Thursday, 30 January 2014

House in shape of bottle

'Bottle Lodge' at Tixall

A post about an octagonal house might as well follow one about a round house (see my Cheadle Round House post), but this dwelling is just as small as the Cheadle Round House.
This building is in Tixall, but, yes, it is another 'lodge' house. It is called 'Bottle Lodge' - for obvious reasons I suppose.

It's 200 years old.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Round house

Why anyone would want to build a round house is a mystery to me.  The 'Round House' in Cheadle is tiny. 
In the nineteenth century, it only served as a lodge to a bigger property up the hill, so maybe it was just a whim to build it.

It was lived in as a residence, amazingly, until just a few years ago (split into four minuscule rooms!) - and then a local benefactor bought it and restored it.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Clay pit - makes pool

Marl hole at Tunstall.

Huge 'marl holes' dot much of North Staffordshire - places where clay was dug out and dug out and dug out... and dug out.
Abandoned marl holes flood - and then create pools.  Like this one near Tunstall.

Friday, 24 January 2014

The cavalier remembers

Patshull Hall facade

This rather lively Cavalier adorns the facade of Patshull Hall.  He indicates, rather openly, the Royalist views of the former owners, the Astleys. 

Patshull Hall, the home of the Earls of Dartmouth for a hundred years or so, is supposed to be one of the largest listed buildings in the country - but it has hit hard times, and is currently in receivership. The last aristocrat to be associated with the hall - Lady Barbara- died last year.

The place, which is pretty isolated anyway, seems rather gloomy right now.
(It is not to be confused with nearby Patshull Park Hotel).

Patshull Hall

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Attractive decay

Dilapidated buildings seem to suit the countryside - as though they are simply part of the landscape.
The same buildings in the town would be seen as unpleasant examples of 'urban decay'.
Strange, that.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Co-operative town

Tamworth seems to have a lot of Co-op shops in a small area - from supermarkets to funeral parlours and travel shops. Not to mention a Co-op bank.

It appears that the original Tamworth Co-op project was set up 130 years ago; and its founder, a vicar called McGregor is still commemorated to this day as a major benefactor to the town.   This Victorian building is still home to local Co-op projects - as it was over a century ago.

Thus, it seems that the Co-op movement's place in this part of the world is treasured by the townspeople - who continue to have a pro-active fondness and loyalty to the whole Co-operative ideal.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Orienteering is all around

The sunny, mild (though chilly) weather makes for great walking.  But some people need an extra spice to their strolls; and like to add orienteering to their fun.  A new addition to the way that orienteering trails work is posts along the way that feature 'QR codes' - like this notice on the Ilam Estate.
One can buy the instructions on how to use them from the National Trust shop at the hall.

But... is my reaction a bit old-fashioned in thinking that it's a shame that beautiful countryside should need these attractions to keep the interest up?

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Stately home goes to dogs

I don't know Himley Park very well, but, coming across it, I wandered in through its opulent gates, following people walking their dogs.
It turned out to be the grounds of the huge & impressive eighteenth-century stately home Himley Hall.
I was amazed to find that I could walk right up to the front doors of the hall, and even peer in through the windows.
But actually, Himley Hall and Park - once owned by one of the most powerful families in England - was bought by the local authority fifty years ago, and it's offices and a conference centre now.

How the mighty are fallen, eh?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Bookshop with no name

Good second-hand bookshops are few and far between in Staffordshire.  Bizarrely, one of the best has no name, is very hard to find, and occupies nothing more than... a corridor.  This is it.

Run by an absent man called Peter (I'm told), it can be found at the back of the Maximum Health health-food store (formerly called Wikijum) in Stone High Street, where the owner kindly takes your money on Peter's behalf if you choose to buy a book. 

But don't be put off: the choice of books is great, and the sections are very efficiently labelled.  The range is not just a lot of old, dodgy paperbacks, but some excellent and fascinating hardbacks.  All at reasonable prices.

But... it is all a bit strange.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Ancient dragons

The Ipstones Tympanum at the Church of St Leonard

The Saxon history of the county has been under extra scrutiny since the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard.
But there is already a fair bit of Saxon-era stuff to be seen, though most of it is largely ignored really and a bit mysterious.

In the Church of St Leonard in Ipstones, two hundred years ago, some builders found this sculpted relief under some plaster.  The relief was in the archway of a door - the technical term for that is that it is a tympanum; and so the piece is known as The Ipstones Tympanum.
It is about 1000 years old, and clearly uses saxon art-motifs.

It shows dragons fighting.  Nobody really knows much more than that about it.

Friday, 10 January 2014

'Heroic' Minton tiles

You can see Minton ceramic tiles all over the world to this day.  Their great era was the ninetenth-century, and many great Victorian buildings, especially in the British Empire, used Minton tiles for floors and for wall-decoration.
Minton's factory was based in north Staffordshire of course; and each time I see Minton work, wherever it is, I get a glow of Staffordshire-satisfaction.

Minton work can be seen at the so-called Postman's Park in London in the 'Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice' loggia.  The memorial remembers some forty 'ordinary people' who died trying to save others. 
It's actually very moving.  Poor Frederick was killed exactly 146 years ago, but the prosaic dedication still has a resonance.

And the Art-Nouveau tiles are very fine indeed.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Colliery remains

The former Foxfield Colliery works - now just decayed and ruinous - are normally closed off to the public, for obvious safety reasons.
However, on days when the Foxfield Railway (a volunteer-run heritage railway) has its gala events, it runs trains up and along the old colliery line from its base in Blythe Bridge; and one can take a peek into certain sections of the former site which are then on display.

The Foxfield Railway members are so enthusiastic that they hope one day to bring some of the old colliery back into a restored state.
It would be a big job though. The pit closed in 1965.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Very grave Christmas trees

These are the oddest grave decorations I ever saw: mini Christmas trees!  I spotted them at the churchyard of Holy Cross in Ilam

Being as it's Twelfth Night this evening - when tradition says Xmas decorations should be taken down - will they be gone tomorrow morning?

This post was featured on the Cemetery Sunday website

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Knot welcomes newbies

The maternity ward entrance at the North Staffs Hospital has a huge Stafford Knot decoration to the left of its main doors - as you see in this photo.

It amuses me to see people's puzzled looks when they see it. As it is unlabelled, and they don't seem to know what it really is, I suppose they are just guessing at what it can represent.
A nappy perhaps?  Or maybe the stork's little package...?  It could be.

Good luck to everyone who will be born there this year...

Thursday, 2 January 2014

For sale - only £2million pounds...

This grand old Jacobean mansion, Horton Hall, was recently up for sale for almost £2million.  It's in a nice spot, rather remote, so I considered buying it.
Unfortunately, I do not have £2million.

The storms that have been criss-crossing the south of England, and bits of Scotland, have not really affected Staffordshire; and the mild (well, mild for December) temperatures continue.  It is not predictable however, whether it will be a case of frosty blue skies and damp & grey ones.
Today was clear-blue.