Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Knots inter-twine

This rather perfect piece of moulding over this window in Hanley shows a wonderful series of interlocking 'Stafford Knots'.
I thought it might be nice to end the old year with a reminder of the symbol of Staffordshire.

The building belonged to the Potteries Water Board in the nineteenth century, and the crest on the left is actually the PWB's.
The crest on the right is that of the then Borough of Hanley.  Oddly, its heraldic animal (you can see it over the crest) was a camel.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Picturesque wharf

Once this quiet place was a centre of industry...! 
Froghall, on the Caldon Canal a few miles north of Cheadle, was an area famous for processing copper as well as limestone.

You can still see the old wharves-type buildings (in pic) by the canal, from where the industrial barges would pick up their limestone load.  It looks quite incongruous, now that it's been turned into something of a beauty spot here.    But, in fact, older folk still call this area Froghall Wharf.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Modest pub with extravagant sign

The Brushmakers Arms is a totally unassuming, very quiet, truly local local pub in the small village of Oulton.  Just the place for a quiet moment away from the hurly burly.

By contrast, it has this totally ornate pub-sign which features a rising-sun, a Stafford Knot, two fleur-de-lys, a shield - and four brushes.All on a startling blue background.
One day I determine to find out what it all means.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Charity (except for Tamworthers)

As befits the day of the year when we all should be charitable, it's good to remember Thomas Guy,  one of Staffordshire's greatest philanthropists.   
And here is the plaque over one of Staffordshire's most famous charitable institutions - Thomas Guy's Almshouses, in Tamworth.   Even to this day, 'worthy folk' who have fallen upon hard times are housed in one of the cottages on the site.

However, Thomas Guy was not, erm, totally given over to feelings of Charity.

On learning that his home-town of Tamworth had rejected him as MP, he had a fit of fury; and insisted that the rules of admission to his almshouses (which lie in the centre of the town) were changed.
He insisted that NO resident of Tamworth could ever qualify for a cottage thereafter! 
Only his relations and people from the hamlets & villages around Tamworth ("hamleteers") would ever be allowed to live there ... as you can see from the plaque, which is over the entry gate into the almshouses.  The rules stand to this day.

Hmm.  Oh well.  At least the almshouses still serve their purpose.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas ghost story - 'buried alive'

At Rushton Spencer village churchyard, under the yew-tree, you'll notice a grave that is out of sync with the other burial.  Thomas Meakin (or Meaykin) is laid the 'wrong way round', ie his gravestone faces west instead of east.  This can happen for a number of reasons - but one is that the grave might contain an unhappy spirit.

If Thomas' story is true, then he would be unhappy.  His friends suspected that he had been drugged with a powerful poison, fallen into a coma, and been buried alive.  When they dug his grave up, it is said that he was lying not on his back, but on his front - a sure sign that he had waked after being buried.
Thus Thomas was re-buried the 'wrong way round', with the new inscription "As man falleth before wicked men; so fell I".

There are a few sources for the story - neatly pulled together on the Mondrem website.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Zombies welcome

All these Christmas ghost stories that float round at this time of year must have over-influenced me - as walking through the former, now-abandoned bus station in Hanley seemed replete with potential horrors.
The bright new complex across the road that has replaced it doesn't have the grim and totally brutalist look that this old one did.  I kept expecting zombies to appear in its dark spaces.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Bishop waits for light

As he is in a kneeling position, he looks like a humble supplicant - but Henry Ryder was actually Bishop of Lichfield, and, erm, this is (was) his cathedral.
The great Victorian sculptor, Francis Chantrey, made the piece; and when the sun comes from the north-west, it is washed in light.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Walking by the pool

Walking is a great joy in this mild weather, which continues.  Of course, most people are pretty gloomy about this good weather saying that it is a trick by Nature to lull us into a false sense of security - and they forecast blizzards yet to come.  Hmm.

The footpath-walk around Copmere Pool (near Eccleshall) is a pleasant one; and the end of the walk - at The Star Inn, which is a lovely pub - is just as good.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Thatch for Christmas

The thatched roof on the Crown & Anchor gastro-pub in Stone is undergoing restoration - which is why it looks so tufty right now.  New thatch is being brought in and bent and laid to give it a proper Christmas look.

