Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Astonishing wall-paintings

This astonishing interior is just part of the many visual delights in St Werburgh's Church in Hanbury.
These chancel wall-paintings, created in the late nineteenth-century, are a real feast for the eyes, making the church well worth visiting for just them, if not the other delights too.

Link:  Photos of St Werburgh's

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The accidental Roman villa

There are only three Roman villas in Staffordshire that have been discovered – and one is at Acton Trussell.

Amazingly, it was found by accident when a local archaeology club was seeking for medieval remains.  And, for the past thirty years, that group – the Penk Valley Archaeological Group – has continued to work on the site as best they can.
It’s quite heartening to think that amateurs still can contribute to such major finds.

Members of the group open up the site to visits from the public each weekend, and answer questions about the excavations as well as the history.
This weekend, it was the major event in Staffordshire to mark The Festival of Archaeology.

Link:  Acton Trussell Roman Villa 

Friday, 26 July 2013

Spreading the word

'Hedge-hopper' preachers are not seen as often on our streets as they once were, which I think is a shame.  Agree or disagree with them, they always provide an interesting debate for the public; and some of them are very fine speakers.

This preacher comes to Stafford now and again though I believe he lives in the north of England.

The term 'hedge-hopper', in this sense, refers to those peripatetic pedagogues who once walked the countryside, literally 'hopping over hedges', spreading the word of whatever they believed in, in whichever village or town they came to..

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

'Castle' allowed to decay

This Victorian castle-style building is a really attractive work, on the fringes of Wombourne.  It's hard to believe that it is (or was...) a pumping station, in which two steam engines pumped up water from boreholes which went deep into the ground underneath it.

After The Bratch Pumping Station was supplanted by a new system, a group of enthusiasts, The Friends Of The Bratch, was given the chance to maintain the building and the steam-engines, which they lovingly did, holding a number of open-days along the way.... until 2010, when, for no reason I can find, the owners, Severn-Trent Water, withdrew their permission.
The enthusiasts are still, to this day, understandably bitter.

Meanwhile, the empty building suffers from ingress from pigeons, the engines are no longer maintained, and tree-foliage has been allowed to grow along the front to the property so that it is no longer easy to see the building from the road.

Seems hard to think why it should be so allowed to decline when there are volunteers who would take it on.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Ancient oak

'Puthery' is a word used in Staffordshire to describe those sorts of days which are warm, humid and breathless, and you can get a layer of sweat by just walking along quickly. 
Today was one of those days.  The sky was luminously gray - and not a ray of sun got through the cloud.

On the Teddesley Park Estate was this ancient oak tree - which has apparently been there since the before the days of William The Conqueror.  You pass it on the Acton Trussell Walk

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Reflective angel in Aston

On a sunny day graveyards are simply calm and quietly reflective places - spots to sit and ponder the environment around one.  I have even seen people having picnics in them on such days - though that did seem odd, even to me.

When they are slightly overgrown in parts too, as in Aston churchyard, that adds to their charm.
Well, I think so.

This post was featured on the Cemetery Sunday website

Thursday, 18 July 2013

We're having a heatwave...

It's a heatwave - officially.  Today Staffordshire got a Level Three status on the Heat-Health Watch alert from the The Met Office.
Temperatures are in the mid 20s and up.

And I can confirm that.  It's hot.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Bass beer meets Staffs regiment

The 'Bass-Triangle story' is an amusing one, and has Staffordshire at its core....

When the Staffordshire Yeomanry regiment decided to adopt a new badge for its officers in 1941, a Major Eadie suggested it be placed on a triangle of red felt.  This idea was adopted - as you can see in the photo.
It transpired later that the red triangle is also a symbol of the Bass Brewing Company, also based in Staffordshire - where Major Eadie had worked in civilian life...! 
A happy coincidence?  Perhaps.

The story is told at The Museum of Staffordshire Yeomanry, which is Stafford town centre.  It's a small museum but one of the best - with clear labelling, some interactive stuff, and lots of maps and diagrams showing the Yeomanry's campaigns... including the WW2 desert campaign.   Really worth a visit.
What's more - it's free to get in... 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Old SCFC bus gets the attention

This old bus had pride of place at the Draycott Fayre Vintage Vehicle Rally this weekend - on a very, very hot day...

Unbelievable, as it is so small (holding only a two dozen seats), yet true -- this tiny bus was chosen as the open-top vehicle to carry the triumphant Stoke City team in parade around the city in 1972, after the team won the League Cup.
The bus company which owned it, Lymer's of Tean, simply took the centre-part of the roof off the bus, and the players squeezed up through the resulting hole.  It's rather different to what goes on in triumphal processions these days!
(If you don't believe me - check the photos from that day by clicking here)

The curent owner of the URE Fishtail, as it's known, is Ray Hine, who bought it; and restored it to its present condition.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Trading since 1914 - and going strong

Williamsons is the most old fashioned – in a very nice way – shop that I think I’ve seen in a long while.
In fact, it doesn’t seem to have been changed since the 1950s... with its long glass cabinets all made of polished wood. (The cabinets actually date back to 1931).

Miss Oldcroft, who has been there since forever, runs it on behalf of the family. The present Williamson descendant lives away so she doesn’t come in all the time.
This same Williamson is the widow of Arthur Berry, the painter and writer – so that explains the small gallery upstairs dedicated to the artist's work.

Williamsons, which can be found in the centre of Longton, will celebrate its century of trading next year.  It trades mostly in jewellery, ornaments and photography equipment.
I wonder if any other shop in Staffordshire has been owned by the same family for one hundred years and is still trading...?

See: Williamsons - heritage site...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Trainspotter's delight

The art of the trainspotter is not dead, thank goodness, though nowadays they have more than just a pen and paper and a log.

Apparently, according to RailForums, Stafford is quite a good station for trainspotting.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The 'old' Harecastle Tunnel

The ‘old’ Harecastle Canal Tunnel, the southern end of which you see here, is no longer in use, even though it was used extensively in the nineteenth century together with the ‘new’ Harecastle Tunnel which it sits alongside.  (One tunnel used to take traffic in one direction, the other in the other).
However, it started to subside, and that was that. 

The curious red stain in the water is because there is iron ore in the hill above the tunnel, and traces of the ore seep in.  The reeds are supposed to filter the colouring out.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Get yer replica seals here...

The Staffordshire Archives Publications department sells lots of booklets, facsimile maps and objects of historical interest.  They pretty much all relate to Staffordshire of course.

However, at a stall where they were selling their stuff, I noticed these two replica seals. 
I am not sure what they might have to do with Staffordshire, and the Archives page about them does not make it clear.

The Civil War was fought quite bitterly in the county, and King Charles even stayed in Stafford one night – but what have these two seals specifically to do with Staffordshire?
I would very much like to know.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Wombourne's tomb-face mystery

This grotesque carving is on the tower of Wombourne's St Benedict Biscop Church and overlooks the main part of the graveyard.
It’s odd to see a carving in the centre of the wall; and not attached either to a water-pipe or a decorative part of the structure.

The other odd thing about it is that it might – or might not - be connected to the grandest tomb in the graveyard.
The family tomb to the Allens (see below) includes, as you can see, this inscription-tribute to Daphne Allen:  'Look Up And See Her Face'.
However… there is nothing on the top of the tomb, and apart from the trees, you see nothing except the sky by looking up … unless you look round at the tower.  Where the only face is that of the grotesque.
The two can’t be connected, can they?  I can’t find out anything more…