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.