The statue you see on the left is the 'Tommy' soldier that stands at the top of the town's war memorial.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Warmer outdoors; at Oakamoor

Just now the state of the weather means it's warmer to be outdoors than in.  Our English cave-like houses get to be very cold about now, and (if the weather is as mild as it is at the moment) it is just happier to be outdoors.  (Well, until the sun goes down, and it turns freezing of course!)

One of the best walks in Staffordshire is around Dimmingsdale. Starting at the old Oakamoor rail station (in picture) is best. 
And then making sure that one drops in at the Rambler's Retreat restaurant/cafe - which sits all alone in the woods, waiting for passers-by - makes for a terrific route...

(Oakamoor rail station opened in 1849, as part of the then Churnet Valley Line).

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Spiders' work

It's been foggy in my part of Staffordshire - though mild for December (IMHO).

The spiders don't seem to mind; and work away just as hard.  This web stretched over a couple of feet.

Monday, 9 December 2013

American Indians? ...in Staffordshire

This wood carving on a choir-stall at Checkley Church is most mysterious.  It is usually described as two portraits of native American Indians... but, as these bench-ends have been dated to the mid-sixteenth century, this seems improbable.

Yes, the 1500s were the Age of Exploration, so it's possible the carver could have been on a trading ship to America - or seen a drawing of an American native - but why would he then have carved it in a quiet country church, with barely another reference to tell us what is meant? 
Yes, the curling tentacles above the portraits might possibly be American maize, but, if so, it's a very stylised version of maize.

No-one really knows.  It might even be a Central or South American Indian ... or not an Indian at all.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Philanthropist's tower

This rather elegant clock-tower stands in the centre of Tunstall, one of the six Potteries towns. It was erected at the end of the nineteenth century.

It has a rather touching dedication, being in honour of local aristocrat Sir Smith Child who "sought to brighten the lives of the working classes" through his philanthropic donations.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Hug bridge

The course of the River Dane marks the boundary with Cheshire on Staffordshire's North-Western side. 
Running over the river, you will find 'Hug Bridge' which is the main crossing hereabouts - on the A523 at Rushton Spencer.

It's not a very distinguished bridge, but it is listed.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Christmas gardens

Once the towns have put up their Christmas lights in their streets (at the end of November), usually householders follow quickly - putting up festive house-lights and garden displays.

I saw this arrangement today in a front garden in Wombourne.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Colourful 107 development

The '107' project in Burton really seems to be coming along after a hiccup when it looked it could all fold
If Burton had a docklands-style area which was being redeveloped for up-market lifestyle venues (restaurants, art gallery, modern offices etc etc) - then I suppose this would be it.  It's on the site of a huge old, now disused brewery.

I also like the fact it just believes in a bit of colour - something to savour in grey mid-winter urban days.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Burton at Euston

Being a fan of things Staffordshire, it always gives me a buzz to see a Staffordshire reference in an unexpected place.

Recently, coming into Euston Station on my way home from London to Staffordshire, I glanced at the frontages of the old lodges, which face Euston Road.  The square, stone lodges are the last bit of the old Victorian part of Euston Station (and now house a small bar).

On the sides of the lodges are listed the names of all the towns that you can reach directly from Euston - including the likes of Glasgow, and so on.
I was surprised to see the name of Burton there.  Burton's rail link is now simply on a provincial line between Birmingham and Derby - there is no direct connection to Euston.  
It just shows how old these lodges are!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Great artist - small church

This is as beautiful a piece of Victorian stained-glass as you'll find anywhere. The artist is Edward Burne-Jones, the great Pre-Raphaelite painter.  When the sun shines through it, I could look at it for hours.
I am continually stunned how much work of great beauty is hidden away in our country churches.

Ingestre Church - where you'll find this window - is however more famous for its architecture and its church furniture.     It's seventeenth cenury, and (supposedly) was designed by Christopher Wren.

The friends of the church do a great job in raising funds to maintain it - and to keep it open for the public to look round.

Monday, 25 November 2013

A crooked pub

Yes, this pub is literally tipsy. One end is actually four feet higher than the other, because the sunken end is dipping into subsidence. 
There are odd optical illusions that occur - like seeing a marble roll over a table upwards, and grandfather clocks that appear to be ever on the verge of falling over.

