30 March 2012

Echo of Another Time

The upright Ekco AD77 tabletop radio of 1936 was designed by Serge Chermayeff, one of the architects behind the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea. It was possibly the first radio to have an angled tuning dial that ran almost the full width of the cabinet. The set was available in both walnut (pictured) and black Bakelite, and in AC-only (AC77), battery (B67) and accumulator/vibrator (BV67) versions. A different radio, the AC-only AW87, was housed in the same cabinet. Best enjoyed in evening dress and with a Sobranie Cocktail.

26 March 2012

Aquatic Pushmi-pullyu

Awaiting fit-out on the Montgomery Canal is this new trip boat. It is of a pushmi-pullyu design, enabling the horse (or possibly pair of donkeys) that will provide the motive power to tow from both ends, without winding of the boat.


Domestic hairdryers originate from the 1920s, but didn't take off until after WWII. This Ormond E1022 dates from the 1950s, and was made by the Ormond Engineering Company of Clerkenwell, London, who also manufactured radio components. Upmarket versions came in a Bakelite vanity case, complete with mirror and comb.

The hairdryer is made from compression-moulded phenol formaldehyde. These polymers were invented by Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland, from whence comes the name Bakelite - phenol formaldehyde mixed with a wood flour filler. Urea can be substituted for the phenol, which produces a cream-coloured polymer, in which the Ormond was also available.

23 March 2012

The Bridge

Runcorn Bridge crosses the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey, and links Runcorn and Widnes. Opened in 1961, it replaced the Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge, of which latter bridge type only those in Newport and Middlesbrough remain in use. 

It has been known as the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge, the Runcorn Bridge, and, since widening work was completed in 1977, Silver Jubilee Bridge. Locally it is known, and signed, simply as The Bridge.

Grade II listed, the bridge is of the through arch type, with a main arch span of 1,082 feet. The through arch ties the side spans of 250 feet each into the main span, to enable the structure to cope with adverse vibration set up by the adjacent railway bridge.

The bridge provides for 80 feet of headroom for the ship canal, and when first completed had the third longest steel-built arch span in the world. Its 5,900 tons of steel, held together with 720,000 rivets, requires a regular re-coat of 6,000 gallons of minty green paint.

22 March 2012

Not Much Room

A fine patch of common Cortinarius. This is a very broad genus, found all over the world, and embracing over 2,000 species. Without the mycorrhizal fungi there would be no plants, over 95% of which are known to be dependent on fungus to draw nutrients from the soil. No fungi, no plants; no plants, no animal life.

19 March 2012

TV Times

The LV20 was introduced by Pye in 1949, just three years after television broadcasts were re-commenced in Britain. A full nine inches of entertainment.

The same screen size but a world away design-wise, Bush’s TV22, released in June 1950, is a Bakelite icon. Although cheaper than a set in a wooden cabinet, at 42 guineas including purchase tax it still represented a significant outlay. This was the first set the owner could tune to one of five BBC 'channels.' These were regional transmitting stations, the two of 1950 plus three more operational by 1953. Commercial television arrived in September 1955, on an entirely different frequency band.

That's Livin' Alright

Most manufacturers of steam rollers made living vans, designed to be towed behind the roller to site, and lived in until the job was done. The vans also have an association with the travelling community, particularly showmen. This fine example sits at the foot of Lyth Hill, near Shrewsbury. Auf wiedersehen pet.

18 March 2012

Wenlock Priory

The priory at Much Wenlock has been founded twice over. It was originally founded in 680 by the Mercian king, Merewalh. Nepotism saw his daughter, Milburga, installed as abbess, whose convenient raising to sainthood served to bring in funds.

The Normans refounded Wenlock as a Cluniac priory. There are remains of the thirteenth-century priory church, and of a beautifully blind-arcaded chapter house of circa 1140. The infirmary wing survived the Dissolution of 1540, and remains intact as a private residence (above).

In the cloister garth is a 16-position lavabo (top), ornamented with carvings of the twelfth century, used for the washing of hands before entering the nearby refectory. It is now surrounded by a number of topiary forms.

10 March 2012


Bush introduced the VHF61, with medium (MW), long (LW) and very high frequency (VHF) wavebands, in August 1956. It employs piano key switches, very fashionable at the time, to switch between these. It also sports a green ‘magic eye’ signal strength indicator, a miniature cathode ray tube, framed by an escutcheon of a highly futuristic shape. High class luxury.

08 March 2012

Shropshire's Lake District

The Mere at Ellesmere is the largest of nine glacial lakes in the area, and is one of the largest meres outside of the Lake District. The other meres of 'Shropshire's Lake District' are Blakemere, Colemere, Crosemere, Hanmer Mere, Kettlemere, Newtonmere, Sweatmere, and Whitemere.

The mere was formed at the end of the last Ice Age, when retreating glaciers shed huge blocks of ice that became isolated and, upon melting, left large depressions. An artificial island was formed in 1812, and named Moscow Island in recall of Napoleon's contemporaneous retreat from Russia. Around the mere are a number of sculptures.

04 March 2012

Karan Anne Porter

Thursday 4 March 1965 to Wednesday 4 February 2009.
Photograph: University of Lancaster, 1985.