Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Thirteenth century bits get new life

The priory of St.Thomas the Martyr, founded about 1174, is no longer with us… and yet it kinda is.

The public footpath goes right by the side of Priory Farm in Baswich, and the farm is on the site of the old priory – hence its name.
Pretty much all that’s left of the old medieval building is the last bits of its stone walls - and some of those old thirteenth century church walls have been incorporated into the new buildings seen in this photo (thus giving the building its variegated look).

Now, don’t tell me that that fact doesn’t give you a bit of a thrill - surely?

Monday, 25 February 2013

Spears of icicles in rows

The chilly weather refuses to go away - so much so that, even after any evidence of snow has pretty much disappeared, winter is still dug in in more shaded places.

I was walking under this old railway bridge, when I looked up - to see these rows of gleaming, dagger-sharp icicles above me. I suddenly knew Damocles must have felt like.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Weird sheep pursue walker

Sheep usually run away from walkers, or ignore them, but this lot decided to check me out and followed me right across the field. It was quite weird.
I have no idea why their behaviour should have been so different on this occasion.

It only struck me afterwards that I was entering Crossgate village, and had just crossed Balaam's Lane.  (If you say out loud, you'll get the pun!).

This post was featured on the City Daily Photo Theme Day as my Photo of 2013

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sixties record shop lives on

The Bevans Music Shop in Longton opened sometime in the mid 1960s, and is still going strong - but now under new management.

The former owner, Ellis Bevan, is something of a legend in the old town, and when I saw him last a couple of years ago, he was still proprietor of the shop - but surely must have been in his eighties(?) even then. He never updated the shop it seemed to me, and I half expected Freddie & The Dreamers (or some such ancient group) to be living out at the back.
He has retired now.

The new owner, Tom Mitchell, is something of a vinyl nut. You will find some CDs and even some tape-cassettes, but mostly it's a spreading mass of vinyl records, all round a battered sofa and Dansette record-player (on which one can play the discs).
He has kept on the name 'Bevans Music Shop' as a sort of tribute-cum-continuity thing.

The old listening booth was hauled out of the storage rooms. It doesn't work any more, but is installed there in the main shop now as a... well... sort of tribute-cum-continuity thing!

Related Link: Bevans Music Shop - Tom's quirky blog about Longton, Bevans and music on vinyl

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Grey days at Lichfield

Only England can do such grey, sombre days as these. There is virtually no colour in the sky, buildings or water, and if it weren't for the evergreens, it would be one monochrome wash.

This photo shows Lichfield Cathedral in the distance, over Stowe Pool, which is the Victorian reservoir just outside the city centre.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Bring on the spooks and ghosts

Heath House is an old Victorian-Gothic pile at Tean, where the family that live there have had to think up new and interesting ways to preserve the building. Nowadays it's well-known for hosting grand wedding events and the like.

One new wheeze is Ghost Tours. As of next week, there will be regular 'entertainment experiences' featuring whatever may be haunting the house's less brightly-lit locations.

Related link:  Haunted Secrets Of The Heath House

Friday, 15 February 2013

Reservoir convert

I have always avoided Tittesworth Reservoir as an attraction. Why would I want to visit a big lake of water constructed in the 1960s?

Actually though, there is a fascinating walk around the perimeter of the water, and it's wooded and contoured so is more interesting than you'd think.  Plus it does have a previous Victorian history which is evident in some of the older parts.
In the 1990s they built a Visitor Centre and expanded all the conservation work there.

I'm a convert now.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Hanley... improved

Strangely the light fall of snow has stuck, so the white stuff is still with us.

Frankly, the (laughably-named) Gateway To Hanley approach looks considerably improved by the conditions.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Bottle-oven in snow

The snow has come back yet again, though this time as but a light layer of icing-sugar... so to speak.

Strange about the frequency of the bouts of snow. It seems like we have had five or more separate snow-falls this winter, just when I was beginning to get used to having one or two at most every winter.  Still, snow is better than hail & gale.

What you see in the photo is an old pottery-making factory with its own kiln (bottle-oven) stuck in the centre of it. 
Of course, the bottle-ovens are now all listed, and none is actually working, so when this building was turned into offices, they had to keep the kiln in the centre, just as it was!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Poet surrounded by weeds

George Heath's gravestone stands, surrounded by weeds, in a lonely country churchyard near Leek.  Pretty much unknown now, he was in fact pretty much unknown then - even though this is 'The Moorland Poet' as he was called locally. George Heath died 150 years ago, at just 25 years old.

His poetry is a bit post-Wordsworth:
"Slow creeps the light athwart the concave still,
Steals a low whisper on the breathless calm,
Bringing the scent of opening flowers, a balm;
Breaks o'er the earth a grand, a rapturous thrill"   but, like in these lines, not bad either.

He's buried in Horton churchyard, which is a bit ironic, as he first caught the chill which led to his fatal consumption while restoring the old church there...

What's odd though is that there is no sign or pointer to his grave. Admittedly, he was not a Top Poet, but Staffordshire Archives feel that he is important enough to have recently published a guide to their collection of his works, so you wonder why there is no real attention paid to the grave.

Link: Guide to Staffordshire George Heath collection 

This post was featured on the Cemetery Sunday website

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Keele's prison... not

This church looked like a jail to me, the first time I saw it. Those imposing keep-like towers and the narrow windows gave me a chill. 
It's one of the major buildings overlooking the main square on the Keele University campus, and I wondered then what brave university-department could be housed there - dissection studies perhaps?

The fact that it turned out to be the university church bemused me.

Keele is a modern university, established just after the war, and the church is deliberately multi-denominational. So, maybe the intention of the look was deliberate - in that it could not be identified with any one Christian sect or tradition.
It's made of Staffordshire blue-brick.

Link: Keele Chapel Church

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

'Picturesque' village almshouse

Marchington is a village best described as 'picturesque'. There's nothing much to do there, but each corner of it reveals another rather intriguing building to look at.
So the village is best seen as the place to walk round before going on a local country-walk.

The Marchington Almshouses (in the photo) were built by the Chawners of nearby Houndhill (hence the hound in the moulding, I would guess).

By the way, if you're interested in the villages of Staffordshire, the county's Women's Institutes took part in a project some years ago to write a page or two each about their villages for a book (published by Countryside Books). 
It's a little out of date, and a bit twee, but informative...  and, sadly, I think it is also out of print - but second-hand copies do exist.

Link: Countryside Books

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Venice... in Staffordshire

The annual Venice carnival, which runs for the twelve days before the beginning of Lent, is now under way.
Sadly, the nearest I shall get to Venice this year is this superb painting of the city by the Victorian artist William Wyld. You can see it in the Nicholson Institute (aka Leek Library). It’s part of the collection there.

Though it’s over 100 years old, the picture has a wonderful vividness.

Links: Venetian Scene by William Wyld (on BBC Paintings)

Friday, 1 February 2013

Massive - and abandoned

These massive walls at Froghall stand almost alone in the midst of a forested valley.  One wonders at first if they are the remains of a castle.

However, it's clear that they are built on to the side of a hillside - so castle they are not.

They actually are kilns - the doorways being where the raw material was loaded ready for firing. The raw material in this instance was limestone, quarried nearby, to make lime (for agriculture mostly).

It turns out this abandoned area - now a beauty spot - was a thriving industrial centre in the nineteenth century.   Ozymandias would have appreciated the irony.