Actually, the weird thing is that The Crooked House was declared unsafe (not surprisingly) in 1940.  But a local brewery decided it would be fun to preserve it - and sure enough, despite its remote location, it has been a tourist attraction ever since. 
Regular checks are carried out to ensure it's not slipping dangerously...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dismount - and re-mount

You know you're in horse-riding territory when you see four mounting blocks within a few yards of each other on a road.  
Yes, we are near Whittington, in open countryside; but this part of the road also goes up and over the rail line, where I guess the horses might spook if an express came through.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Autumn colours

We're having a real russet autumn... it's a real joy just to get out and see the various colours turning. There are oranges, scarlets, golds - and even reds!

This tree sits outside St Editha's Church in Tamworth.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Once was employment

Pretty grim, isn't it?  Another example of 'ruin pornography' I suppose.

This photo was taken in the Stoke-on-Trent district of Middleport, an industrial area of former potteries which is extremely run-down. 
Strangely enough, a nearby working pottery, Burleigh, makes a virtue of this dire situation - describing itself as authentically Victorian - and so attracting tourists!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Buried in Stone

This Elizabethan tomb is rather weather-beaten - not surprisingly, as it has been out in the cold since 1749.  The old church that it was in was taken down then, and a new one built a few yards away, which still stands.
The knight (probably William Crompton) and his wife have lost bits of legs and arms etc down the years.

You can see it in the town of Stone, by St Michael's Church.

This post was featured on the Cemetery Sunday website

Friday, 15 November 2013

A folly on the heights

Mow Cop 'Castle' as it's known, is, of course, a deliberate ruin.  It was built to look like this, in a piece of eccentricity, by the local landowner in the mid eighteenth century.

The structure is placed right at the top of Mow Cop bluff and has views for miles for all around.  It's quite a landmark.

In this picture I seem to have accidentally photographed (just to the right of the archway) some flying insect.  Or could it be a bullet?  Hmm.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Railway colours survive

On the South Staffordshire Railway Walk, a footpath that has taken over the trackbed of the old SSR, you will still see, on the bridges over roads, these 'colours' - a mud-brown shade, with borders of yellow.
I'm guessing that these are the colours of the SSR itself.  Certainly,  the brown tint was the official colouring given to the SSR. 
The SSR was taken over by the LNWR in 1923.

Curiously, on the other side of this fencing (ie the side you can see from the road below), the colours are lavender & white...

What does it all mean?

Monday, 11 November 2013

Axis war graves

It's not so well-known, but there are a lot of German and Italian war-graves in Staffordshire.  This is due partly to the fact that there were prisoner-of-war camps built here in the county during the time, and partly because the military hospitals servicing the enemy forces were here too.

At Burton-upon-Trent's main cemetery in Stapenhill, you will find a number of such Axis war graves. On Armistice Day (November 11th), they are no doubt respected as much as those of the Allied forces.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The gates that dazzle

A Stafford Knot entwined with a symbolic plant (a Tudor rose, I should think). Strange.
Anyway, this is the design on the gates at Maer Hall, a very grand building indeed.  I can't find out anything about this combination of or why it should appear on these gates.

It's likely the gates were built in the late nineteenth century when the Harrison family, a Liverpool ship-owning family, lived at the hall.

In the sunshine, this design fair dazzles one...

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Bagnall lions

Funny old autumn weather: long streaky sunlight, bright pale-blue skies and sharp air.

These four lions in a garden in Bagnall seemed to enjoy the sunlight as it arrived.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Mitchell memorial

Yes, this is a SuperMarine plane etched into the bank of this roundabout. I'm sure you guessed that.

This shape, on the northern Tunstall by-pass, is a tribute to the aircraft designer RJ Mitchell, who was born hereabouts.  He also designed the more famous Spitfire.

The work is already beginning to show wear, sadly. 
It is not even that clear what it is, unless you know.
I have a feeling it won't be there much longer.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Autumn stream

Autumn is running late by two to three weeks this year, apparently.  The eating apples are just ripening here in Staffordshire, and the weather is mild, even if cold after the sun goes down.

Oh well, I shall try to cope.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The heights of worship

Known as the 'Chapelle in the Withernesse' (chapel in the wilderness), St Lawrence Church & Graveyard in Rushton Spencer certainly does seem abandoned.

There is not a house or habitation within half a mile of the church, and, if you want to get there from the main road (and don't fancy following the winding lanes to get to it from the back), you have to cross the fields and climb up the side of the ridge to it ... as you can see in this photo. 
In fact the grey streak you can see in the photo on the side of the hill is actually a long railing - erected there to help the weary parishioner make it to the top!

