Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Late in the last days

Sunset at Flash village

It's no wonder you get big skies over Flash - for here we are at the top of Staffordshire, and (they say) in the highest inhabited village in England. Midway on the road from Leek to Buxton, it clings on to its existence, far from other towns.

I love the drive from Leek to Buxton, the gateway to the Peak District. It is a rollercoaster of peaks and troughs, yet with some of the longest, emptiest and most stirring vistas of open moorland too.
And it is at its most thoughtful best when the light is falling.

And so the end of the year goes.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Ten years - and looking good

Statue of RJ Mitchell

This statue of the airplane designer RJ Mitchell has now completed ten years in situ (it was erected in 1995, the 100th anniversary of Mitchell's birth) in central Hanley - and it has worn well. 
From this angle he appears to be smiling ... though the original intention was that he look "studious".
I'm also happy to report that someone seems to be taking very good care that pigeons don't tarnish the figure's dapper haircut for any length of time.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Late on Xmas Day

Grave of the "late" Ralph Ratcliffe

It seems strangely redundant to inform us all that the person in this Cheadle churchyard grave is, umm, the "late" Ralph Ratcliffe.  I'd have thought that was fairly obvious ... by his being actually buried in the grave!

Poor old Ralph had the misfortune to die on Christmas Day.  I wonder if he got a chance to open his presents?

And so - Merry Christmas one and all...!   (which is not exactly the quote from Christmas Carol)

Monday, 21 December 2015

Where the saint stopped

Scalpcliffe Hill

And so we enter Christmas week... 
It's been wet and blowy, though with incredibly mild temperatures.  Nature has gone green again; and it has felt like Spring, not winter.

Scalpcliffe Hill can be seen from the Burton side of the River Trent, and marks the vision of St Modwen, the patron saint of the town.  She arrived in the seventh century, and built two churches - one at the foot of Scalpcliffe, on the site of what is now St Peter's Church.
What was in the vision that caused her to halt in her journeys for a while (she was a great traveller) at this spot, we are not told.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Grecian urns in unlikely places

Old Waterworks at Hatton

I've never understood the Victorians' passion for putting Greek urns everywhere.  I appreciate they developed a love for classical antiquity; but they couldn't stop themselves reproducing urns as garden features, vases and even architectural features - as here at the Old Waterworks at Hatton.

Seen with a 21st Century eye (ie mine), it looks kinda obsessive.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Sitting on money

Sneyd Hall (rear view)

It's plain amazing to think that the Sneyd family had to do very very little to 'earn' this huge hall.  The land they owned just had acres and acres of coal underneath it - and they made a handsome living from the rights.  They even built a racecourse (no longer there) at the end of one of their drives!

The last Sneyd died in the fifties I think, and by then this hall had already become part of what was to be Keele University.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Armadillo out of the ground

The Lidice 'Unearthed' Monument in Haney

The Lidice 'Unearthed' Monument in Haney has already been dubbed (affectionately one hopes) the 'Armadillo' by locals. 
According to the artist, "...the shape looks like it's coming out of the ground - which shows its mining connections.", but, well, what do artists know?

The monument remembers the reaction to a massacre which took place in World War Two in Lidice in Czechoslovakia.  Colliers in Stoke on Trent were horrified by what had happened in a fellow mining town; and raised huge amounts of money to help rebuild it after 1945.
The campaign to remember Lidice has gone on ever since; this monument was completed in 2013.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Big enough for a horse

Gailey Top Lock double-tunnel

Gailey Top Lock has a full two-tunnel structure near it, with the pedestrian tunnel as big as the canal tunnel - which is fairly rare.
The pedestrian tunnel (we are on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal here) can actually easily accommodate any horse drawing a boat; yet often the horse was walked over the bridge and back down to the path because the tunnel for pedestrians would be too small for it.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Blymhill's vomiting lion

Blymhill Church's 'vomiting-lion' gargoyle

This little monster is part of the reason that Blymhill Church in south Staffordshire is one of Simon Jenkins' '1000 Best Churches in England'. The vomiting-lion, as he is affectionately called, is basically a gargoyle but quite an attraction, espcially when it's raining heavily and he is 'spewing'.

The strange thing is that, in old Greek, both 'vomiting' and 'preaching' can be translated with the same word. Was the maker who named the lion having a sly dig at clerics whose sermons went on and on and on...?
Quite possibly.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Flaxman looks down

John Flaxman statue at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London

It's a bit of a surprise to see John Flaxman up there on the exterior walls of The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  He isn't exactly the best of all sculptors; and some of his stuff is a little 'obvious' even for the Neo-Classical period (IMHO).
However the V&A celebrates craftspeople too, so he may be being remembered for the spark he brought to the Wedgwood Pottery enterprise (here in Staffordshire) during the decade from 1775 when he was employed by the company.
For a long while, there was even a gallery in Stoke named after him - at the university.  But it seems to have been wound down - almost to the point of disappearance.

Strangely, Flaxman didn't do much of his own carving, but, if you've got lots of assistants, as he did, why should you?