Wednesday, 30 October 2013

HS2 protest on the road

Yesterday's report from the government (see: 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...