It seems that what happened is not so much that the church was built to be so solitary, on top of the hill, but that the original village around it moved away... down towards the main road, leaving its ancient church behind.

St Lawrence was founded in the 1200s, but, despite its age and isolated position, services are still held there weekly.

This post was featured on the City Daily Photo Theme Day on the theme of 'heights'

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

HS2 protest on the road

Yesterday's report from the government (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24721214about the proposed new high-speed west-coast rail line has provoked - as you'd guess - a lot of debate on the local radio and in the local papers.
Phase 1 of HS2 takes in southern Staffordshire, while Phase 2 would take in northern Staffordshire.

The debate is loud and furious, but the opposition voices are very well-drilled: I must admit that it's the first time that I've seen a small, local protest group, such as Marston Against HS2 (Marston is just a township), so organised as to get a promotional car out on the road...!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Stapenhill... well?

Is it a cave? a blocked-up old well?  I wish I knew.  This structure on the Stapenhill side of the river in Burton has no marks or plaques to help one identify what it might be.

Burton does have a lot of wells, though.  The natural water of Burton is one reason that the beer made here tastes so good...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Hundreds of miles of canals

There are more miles of canals in Staffordshire than in any other shire county.  Yes, I was surprised at that statistic too!
Actually, I'm not one for walking along canal towpaths much, as the view can be the same for miles - but they are much frequented by people wanting exercise.  The one at Etruria (in the photo) is often used by workers too, who use it as a short-cut to get home and back.

If you're interested in local canals, the BBC Staffordshire Canals webpage makes a fascinating start.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Family serves beer for 100 years

Some old pubs just won't fade away...  The Anchor at High Offley has been in the same family for more than 100 years; and the old settle-style benches in the bar look as though they could even have been there at the beginning. It's a proper 'heritage pub'.
It mostly caters to narrow-boat visitors (this view has been photographed from the canal towpath), as it is a couple of miles from the village itself.

Even the bar has been made from the remains of a former narrow-boat...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Young Stoke celebrated

The 'Forsyth Window' can be seen in the stairwell at the old School of Art building in Burslem.  Gordon Forsyth was a formidable artist in his own right, and was principal at the Art School for some 25 years between the two wars...

This window (created in 1932) celebrates the new federation of the towns of Stoke on Trent, which had only united into one city at the beginning of the twentieth century.  It expresses the confidence the young city had in its traditional way of life.  
In fact, the School produced some world-famous ceramics designers during Forsyth's time.

Forsyth could not have foreseen that, within forty years of his tenure, the school would be closed. The building is now used as a sort of centre for community and creatives small businesses.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Five in a grave

To lose five children, four of them just toddlers, must have been a huge blow to James & Mary Wyatt. That Sarah, who managed at least to get to twenty years old, in 1891, should have then died just as she was entering adultdhood, must have been just as terrible.
As the inscription, on this grave in Whitmore churchyard, says: A bitter grief, a shock severe / To part with ones we love so dear.

The Victorian era was when the modern met the past. 
In the times before, death seems almost to have been a rite of life - albeit the last rite -; but the Victorians, so close to medical break-throughs, found the death of loved ones very, very hard to bear - as we still do now.

This post was featured on the Cemetery Sunday website

Friday, 18 October 2013

Staffordshire's female general

Ethelfleda ('The Lady of The Mercians') is celebrated by both Stafford and Tamworth as their major founder.  It was she who, in 913, fortified both towns and thus created them as 'burhs', and who ruled the Mercian lands from each town at different periods. She died at Tamworth, though she was buried in another part of her lands, at Gloucester.
Stafford, in particular, has been running its Stafford 1100 Festival, which remembers the great leader (she was quite a military general, and beat the Vikings more than once).

The statue in this photo, outside Tamworth Castle, was put up at the 1000-year anniversary in 1913.

An interesting story is that she was succeeded as ruler of Mercia, the kingdom of central England, by her daughter AElfwynn, one of only two times in English history that a queen has succeeded a queen.
The sad end to that is that AElfwynn was immediately deposed by Edward The Elder, so this female succession never had a chance to flourish.

Incidentally, the spelling that historians prefer today (instead of Ethefleda) is AEthelflaed.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

King George's postbox

A few old 'wall-boxes' (as they are properly called) can still be seen in Staffordshire.  The scrolled GR type on it means that this was made in the reign of King George VI, who died in 1952.
Amazingly, one can still find postboxes dating back to Victoria's reign, though I am still looking for any in Staffordshire.

