leigh (or Lee). 
She was a real person, and most likely was simply just a secretive woman – but she lived alone too, and that was enough to give any credulous eighteenth-century man his suspicions that she was a witch.
Sure enough after her death, she was ‘seen’, as if in life, sitting in her cottage with her pet bird.

And here the real story starts. The local parson, horrified at what had been seen, ordered her tomb to be turned sideways. Unlike all god-fearing folk, who are laid to rest east-west, Molly’s tomb, in the graveyard at St John's Church in Burslem, was now laid on a north-south axis - as you can see in the photo above. Molly's tomb is the big one on the right of the photo.
In fact, this was a very rare occurrence, so the tomb is quite an historical oddity.

Even until recently, local kids would dance around the grave singing “Molly Leigh, Molly Leigh, You can’t catch me” - but… it’s not advised… you never know what might happen...

Related link:
The story of Molly Leigh 

This post was featured on the Cemetery Sunday website

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Chitty Bang Bang for Xmas

It’s the big Christmas rush time. Everywhere – from supermarkets and pubs – is already alive with Christmas consumption (who cares about Monday?)

One of the busiest places – apart from family homes – will be the Alton Towers hotel. What better way for parents to enjoy Christmas than give the kids a huge playground of a place to enjoy themselves in?

This fantastical sculpture-fountain outside the hotel’s main entrance is by a local sculptor, Peter Price. It’s based on the flying car from the book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Bandit on the road

Someone shaping up to shoot you on the public road is not something you see often in as you're driving in Staffordshire – so this sight was a bit of a shock.  I was on the point of swerving (or should I simply have gone straight at him?) when I realised it was…erm… a scarecrow.
It was part of Moddershall village’s scarecrow festival.

Yeh, right... Very funny. Not.

This z-for-zany idea is featured on the ABC Wednesday website featuring the letter Z

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Haircuts - then and now

Seventeenth century coiffure may not be the first thing you look for when going into All Saints Church at Forton - which is one of Staffordshire’s most significant historic buildings. 
However, Sir Thomas Skrymsher of Aqualate, depicted here, has a special haircut.

I’m told that Sir Thomas’s cut was known as a ‘Burton Peak’. (I don’t have actual evidence of this; it was just what I was told by a very knowledgeable man in the church itself, so I hope that's right!).

What is totally bizarre is that the current prime minister, David Cameron, seems to be exhibiting a similar quiff.  Look right - and check it out.
I know Conservatives look to preserve what is best of the past (Sir Thomas died in 1633), but reviving seventeenth century haircuts seems to be going a bit far…erm, doesn't it?

The piece was sculpted by Garrat Hollemans.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Watling Street goes on (and on)

One of the great things about just wandering-where-you-will is that you often come face to face with things you never expect.

Here, in the middle of countryside near Lichfield, I just came up against a modern street sign. There is nothing unusual in that, except that “Watling Street” is a route that is at least two thousand years old, and I'd read about it in history books. This ancient trackway across England (from Dover to Shropshire, cutting through south Staffordshire) was named Wæcelinga Stræt by the Anglo-Saxons; and then the Romans developed it, since when we know it as Watling Street.  Basically, the A5 follows the same route.

It’s weird suddenly realising that you are on a piece of earth that has been tramped for millennia, and is probably full of ghosts. It’s even weirder seeing a modern street-sign … as though history had never happened.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Candy cottage

This might be a good place to be at Christmas!

This house frontage in Tutbury always makes me smile as I pass it – one wonders if there is a gingerbread-man sitting in there behind the door…

However, I’ve never discovered its history, or why it is called this. If you know, I’d appreciate a note in the comments box (below). Cheers.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Nemesis... now

It is very, very dark by 6pm these days, and in some neglected city streets, after workers have gone home, you can barely see your hand in front of your face.

This facade you see in the photo, underlit by strong lamps, gave me quite a shock as I saw it while driving round the back of Longton.  It reminded of that movie where the main character is assailed by ominously-appearing signs in the environment - and I wondered if this sign was intended for me personally in the same way! (Nemesis is of course the revenge of the gods on the over-arrogant...) Hmm.

The phenomenon was made worse by the fact that there is no indication at all on the building as to what Nemesis Now actually is.  It turns out that it's a place that makes Gothic-style figurines.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Rambling footbridge

We've had hard, frosty weather for a week now - but accompanied by bright sunshine. The clear skies have contributed to both conditions obviously.

I've always admired the efforts of volunteers who work with The Ramblers organisation. I'd guess it was they who maintain this footbridge near Winkhill.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The library with its own cemetery

Tamworth must be unique surely in having a library which opens out on to an old churchyard.
This photo is of the main entrance, believe it or not, and the graves you see are part of the churchyard of the parish church of St Editha.

What I am still wondering is whether the library (or its 1905 predecessor) was built over the top of some graves...

There must be some great jokes waiting to be told too!

This post was featured on the Cemetery Sunday collection

Friday, 7 December 2012

Cafe shaped like a Spitfire

The new cafe extension at the Mitchell Memorial Theatre & Arts Centre in Hanley is on a fairly spectacular design.
As the theatre, which is used for amateur performances and youth activities, was named after the locally-born aircraft designer RJ Mitchell, some bright spark suggested the new frontage should be shaped like a wing.
And, I think, it works beautifully.

RJ Mitchell is, of course, most famous for designing the Spitfire airplane which was so successful in World War Two.

The cafe itself is open all day, and the Spitfire theme continues in some of the decoration inside.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

'Ruin porn' in Stoke on Trent

I was reading in a newspaper about the photographers that travel to Detroit in America. They go there to photograph dereliction, because that once-great city is in decline and the scenes of abandoned factories, hopeless streets and decaying architecture make for striking visuals.
The article described this kind of photography as 'ruin porn', making the point that the photos are (paradoxically) attractive as well as disturbing.

Of course, in Staffordshire, you have something similar: poor Stoke-on-Trent offers many such photo-opportunities. It makes one grieve to see how sorry parts of it look.

I mean - whatever happened to this industrial park, rather grandiosely named the 'Lord Nelson Park', which can be found on the outskirts of Hanley?

This post was featured on the City Daily Portal Rust & Ruins theme

Monday, 3 December 2012

Grimy end to pilgrimage path

This rather grimy pool is what is supposed to remain of the sacred 'Saint Chad's Well'. It sits in the churchyard of St Chad's Church which is on the outskirts of Lichfield.

It's a pretty unprepossessing sight, and very disappointing - especially now as it is one end of the new Two Saints Way, a pilgrimage path from Lichfield to Chester.
Saint Chad is the Lichfield connection, being a local saint from the 7th Century. At this site, or near it anyway, he is supposed to have prayed, and pilgrims started visiting it soon after his death.

The present structure around the well is, er, brutalist in style, replacing a rather nice well-house which was pulled down in the 1940s.
It's not worth travelling to see, sadly.

Related link: What Not To Do With A Holy Well

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Best known Staffordshire street (?)

A photo of 'My Street' was what was requested as this month's theme on the City Daily Photo site. I'm a member of the the group, so it got me wondering: what is Staffordshire's best-known street?

Could it be Lichfield's Cathedral Close, or even 'Watling Street' (aka The Great North Road)? 

But it came upon me that, actually, for most people, the M6 Motorway, which bisects the county, is the part of Staffordshire that is most well-known.   And, if you narrow it down, the 'street' that leads one into the interior of the main service station on the M6 in Staffordshire - Stafford Services - might even be best known 'street' of all. Sadly.

You could call it the hub of the county.   In a sort of way...

This post is my contribution to the CDPB December theme My Street.