Friday, 29 January 2016

Enigmatic pediment

There is no indication on this building, in Uttoxeter’s main square, Market Place, as to who once owned it in times past. There are almost no clues in the sculpture relief you see here in the picture.  If I knew its history, I could perhaps tell you more about it.  However, its secret is safe, until I get some time to research it.
The enigmatic smile on the face at the top seems to be mocking my ignorance...
Oh well!
(If anyone knows more about this relief, and its significance, you’d save me a trip to the library if you’d leave a comment below. Gratefully received...)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Salt Pepper and Vinegar

Bottle ovens known as Salt Pepper and Vinegar

These three bottle ovens are known locally as Salt Pepper and Vinegar, because they are as long and slender as table cruets.  And yes, they are different in shape to most of the squat, fat bottle ovens in north Staffordshire.  They have a different function – being used not to fire pottery ware, but to calcine flint, so that the flint could more easily be ground down for use in various processes.

Their heyday was the 19th century of course, and now they are preserved (as Grade 2 listed) memories of the past, as part of the Bottle Ovens Conservation Scheme. James Kent Pottery now owns the site, and they have occasional open-days when the public can get a little closer.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

A wonder house - in an ordinary place

Speedwell Castle

This ‘Gothick’-style wonder of a house is Speedwell Castle, which is slap-bang in the middle of Brewood on the main crossroads.
It’s said that, around 1750, a local man won such an outrageous bet (that he had placed on a horse called Speedwell) that he was able to fund this building project with the winnings.

The story seems odd to me. 
Why did he build right on top of the crossroads (unless it was an extension to an existing house, I suppose)? 
The fact is that: two rather uninteresting pubs face the house; the frontage is right on to the road (ie a very less than grand entrance); and the posh end of Brewood is actually 200 yards away (near the church). 
I wonder if the man, an apothecary by the name of William Rock, just wanted to impress his immediate neighbours, and used his sudden rise in fortune to publicise his rise in fortune - in an unmissable spot?  In other words, a self-aggrandising vanity project?  I wonder.

It’s now converted into flats.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Too graphic for church?

The Annunciation panel at Saint Edward Confessor Church

This curiously sexual wooden panel relief can be seen in the Lady Chapel of Saint Edward Confessor Church at Leek.  The church is the grand old lady of Leek and is fascinating for any visitor, especially anyone who likes stained-glass.

I thought this depiction of The Annunciation was rather graphic for a church (or am I just old-fashioned?), so I bought the guide to find out when it had been done, and by whom.  It's actually quite a fine piece of work anyway.
However... the guide does not mention this piece at all. I wonder if the wardens preferred not to draw attention to it?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Famous photograph

Converging railway lines in snow

This form of photograph is quite famous.  There is something bleak and yet profound about converging railway lines rolling into the infinite distance - which is why photographers like it.

This last snowfall was a nice one - thick and not damp.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Locked into a cave

Cave lock-up at Wetton

It's strange how often one comes across a small hillside cave that has a locked grille-gate to it.
I have never quite figured out what's going on though. My first guess is that someone found the cave and thought it might be a useful storage area or temporary animal pen - especially as they are often in remoter areas - so they put in a secure gate and a lintel to hold it in place. 
One shudders to think that it might have been used as a prison/lock-up for humans. 
But I really don't know.
This one is on the road at Dale Bridge near Wetton.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Snow on the hills

View at Cauldon overlooking the quarry works.

Just when we thought it wasn't going to happen, Winter started. The north of the county, in the Moorlands, got the most snow of course - as here at Cauldon overlooking the quarry works.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Warrior stalks the walk

Saxon warrior head marker on 'Battlestead & Back' walk

This Saxon warrior marks the way for the 'Battlestead & Back' walk - which takes you up through Battlestead Hill (where there is thought to have been a battle thirteen centuries ago) along to Tatenhill Common.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Bearing nine children in eight years...

Sir John Giffard & Wives tomb at Brewood

Poor Lady(ies) Giffard.  Sir John Giffard, who was the big-man in Brewood in the sixteenth century, had two wives, and had fourteen children with them. 
His first wife Jane had nine children in eight years, which is... well... incredible.  It's perhaps not surprising that she died in the throes of giving birth to her last child.

Sadly, most of Jane's children died young. Here you can see, on the side of the tomb, tiny statues that memorialise some of Sir John's children - the ones depicted in their shrouds are the ones who died young. A quick count shows that, of the ten shown, NINE died young.  The kind of grief the parents must have experienced almost seems beyond belief.
One touching item about this tomb (which you can't see here) is that there are three effigies on its top - Sir John is there lying squeezed in between his two wives. (See the Wikipedia page for a view).

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Uttoxeter 'centaur'

Centaur sculpture in Uttoxeter

There was some controversy over the two new sculptures (either side of the Tesco store) that have been put up on the road into Uttoxeter. But I love them.

You might not see it well from this photo - but the statue is metal, and full of perforations which allow light through. This combination of metallic glint and pricks of light, which come glittering through, makes the sculpures terrific in my humble opinion.

The subject is in homage to the nearby Uttoxeter Racecourse, and is a half-man/half-horse, a 'centaur'. The other scupture is a bull.

Uttoxeter is not known for its high cultural profile - so these created some overdue credit for the town!