I found this example in Mossgate.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Blondes, redheads & jet-black hair

Blazing scarlet hair is not the unusual sight it once was; and this is because wigs and hair extensions can be worn nowadays almost as a matter of course.  You can have whatever hair colour you want now, it seems.

It's only when I saw this shop front-window absolutely filled with a choice of wigs that I realised just how much a fact of life false hair is now.
They can look stunning when on though.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Railway station? Pub?

Codsall has come up with a very neat solution to the problem of what to do with the redundant parts of its railway station's buildings:  convert most of them into a very successful pub - as you see here!

The Station Pub, as you'd guess, has a lot of railway memorabilia; and is the only place I know where one can pace one's drinking by the number of trains going by the window.
Strangely enough, the rail service at Codsall Station seems to have gone from strength to strength in recent years.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

And now... autumn

Yes, it is Autumn.  I admit it.  I've been hoping that the warm-ish weather would continue forever, but, as usual, it has not.

Still, it makes for lovely walking (when it is not showering), as here in the Hawksmoor Nature Reserve

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Living wall

This is a 'green wall' - at Staffordshire University.  There are a number of these around the site.

They are part of a project to see if the plants in them, which are irrigated through small pipes in the trellis, can help reduce pollution in the urban environment.  The research is also looking at which plants can do the job best.

I guess the idea is, once that research has been completed, that they will encourage us all to put them up on our houses (etc).
Sounds good to me.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Cold ... kiln

This structure is to be found in the fields near Eland Lodge at Newborough.  It seems rather abandoned - without even a track going to it - so I guess it isn't used much now.

My first assumption was that it was a kiln, but someone who knows about these things says it's a old cold-store (fridge) or ice-house.  However, I still think it's a kiln, and probably a brick-kiln.
It doesn't seem to be mentioned in Joy Ellis' history of the village.

There was some burnt wood in it there when I saw it, even though it was cold to the touch.  Maybe now, locals use it occasionally as a giant chiminea...?!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Figurines in public

Passing along a pavement on a street of terraced houses, I walked by this frontage. There must have been two to three hundred little figurines arranged in front of this particular home.

I was massively impressed.
The owner had obviously decided that the risk of getting pieces stolen or broken was well worth the pleasure of showing them - and thus brightening up the neighbourhood. 
I feel it's a great example; and I wondered if I should be doing something similar.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Free works of art

The British Ceramic Biennial Show is under way in Stoke-on-Trent again, and lasts until November.  The exhibits on show have a wide range - from industry output to rather eccentric works of pottery art.

On this stand in the photo, the artist Lawrence Epps, who has been working at Ibstock Bricks, was showing some 15,000 items of mass-produced sculpted brick.  Members of the public were encouraged to pick up a paper bag and take one of the pieces home with them.
It certainly solves the problem of what to do with the exhibits at the end of the show...

Monday, 30 September 2013

Sexy redhead in church

A lascivious redhead? It can only be Mary Magdalene - here seen at the foot of the Crucifixion, in a church window.

By tradition, Saint Mary Magdalene - one of the three women in Jesus' life - was a reformed prostitute. So, medieval artists gave her flowing scarlet hair, a bit of bare flesh usually, and an erotic pose. 
But this glass is dated 1926, so it's a surprise to find a later artist still really going to town on poor old Mary.

The window is in Mapleton St Mary Church, on the Staffordshire-Derbyshire border.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The smallest room - and coldest

Original outside-toilets - 'privies' - can still occasionally be seen in the back-yards of some terraced houses in Stoke on Trent, though these days they are more often used as junk-storage areas.
Most however have been pulled down, and modern extensions built in their place.

But, in the alley-ways of some of the less renovated parts of the city - like Smallthorne, as here in this pic - one feels little has changed in 100 years, and I saw this perfect example there.
Municipal laws meant that they had to be built a little way from the house, which is why they are often the last building in the yard (making for an unpleasant walk on a winter day).  Even the coal shed is nearer to the house.

(Depending on which part of the world you come from, they are given different names - such as jakes or khazi. I'm fond of 'dunny' myself, though it's really Australian idiom).

This post appeared on the My Town Shoot-Out Photo-Blog

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Misty day in the cemetery

Misty autumn day today, though the temperatures are still in the 'mild' range.

Tunstall Cemetery runs up the side of a long hill, so the graves at its top look out over the valley.