22 June 2012

St Nazaire U-Boat Pens

One of five such facilities built in occupied France by the Third Reich, the submarine base at St Nazaire was constructed by the Organisation Todt, within the existing harbour, to provide protected repair and supply facilities for Germany's U-boats.

The base, 984 feet long, 426 feet wide, and 59 feet high, was developed in four phases. Pens 6, 7 and 8 were built between February and June 1941; pens 9 to 14 between July 1941 and January 1942; and pens 1 to 5 between February and June 1942. A fortified lock was built between late 1943 and early 1944, to provide protected access from the Loire.

The 14 pens could house up to 20 U-boats. These were protected by a roof 28 feet thick, a layer cake of reinforced concrete, granite and steel beams. A 'Frangrost' layer towards the top provided voids into which the blast from bombs was dissipated.

Within the fortified lock lies the French submarine Espadon (Swordfish). Built at Le Havre in 1958, the Espadon is not dissimilar to a WWII German U-boat. Home to a crew of over 60, sharing two bunks between three, it remained in service until the early 1980s.

08 June 2012

Berrington Hall - Upstairs, Downstairs

Neo-classical Berrington Hall, near Leominster, was designed by Henry Holland in 1778-81, and completed in 1783. It sits amidst a grand park, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown's final piece of landscaping. The house has a gloriously austere exterior, and a lavishly outrageous interior.

Upstairs, a fine cantilevered staircase gives onto a gallery landing graced with scagliola columns. But it is the below-stairs servants' quarters that are most interesting - the butler's pantry is rather reminiscent of Van Gogh's The Bedroom.